1.3 Teaching styles

While there is a clear (albeit complex) relationship between the act of teaching and learning outcomes, the evidence on which types of teaching are most effective is less clear. Rather than looking at specific teaching strategies or methods, teaching styles refer to "distinctive qualities of behaviour that are consistent through time and carry over from situation to situation" (Fischer & Fischer, 1979, quoted in Conti, 1985, p. 220). Philosophically, adult literacy and adult education practitioners have tended to promote a collaborative, learner-centred and co-operative approach to their teaching. This teaching style is seen to contrast with more traditional, teacher-directed, authoritarian teaching styles - a teaching style that many LNL learners associate with their own learning failures. Collaborative teaching styles are prominent in adult literacy literature, drawing on theorists such as Malcolm Knowles, Stephen Brookfield and Paulo Freire. One prominent researcher on teachers of adults (Pratt, 1998) has identified five main perspectives on teaching:

While the majority of teachers tend to include only one or two of these perspectives in their teaching in single teaching sessions, most teachers incorporate a number of the perspectives in their teaching over longer periods. However few teachers’ total practices fall under a single perspective. Learning contexts and subjects being taught also exert considerable influence on the perspective adopted – for example, running a resuscitation techniques course necessitates considerable transmission-type teaching and few computer teachers incorporate social reform perspectives into their teaching.

While there may be widespread support among teachers for non-Transmission teaching styles, the empirical evidence of its actual implementation and effectiveness is less common. In one American study (Purcell-Gates, Degener, Jacobson, & Soler, 2002), researchers endeavoured to find some collaborative classrooms for comparison with more conventional models of provision. They not only found it difficult to locate such classrooms, but often found that teachers’ claims didn’t match the reality of how they actually taught.

We worked very hard to locate more classes in the authentic/collaborative quadrant to better answer our research question, but were ultimately unsuccessful. Often classes would sound collaborative and authentic, only to prove not so after direct observation and teacher and student interviews (op. cit., p. 8 8).