Friday, April 8, 2016

What is Your Teaching Philosophy ?

Yesterday, my principal asked the faculty to fill out a series of questions that, when tallied, gauges one's teaching philosophy. I thought this survey was interesting. The scores numbers to the right of each heading are my scores. Take a look at the following descriptions. What words would best describe your teaching philosophy? The sentence or two in bold is my reaction to each paragraph.
Perennialism: 11/25
The acquisition of knowledge about the great ideas of western culture, including understanding reality, truth, value, and beauty, is the aim of education. Thus, curricula should remain constant across time and context. Cultivation of the intellect is the highest priority of an education. Teachers should directly instruct the great works of literature and art and other core curricula. There is much of beauty that comes to us from Western Civ and indeed cultivation of the intellect is of the highest priority. But the idea that curricula should remain constant strikes me as misguided.

Essentialism: 11/25
Essentialists believe that there is a core of basic knowledge and skills that needs to be transmitted to students in a systematic, disciplined way. A practical focus, rather than social policy, and emphasis on intellectual and moral standards should be transmitted by the schools. It is a back-to-basics movement that emphasizes facts. Instruction is uniform, direct, and subject-centered. Students should be taught discipline, hard work, and respect for authority. This is how I was taught through my elementary school years. When I arrived at a secondary school which asked me to think, I was unprepared. This is not the optimal way of learning for most students.

Progressivism: 24/25
Progressivists believe that education should focus on the child rather than the subject matter. The students' interests are important, as is integration of thinking, feeling, and doing. Learners should be active and learn to solve problems by experimenting and reflecting on their experience. Schools should help students develop personal and social values so that they can become thoughtful, productive citizens. Because society is always changing, new ideas are important to make the future better than the past. Amen. I'm a progressive educator. Nothing else to say.

Reconstructionism/Critical Theory: 20/25
Social reconstructionists advocate that schools should take the lead to reconstruct society in order to create a better world. Schools have more than a responsibility to transmit knowledge, they have the mission to transform society as well. Reconstructionists use critical thinking skills, inquiry, question-asking, and the taking of action as teaching strategies. Students learn to handle controversy and to recognize multiple perspectives. I'm surprised my score is so high. I don't believe a schools' primary job is to transform society. However, I do feel that this is a de facto outcome of a good progressive education.

Information Processing: 15/25
For information processing theorists, the focus is on how the mind of the individual works. The mind is considered to be analogous a computer. It uses symbols to encode, process, remember, and retrieve information. It explains how a given body of information is learned and suggests strategies to improve processing and memory. Nope, the mind is not a computer . However the knowledge we are learning about how the mind works should indeed shape our teaching.

Behaviorism: 11/25
Behaviorists believe that behavior is the result of external forces that cause humans to behave in predictable ways, rather than from free will. Observable behavior rather than internal thought processes is the focus; learning is manifested by a change in behavior. This is known as the stimulus-response theory of learning. The teacher reinforces what what the student to do again and again and ignores undesirable behaviors. The teacher's role is to develop behavioral goals and establish reinforcers to accomplish goals. I'm giving grades as a teacher for the first time in 22 years. Yeah, it works but it sure kills the joy of learning for its own sake.

Cognitivism/Constructivism: 23/25
The learner actively constructs his or her own understandings of reality through acting upon and reflecting on experiences in the world. When a new object, event, or experience does not fit the learner's present knowing structures, a conflict is provoked that requires an active quest to restore a balance. Teachers facilitate environmental conditions and mediate experiences to support student learning. Yep, schema theory and all that. I believe this to be true.

Humanism: 22/25
Humanist educators consider learning from the perspective of the human potential for growth, becoming the best one can be. The shift is to the study of affective as well as cognitive dimensions of learning. Beliefs include: human beings can control their own destiny; people are inherently good and will strive for a better world; people are free to act but must be responsible; behavior is the consequence of human choice; and people possess unlimited potential for growth and development. There is a natural tendency for people to learn, which will flourish if nourishing, encouraging environments are provided. I'm not sure what this all means, but I do believe that the affective domain is critically important, almost as important as the cognitive domain.

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