Concluding Reflections.

Over the course of five years as a post-secondary instructor, I gradually incorporated my ongoing learning in education into practical form. Applications of this learning included curriculum development, lesson planning, classroom methods, and assessment development. Over the last year, I had the opportunity to refine this work further and to consider it in the context of my values. In doing so, I have identified for myself a more positive and learner-focused role as an instructor that meshes more closely with my values.

A key transformation for me has been the refinement of a personal philosophy of teaching and learning. This set of values and beliefs has helped me better identify the ways in which I can better focus my role toward the learner. “A working or guiding philosophy of educational practice provides the foundation for all decisions, processes, and actions made about the instructional and learning process” (Galbraith, 1999, p. 11).

My most recent course of studies – Strategies and Techniques for Teaching – extended my philosophical foundations further through a number of activities, discussions, research, and reflections.

As prelude to the course, a classroom visit, an interview with a post-secondary instructor, and a subsequent analysis and reflection of my observations helped establish a context within which I could begin to reflect on my own approaches to teaching.

During the course, a key activity was the examination of several families of teaching models. Research and demonstrations of these various teaching models provided valuable insights into these tools. Teaching model demonstrations by course participants expanded on research summaries and extended for me the key concepts of the models. I reflected on which models might be appropriate to my own teaching, and why. The models we had examined in the course,as well as ones that I had the opportunity to examine in other studies, confirmed that there are ways to approach instruction in a methodical fashion, in a way where learning outcomes are better assured.

In a concluding written critique I prepared, I investigated more closely the teaching models within context of the demonstrations we observed. What emerged for me was that there was not simply a mechanical aspect to the models – that of simply going through the proscribed steps – but also a firmly human element.

Along with the teaching models, I considered the topic of motivation. Ideas about motivation were introduced in the course textbook (McKeachie & Svinicki, 2006, pp. 142-149) and in subsequent readings (Svinicki, 1999). These insights stressed the importance of positive self-concepts as powerful intrinsic motivators and that educational success or failure can affect self-concept, and thereby, subsequent learning (Joyce & Weil, 2000, pp. 301-311). This further affirmed for me the view of the learner as an individual with human needs.

As I reflected on the various activities and discussions, I recalled several of the self-assessment instruments that helped me identify aspects of my teaching beliefs. One of these assessments identified my values as learner-centred, with a focus on learners as individuals (Heimlich & Norland, 1994, pp. 207-209; Cano, Garton, & Raven, 1992). This insight resonated with my observations regarding the humanistic aspects of teaching.

My understanding of my role as an instructor continues to grow. What made a deep impression on me – in the context of teaching models, learner motivation, and the power of positive self-concepts – is a recognition of the human element in learning. The strategies and techniques that were examined in the course, though superficially technical and mechanical, were deeply sensitive to the distinct human characteristics of learners. This acknowledgement of human needs emphasizes that instructors must adapt to the learners and shape their learning environment, rather than simply providing rote delivery of subject matter. Learning does entail some degree of risk-taking (D. W. Johnson & R. T. Johnson, 1974, p. 203; Svinicki, 1999, p. 21). For these reasons, instructors would do well to foster positive and affirming environments in which learning can take place.

References

  • Cano, J., Garton, B. L., & Raven, M. R. (1992). Learning Styles, Teaching Styles and Personality
  • Styles of Preservice Teachers of Agricultural Education. Journal of Agricultural Education,
  • 33(1), 46-52.
  • Galbraith, M. W. (1999). Philosophy and the instructional process. Adult Learning, 11(2), 11-13.
  • Heimlich, J. E., & Norland, E. (1994). Developing Teaching Style in Adult Education. Jossey-Bass.
  • Johnson, D. W., & Johnson, R. T. (1974). Instructional Goal Structure: Cooperative, Competitive, or Individualistic. Review of Educational Research, 44(2), 213-240. doi: 10.2307/1170165.
  • Joyce, B. R., & Weil, M. (2000). Models of Teaching (6th ed.). Allyn and Bacon.
  • McKeachie, W. J., & Svinicki, M. D. (2006). McKeachie’s Teaching Tips: Strategies, Research, and Theory for College and University Teachers (12th ed.). Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin.
  • Svinicki, M. D. (1999). New directions in learning and motivation. New Directions for Teaching and Learning, 1999(80), 5-27. doi: 10.1002/tl.8001.
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