How Teaching Perspectives Influence How One Approaches Learning
My Personal Perspective on Educational Practices
Throughout this writer’s educational career, she has encountered a variety of teaching methods and teaching styles from her instructors. Although she has noted both major and minor differences in teaching methods— and has obviously preferred some methods to others— she has never considered the philosophical positions of her teachers, how those positions influence teaching methods and how the philosophies might influence her as a student and future teacher. This paper will discuss the perceived philosophical positions of her sixth grade teacher, Mr. W., her high school math teacher, Mrs. H., and a college teaching professor, Dr. H..
Mr. W- The Neo-Scholasticist
Mr. W. was the quintessential tough sixth grade teacher who had been at this writer’s elementary school since the first day it opened. He had literally taught several grandparents of this writer’s classmates and had no intention of leaving the teaching profession anytime soon. Although he had been offered administration positions for years, he preferred to stay with the students and teach students. He was a traditional teacher in every sense of the word, with seats in straight rows facing the front of the classroom. He expected respect from students, and treated students with a firm but loving spirit. He genuinely wanted every student in his class to succeed and fostered each student’s strengths by encouraging some students in the arts, others in sports and others in traditional book learning.
Upon examination of the different philosophies presented in Knight (2006), this writer considers Mr. W. to be a prime example of a neo-scholasticist teacher. Despite working in a public school, Mr. W. integrated Biblical concepts into the classroom. Like Aristotle, Mr. W. “taught that the universe has design and order, and that every result has a cause” (Knight, p. 56). He taught values and help students accountable for their actions. As described by Knight, Mr. W. often integrated synthetic statements into the coursework, and required students to approach problems logically.
Mr. W.’s teaching philosophies helped this writer understand that it is possible to be a witness for Christ in the public school system without ever saying the name of Jesus Christ. As Blackaby and Blackaby (2001) suggest, being a leader requires a walk with the Lord that oozes integrity, that others can not help but notice something different about you (p. 104). Mr. W. way of life seemed to epitomize the concept of 1 Corinthians 10:31, which reminds man to do everything to the glory of God.
This writer attended public school for high school as well, where she took a new math class. This writer perceives her math teacher, Mrs. H., to be a classic pragmatic teacher, since the teaching goal seemed to teach students how to “learn to learn” instead of how to actually complete arithmetic problems (King, 2006, p. 73). Correct answers were not important in this “new math” classroom, so much as the student put forth an effort and attempted to learn concepts. Mrs. H. prescribed to the so-called neutral curriculum, as described by Van Brummelen (2002) in that students were taught that values and methods of completing tasks were up to interpretation and dependent upon the situation (Van Brummelen, p. 3).
Mrs. H- The Classic Pragmatic
Mrs. H. employed classic pragmatic techniques as described by Knight (2006), such as wanting students to experience everything and involving participation by everyone in the class (p. 74). Carson (2009) suggests that teachers often teach in the style that they prefer to learn (p. 96). This writer supposes that all the hands-on activities in the classroom was due to the fact that the teacher’s own preferred learning style is kinesthetic.
While this writer generally liked the teacher is personality, she was often frustrated by the methods employed in the classroom for determining grades. She often felt like she was being pandered to, and never felt like she completely understood how to complete assignments correctly since the emphasis was on feelings and the process rather than correct answers. Too often math assignments centered on word problems and situations rather than concrete problems and how to determine the answer. While the teacher may have thought she was sparing hurt feelings by not correcting homework with helpful critiques, this writer was often frustrated by not knowing how to solve problems correctly.
Mrs. H.’s teaching philosophy influenced this writer’s own teaching philosophy by wanting to show students that there are absolutes and that answers are not relative to the situation. While Mrs. H.’s math class used experiential techniques almost to the exclusion of other learning techniques, this writer plans to recognize the learning preferences of her students, and implement various teaching techniques as described in Nilson (2010). While there are several theories and variations on learning styles, this writer recognizes the overarching concepts, and plans to determine each student’s preferences and teach materials using several styles so that each student has an equal opportunity to learn. As Nilson notes, “knowing and being able to take advantage of student’s learning-style strengths also helps instructors prepare them for the real world” (p. 229).
Like Knight (2006), this writer recognizes that there are beneficial and unhelpful elements to any teaching philosophy (p. 99). Despite the pragmatic methods of communication instead of teaching concept, this writer recognizes that language is related to power and can be used as an effective teaching style when not used exclusively (Knight, p. 99). This writer is strong enough in her faith to recognize the good and bad in different methods and integrate particular aspects in a selective manner.
Dr. H- The Neo-Scholastic
Although this writer only had Dr. H. for one course in college, the instructor left a lasting impression due to her enthusiasm for teaching, desire to help students enjoy and understand the concepts, and for her love of the subject matter. This course was at the master’s level and was on the subject of teaching elementary science. While this writer did not particularly enjoy the idea of the science classroom, Dr. H. showed evoked excitement for the course by showing how to find God’s handiwork in nature and the order of the universe.
This writer perceives that Dr. H. prescribed to the neo-scholastic philosophy, since she emphasized the “intellectual and spiritual aspects of culture” as described by Knight (2006, p. 60). Dr. H. encouraged her teaching students to consider ways to integrate God’s plan into the science curriculum, and look for the precise answers. Knight further notes that the “ecclesiastical neo-scholastic sees the role of teachers to be that of spiritual leaders as well as mental disciplinarians” (p. 59). Dr. H. exemplified that sentiment by encouraging her teaching students to foster a strong relationship with Christ in order to be a successful teacher.
In summary, this writer has had teachers that have been both a good and bad example of how to be an effective teacher in the classroom. This writer has learned how to communicate God’s truth in the public and private setting, and has recognized the importance of paying attention to the needs of the child, without making the child the focus of the school day.
Blackaby, Henry & Blackaby, Richard. (2001). Spiritual leadership: Moving people on to God’s agenda. Nashville, TN: B&H Publishing Group.
Carson, D. (2009). Is style everything? Teaching that achieves its objectives. Cinema Journal. doi: 1876730441
Knight, George R. (2006). Philosophy & education: An introduction in christian perspective. Berrien Springs, MI: Andrews University Press.
Nilson, Linda. (2010). Teaching at its best: A research-based resources for college instructors. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
Van Brummelen, Harro. (2002). Steppingstones to curriculum. Colorado Springs, CO: Purposeful Design Publications.