Teaching Philosophy

My first official job out of college was teaching at the high school that I had just graduated from four years prior. I taught three periods of Computer Applications with students that were not only mixed grade, but mixed ability level. In my other period, I taught an Oracle Database class. This class was made of seniors, mostly gifted, who by the end of the year would take the Oracle 9i certification test, similar to other professional database administrators in the field. These two classes were extremely different, and I as a computer science major in college I felt like I was not equipped with the pedagogical knowledge to teach them. Don’t get me wrong, learning did occur, and a few of my students did pass the certification exam, but I did the best teaching with the skills that had, which didn’t feel like much at the time.

My official teacher role ended in 2005 and since then I have been educating students in more of an advisory position within the context of international education. I am tackling this teaching philosophy assignment, imagining myself back in the classroom, determining how I would approach my role as a teacher if I was given the opportunity to do it again.  My teaching philosophy is centered around two key ideas, situated learning and motivation. Situated learning’s “main argument is that all knowledge that a learner acquires is somehow situated within activities that are socially, physically or culturally-based” (Pappas, 2015). My goal as a teacher would be to provide instruction in a way that is immersive and similar to the true environment where the skill to be learned occurs naturally. Situated learning has a beautiful application to study abroad. One of University of Alabama’s abroad programs is called Mathematicians of the Renaissance. For three weeks, students spend time studying mathematicians who were also known as astrologers, physicians, and philosophers traversing through some of the same Italian cities that they occupied. Students learn why these mathematicians were motivated by the stars, the landscape, the culture and how it influenced their creation of art, architecture, and other creative mediums. Situated cognition does not have to be taught in a foreign land, in fact, language teaching is a good example where instruction replicates application in real life. Even in online learning, situated learning teaching practices can be used with modeling, moderated chats with subject-matter experts, or exploratory field trips using virtual reality.  Situated learning gives students a reason to invest in the material at hand and provides an instant connection to the applicability of what they are learning.

The second intention of my teaching philosophy is motivation, and how it is integral to student learning. While I believe learning can occur without it, motivation amplifies a student’s investment to the content. As a teacher, I would curate extrinsic motivation while helping the students discover their own intrinsic reasons that keeps them wanting to dig deeper in the lessons. Extrinsic motivation is easily developed through situated learning since it helps answer the question of why we are learning the material. This can be done by creating authentic classroom environments or developing realistic problems that the class would tackle. But the greater type of motivation is the intrinsic kind. Student’s desire to understand how the learning of new material is applicable or beneficial to them. One of my most favorite classes in my master’s program was the Learning and Design Studio. Our professors were facilitators and we were allowed to not only choose the software package we wanted to learn, but to build whatever project we wanted in order to showcase our level of functionality with the software. We were extremely motivated in the Studio class because we had ownership of our learning. Finding the intrinsic motivations of my students would require my flexibility as a teacher to allow students freedom in these types of situations, and to guide and trust their direction in their learning. Teaching practices and assignments that are routed in authentic environments and motivate students by building buy-in, ownership and value, all aid in the learning process.

Reference:
Pappas, C. (2017, July 20). Instructional Design Models And Theories: The Situated Cognition Theory And The Cognitive Apprenticeship Model. Retrieved January 27, 2018, from https://elearningindustry.com/situated-cognition-theory-and-cognitive-apprenticeship-model.

8 Comments

  1. Carolina,
    Thank you for your post. I enjoyed reading your approach to teaching and I was curious about your thoughts regarding preparation for teaching. You mentioned that you did the best with the tools you had. How could the administration have prepared you better to be more effective in your teaching? Do you believe a class such as this one could have been beneficial to your endeavors in the classroom?

    Thanks

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    1. Jaime, absolutely! A class like this would have been beneficial, even for the veteran teachers. My lead teacher at the time asked me to shadow the other teachers, and then teach my classes at later periods. That helped a bit, but most days I felt like I was flying solo!

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  2. Carolina,

    Thanks for sharing this! I enjoyed learning more about your background, as well as the concepts which inform your approaches to teaching and learning. That said, I got the sense that your teaching philosophy itself began in the third sentence of your second paragraph. While that’s no bad thing, it might be worth noting in a scenario with more constraints on space.

    Before reading this, I admit I wasn’t too familiar with the idea of situated learning, but its application to both international and domestic settings was fascinating. It reminded me of the approaches recommended for learning languages, which makes sense in this context, even if I hadn’t thought of applying it so holistically to the experience of studying abroad, or at home, for that matter. Reading that part of your philosophy was particularly illuminating.

    As an international student, I was actually surprised how much the tenets of situated learning spoke to my own experiences, maybe because of the significant cultural overlap between the UK and the US. I hadn’t given much thought to how my academic experiences reflected the daily business of acclimatizing to life in Alabama, but it afforded me a rare opportunity to recognize how comfortable I’ve gotten with American learning and living environments in the last five years.

    I also appreciated the way you integrated the idea of “authentic learning environments” into promoting student motivation. This is the kind of thing I strove to accomplish in my own classes, but I didn’t realize how much I valued it until you put it into words so effectively. So thanks for granting me a fresh perspective on my own experiences. I truly enjoyed reading this.

    Kit

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  3. Your passion to teach the importance of situated learning and motivation in an international context is very commendable.

    How might the internalization and dissemination of an emergency preparedness plan to the students you lead overseas optimize situational learning and motivation and promote your student engagement technique and assessment of students in this learning process?

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  4. Hi, Carolina,

    This follow up reply to your blog is not meant to clutter your statement. I realized through my responses to our classmates’ blog postings that I did not render the appropriate salutation in my reply to your post. You’re blog was one of the first blogs on the list and I had not completely formulated my thoughts before posting. I hope to do a better job for future assignments.

    I’ll see you in a couple of weeks!

    Tony

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  5. Hi Carolina,
    Thank you for your post! I love how you discuss the difference between extrinsic and intrinsic motivation by students.

    Your point regarding the status of the Learning and Design Studio class being your favorite drives the point home. I agree 100% that student ownership is the most important factor in long-term positive outcomes.

    In short- perhaps it’s best when students run the class! 🙂

    Talk again soon.

    Neil

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  6. Carolina,
    YES! Your approach to teaching and learning is so encouraging. I have never officially heard the term situated learning, but I am glad to know that it is official–with citation. It reminds me of my Teaching Women’s Studies course in my master’s program. It was the one course where we went over teaching practices, along with the main ideas of the undergraduate course Intro to Women’s Studies. While teaching sensitive topics (or any topic really), it is important to remember that the students are coming at this content from different backgrounds and the knowledge that they are gaining will be situated within that background. We all have baggage.

    Thank you for your post!
    Erin

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  7. I agree student motivation is one of the most important facets of learning. Additionally, I have found it one of the most difficult things to instill into students. How do you handle the balance between facilitating the class and letting the students run it?

    -Marieke

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