Teaching Styles

Your teaching style is expressed through the behaviors, characteristics and mannerisms that reflect your teaching philosophy and the role you prefer to take when conveying information in a classroom. They are important because how you present yourself to a class can have a huge impact on your success as a teacher, and consequently, on the success of your students. In his 1996 book, Teaching with Style, Anthony Grasha identified five potential approaches for classroom teachers: Expert, Formal Authority, Personal Model, Facilitator, and Delegator. The following three styles are usually the best options for library instruction:


Present themselves as possessing knowledge and expertise that students need. Mainly concerned with verbally (lecture) transmitting as much information as possible to the students.

Advantages: knowledge and skills are thoroughly conveyed; commands respect.
Disadvantages: heavy display of knowledge can be intimidating to less experienced students; may not always show the underlying thought processes. 

Personal Model

Believe in "teaching by personal example." Oversees, guides, and directs by showing how to do things, and encouraging students to observe and then to emulate the instructor's approach.

Advantages: emphasizes direct observation; provides an effective example to follow
Disadvantages: some teachers may be rigid and discourage a personalized approach; may lead to frustration if students cannot complete the tasks as effectively as the teacher.


Emphasizes the personal nature of teacher-student interactions. Guides and directs students by asking questions, exploring options, suggesting alternatives, and encouraging them to develop independent styles and ideas. Works with students on projects in a consultative fashion and tries to provide as much support and encouragement as possible.

Advantages: focus on students' specific needs and goals; provides options or alternatives for students, encourages higher-level teaching skills
Disadvantages: time consuming (less material can be covered), unpredictability (instructor must be flexible)

Though everyone naturally has an individualized approach, you can easily plan and lead your class with one of the above styles. Knowing the best approach is often just a matter of knowing your audience and their needs. For example, taking the Expert stance may be best when addressing experienced faculty who are looking to librarians for advice and assistance. International students, who may have more trouble understanding verbal explanations, may benefit from a Personal Model approach. Finally, undergraduates and others new to library research often learn more when taught by a Facilitator.