Teaching Theory

Teaching theory explains, predicts and controls the ways how teacher’s behavior affects the learning among students as defined in Kerlinger’s (1965) statement about the theory of teaching.

teaching theory

Teaching plays a central part in the educational process and learning occurs as a result of teaching. It is very important for pupil teachers to understand the nature and principles of teaching.

Learn more about teaching and learning. Also, check our article about the concept of teaching.


Kerlinger (1965) – According to Kerlinger “A theory of teaching is a set of interrelated constructs, definitions, prepositions which present a systematic view of teaching by specifying relations among variables with the purpose of explaining and predicting”.
In this definition main emphasis has been given on teaching variables.

Teaching Variables – Our three teaching variables are

  1. Independent variable – teacher
  2. Dependent Variable – Student
  3. Interviewing Variable – Curriculum

Bruner (1964)- “We defined theory of teaching as the explanation of “general methodology of teaching”

BO Smith (1969) gives a statement about it as “One of the chief difference between a teacher who is theoretically trained and the one who is not, is that the theoretically trained teacher will perform with a set of sophisticated concepts taken from underlying disciplines of pedagogy. The teacher who is not theoretically trained will interpret events and objects in terms of communications concepts that have come from the experience of the race permeated without model ideas of human behavior.”

From these statements we can see that it answers following questions

  • How do teachers behave
  • Why do they behave as they perform
  • With what effect they perform.
  • More teaching behavior is the cause and learning among students is the effect.

Teaching Vs Learning theories

Both of these theories of learning are considerably different from one another. Theories of learning are descriptive in nature. They simply tell about how learning takes place.
The theory of teaching is prescriptive in nature, thereby expressing rules that prescribe a particular course of action. So, it gives rules concerning the most effective ways for helping students to gain knowledge and acquire skills.
So, the theory of teaching is about improving the process of teaching to maximize learning. It does not talk about how learning occurs.

Following are the main points of difference between these two :

Teaching TheoryLearning Theory
prescriptive in naturedescriptive in nature
social in naturepsychological in nature
Teacher and pupils are major variablesStimulus and response are major variables
based on the cultural settingbased upon the nature of organisms
narrow and specificbroad and general from an application point of view
concerns with effective learning and development of pupilsexplains the nature of learning
Teaching vs Learning Theory


  1. By using it a teacher can successfully achieve teaching objectives.
  2. It helps the teacher to understand the nature of teaching. This helps the teacher in developing appropriate learning structures.
  3. It explains the relationship between different variables in the teaching process.
  4. It helps in developing the instructional design.
  5. It explains the relationship between teaching and learning and identifies the common factors.
  6. It provides the scientific basis for planning, organizing, evaluating the teaching.
  7. According to NL gage, theories of teaching may be used to increase understanding, prediction, and control of teaching.
  8. These theories help to study the class-room teaching problem scientifically.
  9. Teaching objectives may be successfully achieved by the use of teaching theory.
  10. These help pupil teachers in developing the teaching skills by employing the knowledge given by the theory of teaching.

Types of theory of teaching

There are three types of teaching theories

  • The formal theory of teaching
  • Descriptive theory of teaching
  • Normative theory of teaching

We will discuss each one of these theories in separate articles.

Basis for Theory of Teaching

  • Teaching is an art as well as science. Hence, the elements of teaching must be analyzed to understand the nature of teaching.
  • Cronbach has stated that theories of teaching can be based upon theories of learning. Teaching activities facilitate learning structure. There is a close relationship between teaching and learning.
  • Robert M. Gagne is of the view that conditions of learning are the basis of teaching. The task of teaching is to generate learning conditions.
  • N.L. Gage (1963) has pointed out four aspects of teaching. The first one explains why do teachers behave as they do in teaching. The second one explains how can the teacher-behavior is influenced by the learning of the pupils. The pupil-behavior is modifiable.

B.O.Smith (1963) has pointed out four aspects of teaching theory
(a) Statements for the variables of teacher-behavior.
(b)  Establish the relationship between teaching variables.
(c) Formulation of hypotheses for the relationship between teaching variables and teacher behavior.
(d) Explain the teaching variables and teacher-behavior with reference to psychological and social situations.

Characteristics of a Theory of Instruction

J. S. Bruner enumerates following characteristics of a theory of instruction:

  1. A theory of instruction is prescriptive in nature. It describes the most effective procedures for achieving the goals and provides a benchmark against which any instructional procedure may be evaluated.
  2. A theory of instruction is normative, it sets up criteria having a high degree of generalizability and describes conditions for meeting them.
  3. A theory of instruction must be based upon theories of learning.
  4. A theory of instruction will specify experiences that will tend to make the learner willing and able to master the curriculum,
  5. A theory of instruction will direct the structuring of knowledge so that it can be easily grasped by the learner.
  6. A theory of instruction will specify the nature and pacing of reinforcement in the process of instruction.
  7. A theory of instruction will specify the most effective sequencing experiences.

A theory of instruction has three main functions :

  • research and development,
  • curriculum improvement,
  • relevancy definition

An application of the theory of instruction is that it would necessarily result in improved control over the instructional process and hence it improves teaching.

Further Reading

  1. https://www.slideshare.net/competents2011/teaching-theories-6823315
  2. http://www.bdu.ac.in/cde/docs/ebooks/B-Ed/I/LEARNING%20AND%20TEACHING.pdf
  3. Learning and teaching by S.K. Mangal
  4. http://www.raijmr.com/ijre/wp-content/uploads/2017/11/IJRE_2013_vol02_issue_03_18.pdf
  5. http://home.ubalt.edu/tmitch/kerlinger.htm

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Aakriti Jaiswal
Aakriti Jaiswal
3 years ago

When and where can I get detailed article on types of teaching theories

2 years ago

Thanks ..Your description of the plans are really recommendable…Its very easy to understand the course after studying your material…

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