Mallory L. Chastain
Final Exam- EDU 230
April 25th, 2008
My Teaching Philosophy
A philosophy is simply a set of
morals, values, and beliefs that help to guide one’s everyday and long-term
decision making. As teachers we are faced with millions upon millions of
decisions each day and our decisions range from the smallest of who is going to
be our errand runner to larger decisions of what to do if a student is
misbehaving or not doing their assigned work. In education, there are
four different schools of philosophy including Perennialism, Essentialism,
Progressivism, and Romanticism.
An example of a classroom situation where a teacher would employ her own personal teaching philosophy is as follows. A student who is always prepared, never misses a day of class, and is very respectful towards her teacher forgets to turn in her homework. Another student who is rarely prepared for class, absent most of the time, and very disrespectful also forgets to turn in his homework. As teachers we are now faced with the question of what to do. Do we give the both students a zero, give the student who rarely turns in their homework a zero and let it slide for the student who is always prepared, or do we not punish either of them?
If this situation took place in my classroom I would have to employ the ideas of the two schools of philosophy that my beliefs are closest to, Progressivism and Romanticism, in order for me to make a decision. The Progressivists and Romanticists believe that the students should be very included in their own education and are in a sense responsible for their own education. Knowing this I would have to punish both students because by not turning in their homework, they are not being responsible for their own education, even though one student is typically more responsible than the other. As in my example, teachers use their philosophy to make every day decisions such as what to do if a student is not doing their assigned work. Teachers also use their philosophy to decide what they believe is the purpose of education, what knowledge is important to teach in their classroom, how to get to that knowledge, what or who to center on, what they should be to their students, and what their students should be to them.
As I mentioned earlier teachers use their personal philosophies to help them make decisions about what they feel the purpose of an education is. I feel that the purpose of education is a very wide topic. My beliefs in this realm are closely tied to those of the Progressivist’s and Romanticist’s. I believe that the purpose of education is not only to teach students what to learn, but more importantly to teach students how to learn. I also feel that the purpose of education is to help students develop creative and imaginative problem solving skills that will help them all throughout life, and to help students fully develop physically, intellectually, morally, and socially. I believe that if students achieve these goals they will be lifelong learners who are able to function not only properly but also creatively and imaginatively in society.
I have found five ground breaking
individuals in the history of education who also share my beliefs on the
connection between a proper education and a well functioning society. The
first individual who shares my beliefs is John Dewey. Dewey believed that
communication and education are the keys to a good society. Dewey
believed that the basis of a good society hinged on the ability of its
individuals to communicate with one another. Dewey said that as society
becomes more complex, the need for education grows. The second individual
who shares my beliefs is the man who was at the forefront of the Progressive
movement, George Counts. Counts not only believed that education was the
key to a good society but he also believed that students and teachers should be
heavily involved in social matters. He believed that instead of following
society, teachers should be leaders of society who educate their students on
social matters such as current news and politics. Counts believed that by
attaining a proper education, students and teachers alike could change society.
The third individual who shares my personal beliefs on the purpose of
education is the “Father of Kindergarten,” Freidrich Froebel. Froebel
created the idea of a kindergarten for many reasons, one of which being the
development of his student’s social skills. Froebel believed that
kindergarten was the first opportunity for children to develop their social
skills without the assistance of their parents. He also believed that
academic ability and the ability to function well in society hinged upon the
children’s development of social skills and self-esteem. Jan Amos
Comenius is the fourth individual to share my beliefs. Comenius believed
that what we learn in classrooms can be and must be applied to our everyday
life outside of the classroom. Comenius fought for a universal education
for everyone because he felt that through a universal education, society would be
bettered. The fifth and final person to share my beliefs is Horace Mann.
Mann also believed in the idea of a universal education and educational
opportunity for all. Mann stated that the goal of a school should be
social harmony and that through social harmony society is bettered. These
five people and I share similar beliefs about education and its importance in a
If I had to speak to one of my future students about why education is important I would start off by explaining to him or her that an education is the key to a good life. I would explain that the material you learn in one grade will carry over to the next grade and so on until you reach college or the work force. I would explain that learning material, asking questions about it, and examining it is an important part of what an education is about, but the most important part of an education is learning how to become a life long learner who is a problem solver, a questioner, and a curious social being who is able to function in society. I would explain that having this type of education and being this type of learner allows you to be anything you want to be.
Within an educational philosophy the ideas about truth/knowledge are extremely important. My beliefs on what truth/knowledge is are closely related to the schools of Progressivism and Romanticism. I believe that truth is constantly redefined according to what is going on in the world around us and that truth lies in the interests of the students. I feel that there is some material that we as teachers are always going to have to teach but we can take this material and apply the ideas of Progressivism and Romanticism to it and create lessons that focus on the world around us and what our students are interested in.
If I was in the process of deciding
what content to value in my classroom, I would first consult the standards to
see what I must teach. For example, if I consulted the standards and they
said that for 4th grade I must teach my students about
Within an educational philosophy there is also the idea of being subject or student-centered. On this issue, my beliefs are closely tied to the two student-centered schools of Progressivism and Romanticism. I believe that I am very student-centered in the sense that I believe that students should be very involved in their own education and learning process. I also believe that students should have a great deal of responsibility in their own education rather than just focusing strictly on the classics or essentials to live well as in Perennialsm and Essentialism.
Throughout my field experience, I have witnessed many good examples of what a student-centered program/teacher should be like. My field experience teacher used the idea of a money system to help keep her students involved and responsible in their own education and behavior. She had fake money that she would pay her students if they were on target and did their assigned work and followed directions but she would also have her students pay her money if they were not on target and failed to do things such as turn in their assigned work or follow directions. At the end of the week her students would get to shop the “Target-Market” which was basically several shelves full of different priced goodies. Not only did her students learn responsibility by earning or paying their money to her throughout the week, but they also used their responsibility at the end of the week when they were had to budget their money and pay for their goodies.
The belief in a student-centered education and the belief about the role of the teacher and the role of the student go hand in hand. My beliefs in the role of the teacher are again closely tied to the two student-centered schools of Progressivism and Romanticism. I believe that first and foremost the role of the teacher should be a facilitator whether than a dictator. I believe that the teacher should aid his or her students in the development of their problem-solving abilities and innate curiosity and desire to learn while also serving as a resource or source. Again my field experience teacher fits the model of what I feel a teacher should be. She ran her classroom in a way that made her students know she was in charge but also that she was there to help them with any need they might have. She was constantly answering questions from students and guiding them to where they needed to be without imposing certain ideas on them. My beliefs in the role of a teacher and the role of a student also go hand in hand. My beliefs about what the role of a student should be are closely tied to the two student-centered schools of Progressivism and Romanticism. I believe that the students should be curious and imaginative problem solvers who are always asking questions. In my field experience classroom there was a child who I feel completely exemplified my beliefs. He was probably one of the most intelligent students in the class, but that’s not what impressed me. He was constantly asking questions and making connections between things that sometimes I didn’t even see. For example the librarian came in our class one day to discuss encyclopedias and he kept asking her if the Civil War was in the encyclopedia and if Robert E. Lee was in the encyclopedia. When the librarian informed him that neither of them were in the 2nd grade based encyclopedia he was curious to know why they were not in there. He always wanted to know “why?” and he strived to learn as much as he possibly could about everything we covered.
Along with teaching philosophies, differentiation is also an important part of the teaching process. Differentiation is a process by which the teacher recognizes her students’ individual and collective needs, wants, desires, and learning differences and caters to them by using different educational strategies and varying complexities. There are six main principles of differentiation. The first main principle of differentiation is that the teacher focuses on the essentials. This basically means that the teacher recognizes the main things that she wants her students to leave the classroom knowing. For example in my lesson about United States Presidents the essential content I would want my students to leave knowing might be-1) how does one become president, 2) where does the President live and work, and 3) what is a short job description for the President. The second main principle of differentiation is that the teacher attends to student differences. This basically means that the teacher recognizes that her students have different ways of learning (such as different Multiple Intelligences, Learning Styles, and Personality Types) and caters to those different ways of learning by using different educational strategies and varying complexities. The third main principle of differentiation is that assessment and instruction are inseparable. This principle means that a teacher has to recognize that she cannot just test or assess at the end of a year. She must see that as her instruction continues on, so should her assessment. For example a teacher could assess her students at the beginning of the school year, multiple times throughout the school year, and at the end of the school year and she can use these assessments to help improve her instruction. The fourth main principle of differentiation is that students must do respectful work. This principle means that the students must respect the work that they are assigned but at the same time the teacher must respect the student and assign them work that is right for them. An example of this mutual respect would be if a teacher assigned a bodily/kinesthetic learner to act out a play summarizing a book they had read whether than composing a written summary. The fifth main principle of differentiation is that teachers and students must collaborate in learning. This principle basically means that there has to be open communication between the teachers and the students in order to provide the best learning environment for the students. A good example of this would be using the above example of the teacher assigning her student to act out a play whether than write a summary because the communication between the student and the teacher was obviously there for the teacher to realize that this student had a very different learning style and needed special attention. The sixth and final principle of differentiation is that the teacher and student must work together flexibly. This principle basically means that the teacher must see her students’ wants, needs, desires, and learning differences and the student must see their teachers’ wants needs and desires for his or her classroom. A good example of this would again be the above example where the teacher assigned her student to write and act out a play whether than write a summary of the book. In this example the teacher was being flexible to his/her learners needs, wants, desires, and learning differences and the student was also being flexible to the teachers’ needs, wants, and desires for her classroom. I feel that differentiation is extremely important and fits into my teaching philosophy because it helps the students become better problem-solvers and it helps maintain their curiosity because differentiation is focusing on what is best for the students, just as in Progressivism and Romanticism.
Along with my personal teaching philosophy and beliefs about differentiation, I will also employ many of the ideas of the Price School of Education’s DATA Model to my classroom. First I will use and draw on my knowledge of content standards, learner differences, and ongoing assessment. I will consider the content standards that my state, district, county, and school require me to teach. I did this earlier this semester when I decided to teach my 2nd grade classroom a lesson on multiplication. First I went to the Georgia Standards website, then the 2nd grade strand, and from the 2nd grade strand I was able to find the math strand. Within the math strand I found a standard and sub-standard that dealt with modeling multiplication as repeated addition. I will also consider my knowledge of learner differences to help see things in my students such as varying Multiple Intelligences, Learning Styles, and Personality Types. I also did this when planning my 2nd grade lesson on multiplication. Over a number of weeks during my observation I was able to notice what type of learning styles there were in my 2nd classroom. I noticed that the majority of students in my classroom where bodily/kinesthetic learners but that there were also several visual and verbal learners. I was them able to use my knowledge of the three main learning styles of my classroom to create parts of my lesson that catered to bodily/kinesthetic, visual, and verbal learners. For the bodily/kinesthetic students I had an activity where the students had to stand up, get in groups, and model themselves as a multiplication problem. For the visual learners I drew pictures and worked problems out on the board, and for the verbal learners I verbally explained the idea of modeling repeated addition as multiplication and said several problems out loud for them to answer. I will also carefully use my knowledge of ongoing assessment to vary the assessment in my classroom. I know that assessment is a process of continually collecting data to help me improve my teaching. I also know that it is best to assess my students many times throughout the year, including the beginning of the school year, varied times throughout the school year, and at the end of the school year.
After I have used and drawn on my knowledge of content standards, learner differences, and ongoing assessment, I will apply this knowledge and differentiate my essential content, teaching processes, and student products. I will differentiate the essential content, or what I want my students to leave my classroom knowing. An example of this in my lesson planning was that I chose hand motions and a chant to help my students remember the essential content of my lesson. I will also differentiate my teaching processes, or the way I present information to my students. An example of this in the planning and teaching of my lesson was how I used bodily/kinesthetic, visual, and verbal activities to present the idea of modeling multiplication as repeated addition to my students. I will also differentiate the student products, or the way the students show me what they have learned from my lesson. I also have an example of this from planning and teaching my lesson. Instead of making my students do a hand-out or a quiz, I had them play a game where they had to match a multiplication problem up with a picture that modeled repeated addition. I split the class up into two teams and they raced to see who could get the most correct matches. From this I was able to see that my students did grasp the concept of multiplication as repeated addition because they were able to make many correct matches. I feel that they way I used the DATA model to plan and teach my lesson will be the way I will use the DATA model in my classroom. I feel that it is important to use your knowledge of content standards, learner differences, and ongoing assessment in order to differentiate essential content, teaching processes, and student products. I also feel that it is important to use all of this combined knowledge to make adjustments to your teaching in order to make you a better and more effective teacher.
In education, along with the use of teaching philosophies, differentiation, and teaching processes there is also the use of theories. A theory is an idea about or an explanation of a certain topic. The theory that I focused on this semester was Lev Vygotsky’s Social Development Theory. Lev Vygotsky did research that centered on how people learn. He believed that people learn best through social interaction, like my purpose of education stated, and relationships with others. Vygotsky’s Social Development Theory introduced the idea of a Zone of Proximal Development which was basically the region between what a learner can do by him or herself and what they can do with the assistance of a more knowledgeable other such as a teacher or more advanced peer. Vygotsky believed that full development of this Zone of Proximal Development was only attainable through full social interaction. He believed that scaffolding and guided participation are two ways of helping the learner develop their Zone of Proximal Development. The idea of scaffolding is basically a support of learning. Scaffolding suggests that to begin with the more knowledgeable other such as a teacher or a more advanced peer takes full responsibility for the students learning and problem solving skills but through this support eventually the learner will be able to develop and use their problem-solving skills independently. The idea of guided participation is basically when a more knowledgeable other guides a novice and the novice learns from this guiding and eventually can do tasks independently without a guide. Vygotsky believes that through scaffolding and guided participation a teacher can help develop his or her student’s Zone of Proximal Development. I believe that this theory is a very well thought out and easily applied theory. I feel that Vygotsky’s focus on the social aspect of learning fits into my teaching philosophy, because as I stated earlier I feel that the purpose of education is develop individuals who are life long learners who can function properly in society. I also feel that the ideas of scaffolding and guided participation closely tie into my ideas of a teacher being a facilitator who is there to help and guide whether than a dictator. The ideas of differentiation can easily be applied to Vygotsky’s theory. For example the 6 main principles of differentiation can be applied within scaffolding and guided participation to help the learner better develop their Zone of Proximal Development.
There are also two other important theories that I touched on earlier, that I believe go hand in hand and fit into my teaching philosophy, my ideas about differentiation, and the DATA model. One of which is the Multiple Intelligences Theory by Howard Gardner. The Multiple Intelligences states that people are not limited to just the intelligences that can be tested by an IQ test.
second theory is the Learning Styles Theory and it states that people learn in
many different ways. For example people
can learn actively vs. reflectively, globally vs. sequentially, verbally vs. visually,
or sensing vs. intuitive. For example like I touched on when I explained
learner differences within the DATA Model, people learn in many different ways
and it is important to realize this and apply it to teaching and learning. As a teacher you may have a leaner who cannot
interpret visual representations of a lesson but is extremely good at
understanding verbal representations. In my opinion, the Multiple
Intelligence and Learning Styles theories go hand in hand because they both
touch on learner differences. I feel that as a facilitator it is
important to recognize and attend to all of your students’ learner differences.
As I mentioned earlier these two theories are a huge part of
differentiation and the DATA model and can be easily applied in the classroom.