4 Elementary Teaching Styles

4 Elementary Teaching Styles

You may have only experienced the “traditional” method of instructor-centered teaching throughout your schooling, there are actually several different teaching styles—unique ways to run your classroom and deliver lessons to your students. Each style approaches education in its own way, and each has an impressive list of advantages and disadvantages when it comes to a different learning environment.


Instructor-focused teaching—the approach to education that involves a central figure guiding the learning experience—is probably the most well-known teaching style. In instructor-focused teaching, one authority figure holds the reins and takes students through the learning material. You may also hear the term “teacher-centered learning” used to describe this teaching style.

Some examples of instructor-focused teaching include:

  • Lectures
  • Slideshows
  • Demonstrations

Perhaps because of its prevalence in the school system, instructor-focused teaching also exists outside the classroom. Whether you’re training at a new job or learning an instrument, you’ll often take directions from an instructor.


As the name suggests, student-focused teaching shifts the attention from the instructor to the learner. Also known as “learner-centered education,” this teaching method opens up a two-way dialogue between teacher and student and among students.

Teaching strategies under student-focused instruction include:

  • Cooperative learning – Cooperative learning encourages students to work in pairs or groups. These groupings can be informal (such as post-lesson discussion pairings) or formal (as in the case of group projects).
  • Active learning – This philosophy encourages kids to be active participants in their learning (as opposed to passive participants, as is sometimes the case with instructor-focused teaching). Anything from individual reflection to group learning can be a form of active learning.

A common misconception about student-focused learning is that the instructor no longer participates, but that idea couldn’t be further from the truth. Teachers still play a role in monitoring and evaluating student work.


This teaching strategy (which often goes under the name of Montessori) places students at the helm of their own learning. When you take the student-led approach as an elementary school teacher, your role is to provide content and materials for children, then allow them to follow their interests and come to you for guidance.

Although student-led teaching sounds a lot like student-focused teaching, there’s a difference in the degree of input from the instructor. In student-led education, the instructor maintains order and facilitates lessons, but their primary job is to act as a resource for inquisitive minds.

Student-led teaching also places importance on holistic education. Beyond intellectual learning, students in Montessori-type environments may explore other kinds of schooling more directly, including:

  • Emotional
  • Social
  • Physical


This teaching style relies heavily on grouping students. The philosophy behind collaboration-driven learning is that it more closely reflects the “real world.” Students may work in pairs, small groups, or even as an entire class to solve problems and explore complex topics.

While collaboration is a part of the student-focused and student-led teaching styles (and even in the traditional instructor-focused environments), it’s the focus here. Students complete nearly all assignments and examinations in groups.

One well-known example of collaborative teaching is project-based learning. In project-based learning, the instructor gives groups of students a broad, open-ended question to answer. The students must then work together on a report or presentation that explores the topic in depth.