After teaching for a number of years I still can say that I thoroughly enjoy teaching. Why? I find it extremely rewarding to be a part of the personal and professional development of my students. My greatest rewards come as I see growth in students as they: explore new concepts; ask questions and pursue answers; make connections between concepts and practices; get excited about what they are learning; express confidence in their knowledge base for developing their own teaching practices; and find direction for their future.
Goals for student outcomes provide a framework for my teaching practices. I hope that students will be able to develop skills in teaching and working with children. Equally important to me is that they develop a thorough understanding of why they do what they do, a theoretical and philosophical base for their practices. Therefore, I consistently intertwine "why" with "how to" in the early childhood education program. It is a joy to see students develop my ideal student outcomes that include the following abilities and dispositions:
- Gain a knowledge base upon which to build teaching practices: theories, research findings, fundamentals of learning/teaching, child development, and current concepts of "best practices" in early education
- Be an effective teacher in guiding the learning of young children
- Demonstrate respect and appreciation for all people
- Relate effectively with children as well as adults, especially parents and coworkers
- Be a self-motivated life-long learner who will continue growing in knowledge, attitude, and performance
- Practice critical thinking and problem-solving in their every day lives.
I am an eclectic who draws from multiple sources in creating my own personal approach to teaching. Theoretical and philosophical concepts create a foundation for my teaching just as I desire they will for my students. Following are some of the approaches coupled with implications for my instruction:
- Constructivist Theory (Piaget and Bruner)
- I believe that learning is an active process in which learners construct new ideas or concepts based on their current or past knowledge.
I encourage students to discover principles through their own active involvement with the content. I seek to create a student-centered classroom where students participate in dialogue, discover and integrate new knowledge, make curriculum choices, and feel saf to explore ideas.
- Experiential Learning (C. Rogers)
- I believe students learn best when the learning is experienced or significant because it addresses their needs and wants. Humans have a natural propensity to learn. Their learning is enhanced when the subject matter is relevant to their personal interests and the learning is self-initiated.
I attempt to function as a facilitator of learning; as one who clarifies the purposes for the learner and then organizes and makes learning resources available, guiding their activities. I give students some control over the nature and direction of the learning and help them to self-initiate their own learning. I base learning on problems and situations that confront students. I help them self-evaluate their progress and success.
- Social Learning Theory (Vygotsky)
- I believe that people learn in a social context. They learn through interaction with others and within the expectations and guidelines of their environment. The greatest learning takes place in the Zone of Proximal Development, which is the area of difficulty just between what they can accomplish on their own and what they can accomplish with support.
I challenge students and provide the necessary support to enable them to function at the peak of their abilities. I build on what they already know and are able to do.
- Multiple Intelligences (Gardner)
- I believe that individuals possess varying degrees of each of the multiple intelligences. They demonstrate strength in both different content domains and in learning modalities of the intelligences.
I encourage students to use and build on the strengths of their preferred intelligences. I try to integrate several different methods in my classroom that accommodate my students’ various strengths. For example, I might integrate a mini-lecture, class discussion, small group work, role play, and/or a hands-on project in the same class lesson. Assessment is also based on multiple sources and types of activities.
- Subsumption Theory (Ausubel)
- I believe that individuals are able to learn large amounts of meaningful material from verbal and textual presentations (expository learning) when the new material is related to relevant ideas that they already possess.
I present new concepts in a general manner first in ways that help learners integrate it with their previous information. Then we progressively differentiate in terms of detail and specificity. I also attempt to help them develop their teaching skills in general first, followed by more specific refined expectations.
- Androgy (Knowles)
- I believe adults become self-directed learners who expect to take responsibility for their own decisions. They need to know why they should learn something to become motivated to learn. They need to learn experientially. They are most interested in learning that has immediate relevance to their own lives.
I place a lot of emphasis on the process of learning, using strategies that involve the student. I see myself as a resource and facilitator, rather than only as a lecturer and grader. My instruction is task-oriented with learning activities which are in the context of tasks to be performed. I involve students in the planning and evaluation of their learning. I use evaluation for both formative and summative purposes.
I am humbled when I review these lofty concepts and goals. I accept the challenge to continuously evolve as both a teacher and a learner. I will continue refining my philosophy and practices as I attempt to more effectively guide my students’ learning and development.