Dec 29

Spectrum of Teaching and Learning Styles

Share This Post!

Towards High Performance: Forming (building) – Performing – Refining

Teach – Learn – Compete (TLC)

Using the ‘Toolbox’ paradigm includes the consideration and selection of effective teaching/coaching styles. There are about twelve teaching- and seven learning styles, according to Mosston and Ashworth, 1994. The spectrum on the Left side denotes the more structured styles (A-E) while the ones on the Right side are more production/ process oriented.

The Spectrum of Teaching Styles

Teaching Style Spectrum Chart

Reference: Schloder, M. E. (2015). Lecture Material.



A  Command Style


The learning focus is precision performance — reproducing a predicted response, practice or performance on cue following a set pace and rhythm….


B  Practice Style


The learning focus is to initiate individual and private practice of a memory/reproduction task while receiving private feedback from the teacher….


Reciprocal Style


The learning focus includes developing social interactions using reciprocation of roles that reinforce the giving and receiving of immediate feedback that is guided by specific teacher-prepared criteria….


D  Self-check Style


The learning focus is to develop independent practice of a memory/reproduction task and engage in self-assessment that is guided by established criteria….


E  Inclusion Style


The learning focus is to provide opportunities for continued participation of all learners in the selected task, regardless of their varied skill levels. Tasks in Style E are designed with varying levels of skill difficulty so that learners can survey the options and select an entry level of  difficulty. Learners may make adjustment decisions in their task level. Additionally, learners check their performance against the prepared criteria….


For Gymnastics: I create a circuit with several stations to include all participants. It also encourages role modeling and personal motivation to move up to the next higher skill level.


  • Learning the forward Roll/Somersault from the Gymnastics Incline Mat
  • Performing the Roll/Somersault on the floor mat with fluid motion to standing
  • Performing the Dive Roll over small object on the floor
  • Performing the Dive Roll with height and flight in air
  • Performing the Aerial Somersault/Salto


I pursue the same format when teaching the High Jump in athletics or any swimming skills. The same method can be applied to any sport, soccer, volleyball, etc.


F  Guided Discovery Style


(See my comments on the Novice swimmer experiment)

The learning focus is to develop logical and sequential thinking. In this style questions are designed in a logical and sequential series that lead a learner to discover a predetermined concept, principle, relationship or rule that was not previously known….


G  Convergent Discovery Style


The learning focus is to develop the cognitive capacity to discover a single anticipated. predetermined response to a new and unfamiliar stimulus by shuffling known information to produce the discovered anticipated response. If the content is previously known, the experience is not Convergent Discovery but Practice Style….


H  Divergent Discovery Style


The learning focus is to produce, within the same set of cognitive operations, multiple discovered responses to one or a series of unfamiliar questions or situations. Each learner produces new multiple ideas that previously were not known. Divergent Discovery seeks to expand the parameters of thinking about content beyond the known and expected….


I  Learner Designed Individual Program Style


The learning focus is to acknowledge a learner’s motivation and cognitive intentions to design his/her own learning experience. In this style a learner initiates a request to pursue the complexities inherent in making all decisions, defining learning objectives, and producing ideas.  In this style the learner determines the teacher’s degree of involvement….


J  Learner Initiated Style


The learning focus is to acknowledge a learner’s motivation and cognitive intentions to design his/her own learning experience. In this style a learner initiates a request to pursue the complexities inherent in make all decisions, defining learning objectives, and producing ideas. In this style the learner determines the teacher’s degree of involvement…


K  Self-Teaching Style


The learning focus is individual tenacity and the desire to construct one’s own learning experiences. This teaching-learning style does not exist in the school or classrooms. This style is governed by the individual’s decision-making expectations and desires….


The Seven Learning Styles










Learner Categories


Would it not make sense to explore teaching and learning styles to make ‘Your athletes click’ AND learn better?


Methods or Approaches


Several methods can be applied in the teaching/coaching of technical and physical skills:

  1. We can use the so-called ‘bottom-up’ or part/part/whole-method approach commonly used in the teaching of sport skills, whereby each individual part is taught separately, and then assembled as the whole.
  2. The ‘top-down or whole’ method may be more successful in teaching some gross-motor pattern. I used this method teaching the Butterfly stroke to a 3-year old (See Schloder and Fly Away: The butterfly stroke in swimming. Progressive – Sequential – Creative – Experiential, won the Panasonic and AMTEC Award at the International Film Festival for Educational series).

The 3-year old girl swimmer, a novice learner, was taught the front crawl, and then put together an amazing performance of the Butterfly stroke after been given cues and simple explanations of the crude motion of the stroke as ‘dolphin-like’ … and AHA… she said, the crawl with 2 arms… and a flipper tail”… Her performance across the backyard pool will ’blow your mind’… critical thinking power!

The whole method represents ‘experiential’ learning, discovery and directed discovery’ way of teaching and learning. Athletes experiment, gain insight to ‘what works – what doesn’t while asking questions. This encourages them to become analytical thinkers and problem solvers. ‘Top-down’ teaching, however, requires a big repertoire of teaching cues and a wide variety of creative images. Sometimes, this process can be more time consuming but in the end it is more rewarding. Creativity through the so-called ‘experiential teaching’ process motivates learners. Wagner and Rush in early 1988 (!) called it “giving kids their wings,” proposing that an entertaining teaching progression can help, for example swimmers, to learn the butterfly stroke more quickly (Swimming technique, 1988, p. 25). Such involvement not only creates a strong motivated base of athletes but contributes to a positive team environment (i.e. builds a strong ‘team culture’).


Teaching the Breaststroke Creatively in 1873


Here is an early ‘Toolbox’ example of teaching the Breaststroke!

Ralph Thomas published in 1904 “Swimming” with pictures from “Schwimmkunst” [The art of swimming] by German swim educator, Walter Auerbach (1893). His approach dates back to Johann Christoph Friedrich GutsMuths, also called Guts Muth or Gutsmuths (1759-1839), and his1833 edition of “Lehrbuch der Schwimmkunst” [Book of Teaching the Art of Swimming]. Here you have it! …. ART!!!… Are You an ART teacher/coach?

Gutsmuth was especially known for his role in the development of physical education. He is thought of as the “grandfather of gymnastics” – the “father” being Friedrich Ludwig Jahn. GutsMuth introduced systematic physical exercise into the school curriculum, and developed the basic principles of artistic gymnastics.

Forward to the 20 the century! I was introduced to these ‘art tools’ of learning the Breaststroke (picture 1) before being lowered into the water (picture 2). The movement actions were corrected while ‘dangling’ in air. When deemed to be automatic by the teacher, one was lowered into the water but still attached to the Rope. When the stroke was performed fluidly in the water, the Rope was unhitched, and 5-year old Coach Monika swam happily away … albeit not the style we use nowadays! I grew up with the kick action being a ‘wide straddle’ before the ‘Whip kick’ was introduced. Yea! I am a dinosaur!

By the way, Auerbach also invented and patented the Röhren Schwimmweste [Tube Swimming Jacke] in 1880, whereby one slips into the tube, and swims along using whatever arm and leg action – way ahead of the modern noodle!

 1BR 1873

2BR 1873[2]



Mental Olympics’ through Creative Teaching and Learning


Several years ago, discussion in certain swimming circles centered on the term ‘fish’-like swimming. I am not so ‘hung up’ on this word but it ‘drove me crazy’ because it is nothing new to dancers and gymnasts, who use ‘body waves’ or ‘body undulation’ in their training, floor and balance beam choreography. It means, however, developing body agility, mobility, trunk and hip, flexibility, and total control of body action from head to toes (moving the torso in all directions). Athletes in any sport would benefit from such training (although many coaches, especially males, are not comfortable with ‘that stuff’!). The upcoming “Ballet for Athletes.” Modified Exercises for Cross-training” offers many exercises to develop these concepts.

Creative teaching/coaching helps athletes/swimmers better understand the requirements of essential movement patterns or body concepts. They also need to be able to explain these body actions. One of the performance goals should be to create ‘smart’ athletes/swimmers; in essence, providing them with mental tools to engage in their training assignments and perform with ‘smarts’ in competition. I call it “the mind over muscle or mental Olympics.”


The teaching/coaching ‘Toolbox’ needs to vary to a great degree if the club program entails a variety of activities (in Swimming: learn-to swim, recreational, pre-competitive, and competitive groups). It also needs to include the consideration of teaching and individual learning styles. I try to apply several of these in each session to ‘capture’ the attention of as many athletes/swimmers as possible.

In my programs, young athletes/swimmers (as early as age six) are taught to ‘focus’ on technique in their fundamental skills training (for Swimming: stroke count, using ‘play-form’ – that means with and without fins; learning about slow, medium, and full-speed swimming, progressing eventually to competitive races).

Early mental training is frequently overlooked, in my opinion. Mental aspects are an integral part of the teaching/training aspect from the beginning, not just implemented during later stages when the ‘adolescent psyche’ is often resisting (‘not cool to do such monkey stuff’). Mental toughness and focus do not happen by ‘osmosis’ – they have to be taught and trained!



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>