Different teaching styles can help students

Emily Johnston

I have only been in college for a couple months and I have already started to notice that some professors teach the same material differently.

Neil Fleming, a professor at Lincoln University in New Zealand, popularized the idea that people learn best through auditory, visual, verbal or kinesthetic techniques (learning through touch).

He created the VARK model in To Improve the Academy, a publication about teaching.

Translating this to higher education, some professors prefer to educate through example while others choose to lecture.

The idea students have that one teacher is “better” than another instructor because they teach their courses differently is baseless.

UVM has the Center for Teaching & Learning for professors, which holds seminars and open hours for professors to come in.

Its website provides links to tutorials on how to instruct and structure a class.

While they have a lot of techniques, all resources (Blackboard tutorials, book recommendations, documents on different course styles, etc.) at the Center for Teaching & Learning point to a teacher following Universal Design for Learning.

Universal Design for Learning is a way of teaching that incorporates separate learning styles to make sure every student is learning.

One professor may work through an example to relay material and another may show a video, but that doesn’t mean one is “better” than another.

It just means that they have differing opinions on the best way for students to understand material.

The way one professor decides to explain a concept may not work for me, and that’s okay.

If I don’t understand the material, it is not the professor’s fault and doesn’t mean they are a bad teacher.

There are many resources on campus for struggling students.

One available for use is the tutoring center, which offers free sessions for students depending on the class you are taking.

Office hours or teaching assistant sessions are also helpful.

Hearing about failing students in a professor’s class may be “evidence” one professor is better.

Thinking this only prevents growth, since the responsibility for good grades is being placed on the professor.

The least students can do before giving up and writing a bad review on RateMyProfessor is attempting to stretch their brains into different teaching styles.

Learning how to adapt to a new style of teaching is a big part of college.

No matter what a professor teaches or how it’s taught, someone is always going to be unsure of what is going on.

While I am certainly no expert on any area of study just yet, I was raised by a teacher and she taught me that no one is the same.

It’s difficult to see that arguing can be futile, that differences are okay.

Once we are able to see that various styles of teaching are acceptable, maybe then there will be no unnecessary misunderstandings.