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January 17, 2022

What is your teaching philosophy? – Esme Barrell

What is your teaching philosophy? How has this originated and can you evaluate how your educational touchstones will impact upon the teacher you aspire to be?

At the heart of my teaching philosophy is ‘the development of students as autonomous, self-directed and self-regulating learners’ (Weimer, 2013, p.10). In relation to what I teach, I believe this should transcend from subject content into disciplinary skills that support students for their whole lives; empowering them to become life-long learners.

This belief derived from the advice of my A-Level History teacher to ‘think like a historian.’ To learn history, and to teach it, is not just a memorization of facts. Students personify the cognitive skill set of the discipline. Whilst, in ten years’ time, I do not expect my students to recall every piece of factual information of the historical periods studied. I hope the historical thinking skills they’ve harnessed, such as interpretation and analysis, will leave lasting cognitive legacies that they can apply independently everyday. I’ve observed how History is often inaccessible to students because it's generalised as facts and dates, which derives them from the fruits of the subject. My ambition, as a teacher, is to develop student inquisitiveness, using Ford and Kennett’s metaphor of ‘historical learning as a great symphony of facts, conceptual skills and narratives’, with myself as ‘the conductor’.

Aligned with constructivist pedagogy, I believe ‘learners are active in constructing their own knowledge’ (Bruning, Schraw, Norby, & Ronning, 2004, p.195) thus my classrooms are environments for student questioning and contention with objective truths in history. During lessons at my current school, I proactively guide students towards conceptual questioning, reflection on their cognitive processes for problem solving and use of independent judgement. In subsequent student self-reflections, students have shared how this makes their learning more meaningful and engaging. Above all, I hope to encourage their passion for studying History through this constant rethreading of subjective narratives. It is this ceaseless labyrinth of interpretation that makes History so bewitching. As a teacher, by giving students autonomy to reach their own conclusions, I hope to embed a love of learning and mental models for life.

As Weimar illuminates, these skills are ‘sometimes used within the course itself and regularly after it’ (Weimer, 2013,p.11) . To embed this, I allocate time for student reflection on a weekly basis so they can take ownership of their learning; scaffolding techniques such as journaling and target-setting, influenced by experiential learning pedagogies such as Kolb. I believe that my responsibility as a teacher is to be the architect of the learning environment, in terms of structure, objectives and modelling. However, students are all unique and should be challenged by guiding learning with their own ideas and conclusions.

Having personally studied at an international school, I believe my classrooms should be spaces to share differing viewpoints and cross-cultural awareness. Similarly, my current school also holds a diverse international student demographic. My teaching philosophy here is grounded in constructivist underpinnings that active student dialogue and sharing of beliefs and opinions help students grow into global citizens . I strive to maintain this opportunity during online learning and continually reflect on how to effectively install student-student collaboration and discussion into virtual classes. I believe an outstanding teacher is responsive, and will continually reflect on how best to meet shifting student needs.

Whilst history is associated with the past, I aspire to guide my students on how to thrive in the future.

References

Brooks, J. G & Brooks, M. G. (1993) In search of understanding: The case for constructivist classrooms. Alexandria, VA: Association of Supervision and Curriculum Development.

Bruning, R., Schraw, G., Norby, M., & Ronning, R. (2004) Cognitive psychology and instruction Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall, p. 195.

Ford, A and Kennett, R. (2018) “Conducting the orchestra to allow students to hear the symphony: getting richness of knowledge without resorting to fact overload”. Teaching History: 171. The Historical Association, 9-10.

Kolb, D. A. (1984) Experiential Learning: experience as the source of learning and development. New Jersey: Prentice Hall Inc.

Weimer, M. (2013) Learner Centred Teaching: Five Key Changes to Practice 2nd Ed, San Francisco: John Wiley & Sons, p.10-11.


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