My teaching philosophy is a myriad of research-based best practices drawing from the main human learning paradigms of behaviorism and cognitivism with constructivism as a subset of cognitivism. For example, I use measurable objectives to show student achievement that is rooted in behaviorism. However, behaviorism doesn’t explain how learning occurs in the brain. Therefore, I use a multi-theoretical approach to teaching. For instance, I recognize Vygotsky’s (1978) sociocultural learning theory that promotes social learning and posits that it occurs prior to cognitive development.
Facilitation. Teachers teach best as facilitators by allowing students to demonstrate their skills or knowledge in a student-directed classroom. Students learn by applying their knowledge to build an understanding of a subject. I recognize students’ prior knowledge in my lesson planning. For example, I use Gagné’s (1985) nine events of instruction as a lesson framework that includes tapping into a learner’s previous knowledge on a topic in order to assess their level of understanding and whether any modifications to the lesson are needed.
Meaningful interactions. To interact in a meaningful way with the content, students need opportunities to demonstrate their academic growth, learn from peers, and go beyond surface learning. Recommended activities include student-led class discussions, collaborative projects, and peer evaluation to engender a community of inquiry that is inclusive of social presence, cognitive presence, and teaching presence. I utilize Bloom et al.’s (1956) higher-order thinking skills in my learning objectives in order for students to learn at a deeper level (I prefer their original taxonomy). For example, I have students ask their peers questions in a small group to improve their understanding via analysis, synthesis, and evaluation.
Differentiation. Learning occurs within each individual at different speeds (Knowles, 1984; Ormrod, 2012). I explain to students that this is natural and not a deficiency. My intent is to reduce the affective filters in the learning environment (e.g., anxiety, mood, or stress). Research indicates that an environment devoid of affective factors causes a mildly positive mood; this is called a positivity offset (Cacioppo & Gardner, 1999). Learning results from a stimulation of the senses. In some students, one sense is used more than others are for learning or recall (I recognize learning preferences but not learning styles). Therefore, I vary instructional material and provide various learning platforms for multimodal instruction that stimulates as many senses as possible to increase my chances of teaching successfully. Additionally, I strive to reduce any barriers for persons with disabilities by providing assistive technologies and/or modifications to material in a timely manner. This is done with a lens towards universal design to enhance all students’ learning experiences.
Feedback. I integrate four critical elements into my lesson design: motivation, reinforcement, retention, and transference. Motivation is created when you set a positive tone for the lesson, an appropriate level of concern, and an appropriate level of difficulty. I reinforce their efforts, no matter how small by providing appropriate and timely feedback. Transference of knowledge isn’t automatic and must be facilitated via coaching (Speck, 1996) and follow-up support so that it’s sustained.
Error correction. I strive to recognize the source of the students’ mistakes and then guide them (scaffolding) to the correct response, which is often a part of their prior knowledge and misconceptions. Scaffolding includes soft, dynamic teacher-student interactions, as well as hard, static advanced planning embedded in the structure of the lesson (Saye & Brush, 2002). I use the term ‘smart mistakes’ with my students to refer to errors based on preconceived rules such as regular verb formation in English applied incorrectly to irregular verbs or the application of false cognates to a second language. Another instructional method to address misconceptions is peer remediation, which can be staged via cooperative learning. Peer tutoring has a strong impact on both the giver and receiver of the instruction in terms of student achievement and student satisfaction. It can occur via cross-grade levels, within-grade or ability level by pairing students with different experiences, and the pairing of high/low ability students.
Distance learning. Online learning can be as fulfilling as F2F instruction in the traditional classroom if the instructor appropriately provides authentic learning activities from meaningful content in interactive ways. However, I believe that hybrid classes are most likely the best learning situation to meet the needs of all students due to learning preferences, disabilities, and the innate need for human contact.
In closing, I’m a pragmatist who draws from best practices in a multi-theoretical approach to learning. This means that I’m practical about what works best for which situation and for whom. I use technology to enhance my teaching and draw insight and inspiration from a robust personal learning network of experts on Twitter that I curate entitled, The Online Educator. I believe it’s important to evolve as an educator in order to address the ever-changing learner, learning environment, and types of information to be learned.
Sandra Rogers, Ph.D.
Bloom, B.S. (Ed.), Engelhart, M.D., Furst, E.J., Hill, W.H., & Krathwohl, D.R. (1956). Taxonomy of educational objectives: The classification of educational goals. Handbook 1: Cognitive domain. New York, NY: David McKay.
Cacioppo, J. T., & Gardner, W. L. (1999). Emotion. Annual Review of Psychology, 50, 191-415. doi: 10.1146/annurev.psych.50.1.191
Gagné, R. M. (1985). The conditions of learning. New York, NY: Holt, Rinehart, & Winston.
Knowles, M. S. (1984). Andragogy in action. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
Ormrod, J. E. (2012). Human learning (6th ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson/Merrill Prentice Hall.
Saye, J. W., & Brush, T. (2002). A summary of research exploring hard and soft scaffolding for teachers and students using a multimedia supported learning environment. The Journal of Interactive Online Learning, 1(2). Retrieved from http://www.ncolr.org/issues/jiol/v1/n2/a-summary-of-research-exploring-hard-and-soft-scaffolding-for-teachers-and-students-using-a-multimedia-supported-learning-environment
Speck, M. (1996). Best practices for educational development for sustained educational change. ERS Spectrum, 14(2), 33-41.
Vygotsky, L. S. (1978). Mind in society: The development of higher psychological processes. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.