My teaching philosophy is based on three philosophies of education: Pragmatism, Realism and Idealism. Although I have become less idealistic as I have grown older, I still encourage it in learners and I believe education should foster both emotional and educational growth. The theories that I utilize in my teaching are Gardner's Multiple Intelligences, Constructivism, Progressivism, Pragmatism, and Social Reconstructionist Theory.
As a result of teaching in the A+ Schools Network, a major theory of learning that has influenced my teaching philosophy is Howard Gardner’s Theory of Multiple Intelligences. Although I was already somewhat familiar with Howard Gardner’s theory, I acquired much of my knowledge of it while teaching at Douglas Magnet School of Creative Arts and Sciences in Raleigh, North Carolina. In my current direction of educating older students and adults, I continue to adhere to Gardner’s theory. Like younger students, mature learners have different learning styles. Gardner’s theory gives adults a new way of relating to learning, careers, and lives. It has the potential to allow them to find strengths where previously they may have only known weakness. Every learner, whether child or adult, has a unique way of understanding, comprehending, and demonstrating knowledge. Belief in and utilization of Gardner’s Theory of Multiple Intelligences allows for and helps teachers address the issue of differentiated learning styles. However, I do not encourage allowing learners to stay in the area of learning where they most at ease. If a student learns best in one of Gardner's eight intelligences, he should be encouraged to participate in Gardner’s other seven ways of learning acquisition. Creating units that address all the different learning styles creates a motivated student, a confident learner, and someone who can face any challenge that may come in life.
As a Constructivist, I see my role as an educator less as a dictator or "imparter of knowledge” and more of a facilitator of learning. Teachers who are open and enthusiastic, who are willing to learn from others and explore emerging technologies in their fields, have the opportunity to improve themselves not only as teachers, but also as people. When I facilitate teacher training workshops through the UNC-Greensboro Department of Education A+ Schools Network program which is based both on Gardner’s Theory of Multiple Intelligences and the concept of teaching through the arts, I am amazed at how much I learn from the participants. It is an exciting and true exchange of information. Attending workshops, taking classes, and reading current research can help a teacher stay up to date as well as keep her lessons new and exciting.
As a student of both Constructivist and Social Reconstructivist theories, I strongly believe that curricular content should be directly applicable to real world situations. Students must be provided with curriculum that makes sense to them and focuses on the direction in which the world is going. They should be able to see how what they are learning fits into their lives and the lives of those around them as well as how they can use the skills that they are learning in future careers. In a Social Reconstructivist unit, students might be encouraged to solve a problem in their own community by creating technological tools that would address a local need. For example, the second graders at Douglas Magnet School of Creative Arts and Sciences where I taught drama for two years designed and created blueprints for a new playground on the school property. By participating in such an activity, these students not only used problem-solving skills, but were also to see how their solutions affected their community. Students and teachers involved in that project participated in a discussion about how technological advances can have both positive and negative impacts on the lives of humans and other living beings.
Project-based, discovery, and cooperative learning are staples in my classroom. By implementing these teaching techniques, students not only learn from each other, but also from themselves. Industry leaders place great value on employees who have the ability to work well with others and are self-motivated. By starting the process of group problem-solving early in their lives, students will be comfortable working together by the time they enter the workforce.
Integration of subject areas is another emphasis in my teaching philosophy. Integration and curriculum alignment should be an objective at every educational level. Integration is another way to address the different learning styles of students. Additionally, integration is another avenue for helping students to see how concepts connect which helps learning make sense.
Assessment and evaluation of student work should be based on actual learning objectives and related content area information. Students should be encouraged to reflect on and assess their progress along with being evaluated by the teacher. Peer assessment is another technique that can promote mastery of objectives. Self and peer assessment can reveal strengths, weaknesses, and new ways of approaching and solving problems. I typically use rubrics to assess student work as students sometimes do not know how or what to write about themselves. Most young learners tend to rate themselves as good or bad. If given a rubric, they have the opportunity to judge themselves critically and participate in a more thought provoking assessment process. Often, I will create rubrics with four columns: one with the objectives listed, one for self-assessment, one for peer assessment and the last for teacher assessment. A rubric with this format allows students to see all comments together and think about how the constructive criticism can help them master the objectives in future attempts. Additionally, I use rubrics to grade student projects so that learners know exactly why they got certain grades, where they were strong on a project and where they could have done better. I tend to hand them out ahead of time, when students begin projects so that they know what is expected of them.
Technology and curricular integration have the ability to connect learners to a global community, can be positive vehicles for instruction, and can address different learning styles. Use of technology and integration in the classroom contributes to autonomy and self-directed learning, provides necessary skills for a student’s future as a worker in society, and allows learners to see how all the information they have learned fits together, and how the concepts fit into their world. According to Dmitri Matsnev (2003, ¶ 2), instructor at Pennsylvania State University:
As of right now, 80% of U.S. economy is based on the production of
services, rather than production of goods. The large portion of these services
is described as "technological services", i.e. telecommunications, engineering,
technical consulting, web-development, etc. Therefore, if we want to prepare
our students well enough to be able to join the work force, we need to prepare
them to be technology-proficient employees.
Education should stimulate and sustain intellectual and professional growth in learners, provide a foundation for lifetime learning, and open doors for a student’s future.
Matsnev, D. (2003). Teaching with technology certificate portfolio. Retrieved November 21, 2003 from http://www.math.psu.edu/matsnev/twt.