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4 Different Types of Teaching Methods Broken Down

Types of Teaching Methods

There are as many different teaching styles as there are teachers, but whether you are a teacher looking to add some new activities to your routine or just evaluating different approaches, learning comes in many shapes and sizes. Humans learn mainly through their senses, and because of this, several different methods have been developed, each one targeting a specific sense or senses. While no one way is better than the others, depending on your subject matter, the main types of learners you find in your classroom, and the amount of planning and research you are willing to give to your classes, there may be a certain approach that better fits your style and needs.  Especially as a new educator, you might find yourself wondering what are the different types of teaching methods?

Most teaching can be broken down into four main categories: teacher centered, student centered, content centered, and interactive learning. Each method has a different approach to reach the same goal – students’ mastery of a given class. 

1) Teacher-Centered

This is the most common type of teachinga standard, conventional approach in which the instructor is the primary authority. The classroom is usually facing the teacher, who stands in front of the student and provides instruction mostly by lectures and presentations. Progress is measured by standard grading: homework, quiz, and test grades.

Related: What are the Pros and Cons of Homework? Is Homework Really Worth It?

Pros of the teacher-centered approach:

  • The teacher is the primary authority. As the instructor, you make the calls on everything – material, behavior, even classroom layout. This is obviously a big responsibility, but you are the master of your environment.
  • Most teacher centered methods are a great way to present larger amounts of information in a concise and orderly way. It also has been shown to be effective in getting basic information to students with a limited knowledge of the given subject material.
  • Being the standard approach means that there are ample resources to turn to – for your source material, teaching advice/mentoring, etc.
  • Easily measured by testing and other assessments.

Cons of the teacher-centered approach:

  • Struggling or easily distracted students can easily be left behind.
  • One missed class can affect students’ grades.
  • Lack of learner involvement (this can especially negatively affect students who struggle to learn simply by ear or who find it hard to take/study off notes).
  • Short attention spans, especially in younger grades, can significantly reduce the amount of content retained from a lesson. Even if you make it through the whole class, they may well have “tuned out” after 15 – 20 minutes.
  • Conventional assessments can be an inaccurate reflection of a student’s knowledge.

Related: What is the Teacher-Centered Approach?

2) Student-Centered

Student centered learning involves a process by which everyone in the classroom is a student of sorts. Educators remain as an authority figure in the classroom, but their function is as more of a guide. Students take a much more active role than in a teacher-centered approach, and more of the material is hands-on or active in some way. Progress assessment may be through conventional testing as with the teacher centered method, or project grades that allow manual learners a better chance of success.

Pros of the student-centered approach:

  • Students learn using different senses (a comprehensive approach).
  • Interest in different aspects of a subject can be developed in individual students.
  • Allows for more varied methods of learning – field trips, class projects, debates, experiments, etc.
  • Students gain a more practical, hands-on knowledge of the subjects they are studying, as well as a sense of independence, and even more importantly a drive and eagerness to learn, based off personal motivation.

Cons of the student-centered approach: 

  • Active students can lead to a lack of order and discipline in the classroom, especially with younger grade levels.
  • Higher demand of preparation for the teacher, and more energy and planning put into lessons.
  • Students can be distracted easily by different learning aides.
  • Projects can involve materials, which can quickly add up in your budget. Supplies can also be easily damaged, especially when students get excited, as they usually do when involved in a hands-on experience.

3) Content-Centered 

In this form of learning, the information being studied is of primary importance, around which both the teacher and students adapt. This process requires detailed, careful analysis of the content, but can easily be overwhelming if students do not have a solid foundation in the course.

Pros of the content-centered approach:

  • Reduces any bias or misconceptions that the teacher or students may have, as the content is the definitive answer.
  • Multiple ways to approach the subject matter, not simply lectures or discussions.
  • Students can be inspired to continue learning in their own.
  • Assuming that the learner has a base amount of knowledge in the subject, they can advance quickly to a more thorough understanding of the content.

Cons of the content-centered approach:

  • Can be overwhelming to students, especially if they are younger or have an insufficient foundation within the subject.
  • Students used to more conventional learning may especially struggle at first to adapt to this new method.
  • Students who do not have the minimum knowledge may become confused and apathetic, left behind, or slow down class learning as a whole.
  • If there is an error in the content, there is less likelihood that it will be found and corrected, due to the adaption of everyone to the subject material.

4) Participation / Interactive Learning

The last main type of teaching method, interactive learning is just as its name implies – students take a very direct approach to the material in order to learn and understand it. Unlike the first three methods however, this type of education is not a stand-alone one.  Instead it is a combination of the others.

This method is for those who want to try a bit of everything, enjoy mixing approaches to add life to their classrooms, or simply can’t make up their minds. Like teacher-centered learning, the instructor is the primary authority within the classroom. He or she directs the path which the class will follow but does not lecture in the conventional way.

As in student-centered learning, everyone (including the teacher) has a chance to learn and discuss the subject and participate in multiple projects in order to understand the content more fully. But the teacher is still the leader in a much more definite way, much more like their role in teacher-centered learning. However, the information is the main focus of the class much like the content centered method. Some adaptation may be required, but the material is not considered so important – almost sacred- as in content centered learning.

Pros of the interactive learning approach:

  • Vast options for how to expose the students to the material: discussions, field trips, art-based projects, essays, case studies, the list goes on.
  • The varied nature of the approaches can each in turn reach different students, motivating them, and helping them to understand the subject. (For example, one student may begin to grasp the concept based off an experiment, while another may have begun to understand while reading an exhibit board at a museum.)
  • The teacher will be more likely to be excited by the subject when learning and planning different types of activities in order to expose it to the students. In turn, an excited teacher is much more likely to have a more productive class, and students are also more likely to be receptive to new material when the approach is energetic, positive, and passionate about the matter at hand.

Cons of the interactive learning approach:

  • Planning and researching new activities will be longer than normal, in order to lay out projects and exercises.
  • Watch your budget! Almost all projects, especially field trips and experiments, add up quickly.
  • Students may become used to so many different methods that they struggle to focus or look more for the fun in the project than the actual subject matter itself.
  • As with student-centered learning, activities are harder to keep orderly. The younger the grade, the more likely that chaos is lurking on the sidelines, ready to appear in seconds if given the opportunity.
  • Students used to more conventional learning may struggle especially at first to adapt to this new method.

Final Thoughts – Types of Teaching Methods

As you choose your style, remember that different methods may even have better or worse results depending on the subject matter (IE, interactive for science, teacher-centered for math, etc.) or the students’ capabilities. Since individuals all work and learn in different ways, some methods will most likely have better results with students who learn in a manner that aligns with that method. For example, a student who learns well by ear or studying notes will thrive in teacher centered classes while a manual learner will struggle; but if the class is taught using the interactive method, the manual learner may outperform the auditory or visual students.

Overall, each type of teaching method has individual strengths and weaknesses, and as an educator, you have the freedom to choose which one works best for you.


Written by Moneywise Teacher Staff

This post was written by an awesome member of the Moneywise Teacher writing staff!

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