Carolina RN to BSN Online
Conceptual Bases of Professional Nursing Practice
Teacher Variables:  Teaching Style
Part 1:  Variables Influencing Teaching and Learning

System Variables

Teacher Variables

Learner Variables

Part 2:  The Seven Steps of Planning --Plus One

Weekly Assignment 1
Evaluating Learning

Weekly Assignment 2
Analyzing Experiences



Teaching style is another variable influencing the character and effectiveness of teaching-learning interactions. As was the case with the use of models and learning theory, most teachers don't have a narrow, static style that they use in every situation. Rather, most have a preferred style, but adapt as other variables in the situation change.

One way to describe teaching style is to look at it as having two dimensions, formality and structure, each of which can be viewed as a continuum.

Formality is defined as amount of psychosocial distance between the teacher and the learner. It includes the extent to which the teacher is the expert and the degree of control exerted by the teacher.

Structure is defined as the amount of structure in the teaching learning interaction, that is, the degree to which the environment and activities are structured.

The two dimensions, structure and formality can be used to form a graph.. The structure continuum runs along the X axis; the formality continuum runs along the Y axis. Each quadrant  represents one of four teaching styles: 

  • High Formailty/ Low Structure (HF/LS)
  • High Formality/High Structure (HF/HS)
  • Low Formality/Low Structure (LF/LS)
  • Low Formality/High Structure (LF/HS)

The dots scattered around the graph show that a person's style can fall at any point on the graph, so some people might have a strong preference for a "pure" style such as High Formality Low Structure, while others might be "on the border" between two or more styles.  While many of us may be most comfortable at the points within one quadrant, others may be able to feel comfortable in two or more quadrants, depending on the situation.  As noted earlier, most of us have a preferred style, but can move around the graph to adjust to the demands of different situations.

Teaching Style

Graph of Formality and Structure



My preferred teaching style is low formality/high structure. While I am quite comfortable adjusting along the formality dimension, I am less comfortable adjusting along the structure dimension. This means I'm most comfortable in the upper and lower right quadrants, although I can move to points in the upper and lower left quadrants closest to the center.

This is a good place to emphasize that structure isn't equivalent to control--remember, control is an aspect of the formality dimension. Returning to me as the example--I can encourage students to be self-directed and independent, but within a structured course or assignment.

Thinking about teaching style in your practice ...
  • Use the graph to identify your preferred teaching style.
  • Do you use the same style in most or all situations?
  • When does your preferred teaching style feel most comfortable and effective? Least comfortable and effective?
  • Which dimension(s) are you willing to adjust to accommodate different situations? That is, where else on the graph can you feel comfortable?
  • If you're uncomfortable about making any adjustments in your teaching style, what might you do to become more comfortable?


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