Wednesday, 27 July 2016

Do teachers need a philosophy?

I belong to a 66,500-strong group, Higher Education Teaching and Learning, on LinkedIn. This forum usually contains very good posts about tertiary study.

Recently, Dr Bruce Johnson posted a link to a LinkedIn Pulse article he has written telling all educators that they need a philosophy in order to be able to teach.

I was quite struck by Dr Johnson's post, as I happen to feel that many good teachers probably DON'T have a particular philosophy, and probably don't need one. Instead, their experience and student-focus has provided them over the years with a bag full of tools to engage all learners - to find a way in, to connect, to inspire and to help students motivate themselves.

Benjamin Bloom, one of the pre-eminent educational researchers of the 20th century, said towards the end of his career that “After 40 years of intensive research [...] my major conclusion is: What any person in the world can learn, almost all persons can learn if provided with the appropriate prior and current conditions for learning” (Bloom & Sosniak, 1985, p. 4).

To me, that says that good teaching should consist of setting up those current conditions for learning. 

Those conditions for learning are many and various, but include a positive environment where exploration and enquiry is encouraged; where failure means that students are on the learning path, but have not yet achieved mastery; where there is collegiality and support; and where the only 'stupid' question is the one that is not asked. This is not my philosophy. This is the behaviour I model and seek in learning environments.

Whether we have defined a philosophy or not is fairly immaterial.

In my opinion :-)



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