In my Contemporary Educational Thought class, I was asked to develop a two-page educational philosophy. The results are posted below. Comments are welcome.
Philosophy of Education
Upon entering Concordia University’s M.Ed. in Curriculum and Instruction program I had some preconceived notions based on a combination of my own reading and investigation, my studies in the EMDT program at Full Sail University, and my prior teaching experience. Now, after five education classes at Concordia some of those preconceptions have been reinforced, some abandoned, and other new ideas have synthesized with older notions into a more relevant, cohesive philosophy that will guide how I build a classroom community. The focus will be readjusted toward topics and skills that are more important to teach based on what will be required for the students’ success, and to develop classroom procedures for giving future students a better learning environment.
One topic that has remained strong is the idea of creating a learner-centered classroom that differentiates for both students’ learning needs and strengths, and their interests. This classroom will give students real choices that are designed to spark their natural curiosity and desire to learn, while still meeting the goals of the lesson. Lessons will be derived from the Common Core State Standards for Florida, but the means of learning those topics will be designed to make the work both relevant and engaging for each student. Furthermore, the choices will take into account students’ modality preferences, and there will be an attempt to include variations of each lesson that employ different aspects of Gardner’s multiple intelligences. Skill building will be stressed over specific content unless it is known to be some of the required content in the CCSS. Even required content will have some elements of choice built into it, and attempts will be made to bring Shakespeare, for example, down to the local community level to make it more familiar and relevant. Students will be encouraged to use their own writing and digital storytelling skills to demonstrate understanding of the big concepts built into the required content materials. The teacher and/or students will provide other content materials based on the goals of the lesson. Assessments in the classroom will be varied and formative to provide a more complete understanding of the students’ mastery of subjects. Recognizing that all subjects, standards, and skills are important, an emphasis will be placed on literacy skills and reading comprehension as they are necessary for learning in any subject, especially using online curriculum because the Internet is primarily a reading medium.
At the forefront of the learner-centered classroom will be the concept that children from the earliest ages benefit educationally from play, investigation, and even failure as necessary components of success. Children learning to walk will do so sooner if they perceive walking is relevant to getting something they want, important for investigating their surroundings, or an integral part of play that they are enjoying. Yet, even then they will fall down (fail at an attempt to walk), and their decision to try to walk again is strongly affected by the reaction they received from parents and teachers when they do. Encouraging a child to get up and try again will help lead to success more quickly than punitive consequences when they fall. So too must teachers applaud the students failures in any attempt at real learning, and use them constructively—guiding them to build learning upon their own prior experiences and successes in a constructivist manner. Even though high school students are well beyond the walking stages, these concepts are still critical for deep learning. However, many of them have lost the ability to learn from play and exploration because schools have punished their missteps along the way. Using new technologies whenever possible may encourage them to experience play and investigation in the classroom once again. Students must be supported in these areas using whatever means are possible so that they will enjoy learning anew, and move beyond any learned-helplessness they have acquired along the way.
In order to have a successful, learner-centered classroom, safety must be ensured or the students will not participate. Therefore, it is necessary from day one to begin building a multicultural environment where students’ differences are accepted and celebrated. Students will be encouraged to bring in decorations and photographs from home to help give the room a multicultural appeal, and parents and community members will be asked to participate as guest speakers or classroom helpers. Tolerance of one another’s differences will be an important focus of the class, which will be reinforced through class meetings, collective rule establishing activities, and collaborative projects using various teacher-assigned partnerships that change throughout the year to foster new friendships built on mutual respect, inclusion, and cooperation.
Another important set of factors in student learning is understanding, clarity, and goal setting. Attempts will be made to ensure that instructions are clear regardless of any student’s particular challenges. Rubrics prior to instruction, and specific, honest feedback given instantly afterward will help avoid long-term problems. Goals are important…especially for at-risk high school students. If the student doesn’t have a target at which to aim, he or she will likely aim randomly and often remain off task. Lack of goal setting will negatively affect students’ ability to graduate and to be prepared for career or college. Therefore, establishing both long- and short-term goals are necessary to keep the student focused. Although the teacher has limited capacity to enforce that the students set goals, constant encouragement and integrating classes about the importance of goal setting may be helpful in this area.
As one might expect, there is much more that can be addressed within a philosophy of educational principles, but the most important points were covered. The curriculum must be designed to meet the standards of the CCSS and help the students pass high-stakes testing, while still encouraging deep learning in a learner-centered environment. Learning must be relevant and engaging, and knowledge should be acquired through choices that involve play, investigation, and new technologies when possible. Failure must be celebrated as a part of the process of learning so no student learns to play it safe inhibiting learning and creativity, or develops learned helplessness as the result of repeated failure. Classrooms must be safe places for all students where multicultural, tolerant, inclusive environments allow every student to participate freely regardless of their differences. Finally, students must have clear goals and expectations, which will give them a target to aim for and help them meet expectations. With these things in place students should be able to thrive and succeed.