My teaching philosophy is based around providing a safe environment where participants are able to make mistakes, share, build productive relationships and learn from each other. I believe in the importance of building mutual respect, creating an environment of support and providing the students with challenges that instill passion and a positive attitude, whilst encouraging and empowering them to pursue further learning opportunities into the future.
One concept/belief that supports learner centred learning
One of the main beliefs that underpins my philosophy is the concept of teaching and learning and that you cannot do one without the other. See my earlier post Ako and teaching philosophy. This philosophy is supported by Weimer (2002) who states 'In order for teaching to more effectively promote learning, instructional practice needs to change in five areas.' One of the five areas that she focuses on is '(t)he responsibility for learning' and states that in order for us to effectively promote learning there needs to be 'activities to create constructive classroom climates and let there be logical consequences.' Effectively saying that the teacher/learner roles become blurred and the learners become more 'autonomous' as their confidence grows. The teacher must learn to hand over more responsibility to the learner.
Examples of this in my own teaching practice are outlined in an earlier post regarding learning sequences Learning sequences and the importance of arranging a session plan in a logical progression, building on activities throughout the session and slowly ensuring the complexity increases as the 'picture' is created. This also fits well with Vygotsky's (1978) constructivism approach Constructivism where the learners take an 'active' part in the process or class structure.
I believe in finding out peoples strengths and using these during group activities where students are co-ordinating a session or activity. In this way I am learning from my learners, my role becomes three-fold in as much as I am;
- Teaching the learner to become more autonomous
- Learning from the learner
- Helping the student learn to teach/instruct
Alton-Lee (2003) states that "it (ako) recognises the knowledge that both teachers and learners bring to learning interactions, and it acknowledges the way that new knowledge and understandings can grow out of shared learning experiences". This fits very well with the constructivism approach that believes learners come with their own thoughts, ideas,understanding and knowledge and have much to contribute in the learning process and this should be reciprocated.
The principle of Ako also 'affirms the value of pair and group learning approaches in which students interact with their peers, teachers, tasks and resources.' (Alton-Lee,2003). This is where focusing on the context, in particular room set up and how and where the students sit helps to determine how well they interact and share in their learning. Drawing on their own life experiences and stories can help build connections, trust and a sense of belonging. See earlier post on Learning in context. This style of interaction suits Maori and pacific Island learners by using a holistic approach in their encounters.
Another technique I use to apply my teaching philosophy is that of understanding the importance of providing 'real life' experiences for the students to make their learning connections. Whether it is role plays, field trips or work experience. Previous adult learning theory research that I have explored has indicated the importance of creating experiences that take into consideration all the different learning styles that my students have, variety is the key! Other Adult Learning Theory thoughts. This approach ensures that the visual, auditory, kinesthetic learners all have an opportunity to progress and learn during a session.
The concept of Ako also relies on deliberate acts of teaching where interactions are set up and during these sessions the teacher reflects on the process and uses this to improve future encounters. Reflection and reflective practice .
My focus on Ako as a concept of my teaching philosophy has shown that new knowledge and understanding can grow out of shared learning experiences. I endeavour to constantly challenge myself and my students by providing a caring and inclusive teaching environment where they feel safe to take risks. An environment where I am not only improving my teaching techniques by providing constant quality and up to date resources, but I am learning from my immediate environment and reflecting on that to ensure improvements are always made.
Retrieved June 19 from; Learner-Centered Teaching: Five Key Changes to Practice available online: www.josseybass.com Maryellen Weimer (2003)
Retrieved June 20 from; http://tereomaori.tki.org.nz/Curriculum-guidelines/Teaching-and-learning-te-reo-Maori/Aspects-of-planning/The-concept-of-ako