Thursday, October 1, 2015

A Philosophy Of Education: Energy, Inspiration, And Understanding

Source: ASIDE 2015

This week we were asked to share our philosophies of education. It was a worthy question and a worthwhile endeavor. Even though like most teachers we’ve gone through many versions of these philosophies over the years, it was thought-provoking to reframe our tenets as both learning and we have evolved. We thought we might publish our current thoughts, to see what other educators think and to invite feedback about other philosophies of teaching in today’s learning climate:


If students were given a choice about which classes to attend each day, would they choose our classes? Is there something about the tone, the environment, the practice, or the design of information that makes our time seem worthwhile to learners?

One of our mantras with learners has been to “Look at more stuff; think about it harder.” We seek to inspire learners to use creative thinking to come up with innovative ideas; likewise, we hope to do the same with our approach to teaching. In their schooling, students hope to experience moments of wonder. An instance of surprise or curiosity, even if brief, can make all the different in motivating learners to explore and delve deeply. Insight leads to ownership, which makes meaningful the internalization of skills or concepts. One "ah ha" moment is worth one hundred perfect test scores.

To inspire others is, after all, why we teach. We rely on inspiration as the fuel for engagement. We want to encourage an environment that fosters creativity, inquiry, ownership, and independence. Learners need a stimulating environment that fuels inspiration and a hunger for knowledge. This atmosphere refers to both the physical space and the personality of the teacher. Is the room stimulating and engaging? Is the layout flexible and complementary to the learning? Furthermore, is the temperament of the teacher encouraging, with an authentic sense of optimism about the journey the learner and the educator are about to take together?

It is not about efficiency and compliance; instead, it is about things like mindset, mood, mechanisms, measurement, and momentum that push the critical thinking process in order to extract new ideas. What is the tone of the instructor's language? What is the tenor of the student-teacher relationship? A bit of humor, for example, can be key to keeping the mood light and productive. A sincere repartee can make the minutes tick by with less tedium and maybe even some anticipation.

Source: ASIDE 2015

The more interdisciplinary, collaborative, and challenging approaches we use, the greater the chance to develop individuals that are confident to take risks. In this vein, teaching and learning is a partnership. A conversational style or technological savvy can help validate students’ daily experiences and show an effort to connect to their worlds – to what is important to them. This connection stems from mutual trust. Students want to trust that their teachers are laying out clear expectations, that their grades are based on fair assessments, that their learning is in the hands of an expert. If students don't trust that we as teachers are going to keep our word, treat them with decency, and give them the benefit of the doubt, then they will tune out everything else we try to communicate.

Today, learning is no longer limited to the teacher as keeper of the knowledge, nor to the moment with little connection to the future. It has to be deeper; it is about understanding. We want students to be more like hunter-gatherers, who constantly search for anything that interests them and who share it with the world. Life-long learning is far more like the migrating hunter-gatherer, and technology has opened that door. 

We hope to harness that energy, that inspiration, and that understanding of the power of connections to explore ideas. Our hope is to tap a learner’s inspiration and creativity so that they develop as innovative thinkers and knowledge seekers.

As teachers, we want to engage students:
  • To think like designers to transform the way they learn and look at the world
  • To develop flexibility in their thinking about ways to learn, and to tap their curiosity
  • To grow to be open-minded individuals who are knowledgeable about historical events
  • To gain confidence about what they know to share their understanding and enthusiasm for history and geography with others
  • To help them develop a curiosity for learning through the creation of their own work
  • To provide a range of choices for them to visually map their ideas to realize there is more than one way of seeing
  • To design curriculum to meet the information, technology and new media literacies needs of today's learners through current best practices that incorporate digital learning, technology integration, and social media
  • To develop flexibility in their thinking about ways to learn, and to help them feel comfortable with being uncomfortable
  • To promote honest discussions about disparities in society such as race and class to promote empathy for our differences
  • To recognize, value, and assess the many diverse ways children learn and how to meet them there
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