Philosophy of Teaching
“Teaching, I was coming to understand, was a kind of romance. You didn’t just work with words or chronicle of dates or facts about the suspension of protein in milk. You wooed kids with these things, invited a relationship of sorts, the terms of connection being the narrative, the historical event, the balance of casein and water” ( Rose,1989).
My teaching philosophy has been influence by the researchers cited below as their focus was on the end results in the classroom. As we train prospective teachers we must focus on the end result which is their teaching in the classrooms. In the past decade, there has been a considerable amount of research and communication about cognition, cognitive processes, and the features of classroom instruction that foster meaningful and flexible subject matter learning (Jones, Palincsar, Ogle, & Carr, 1987; Resnick, 1989: Prawat, 1989). Though this recent scholarship about cognition and instruction has increased our understanding of students’ learning in schools, this scholarship alone will not contribute to changes in classroom practices and student learning on a large scale without concurrent attention to teacher beliefs interpretations of their practices, and learning.
This argument is especially relevant in the current reform context, when there are numerous calls for changing the nature of modal classroom practice from teacher-centered direct instruction about facts and skills to instruction that reflect alternative principles of teaching and learning (Holmes Group, 1990). These alternative principles emphasize the importance of students thinking and construction of meaning through interaction with others about complex, authentic problems, with teachers playing roles as facilitators and mediators of the students developing understanding as they grapple with the problems. This vision of the teacher role contrasts to one in which teachers or texts are the sole source of knowledge that can be conveyed directly to students.
While these principles have multiple roots, one perspective that guides my philosophy of education is social costructivist theory (Englert &Palincsar, 1991; Vygotsky, 1987; Wertsch, 1985).
In the past learners were seen by some educators as passive participants (Norman, 1980) but now effective learners are seen as active learners who use strategies to control their own learning (Weinstein, Butterfield, Schmidt, & Polythress, 1982). Effective teachers should therefore teach the students how to think and to take charge of their own learning, (Weinstein & Mayer, 1985). Marx, Winne, and Walsh (1985) conclude that the successful student is able to adjust their studying strategies and are able to control their own learning. Studies conducted by several researchers (Anderson & Armbruster, 1984; Baker and Brown, 1984; Devine, 1987; Pressley, Goodchild, Fleet, Zajchowski, & Evans, 1989) show the importance of study strategies such as note-taking, underlining, outlining, summarizing and question generating. Effective learners are active and use strategies to fit their needs and goals (Weinstein, Butterfield, Schmidt, and Poythress, 1982).
There is a current emphasis in literacy instruction in helping students to develop the ability to use higher order thinking skills. This is an area that is lacking in most teaching practices in the schools.
The social-cultural perspective argues that the ways in which people come to know the world is an inherently social process. Knowledge is socially constructed and passed on through the use of language (written or read). Bakhtin (1978) describes the conversation of mankind that has been passed on through history as "Polyphony of Voices". Individuals carry with them their experiences, which can be seen as their voices. Over the last decade, increasing numbers of parents, professionals and policy makers have raised concerns about appropriateness of educating students with disabilities in settings that are separate from general education classroom. As we move towards inclusion in the 21st Century educators need to change the way instruction has been carried out in the regular classroom. Relevant instruction, for example use of cultural knowledge that children bring to the classroom as “scaffolding” to build their skill acquisition; culturally relevant curriculum. Teachers must have high academic expectations for all students, sensitivity to different learning styles and heterogeneous instructional groupings.
Learning, as cognitive research has been telling us consists not in developing undeveloped faculties, stacking enough individual propositions on top of each other to build understanding, or filling vacant mental lots. In learning, students act upon the information, ideas, and experiences they encounter within and through the structured and ordered understandings and knowledge they have from previous experiences and within and through specific social contexts. To extract meaning from experience, people rely on understandings built on previous experiences and on their social context.
If teacher education is to challenge and change teachers’ initial beliefs about learners, learning, subject matter, teaching and the milieus, the content of courses and approaches of instructors need to be shaped by prospective teachers’ initial conception.
I believe that in teaching my classes the students need to know current research on teaching to improve their instruction in the schools. Prospective teachers, like other learners, reconstruct the information and ideas they encounter to fit into their existing framework. Prospective teachers bring to pre-service preparation definite ideas about learners, teaching, and learning. Unless they become aware of their own preconceptions and have the opportunity to examine them, they are likely to reconstruct whatever they experience to fit with their existing understandings. In my teaching I stress the importance of teachers’ understanding of learners, learning, subject matter and teaching and how all these are interconnected. I believe that prospective teachers need opportunities to examine their initial understanding as well as their understanding of ideas, information, and situations they encounter.
My work with schools has allowed me to reflect on my philosophy of teaching and has encouraged me on establishing more partnerships with school communities. Working with high need school districts has convinced me that universities need to collaborate with schools if they want to come up with effective teacher education schools.
Some things that I do to meet the above expectations:
• Case studies that give the prospective teachers a chance to think about the role those specific children’s background and prior experience may play in their behavior.
• Writing Portfolios to ensure that students document important facts that they will need in their classrooms.
• Deliberate challenge prospective teachers in a discourse about their belief about learners, learning and teaching.
• Classroom observations – the time prospective teachers spend watching others teach is a powerful influence on their ideas of what their responsibilities are, what teaching and learning are like, and what classrooms should be like.
• Group discussions and group research papers to cultivate the spirit of teamwork and cooperative learning.
• Individual research papers and classroom presentation.
• Lectures, videotapes etc.
• Written exams.