My Educational Philosophy

16 Jan

I wrote my first educational philosophy back in 1996 when I began my teaching career. At that time, I had been reading theorists such as Freire, Dewey, Maslow, Bandura, and Vygotsky, and was immersed in issues about social justice and equality. I had also just returned from volunteer teaching in Central America where I experienced the magic of watching adults in their late 40s read for the first time. As an introduction to my philosophy of education, I used a quote by Paulo Freire from his book Pedagogy of the Oppressed. It read:

Education either functions as an instrument which is used to facilitate integration of the younger generation into the logic of the present system and bring about conformity or it becomes the practice of freedom, the means by which men and women deal critically and creatively with reality and discover how to participate in the transformation of the world.

My educational philosophy was and is anchored in the belief that all students are capable of learning, that teachers can potentially be the only role models in a student’s life, that tailored learning, enthusiasm, repeated exposure, and hands on practice are all essential for learning to occur, and that the strengthening of students’ self esteem is key to successful learning. As such, the ideas of Dewey on the importance of education as a place to learn not only content knowledge but how to live, evolving around the realization of one’s full potential, and the ability to use those skills for the greater good, truly resonated and still resonate with me. A statement by Seymour Papert illustrates well my thinking at that time: Better learning will not come from finding better ways for the teacher to instruct but from giving the learner better opportunities to construct. I knew then that what truly mattered in teaching are the opportunities I create for my students to engage with their learning. It became apparent to me that I needed to 1) give students plenty of opportunities to connect with knowledge and 2) encourage dialogue and exchange. I organized my curriculum in a spiral manner to ensure that students were continually building upon what they had already learned and used project based learning as my method of instruction.

My philosophy of teaching and learning evolved over the years to reflect my international teaching experience and the increased presence of technology in the classroom. My international teaching experience brought to the forefront the importance of culture and values in teaching and learning. With the availability of technology and the ease with which collaboration can take place between classrooms in different countries, I began using global collaborative projects to connect my students with learning beyond the classroom. Self-reflection, appreciation of diversity, and communication became the top priority skills that I wished to impart onto my students. During that period, my educational philosophy read as follows:

As a teacher, I employ a holistic approach to learning that takes the individual into consideration in a classroom without barriers, where students are encouraged to reflect and ponder on issues and events that matter to them, and where problem solving and collaborative group projects are led in a student centered environment.

My interest in technology, with its ability to transform any classroom into a global environment, where students learn to gather information, solve problems, and communicate with peers and experts from all over the globe, decrees it an important component of my teaching, and a great contributor to the enhancement of my instruction. With the aid of technology tools, I have been able to step aside and allow my students to grow as learners beyond the confinements of one classroom, one school, and even one country. Technology has made it possible for me to create a learning environment that is engaging and relevant to my students’ interests and needs.

Today, my educational philosophy, twenty years into my teaching career, entails my drive to instill a love of learning in my students and an appreciation for diversity. Who dares to teach must never cease to learn writes John Cotton Dana. This quote defines my teaching and learning philosophy today; for in adopting this thinking, I am embracing and actively partaking in the learning with my students.

Although at first glance it would seem that my teaching philosophy has changed over the years, my goal is and has always has been about teaching from the heart – one student at a time – to love learning and to respect and appreciate life in all its diversity.

 

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