Monday, March 10, 2014

Views of Teaching

What are the similarities and differences between my views of teaching and my teaching practice?

I view teaching as the process and practice of assisting the development of skills and knowledge in learners so that the development is as effective and efficient as possible given the context and environment in which it is occurring. As a teacher, I do not see myself as the “knowledge holder” who must fill the empty vessel with my knowledge; rather, given the age of technology in which we live, as teacher I view my main role in the teaching and learning process as facilitating knowledge and skill development, guiding learners through the education landscape in a way that is most efficient and develops the learner to their greatest potential. I am there to help “frame” the learning experience and sometimes to realign the learner with the objectives of the learning experience.
Referring to Pratt’s five perspectives on teaching (Pratt, 1998), I consider that my main perspective on teaching is a nurturing one. That is, 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. In order to achieve this, I place a strong emphasis on having regular learning conversations with each of my students where we discuss how their learning is going, where they see their strengths residing and where their key areas of focus are. Because I teach younger students, I try to have these conversations as frequently as possible, as in my experience having goals that are short- to mid-term in length are more achievable for less developed learners.

As well as a nurturing perspective, I believe that I maintain a strong developmental perspective in my teaching. I feel that the developmental perspective is closely aligned to the nurturing perspective in the goal of developing autonomy and critical thinking in learners. And with the vast wealth of knowledge accessible to learners in the digital age, teaching them to ask questions and guide their own learning is, in my opinion, an essential undertaking.

The conclusion that these two perspectives form the foundation of my practice grows out of the my success criteria for my teaching. If I am successful, learners will leave my supervision equipped with the skills necessary to contribute meaningfully to society and live happy and fulfilling lives, while being critical and questioning of the world around them and their place in it, so as to make their world a better place for them and others. They will not be automatons, but rather will be critical-thinkers who question the status quo and stand up for what they believe in (which hopefully is right and just).

Because the context in which I am teaching shifts so dramatically throughout the year (eg just last week I was on a Marae for a Maori cultural two-night camp, whereas the week before we were mainly in the classroom learning about World War I) the perspective from which I view my teaching often shifts dramatically as well. The reality of being a homeroom teacher (in my school at least) is that you are constantly coming at the learning process from a different angle and therefore may need to shift your perspective accordingly. On the aforementioned camping trip, I was largely nurturing students by helping them be independent and develop appropriate behaviours while in that sort of a situation. However, at times it was necessary for me to take a social reform perspective, as I wanted the learners to think about the challenges New Zealand faces as we still seek to form an identity that incorporates all the many cultures which reside in the country. In this way, my perspective on my role shifted as the “educational terrain” varied as well.

Of course, the reality of the modern learning environment is that there are so many variables in the process often unseen and usually beyond our control that can negatively impact the learning experience. These can come from the learners own background/home environment (eg poorly nourished, unhealthy family relationships) as well as the educational environment in which they are taking part (eg poorly managed school resources, learning plans etc). Therefore, part of the effectiveness and efficiency with which I guide the learner depends on my ability to respond to these powerful and often random perturbations in the learning environment within which each learner exists - this is no mean feat and one which I think becomes considerably easier with experience, possible due to the realisation that some situations are just beyond our control and that’s all there is to it. There’s only so much we can do/give. Hence why I feel that at times I do not always teach from my preferred perspectives, but often become ‘transmissive’ when it may not be the most effective viewpoint to be coming from.

In summary, I feel that my perspective on teaching generally is the perspective I would desire it to be, although often constraints and uncontrollable variables that are ubiquitous in learning environments impact me, as they do my colleagues, and prevent this from being the reality. Regardless of this impact though, I carry on and regain my feet, re-aligning myself to my preffered rose line and setting out again towards the distant escarpment that is educational success.

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.

Views of Teaching - Google Drive

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