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Best Practices in Teaching: Variety of Instruction

In this post, we continue our discussion on best practices in teaching. The topic of this post is the concept of variety of instructional approaches. This is a key characteristic of effective teaching.

Instructional Variety

Instructional variety is a description of the flexibility of an instructor when presenting a lesson. For a teacher, this means being able to shift from one form of instruction to another in order to maintain the focus of students. This is not easy and is considered a valuable skill in education. If a teacher teaches the same way regardless of what the lesson demands or the students need, this indicates a lack of a variety. This inability to provide instruction in a variety of ways suggest that there may be a lower level of teacher effectiveness.

There are naturally many different ways to provide a variety of instruction. Some of the ways to do this include showing enthusiasm, which helps to maintain the energy of the lesson. Having several forms of reinforcement in your classroom is another form of variety. Reinforcement encourages the behavior you as a teacher want to see in your classroom. The emphasis on reinforcement is psychological being based on operant conditioning. Other approaches include using student ideas. Using student ideas heightens relevance, which is a key component of humanistic teaching. Some ways to include student ideas are the following

  • Acknowledge a student idea-This can be done through repeating the idea the student shared to the class
  • Modify-Rephrase in idea provided by a student and repeat it to the class
  • Apply-Take a student’s idea and use it in a different context
  • Compare-Take the idea and relate it to something similar
  • Summarize-Use the student’s idea to review the lesson.

Using Questions

One of the simplest ways to bring variety into the classroom is through the use of questions. Questions stimulate thinking and provide a way to include simple forms of application within a lesson without extensive effort.

Two common types of questions are content and process questions. Content questions assess understanding of facts which have one answer. For example, “what time is it? Process questions require many different answers. An example would be “who was the best president of the United States?” Content questions deal with declarative knowledge while process questions often deal with procedural knowledge. In addition, content questions deal with lower level knowledge while process questions deal with higher-level thinking.


There is so much more that can be said on this subject. Variety of instruction can come through using student ideas, reinforcement, and or the use of questions. There are other ways to make this happen but the ways provided are perhaps the easiest for someone new to teaching. It would be nice for others to share some ways they bring instructional variety into their classroom