Friday, July 3, 2015

Learning and teaching philosophy

Every teacher has a teaching (and learning) philosophy they follow, either knowingly or being unaware of the beliefs that have an impact on the daily practice. I tried to trace back the steps to the most influential points in the development of my teaching philosophy.  

It all began when I had to read Berger & Luckmann’s book about social construction of reality for my M.Ed. studies in late 1990’s. It was the hardest book I ever read – when I got to the end I couldn’t understand what I had just read, so I reread it. And then again. But, that book taught me how we actually do construct knowledge in everyday life situation (and while studying, too, of course, but learning is NOT limited to the classroom).  And as I don’t actually believe in unlearning, I became very conscious of what my kids and students are exposed to, and very, very curious to hear how they interpret what they see and hear.

Well, then there is the Hidden Curriculum (Broady, 1987).  What a gem!  What all lies behind our curricula? All our traditions and practices and words carry a huge load of unnecessary items (i.e. unnecessary or even harmful for learning) – and especially our words do that (Bernstein, 1971) because they can so easily be used to wield unnecessary power over others. And words can be interpreted in so very many ways! I should know, as a non-native speaker I have sometimes weird connotations for words… not to talk about pronouncing them weirdly!

I learned about the theories of Ziehe in nineties as well, and in 2008 he talks about normal learning problems in youth. I am so very opposed to the deficit-based educational model, because it labels and categorizes students, and at worst makes them believe in these tags attached to them. Schooling, or formal education, is just a continuation and specification of already initiated “natural” learning process.  Students should be empowered to become life-long learners! This is why I think agency is such an important thing while discussing or thinking about curriculum. 

Students' agency is seen as students intentionally influencing their own learning behaviours. Much of our self-regulation is based on the positive learning outcomes during the early childhood experiences of self-efficacy (Bandura 2006).   Students’ agency, according to Bandura (2006, p.164-165) is a construct of four different components: intentionality, forethought, self-reactiveness and self-reflectiveness. In the classroom these components apply straightforwardly to students’ learning and academic performance. It really is a shame is a curriculum is so prescripted that there is no room for students to learn how to make good choices! This is also where my current work on my doctoral dissertation focuses: Students' perceptions of their learner agency. Very exciting!

Of course I have assimilated and accommodated all wonderful theories from Bruner, Engestrom, Ericson,,  Illeris, Kegan, Kolb, Mahler, Mezirov, Piaget, Vygotsky, Wiggins and beyond… but my core belief is in cognitive approach being combined with constructive and cooperative practices to enable effective lifelong learning.

Bandura, A. (2006). Toward a psychology of human agency. Perspectives on psychological science1(2), 164-180.
Berger, P. L., & Luckmann, T. T.(1966). The social construction of reality.
Bernstein, B. (1971). On the classification and framing of educational knowledge. Knowledge and control3, 245-270.
Broady, D. (1987). Den dolda laroplanen [The hidden curriculum] (5th ed). Lund: Acupress.
Ziehe, T. (2008). ‘Normal learning problems’ in youth. Contemporary theories of learning: Learning theorists... in their own words, 184.

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