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Teaching is a profession that is frequently developing with new and innovative changes in pedagogy, curriculum and classroom management strategies. As these changes continue to develop, it is obvious that one may begin to feel quite overwhelmed and inundated with ever changing information. For this reason, it is vital each Learning Manager develops their own personal educational philosophy in regards to teaching by reflecting critically on specific strategies to ensure one's own integrity and judgment is not compromised when dealing with a specific dilemma in the classroom. By reflecting critically on what my image of a learner is, how families have developed in today's society and incorporating my own vision for curriculum, pedagogy and assessment as well as relating my understanding of the roles or a Learning Manager through the review of learning theories, my own personal teaching philosophy can be developed. This personal teaching philosophy will be instrumental in developing skills to deal with daily classroom dilemmas.
Image of Learners
My image of a learner is any person who is eager to learn new information and integrate this new information into their daily lives. The age of a learner is irrelevant as I believe life-long learning is crucial to one's ongoing personal development. However, as a current Learning Management student, who will teach in an early childhood setting, the context of my view of a learner changes to a child in the early years of learning who is engaging in new knowledge and ideas for the first time. Research highlights and I also feel, from birth, children are experts in their own lives, skilful communicators, active agents, and meaning makers (Clark & Moss 2005,1). Before starting the Preparatory Year, children live and learn in a range of overlapping, socially and culturally diverse settings. Early Years Curriculum Guidelines (ETCG) States that many factors within these settings interact to influence how children see themselves, their ways of responding to the world and how they interact and build relationships. It would be ignorant to suggest that learners come to our classrooms as blank slates; they arrive with a backpack full of very different learning experiences and knowledge. The EYCG reflects extensive research "showing that early childhood programs encouraging active learning, problem solving, effective communication, creativity, social adjustment and participation benefit children's long-term success in education and citizenship. The curriculum recognises the diversity of experiences and relationships that shape children's lives.
It is important to recognise that high quality education early in life gives children the best start so during this phase of learning, students are inquisitive and eager to discover and learn about the wider world. So as a future educator I need to provide significant and exciting learning experiences that link to the real world and relate to their own interests.
"It is also important to realise that today's learners are wealthy in terms of access to media and communication, and they demand engagement in everything they do" (Prensky, 2005). In many countries today's students are referred to as "digital natives", as a result are more connected to each other and are very team-oriented, and believe in achieving. Today's learners want to be able to connect their learning to the here and now. They want to know how the learning they are engaged in will help them later on in their lives. I feel that my view of today's digital natives is supported as Prensky posed 21st century students think and process information fundamentally differently from their predecessors and Digital Natives are used to receiving information really fast. They like to parallel process and multi-task. They prefer their graphics before their text rather than the opposite. They prefer random access (like hypertext). They function best when networked. They thrive on instant gratification and frequent rewards. This technology driven society if being reflected in school curriculum and pedagogy to help today's learners learn through tools that are already functioning and e-learning is a catalyst for a futures orientation.
Image of Families and Society
As teachers we need to understand the child as a member of a particular kind of family grouping and how their memberships of family groupings can give them access to the power and 'goods' of the dominant culture OR perhaps the child in front of you is part of a marginalised group with limited access to the goods (or capital) of the dominant culture. In a modern, ever developing world the traditional family of a mother, father and two children is decreasing as single parent, gay and lesbian couples and single children families are becoming more common. The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) (2010) state "These trends reflect broad social and economic changes including young people remaining in education for longer periods, higher participation of women in labour force, decreased fertility, increased number of divorced people and an ageing population." According to the ABS on census night, 2006, approximately 25% of all children counted were not living with a traditional mother and father arrangement. This figure included approximately 3,200 children living in same-sex couples, with the majority of these same-sex couples being females. My view of the modern family is one of 'anything goes'. I grew up in a family of a married mother and father who produced three offspring who all lived together until leaving home. All of my cousins and friend also have ground up in families like this. However, I realise not all families are made up of this combination and some families can be made up of a formally divorce couple with their own children and now all live together. This to me, although not traditional, is also a family. Same-sex couples and single parent families are also, in my opinion, thought of as a family who deserve the same respect as I believe my own family deserves. As a future Learning Manager, I believe this trend in social change should be incorporated into my classroom to ensure each student can share comfortably their family's ideas and experiences. I also feel that with a greater percentage of children living in single parent families, the need for firm but fair discipline in the classroom is required. By setting clear expectations from the start of the year, and enforcing the punishment for poor behaviour, students will feel a sense of trust and acceptance and feel comfortable to learn in a safe environment.
I also believe that being a Learning Manager I am an educator and in this position I will be a role model for all young people. To be a role model for all students I plan on being ethical in all my dealings and being respectful and fair both in the school and the wider community.
I will endeavour to build a relationship with each student and their parent/s so that I am able to understand what impact home life has on individual students learning/schooling and open the lines of communication to help deal with any issues that the student may have. I will make myself available to speak with parents and encourage them to attend teacher parent interviews and assist in classroom activities such as reading programs.
Image of curriculum, pedagogy and assessment
When developing my own personal teaching philosophy, my vision on curriculum, pedagogy and assessment are vital as my personal philosophy will visibly influence decisions I make in the classroom. Throughout the last century, many significant learning theorists have developed several theories, including behaviourism, cognitive constructivism and social constructivism, which have influenced the way in which learning managers teach their students. Therefore, without discussing these theories, it would be impossible to develop a personal learning philosophy.
Behaviourism is largely contributed to the work of Frederic Skinner. Skinner believed behaviourism "was the only observable and measureable response to learning." Smith, Lynch & Knight (2007, p.21). McInerney, (2005, p. 588) describes behaviourism as "...a process of transmitting external knowledge to students through demonstration, reinforcement and controlled and sequenced practice." Therefore, behaviourism emphasises the fact that people learn through repetition and requires a teacher to state facts and figures which the students learn through repetition and practice. Until the 1970's this was the most widely used theory for learning managers. Wink & Putney (2002). Piaget believed teachers should be seen as more of a facilitator rather than a supervisor as he believed people could not learn effectively by just acquiring information but should construct knowledge from already known knowledge and beliefs. Smith, Lynch & Knight (2007). This theory of constructivism is still widely used in today's society as Piaget also recognised the importance of brain activity in the facilitation of learning.
The theory of constructivism was taken further by Vygotsky, another influential theorist interested in learning, to develop the theory of social-constructivism. Vygotsky believed a person's social environment and cultural background also played an important factor in their ability to learn. "For Vygotsky, learning is more than just passively receiving information and responding to it; learning includes the ideas generated in the process of dialectical discovery." Wink & Putney (2002, p.10). When discussing social-constructivism, the term 'social capital' arises. Social capital can best be described by Robert Putnam, an expert in the field as "Whereas physical capital refers to physical objects and human capital refers to the properties of individuals, social capital refers to connections among individuals - social networks and the norms of reciprocity and trustworthiness that arise from them." Putnam (2000). Coleman and Hoffer, in 1987, completed research collected from 28,000 students from 1980 to 1987 from public and private schools across America. Their research concluded social capital in communities and families ensured a much lower dropout rate in the private schools when compared to that of the public schools. Coleman & Hoffer (1987).
I believe it is important to recognise the fact that all of these theories play a role in the development of students learning.
I recognise behaviourism plays a role in learning as students do need repetition and practice when it comes to learning information that can only be right or wrong, for example, their times tables. However, I also recognise constructivism and social-constructivism are important as a person does need to draw from their own experiences to learn and develop new knowledge. I also believe social capital is present in the school system and as a learning manager; an emphasis must be placed on providing all students, regardless of their social stance, the same opportunities to learn and develop their education.
As mentioned previously, personal views of curriculum, pedagogy and assessment do contribute to a learning manager's personal learning philosophy as these three 'message systems' are interlinked. Firstly, curriculum refers to "...all the planned, guided and implemented learning that occurs in a school." Education Queensland (2010). I believe as a future learning manager, a clear and concise curriculum is vital as it provides the teacher with a guideline or framework to ensure all students are gaining the knowledge that is required from Education Queensland to successfully move into their next phase of education. Secondly, pedagogy refers to "the processes, experiences, contexts, outcomes and relationships of teaching and learning..." Beetham & Sharpe (2007, p. 1). Therefore, I believe that pedagogy is an art that cannot be mastered quickly and must be practiced and refined over many years of teaching and reflection. At the completion of each day a written reflection on the day's events (what worked, what didn't, how could it be improved?) will help me understand what direction to take for the following days lessons. This type of reflection over the years will help shape and refine my pedagogy skills.
Cornbleth (1990) "Curriculum construction is an ongoing social activity that is shaped by various contextual influences within and beyond the classroom and accomplished interactively, primarily by teachers and students. The curriculum is not a tangible product but the actual, day-to-day interactions of students, teachers, knowledge and milieu. The curriculum encompasses what others have called curriculum practice or the curriculum -in-use. Curriculum as product or object, the conventional view, is seen as one aspect of the context that shapes curriculum practice. . . ."
The final component of the three message systems is that of assessment. It is thought that teachers spend as much as one-third of their working time in assessment related activities. Athanasou & Lamprianou (2002). Therefore, it is obvious that this component is of great importance. Assessment can be thought of as "the process or processes of collecting and combining information from tasks (e.g., tests on performance or learning) with a view to making a judgment about a person or making a comparison against an established criterion." Athanasou & Lamprianou (2002, p.3). My personal philosophy however, is that assessment is a necessary part of learning as I believe it is the only way a learning manager can accurately know how well their students are grasping new concepts and ideas. I don't believe all assessment should be written tests, but can include assignment work, homework or in-class activities. I believe a teacher can assess in many other ways without the student even knowing. For example, asking the student to read a paragraph from a novel can indicate their reading and comprehension skills just as well as a written test might. I believe this form of assessment is far less stressful to the student but still indicates their level or ability.
The Roles and Responsibilities of a Professional Educator
The roles and responsibilities of a learning manager are also instrumental in developing one's own personal teaching philosophy as what I believe a teacher's roles and responsibilities are may vary greatly from another learning manager. I also believe a learning manager's attitude and perception can greatly influence their ability to teach. "Most people recognize that attitudes and perceptions influence learning. As learners, we all have experienced the impact of our attitudes and perceptions related to the teacher, other students, our own abilities, and the value of assigned tasks." Marzano & Pickering (1997, p.13) I also believe the roles and responsibilities of a teacher do not just stop at the classroom door at 3pm, but also extend outside the classroom and into the wider community. I believe teachers do not just have an obligation to ensure their learners are gaining knowledge from the curriculum, but also learning life skills, judgment and the ability to actively join society as contributing members of the wider community. Also, the culture a teacher creates in their classroom is important as this tone can either impede or enhance a student's experience with learning. "Research about brain function shows that the culture teachers create through their classroom management system will enhance or impede student's learning." Feinstein (2006, p. 135).
Dealing with a dilemma in the classroom is something that teachers face often several times daily. Newman and Pollnitz (2002, p. 11) define a dilemma as "a problem, a predicament, a quandary, that requires a choice between options. Each option has disadvantages or advantages for the different people involved." Obviously, the development of a personal teaching philosophy when dealing with a dilemma is important as a teacher knows his or her 'rules' based on theoretical evidence and also personal experiences.
The dilemma I researched was that the student was not following the classroom rules. They had been warned repeatedly to follow the rules and had been given timeout. The student continued to misbehave and was removed by my colleague to another room. My colleague picked the student up by the arms, using excessive force to remove the student to the other room. My colleague then shouted in the student's face for misbehaving. The student was distressed by the whole situation and upon his return did not correct his behaviour anyway. Even though the child's behaviour was not inappropriate and did not follow class rules I feel that the teacher needed tools in places to cope with students acting in this manner. I feel student should have few and simple rules and teacher and students must discuss the consequences if these rules are not followed, all parties involved know the expectation and result if they are not meet. I will make the consequences directly relate to the misbehaviour and I make sure that children understand this relationship.
As teaching is an ever evolving profession, the importance of a personal teaching philosophy is critical as it ensures a teacher will not feel inundated as new techniques and information continue to change. By critically discussing leading learning theories and how the three educational message systems of curriculum, pedagogy and assessment are interlinked, a personal teaching philosophy can be developed. Dilemmas often arise in the classroom and a personal teaching philosophy is critical in dealing with these dilemmas as they ensure a learning managers personal ethics and morals, based on research and personal experiences, are not compromised or neglected. Aristotle once said "that those who educate children well are more to be honoured than they who produce them, for there only gave life, those the art of living well". As I teacher coming into the workforce we need to remember the impact that we can make on children's live. As a student myself I have observed great teaching and for me it was teacher who had passion for what they did. Passion is one of the most important components of effective teaching. After completing my philosophy of teaching I feel when I teach someone something it gives me a sense of accomplishment, see children learn, grow and develop, seeing them being able to do things that they were unable to do at the beginning is genuinely a fulfilling experience and I know that teaching is the right profession for me.