Teaching Philosophy Michael Cohen Education Essay

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"Many students, especially those who are poor, intuitively know what the schools do for them. They school them to confuse process and substance. Once these become blurred, a new logic is assumed: the more treatment there is, the better are the results; or, escalation leads to success. The pupil is thereby "schooled" to confuse teaching with learning, grade advancement with education, a diploma with competence, and fluency with the ability to say something new. His imagination is "schooled" to accept service in place of value. Medical treatment is mistaken for health care, social work for the improvement of community life, police protection for safety, military poise for national security, the rat race for productive work. Health, learning, dignity, independence, and creative endeavour are defined as little more than the performance of the institutions which claim to serve these ends, and their improvement is made to depend on allocating more resources to the management of hospitals, schools, and other agencies in question." Ivan Illich Deschooling Society (1973: 9)

The student is ultimately responsible for his/her own learning. The professor is responsible for creating an environment where learning can take place. To this end the teacher provides mentoring, resources, knowledge and opportunities for learning in a variety of modes. These include tactile, visual, and audible forms. Moreover, now more than ever, the professor is a guide and mentor, someone who shows students paths to knowledge and helps them to learn to think critically while exploring new territory. The process of self exploration fosters lifelong learning by encouraging the student to open internal doors instead of assuming that there is some sort of ultimate truth that will somehow be spoon fed. Tabula Rasa was never true and certainly not for older students who have jobs and families. Their life experience is valuable and needs to be shared to make content relevant.

Students learn best when they are not only responsible for their own learning but for the learning of others as well. Communal learning fosters retention. This is why making a student responsible for the presentation of a lesson helps a student to learn. Teaching requires research, organization, and presentation skills. When students present they need to develop and ultimately practice all of those skills. There is motivation to avoid embarrassment in front of peers. This results in the acquisition of a depth of knowledge that might otherwise be forgone in the haste to complete an assignment. Because the student uses a variety of skills there is natural repetition through learning, organization of material, presentation and follow up questions. This repetition ensures learning and long term recall since it is presented utilizing several sensory inputs.

"Play is the work of children" (Friedrich Froebel, 1839)

Moreover, learning must be fun. Play is what children do to facilitate their exploration of their immediate environment. Play describes our ability to learn about, internalize and manipulate our environment. This desire for play remains with us for life. If we are to be successful teachers we must exploit the desire for play, modified to the appropriate life stage, to help our students learn.

To some degree, we are all children in that we are all constantly learning. For that reason, we all need to be able to play because it is through play that we are most creative. Play gives our students the freedom to manipulate ideas and techniques in ways that no other method offers. Our teaching methods need to reflect this truth and offer students opportunities to attempt new approaches and express new ideas in a safe environment. Teaching methods should provide opportunities that recognize and cultivate the inherent desire of humans to play and experiment.

Students need recognition and approval. In many instances these have been missing from the education they have experienced to date. Much of the success our students have experienced has been external and not formally recognized. In many instances, their curiosity and experimentation have met with disapproval and punishment. So it falls to us to remediate and help students restructure their thinking to accept their own innate intelligence.

Our students are on their way to becoming experts and authorities in their chosen fields because they have a passion for the work they have chosen. It falls to us to endow them with Einstein's curse. He said:

"To punish me for my contempt for authority, fate made me an authority myself." Albert Einstein, 1930

Students will be the authorities of the future. Therefore, they need to become lifelong learners if this is not already their mindset, not only for their personal growth and the satisfaction of a lifetime of learning, but to meet the constant and rapid change that the next century will surely bring. In a world that is constantly becoming a more accessible and egalitarian place, our students must not only develop critical thinking skills that make them effective citizens, but the professional and political skills that impart ability to retrain to meet new challenges and technologies. To this end it is our responsibility to help students learn to adapt and acquire the skills they will need throughout life. This requires us to not only present knowledge, but to present it in such a way as to demand from the student the work and satisfaction that will make him/her a lifelong learner.

"Self Actualization is the intrinsic growth of what is already in the organism, or more accurately, of what the organism is." Abraham Maslow, 1968

It is only through self actualization that real learning takes place and only through the internalization of learning that the ability to mentor matures and becomes accessible to others. If students are to become leaders, experts and authorities then they must learn to make learning part of the fabric of their being. It is our job to help them discover within themselves the tools that make this possible.

Our students can achieve success, greatness and fulfillment only if their understanding of technology includes an understanding of its (de)humanizing impact on the world, their potential for impacting that world and, by extension, humanity. As faculty we impart that understanding in everything we do and through the techniques we use in and out of the classroom to enlighten and facilitate both their learning and our own.