Thursday, March 6, 2014

A Bit of 'em All...


After reading Pratt (1998), I find that I choose to be a different teacher and use a different perspective to view the teaching depending on a variety of factors that affect me at the time. For example, the topic that I am teaching may require me to view the teaching from a more transmissive perspective in certain circumstances, whereas at other times the topic I am teaching may allow me (or even require me) to take a social reform perspective. I find this more the case now that I am a homeroom teacher and teach across a larger variety of curriculum strands, compared to when I was a Science and Biology teacher. As a Science and Biology teacher, I still changed my perspective on the teaching depending on the topic that I was covering and the extent of the content that I was “required” to get through in a limited amount of time - many topics allowed for teaching that involved getting the students to think about the status quo, and right and wrong (eg genetics).



Although I feel that I vary the perspective that I look through depending on the context in which I’m teaching, I think I also try to maintain a nurturing perspective and a developmental perspective as much as possible, because I strongly believe that students must feel confident in their learning in order to be engaged by it to the fullest extent and must also be able to be fairly autonomous in their learning if they wish to move into higher education, where the ability to be autonomous is crucial. As an adult male, I also do my best to model appropriate behaviour in a variety of perspectives for the boys that I teach, as for many of them I am the male they spend the most time with in their lives, and for many I am also the first male teacher that they have had; therefore, for many of the boys this is the first year where they regularly have a male in their day-to-day lives. In this way, the apprenticeship perspective is an important lens which I look through as a teacher.

I guess that what my previous musings point out is that although I see Pratt’s five perspectives on teaching as lenses through which I view the educational process I am engaged in, I see those lenses as overlapping in the sense that I may be looking through more than one at one time. This makes me consider whether or not my teaching is grounded; does looking from more than one perspective at one time muddy the waters and at times lead to confusion in my practice? Or does this demonstrate personal and professional growth which exemplifies movement towards becoming a better teacher? I am reminded of teachers I had who seemed able to “get under my skin” and excite me as a learner while also coming across as a role model and social reformer. They were rare, but they were there. These are the teachers that I would consider to be the most influential in my life. How would they view Pratt’s perspectives? I believe in much the same way that I have - that in different situations we wear different hats, and sometimes more than one.

Pratt (1998) provides an activity for exploring one’s personal intentions and beliefs (p. 39) which involves finishing the sentence starter: “I know my teaching has been effective when…” ten times in order to garner a clearer understanding of one’s current perspective on teaching. If I finish the sentence just once, it is to say that I know my teaching has been effective when the student(s) that I am teaching are better able to contribute to the society in which they live. With that in mind, I think the perspective/lens I value the most is that of the social reformer; however, in order to succeed with this perspective the “means” I employ seems to always involve viewing the learning through one or more of the other lenses as well.

I have a set of monocles in my pocket, each one representing one of the five perspectives of learning identified by Pratt. At all times, at least one monocle is in, allowing me to gain perspective on my practice; however, more often than not, other monocles are in as well, refining and refocusing my practice, subtly shifting the perspective I take with my students in order to create the best contributor(s) to society that I can.

References:

Pratt, D., & Associates. (1998). Alternative frames of understanding. In Five Perspectives on teaching in adult and higher education (pp. 33-53). Malabar, FL: Kreiger.

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