Research, Research, Research: Teaching Styles

For the next few weeks, we’ll be exploring research on education. This week, we’re taking a look at a cross-cultural investigation of the teaching styles.


The researchers: Cothran et al.

The questions: Do physical education teachers from different countries differ in:

  • Their use of teaching styles (self reported)
  • Their beliefs about teaching styles
  • Ability to use the styles (self-reported)

The instrument: Mosston’s Spectrum of Teaching Styles

Researchers used Mosston’s Spectrum of Teaching Styles as a tool to compare teaching styles. The instrument is a continuum of teacher styles from teacher-centered to student-centered. The spectrum includes 11 styles (A through F), which are either Reproduction (teacher centered) or Production (student centered).

Here are some examples:


A Command – The teacher breaks down the skills into parts and demonstrates the right way to perform the skill. Students try to move when and exactly how the teacher tells them. The teacher provides feedback and the students try to look like the teacher’s model.

Between Reproduction and Production

F Guided Discovery – The teacher asks students to discover a solution to a movement problem. The teacher asks students a series of specific questions and the student try out their answers until they discover the right answer that the teacher wanted them to discover.


K Self-teaching – The students decides everything about leaning something new. They even decide if they want to involve the teacher or not. The teacher accepts the student’s decision about learning.

The countries: U.S., Korea, Australia, Portugal, France, UK, and Canada

The numbers: 1,436 physical education teachers (212 from the US), from all levels. More than half had more than 11 years of experience.


Some important SIMILARITIES between the countries

  • Teachers around the world report using a wide variety of styles (remember, this is self-reported and teachers may not be able to provide an accurate description of their own teaching styles)
  • Reproduction styles were more commonly used and viewed more positively than production styles, regardless of country (note, this is for physical education).
  • May be easier to control large group of students with reproduction styles.

Some important DIFFERENCES between the countries.

  • Korea has the highest level of Command and Self Teaching styles (the extremes on both sides of the spectrum). The use of teacher-centered styles makes sense in collectivist societies where teachers might believe in presenting information in a standard way to all the students.
  • The American education system prides itself on being student-centered, while the English system is typically believed to be more teacher-centered. But take a look at the numbers! The larger numbers are bolded… It seems English teachers tends to use the student centered styles more than American teachers.
US England
Teacher centered













Student centered

Guided Discovery

Learner initiated

Self Teaching







  • Guess which country had the least experienced teachers? England, Korea and the U.S. had the least experienced teachers. However, remember, these are self-reported. Teachers rated themselves as very good, good or average for each teaching style; so actually, teachers from England, Korea and the US feel that they are less experienced compared to their perceived standard of “good.”

CAUTION (when interpreting results)

  • First of all, these results may or may not hold through for teachers in different subjects.
  • Second, researchers note that it is how the national curriculum and rhetoric influences teacher’s beliefs, practices and their responses. For instance, a curriculum that stresses lectures or test-taking may make teachers more likely perceive reproduction styles more positively.


We often try to compare educational styles and draw out differences between educational systems, but research, such as this paper, shows that there are significant similarities.

Cothran, D. J., Kulinna, P. H., Banville, D., Choi, E., Amade-Escot, C., MacPhail, A., Macdonald, D., Richard, J., Sarmento, P., & Kirk, D. (2005). A cross-cultural investigation of the use of teaching styles. Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport, 76(2), pp. 193-201.


2 Responses to Research, Research, Research: Teaching Styles

  1. […] Research, Research, Research: Teaching Styles « Finding Schools […]

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