Evaluating my own teaching philosophy is one of the exercises I undertake every few years. Prompted by this past EC&I 833 class and the required readings from Ertmer, Siemens and ACRLog, I embarked, once again, in a state of deep reflection on my craft as a teacher and the approaches I use to help my students progress in their academic work.
I feel very much in line with Adam’s descriptionof how his teaching incorporates elements from each of the main theories explored in the previous readings:
“As an educator, I see value in a number of different aspects of each of these theories. My teaching philosophy has some qualities of each of these four theories, which would make my theory of learning a bit of a mutt, I suppose. Each theory has a quality that speaks to the diverse population of learners that are in our education system. To say that one is better than the other for me would be hypocritical as I utilize pieces of each theory in my practice at some point throughout the year.”
Despite having difficulty associating with a specific teaching philosophy such as Behaviourism, Cognitivisim, Constructivisim or Connectivisim, I must say I associate more closely with Constructivism. The following idea by Ertmer and Newby resonates with me as it parallels in my mind the world of building knowledge using the scientific method:
“Constructivists do not deny the existence of the real world but contend that what we know of the world stems from our own interpretations of our experiences. Humans create meaning as opposed to acquiring it. Since there are many possible meanings to glean from any experience, we cannot achieve a predetermined, “correct” meaning.”
Our minds are in constant evolution and as we gain experience with life, we gather more data that we use to interpret the world around us. Even with many people having similar datasets established by similar life experiences, I find it is often the case that conflict can arise as different people build their meaning in different ways.
At the beginning of my teaching career, I was extremely preoccupied with making sure subject matter was retained by my students. I would try to transfer knowledge any which way I could without giving much thought on how I was accomplishing the task or even evaluating the possible effectiveness of my pedagogy. Recently, I worry much less on content and subject matter and more on helping my students develop skills that will allow them to “build” better interpretations of the world. Logic, curiousness, critical thinking, work ethic and openness to new ideas are all characteristics that I try to convey to my students. I believe that by having these tools, it doesn’t matter what my students retain as information in their mind, they will be able to build whatever knowledge they need given the variety of situations in life they will meet in the world beyond their school years. This way of thinking is perhaps more appropriate for mature high school students. I cannot say if it would translate well to early childhood learning as all of my teaching experience is with high school students. This is a subject I would love to discuss further with my classmates.
One aspect I find lacking in the many theories of learning I explored this week is teacher-student compatibility. Teachers are individuals and students are also individuals all of which have their own personalities and character traits. As much as I would love to believe that as a teacher, I can impact every student in profound and productive ways, I must acknowledge that some students are just not as compatible with my teaching style and my character traits as others. Even if I try my very best with every student I have the privilege to teach, I must acknowledge that some students perform better in my classroom than others. I have observed, over many years, students with which I don’t have a strong constructive relationship do very well with other teachers that simply have more compatible character traits. As in life, not everyone that we encounter become our best friends. Certain pairs of people share special compatibilities that are very difficult to explain while others seem to be at constant odds. This is not to say that work cannot be done to improve the functioning of incompatible student-teacher relationships, however, this could require the investment of a great deal of time and energy from all parties. As my time and energy is becoming increasingly restrained in the current context if public education, I find myself unable properly and completely adapt to all my student’s needs. It breaks my heart that I cannot give them all 100%, alas, we must teach in the world of reality and not in the world of theories.
The idea of Connectivism sparked much interest due to its context with educational technology. As I’m progressing as a teacher in the years to come, I speculate that the idea of Connectivism will garner progressively a larger part of my practice. With the quantity of knowledge always expanding and access to knowledge almost becoming ubiquitous due to technologies like the internet, our world is becoming smaller and cultivating the links within this world will become extremely important.
This week’s reflections were extremely difficult for me and I still don’t really know where I stand with regards to learning theories. This one really sent me in numerous directions and I still feel lost. I hope my classmates will help me find the way this week. I look forward to reading all your blogposts.