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Posts Tagged ‘philosophy

In a few weeks, yet another batch of future faculty will pass through my hands. I can only hope that they remember to teach with learning and the learner in mind.

Another related task that they have to do is start a teaching philosophy statement. As this piece of writing is a challenge even for established faculty, I will be providing them links to two resources I shared in this blog:

  1. 10 tips for crafting a teaching philosophy
  2. Writing tips for future faculty

Today, I add one more simple tip: Find a balance between storytelling and citing pedagogical research.

Narratives can be compelling because they are often personal stories. However, one person’s story does not necessarily represent a system nor is it credible.

Citing pedagogical research that has rigour and respect goes a long way to providing some credibility to an approach to teaching. However, it lacks personalisation.

I recommend blending the two. For example, a personal story of a bad learning experience could provide context for a new pedagogical approach.

When the strength of one method compensates for the weakness of another, it makes sense to combine the both in a delicate balance.

A few progressive institutes of higher learning have started requiring future teachers and faculty to write teaching philosophies. I have been part of two of these institutes.

These statements might be part of a future instructor’s assignment or e-portfolio, or an existing one’s documentation for appraisal.

I have read and evaluated too many to count. Here are ten tips for crafting (not just writing) an initial teaching philosophy.

  1. A teaching philosophy is a statement of intent. Answer two key questions: HOW do you intend to teach and WHY?
  2. Start with a clear premise. Concisely state a teaching and learning problem in your discipline, then suggest one or more solutions.
  3. Write simply and directly to communicate clearly. There is no need to use high-sounding lingo to try to impress, but do not write the way you speak either. Write concisely. If your sentences go beyond three lines across a portrait page, you are likely to confuse the reader.
  4. Chunk logically with one idea per paragraph. Example of poor chunking: Theory1, T2, T3 followed by Practice 1, P2, P3. Better chunking: T1 P1 in one paragraph, T2 P2 in another paragraph. Start with a theme or topic sentence for each paragraph, elaborate on it, and provide an example.
  5. Cite the work of others judiciously. We stand on the shoulders of others before us and it is important to cite such critical and reflective practice. Use a referencing style, e.g., APA, properly and consistently.
  6. Take ownership of the approaches. Do not simply attribute sources without elaborating on how it applies to you. This is YOUR teaching philosophy, so explain how you make the approaches yours.
  7. Cite current work. If you quote a strategy from the 80s or 90s, you are not leveraging on what is current, e.g., Internet resources, mobile mindsets.
  8. Do not forget the basics. Proofread for spelling and grammar errors as well as fact-check by taking advantage of the affordances of modern writing tools.
  9. Walk away and return to it. A teaching philosophy should not be written in one sitting. Leave a draft to “stew” then come back to it with fresh eyes. You might catch misrepresented ideas or unintended tones this way.
  10. A teaching philosophy is a living document. It is something that should change over a career. It should also change should the teaching not be effective or relevant. If it does not, you are not likely to be an effective instructor.
092/365 - And I Shall Call it a “Spade by djwtwo, on Flickr
Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 2.0 Generic License  by  djwtwo 

I call a spade a spade. This is not because I anal retentive (I am) or suffering from prematurely curmudgeonliness (I might be), but because I bother to find out what words mean.

When I read a perspective on Microsoft’s surface computing device, I agreed with the sentiment that “we march backwards into the future”. Often efforts at “change” are merely attempts to hold on to what is instead of letting go in order to get at what could be. It is baggage that we hang on to for comfort’s sake.

I also agreed with that blogger’s perspective that mobile learning is an opportunity to try new things instead of rehashing the efforts and mistakes of e-learning.

What I did not agree with might seem a trivial matter. The blogger called the Microsoft device a “tablet” instead of a “slate”.

Microsoft came up with the first modern tablet PC about 12 years ago and it came with a keyboard. Slates followed after and came with styli and software (onscreen) keyboards. So the iPad and other “tablets” that we have today are actually slates.

This may seem a trivial matter if the use of “tablet” becomes more popular than “slate”. But just because everyone uses the term does not make it right.

It is important to know what words mean because they might indicate what you believe in.

Take “curriculum” for example. If you dig into the Latin roots of the word, you learn that curriculum also means race or the act of running. If you know this, you might realize why teachers and students are always so breathless.

You might also choose not to use that word. I refuse to use it unless I am designing a race. I prefer to create maps for journeys or treasure hunts. No one wins, no one loses. Everyone discovers.

Likewise, “education” has several roots. One is “to draw out from” or “to bring out”. I prefer that definition to talking (down) to, filling up with, or even teaching. I definitely do not like lecturing.

For me, educating means drawing out what a learner already knows, building on that, and leading to greater discovery.

What is in a name? A lot, if you bother to find out.

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