Philosophy of Teaching and Learning
How students learn
I believe that all students can learn, but how they learn largely depends on their prior knowledge, the method of instruction with which they learn most successfully, and their attitude toward learning.
Connection of teaching and learning
In learning about instructional strategies used in practice, I have come to realize that quality instruction comes from teachers who are motivated to teach, and who can motivate their students to want to learn. Both motivation and appropriate instructional strategies must be in place in order to have a successful teaching and learning environment. According to Linda Lumsden and her work on student motivation to learn, “Motivation to learn is a competence acquired through general experience but stimulated most directly through modeling, communication of expectations, and direct instruction or socialization by significant others (especially parents and teachers)” (1994). However, in order to achieve these states of energy and well-being, both teachers and students must understand that teaching and learning is reciprocal. In order to be a successful teacher, both students and teachers must work together to create a positive attitude toward learning. To foster such a willingness to learn, I must find out what my students know (their prior knowledge) and begin teaching from that point. Starting with something a student knows will help ease them into new learning experiences. If I find that I am teaching in a way with which I feel comfortable, but one from which only a portion of students are learning, I will know that I have lost my students, and I will refocus my energy and mind on why I am in the classroom: to assure that my students are motivated to learn, and that I am maintaining my motivation to teach. In coming from an education where my elementary school teachers were largely responsible for motivating me to be a top student, I feel ultimately responsible for my students’ motivation to learn and to be a good student.
Belief that all students can learn difficult material and that I, as teacher, can teach all students difficult material.
All students can learn anything that they are taught, so long as the material is taught to each student in a way that reaches and affects them: their preferred style of learning. “The foundations of any subject may be taught to anybody at any age in any form,” (Bruner, 1977, p. 12). My goal is to try new instructional strategies until I find those that are ideal for my students. My goal is to differentiate instruction so that my students are learning subject matter in a way that accomodates their learning style, and that I am teaching this difficult material in a way that successfully permeates each student’s mind.
All students want to learn. Children of all shapes and sizes and mental abilities display a certain behavior that they want to learn: they are curious. It is my job as a teacher to encourage this curiosity, helping my students create “a sense of excitement about discovery,” (Bruner, 1977, p. 20). I also must provide my students with the tools and knowledge necessary to continue the learning process.
It is not enough to teach in a way that I find easy to perform, but in a way that motivates my students to learn, and that motivates me to teach. I must constantly search and try out different methods of teaching, as I want to engage my students each day and I want them to keep their interest in learning throughout their education.
One component of motivation is demonstrating knowledge through a variety of methods. I find that measuring student learning with a traditional test is not an ideal way to motivate them to learn the material being presented in class. I want to find creative ways in which I can assess student learning, ways that motivate my students to learn the material I am teaching them. Since I am not a successful traditional test taker, I would like to explore knowledge with my students through projects that can better demonstrate an understanding of a given unit of study. For instance, I would like to implement assessment techniques that evaluate a variety of projects including musical pieces, self-authored poetry or short stories, and art projects. I will aim to give each student the option of doing a test or a project to demonstrate their knowledge. I will provide a rubric that each student must follow; it will be the same for all projects or tests.
As an eager learner, I understand what it is like to come to school to learn and to soak up every last piece of knowledge that is offered. I am coming into teaching with the mindset that all students can learn, and it does not matter what socio-economic class to which they belong, they can learn if they are resilient to their circumstances.
However, I understand my attitude to be slightly unrealistic. I have seen a school full of students where all of the children came from underprivileged home lives and this took a large toll on their education. Everything from attendance records to test scores were dismal. In the week that I observed in that school, I felt trapped and rutted in the too familiar routine of working on teaching material that should have been learned much earlier in the year, but was impossible due to the attendance records of the students at the school.
Although I was discouraged by this school, my experience allowed me to see how schools function in different environments. Specifically, my knowledge of schools like this one encouraged me to consider all types of learning environments and how a teacher can facilitate student learning in any situation. I developed a deep appreciation for the teachers at this school who continued to educate their students, despite the lack of parental interest and low socio-economic status that affected the student population.
As a teacher, I can make a difference. I can instill the ideals that our educational system can help many children benefit from a free and public education. It is my job to prepare well-informed citizens that can enter their communities as young adults and grown members of society and make a difference.
I must instill in my students the ability to make informed decisions. In order to allow my students to function in a society of moral dilemmas and unethical practices, I must model for them what an informed and contributing member of society looks like and how this person would regulate his/her involvement in their community. The mission of education is one of democratic equality, as termed by David Labaree, an associate professor of education. Democratic equality is an approach to society in which everyone is on an equal playing field, where children are prepared for the responsibilities of carrying out the practices of good citizenship in a competent manner (1997, p. 42).
I once heard a speaker say “Social justice is teaching all children.” As one of best quotes I have heard about teaching, I will center my teaching career on this principle. I think teaching all children means knowing each student’s strengths and weaknesses, and using this knowledge to teach lessons and projects where students can use their talents and expertise to make the project a creation of which they are proud. In working with student strengths, I will be sure to make each student win each day, as my classmates and I were instructed to do by Allen Glenn, Professor of Education at the University of Washington.
Choosing Accommodations for Special Education Students in General Education Classroom
Assess how individual student learns
I think that assessing student learning is a teacher’s most important method of understanding her successes in teaching, and her students’ successes in learning. How I assess my students is something for which I must strive for perfection. I want to find the ideal way to assess my students in a way that truly evaluates their educational gains. I plan to be an active assessor and perform both informal and formal assessments in my classroom. With this aim of informally assessing my students each day in class, my students’ learning will not be jeopardized by a teacher’s lack of attending to their students’ educational needs.
Assess where the individual student is on the trajectory of learning
Too many of my classroom experiences as a student have resulted in a large amount of confusion on my part because of a teacher’s failure to establish where her students were regarding to their level of knowledge on a particular subject being instructed. It is my goal to preassess my students’ knowledge in all subjects, to avoid this potentially debilitating consequence of bad classroom teaching. I will not assume that my students have learned in previous grades what the EALR’s outline as objectives. Instead, I will evaluate the differing levels of experience and knowledge in my classroom and work to level the playing field in terms of getting each of my students closer to performing at grade level, or performing above grade level, if that is what a particular student needs.
Assess motivation issues for the individual student
As a person, my goal in life has always been to understand what an individual experiences, and how these experiences have affected his or her outlook on life. I think this goal is even more important as a teacher: to understand any potential roadblocks that my students may possess that could inhibit their learning. It is important for me to understand the whole student: her personality at school, her home life, her responsibilities and roles within her family, and her relationship with her family members. Knowing my students and being perceptive of major events in their lives, that may have an effect on their education, is one of my primary concerns as a teacher. I believe that I was successful in school because my teachers really knew my sisters and me and could help us work with the resources to which we had access.
Assess how the general education teacher views teaching and learning
I am most successful in situations where I am familiar with people I know and respect. One very important aspect of teaching that I must facilitate on a daily basis is communication among my colleagues, especially with the general education teachers with whom I must have a successful working relationship, as I will be working with a number of their students. In facilitating a daily dialogue with the general education teacher, I will understand what his view of teaching and learning looks like in the classroom. In knowing this, I will work to accommodate his belief system into my method of teaching to maintain some amount of consistency in a students’ daily learning. It is important that I also convey my view of teaching and learning, and that working for the good of students is a collaborative team effort between the general education teacher and me.
Assess the context of instruction
I will work hard to understand how the teacher instructs hisstudents and in what way this learning environment is facilitated. This approach allows me to be successful in working with my students with special needs and understand what type of learning situations they have experienced.
Name the Problem
Once I have collected enough information about a student, I will devise a method of working with that student. Next I will name several goals towards which the student will work.
Select from array of possible accommodations
This is the area in which I will put the most energy into play. I must find an appropriate accommodation for each student, using the above mentioned information as guiding tools with which to select the best way to assist this student in realizing his or her fullest potential as a learner.
Best Practice: I will use my knowledge of effective teaching methods and successful methods of implementing instruction through research and conversations with colleagues to accommodate my students as best I can. I hope to teach in a constructivist modeled classroom, allowing my students to build their understanding through their experiences, and their peers experiences. I believe in using all intelligences in the classroom, and I will accommodate my students by recognizing and building a curriculum around their educational needs.
I-CUE Approach: This teaching method outlines a series of steps to take when working with students with special needs. It differentiates between adapting task conditions, which are accommodations, and adapting task requirements, which are modifications. While this approach seems very clear, almost basic in content, it is yet another well thought out strategy to accommodate students. (Mark Jewell, 2003).
English Language Learners: I have learned of a way to accommodate ELL students which is using a very specific method of familiarizing students with a text or subject before they begin to learn about it. This method is the Experience Text Relationship approach. As I read about this method, I found that it employed a very basic teaching principle of using a students’ prior experience to aide in their learning of a subject. First students use their experiences to try and make connections to text. Then the teacher takes the students through the text, reading to the students and asking them questions, and finally the students establish relationships within the text and between the text and themselves and the world. This process enables students to understand the text through their own perspective, as well as through the different perspectives of their peers. Not only will I implement this approach with my ELL students, but I will use it in my classroom during reading instruction, as I think this method is an excellent way to get students interested in texts by creating connections between the text and themselves.
Culturally Relevant Teaching: As a future teacher, being culturally sensitive and teaching culturally relevant strategies for my students will be an essential skill to possess in the classroom. This will be a point of focus for me as I work with children. I hope to find successful ways of working with student strengths, considering their culture and background in each project and lesson I plan out.
Try and evaluate
I cannot settle for one method of helping a student. As a teacher, a significant portion of instruction for students, and especially for students with special needs, is to try and evaluate different methods of instruction to find the best fit for that specific student. I aim to be the teacher that helps each student find the best way for them to learn and express their learning. I want each of my students to benefit from the instruction I teach, and I want them to feel comfortable and proud of their learning. Each accommodation I make for a student should be incorporated into the classroom, with the least amount of interruption to the classroom community and to the students well being. I want all of my students to be successful learners in my classroom, and in every classroom to which they belong.
Bruner, J. (1960/1977). The Process of Education. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
Jewell, M. (2003). Adaptations are Essential. Retrieved August 15, 2005, from http://www.k12.wa.us/SpecialEd/pubdocs/adaptations/welcome.htm.
Labaree, D. (1997). Public Goods, Private Goods: The American Struggle Over Educational Goals. American Educational Research Journal. Vol 34, No. 1, pgs. 39-81.
Lumsden, L. (1994). Student Motivation to Learn. Eugene, OR: ERIC Clearinghouse on Educational Management. [ED370200]. Retrieved from http://chiron.valdosta.edu/whuitt/files/stdtmotv.html on April 28, 2006.