“I have no question that students who learn, not `teachers who perform’, is what teaching is all about…teachers possess the power to create conditions that can help students learn a great deal- or keep them from learning much at all. Teaching is the intentional act of creating those conditions, and good teaching requires that we understand the inner sources of both the intent and the act.” (Parker J. Palmer, The Courage to Teach)
I have always heard educators discuss their teaching philosophy, and how certain instructional strategies mirror their philosophy, but what the heck is a teaching philosophy and how does it effect our students? That is something that I have been wondering since my first year of university so I decided to inquire and discuss it in a very informal setting where educators can comment and spark new ideas: my blog. I made a google document regarding teaching philosophy that I tweeted out, and many educators have commented and been discussing the concept. This document has greatly enhanced my understanding of a teaching philosophy and it’s applications within the classroom. There will be a reflection blog to follow outlining the discussion that took place in the document, and what I gained from that.
Now, back to the idea of a teaching philosophy.
A teaching philosophy is the display of values and beliefs that a teacher has on education, on the classroom atmosphere and on the use of technology in the classroom. Many times it strongly shadows the teachers personal values and ideologies. It is a “position or way of thinking in regard to your style and beliefs. Teachers can center their beliefs around students, curricula, standards, etc. Your own personal experiences and biases affect the way you see and interact with the world.”1 . It is the belief about education described as the set of principles that guide a teacher into their professional actions such as their style of teaching, their relationship with their students, and their reflection upon their lessons.2 There is extreme diversity among educators regarding what actually constitutes a teaching philosophy and how that philosophy affects student’s learning and student’s views on certain topics. Many educators may say they have a certain teaching philosophy but the way their classroom is run shows the complete opposite of what they say they believe in. I had one of those teachers in high school; one that said they “cared” for his/her students and wanted his/her students to “succeed”, but it was evident in their actions that there wasn’t a whole lot done to accomplish that. A teaching philosophy is not something an educator can say to make themselves look pretty-it has to be embedded in their practice.
Along with a teacher’s personal values, there are other factors in education that will influence teaching philosophies. One of those factors is the set of beliefs about students and students willingness to learn. Many educators formulate an image in their mind of what their students are like and that can allow for a negative or positive relationships depending on those images3 . Many of my education professors have said “don’t ask teachers what the students are like prior to having them in your class, or you will have biased opinions of their ability and willingness to learn”. On the contrary, many co-op teachers I have had or talked to have told me the opposite; that I should know who the learners in my classroom are going to be.” This is something that I am struggling to understand right now; I realize we can not judge a student by previous encounters, but how do we prepare for the learners that will be taking part in our classroom environment? Either way, the images and beliefs you have on your students before getting to know them will either contribute to their potential or hinder it.
A teaching philosophy is forever evolving with the finding of new instructional strategies, teaching methods, technology resources and with the students that are in your class. It is our job as educators to keep up with technology, societal trends, and new instructional strategies while still practicing from our core belief about education. A teacher, Natasha Kenny, wrote on her blog about teaching philosophy that, “My philosophy of teaching is certain to evolve as I discover the methods of teaching which enable me to effectively create a climate for learning that awakens a sense of joy, spirited curiosity, innovation and personal excellence.”4
1. Chris Gamble @csgamble
2. Parkay, F.W., Standford, B.H., Stephens, H.C., & Vaillancourt, J.P. (2007). Becoming a Teacher, 71-110. Toronto, ON: Pearson Education Canada.
3. Laverty, M. (2006) Philosophy and education: overcoming the theory-practice divide. Paideusis, 15, 31-44. Retrieved from http://journals.sfu.ca/paideusis/index.php/paideusis/article/ viewFile/41/5