Reflections on My Teaching Philosophy

Rick Shearer

Although it would be difficult to imagine that my basic teaching philosophy has changed substantially over the relatively short time period of 16 weeks, I would have to admit that the texts by hooks and Shor helped me reexamine how I have conducted classes in the past. The ideas of active and participatory learning have always been a major focus of my teaching, if for no other reason than the course content of quantitative analysis called for a hands-on environment. However, the ideas of how to make students the subject of their learning, movement away from the banking system philosophy of education, and influences of the dominant culture in classes are concepts that I want to examine in more detail when reflecting on my teaching.

Also, as demonstrated this semester, while many of the popular instructional themes emerged in the sample teaching sessions, such as: engagement, collaborative learning, problem based learning, and active learning, I feel these teaching styles are hard to sustain throughout a course. As hooks discussed in her book 'Teaching to Transgress' she did not know if students in her class had changed and were behaving in a more self-directed and engaged manner because she wanted them to, or because they had fundamentally changed the way they viewed education in the classroom. The concept of 'the banking system of education' is deep rooted within all students, and will not be easily changed through one or two highly interactive classes where students are asked to be the subjects of their learning and asked to help direct the flow and subject matter addressed.

As witnessed this semester, as several students tried to integrate these ideas into the sample teaching sessions, many students were resistant and felt lost and confused without knowledge of detailed expectations and learning outcomes. Admittedly, many of the participatory parts of the teaching sessions were rushed and students did not have time to reflect on the information presented, however, I still sensed a resistance to participation and confusion without specifically stated outcomes.

Therefore, as stated in my original perspective on my teaching philosophy, I still feel that one's teaching style and the philosophy one adopts at any moment is contextual and that one will oscillate between being teacher-centered and student-centered through out the course. One must be cognizant of the individual students' natures in the course and sense when an open, engaged process of discussion is not working. At times the situation may call for the instructor to behave as the ultimate dominant culture in the class and direct students. For many students, especially returning adult learners, who have become so inculturated into the banking system of education, they may find other teaching and learning styles difficult to embrace. In most instances the instructor must still guide the students through the course and facilitate openness, and cannot expect that students will automatically know how to become instruments of their own learning process.


The Role of Education and What does being an Educated Person Really Mean:

In my original statement of my philosophy, I provided what one may consider an academic statement on what the role of education is in society, and what being an educated person means. While I still feel that the statements I made are valid, it may also be the role of education today to get people to move away from the banking system of education and help them become more engaged in their learning process. This itself ties into the concept of education helping to produce individuals who are educated in many disciplines and well-rounded critical thinkers. The ideas of wanting to challenge the accepted thinking of experts and canons of knowledge are a learning style that we want to help students move towards. I feel strongly that education is not about preparing students for given careers, but to provide them with the knowledge and critical thinking skills that will allow them to function in a variety of roles.


My Teaching Philosophy:

In re-reading my original discussion on my teaching philosophy I feel the following statement is still very relevant.

'First teaching styles can not be prescriptive. There is no one best way to teach. While the mechanics of lecture notes, class preparation, and well-constructed course outlines are a part of any good course, the teaching style one adapts during the course cannot be prescribed. One needs to first understand the learners and what motivates them, what they want to achieve, and what they may bring to the course of study. It is then the teacher’s role to take this information about the students and guide them through the subject area. At times the teacher leads, as a lecturer, and at other times they follow along as the students explore ideas and concepts. It is also the role of the teacher to bring relevance to all learners and to draw on the experiences of each where possible. It is the role of the teacher to make the learning experience challenging, rewarding, and to some degree entertaining all at the same time.'

Further I stated at as a concluding comment that ' the challenge for instructors in all classes of all sizes is how to connect with each student on some form of personal level. How can we connect so a student can understand the relevance of the subject to their life’s and feel motivated to challenge their own thinking in regards to the subject matter.'

These statements, while not specifically stating such, highlight the ideas of engagement, self-directed learning, and helping the students see themselves as subjects of their learning and not simply the objects that the banking system of education has so effectively indoctrinated people into over the past hundred plus years.


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