Ballroom Dance instructors teach in many ways for many reasons. Typically "Group Classes" are taught differently than "Private Lessons". Men, Women and Couples are each taught differently as well. Large classes may be taught differently than small classes. Beginner lessons (group or private) may be different too. A male instructor may teach differently than a female instructor. The instructor's knowledge of both dancing and teaching has a very big influence on what and how ballroom dancing is taught.
Studios may limit what their instructors teach and how they teach for consistency within the organization. In general, instructors teach what and how they were taught. Some teach things because they are easy to teach not necessarily the best way. I try to teach what generates the most feeling whether it is hard to learn or not. What is taught is also influenced by the teaching experience of the instructor. There are some instructors (with decades of experience) that are still teaching what they first learned, things that were updated decades ago (ex: leading with the finger tips and heel of the right hand). Ballroom dancing is constantly evolving and instructors need to evolve as well. There are some instructors that are afraid to change because they think that their students will think that he/she was "WRONG". There is no wrong in ballroom dancing, just better and you (the dancer) are the one that decides what is right and what you are going to add to your dancing. The way I decide what is right is by seeing if it makes sense from a physics and geometry stand point of the two- headed four-legged animal, is it leadable, does it feel good, does it maintain the characteristics of the dance (example: rise/fall in Waltz).
Instructors may teach only "step to step" and never teach "elements". Some may teach only patterns not what happens between the steps. Others teach only routines not lead and follow. Lead and follow is much harder to teach. I don't teach anything that is not leadable. Sometimes the transition between patterns is just as important as individual patterns and this may not get taught. There are instructors that teach all or various combinations and things I haven't mentioned. The most valuable thing I was taught in Ballroom instructor training was not patterns, but how to learn, how to teach myself and how to develop my own approach and teaching style.
Everything we do in Ballroom has a reason. The instructor should know the reason and the student shouldn't be afraid to ask "Why is it done this way?", if he or she doesn't explain it. The more you know "WHY" the more you are likely to do it.
The approach to teaching is just as important if not more important than what is taught. Some try to teach by intimidation (believe it or not). Some don't care if students get it or not. They just present information. There are others that are on "ego trips" and just trying to be superior to their students. Most instructors are trying to do the best job they are capable of doing. Instructors are giving their students the gift of dance. This should not be taken lightly. Ballroom Dancing, in many cases, is life changing. You are paying your hard earned money for these lessons and you should demand the best. In most cases the instructor is giving their best because they love teaching dancing.
One of the worst lessons I have ever taken was from former U.S. Champions. Just because a person is a good dancer, doesn't automatically make that person a good instructor. Dancing and teaching are two very different skills. In the independent studio that I helped manage, we discovered that we had more success making dancers out of teachers instead of making teachers out of dancers. Teaching is the harder skill.
Bottom line, there are a lot of different types and styles of Ballroom Instructors. Just remember that you (the student) are paying for your dance training so demand the best. Your Ballroom Dance training never ends so enjoy the learning experience and find an instructor that can fulfill your expectations. Happy dancing!!