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Training: the different teaching methods

by Justine Humblot
Formation : les différentes méthodes pédagogiques à connaître

When you are running a training session, it is vital you hold your students’ attention. To achieve this, it can be a good idea to vary your teaching methods according to the messages you wish to convey and your target audience. What different teaching methods can you use? In what situations are they appropriate?


  1. The lecture method
  2. The demonstrative method
  3. The interrogative method
  4. The active method
  5. The experimental method
  6. The heuristic method

1. The lecture method

The lecture method, also known as the transmissive method, is based on vertical learning, whereby the teacher has all the knowledge – the “know-how” – which they transmit to the students. The students are considered to have everything to learn. Any prior knowledge they may have, their motivations and their personal plans are not really taken into account.

The teacher communicates their knowledge in the form of a presentation, like a university lecture, while the students take notes. The teacher’s exposé may be a simple oral presentation, supported by visual material to explain certain concepts, such as a PowerPoint or slide show projected on to a big screen. The student takes notes to record what the teacher is explaining.

To check their students have understood the class, the teacher may ask questions at the end of the presentation.

Good to know
It is also important to understand the different teaching approaches. For example, the intuitive approach which involves enabling students to discover a concept before formalising their newly acquired knowledge. In this case, the student is placed directly in a situation. The deductive approach, on the other hand, first provides the knowledge before placing the student in a specific situation. It involves starting with theory before turning to practice.

Further reading: How can you give an effective virtual class?

2. The demonstrative method

The demonstrative method is similar to the lecture method in that they are both “top down” approaches to teaching. However, it differs in the methods it uses to facilitate learning and in the assignments of each individual.

The demonstrative method, also called the affirmative method, has three key stages:

  1. The teacher demonstrates a concept or idea. In other words, they present a process and explain the steps required to succeed, by specifying what needs to be done, how to do it and why.
  2. The students apply and repeat the steps using the same techniques as the teacher, in order to test the process. It involves making the participants carry out practical exercises.
  3. The teacher makes the students repeat step 2, helping them and encouraging them to adapt the process so as to take it in better.

So, the teacher demonstrates a task, then makes the students carry out the same task, then finally repeats it with them, correcting any mistakes. The demonstrative method is based on reproduction or imitation, following a demonstration, like in a high school chemistry class, for example. The student learns by “doing”, not just by reading or listening.

3. The interrogative method

Questioning is the principal tool used by teachers adopting the interrogative method. This approach is based on the idea that knowledge of an idea or concept cannot be learned without first being understood. The French neologism “comprentissage” from “comprendre” (understand) and “apprentissage” (learning) reflects the importance of understanding in the learning process. By answering the teacher’s questions, students are expected to acquire new knowledge.

The students’ answers lead the discussion, which is fuelled by constant feedback between teacher and pupils. The aim is to allow students to build their own knowledge through a genuinely proactive approach. The teacher, meanwhile, will rephrase questions to help the students understand and encourage them to see their ideas through. In other words, the teacher’s principal task is to help students express themselves.

4. The active method

The active method differs from the other teaching methods in that the teacher does not necessarily possess all the knowledge they need to communicate. Their role is therefore more restricted and their position may appear more like a guide, a facilitator or a mediator. In fact, the active method extols action as a starting point, because knowledge cannot be learned but must, before all else, be constructed. Action helps the student think about a given subject and become a genuine agent in the approach.

However, three conditions are necessary for the active method to be effective:

  • the student wants to learn, is willing and motivated for their own reasons and not due to an external factor (payment or otherwise);
  • the student agrees and commits to undertaking a course which places collaboration and cooperation at the heart of its processes;
  • the student can quickly test whether what they are undertaking confirms or contradicts their hypotheses, through experiments or via debates with other students.

Case studies, brainstorming, role play, group projects and simulation are all methods adopted to boost knowledge acquisition under the active approach. The teacher may create a teaching scenario to encourage students to experiment, perhaps even make mistakes, to boost and speed up their learning.

Did you know?
Flipped classrooms are similar to this active teaching method. This approach flips traditional teaching principles by adopting lessons at home and typical homework problems in class. The idea is to make students more proactive and independent in their learning.

Further reading: The importance of human relationships in making your training course a success

5. The experimental method

The experimental method, also known as the experiential method, is defined as learning in real-life conditions, as interns do when they work directly in the field. According to the experimental method, learning can only be achieved through action, even if it means making mistakes. The teacher can intervene but they no longer hold the dominant position of an individual who possesses all the knowledge. However, they must prepare their teaching by testing out the experiments that their students will be asked to carry out during the course. The training sessions may also be organised according to different levels of difficulty.

6. The heuristic method

The heuristic method focuses on the participants’ imagination to guide them towards new discoveries. The “disaster scenario” is one of the methods used in the heuristic approach. The teacher asks their students to imagine disasters that may occur in a given situation, and then think up solutions. This method is a fun way for students to learn how to summarise the priorities necessary for a specific situation to be resolved.

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