Archive for the ‘Philosophy’ Category

Teaching Statements

Saturday, August 9th, 2014

What is a Teaching Statement?

A Teaching Statement is a purposeful and reflective essay about the author’s teaching beliefs and practices. It is an individual narrative that includes not only one’s beliefs about the teaching and learning process, but also concrete examples of the ways in which he or she enacts these beliefs in the classroom. At its best, a Teaching Statement gives a clear and unique portrait of the author as a teacher, avoiding generic or empty philosophical statements about teaching.

What Purposes does the Teaching Statement Serve?

The Teaching Statement can be used for personal, professional, or pedagogical purposes. While Teaching Statements are becoming an increasingly important part of the hiring and tenure processes, they are also effective exercises in helping one clearly and coherently conceptualize his or her approaches to and experiences of teaching and learning. As Nancy Van Note Chism, Professor of Education at IUPUI observes, “The act of taking time to consider one’s goals, actions, and vision provides an opportunity for development that can be personally and professionally enriching. Reviewing and revising former statements of teaching philosophy can help teachers to reflect on their growth and renew their dedication to the goals and values that they hold.”

What does a Teaching Statement Include?

A Teaching Statement can address any or all of the following:

  • Your conception of how learning occurs
  • A description of how your teaching facilitates student learning
  • A reflection of why you teach the way you do
  • The goals you have for yourself and for your students
  • How your teaching enacts your beliefs and goals
  • What, for you, constitutes evidence of student learning
  • The ways in which you create an inclusive learning environment
  • Your interests in new techniques, activities, and types of learning

“If at all possible, your statement should enable the reader to imagine you in the classroom, teaching. You want to include sufficient information for picturing not only you in the process of teaching, but also your class in the process of learning.” – Helen G. Grundman, Writing a Teaching Philosophy Statement.

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In Defense of Teaching

Friday, August 1st, 2014

Mark Twain once remarked that “All generalizations are false, including this one.” It seems that we are in a time—an educational crossroads of sorts—when teaching is overgeneralized to the point where it can be difficult for professionals to have meaningful conversations.

Tired descriptors such as “sage on the stage” and “guide on the side” have permeated the pedagogical literature for more than two decades now even though they greatly oversimplify what really takes place in the college classroom. Most teaching occurs on a continuum between these two extremes. But now the term “lecture” is equated with using didactic instruction and nothing else. It is regularly blamed for a multitude of pedagogical problems in the academy. Articles in various educational journals regularly associate teaching with telling and continue to recommend that this traditional method be completely abandoned in favor of more student-centered strategies that promote active learning.

Educational research findings do need to be applied more regularly to teaching, and there is no doubt that student-centered approaches are integral to student success. We are in a robust time of pedagogical design aided in some measure by technological development and faculty creativity. However, at times the emphasis on student learning ends up devaluing teaching and diminishing all that it contributes to student learning.

by James Ricky Cox, PhD and Dave Yearwood, PhD

Six Questions That Will Bring Your Teaching Philosophy into Focus.

Friday, August 1st, 2014

Earlier this year, a couple of contributions to The Teaching Professor (Haave 2014) and Faculty Focus (Weimer 2014) discussed the place of learning philosophies in our teaching. The online comments to Weimer’s blog post (2014) made me think more about how we as instructors need to be careful to bridge instructivist and constructivist teaching approaches for students not yet familiar with taking responsibility for their own learning (Venkatesh et al 2013).

Students still seem to equate lectures with better learning/teaching as opposed to student-centered teaching strategies despite the preponderance of evidence to the contrary. This preference is confirmed for me when I review the end-of-term student evaluations for the courses in which I use team-based learning (TBL) – an active learning strategy if there ever was one. But what is really interesting is that there is a seeming sweet spot. For those courses in which I used TBL all of the time, student evaluations requested more lecturing. In contrast, in the one course in which I used TBL for only a couple of course sections, students indicated that a bit more TBL would be appreciated. Perhaps what I need to consider is varying the teaching strategy I use (Venkatech et al 2013) taking into account the need to bridge post-secondary students’ transition from pedagogical to andragogical learning (Grow 1991).

What I particularly like in Grow’s article (1991) is his assertion that good teaching responds to the needs of the student — in his words, it is situational. My question then is, how do instructors make their teaching situational to an entire class? An entire class will contain a large continuum between students needing pedagogical vs. andragogical learning strategies. How do we respond to all of these different needs and the existing continuum in learning approaches (Knowles 1990)?

by Neil Haave, PhD.

Remembering Our Mission to Teach

Friday, August 1st, 2014

Have you ever become so frustrated with students and overwhelmed by your workload that you start questioning what you are doing? At times it can feel suffocating. Baruti Kafele, an educator and motivational speaker offers a perspective of being mission oriented to educators and others working with young people in our nation’s classrooms. He suggests affirming your goals and motivations to facilitate successes among students. However, in the college classroom, it is also essential that we, as faculty members, remember and affirm our purpose, acknowledge the contributions we make in students’ lives and professional pursuits, and respect the call or passion that brought each of us to the teaching profession.

What is Mission Oriented?
In this context, mission orientation acknowledges how faculty members serve, impact, and influence the lives of others. It begs to question: How do faculty members, energize, reignite, and in some instances, recapture that which motivates our work with students? What contributions are we making to the lives of the students we teach? Have we become derailed from the mission to contribute to others in a profound and significant way? And, if so, how do we get back on track?

It is in the spirit of mission orientation that we offer in this article two contributions faculty members should consider—thinking deeply and building relationships. Both contributions represent and respect a mission to teach and influence the lives of others.

by Candice Dowd Barnes, EdD and Patricia Kohler-Evans, EdD

Nine Characteristics of a Great Teacher

Thursday, July 31st, 2014

Years ago, as a young, eager student, I would have told you that a great teacher was someone who provided classroom entertainment and gave very little homework. Needless to say, after many years of K-12 administrative experience and giving hundreds of teacher evaluations, my perspective has changed. My current position as a professor in higher education gives me the opportunity to share what I have learned with current and future school leaders, and allows for some lively discussions among my graduate students in terms of what it means to be a great teacher.

Teaching is hard work and some teachers never grow to be anything better than mediocre. They do the bare minimum required and very little more. The great teachers, however, work tirelessly to create a challenging, nurturing environment for their students. Great teaching seems to have less to do with our knowledge and skills than with our attitude toward our students, our subject, and our work. Although this list is certainly not all-inclusive, I have narrowed down the many characteristics of a great teacher to those I have found to be the most essential, regardless of the age of the learner:

1. A great teacher respects students. In a great teacher’s classroom, each person’s ideas and opinions are valued. Students feel safe to express their feelings and learn to respect and listen to others. This teacher creates a welcoming learning environment for all students.

by  Maria Orlando, EdD

Student-Centered Philosophies of Education

Tuesday, July 8th, 2014

Student-centered philosophies of education emerged as a response to the limitations of traditional, authoritarian models of education. Instead of establishing schools as places where a fixed base of knowledge is passed from teachers to students, these philosophies encourage cooperation between students and teachers in order to find the best answers to questions facing modern-day learners. According to these philosophies—progressivism, social reconstructionism, existentialism—because the world is constantly changing, students should seek answers through hands-on, experiential learning.


The progressivism philosophy of education stresses the following:

  • Experiential learning. Progressive schools give children the chance to learn by doing. Art rooms, wood-working shops, kitchens, and science laboratories are features of progressive schools.
  • The scientific method. Students are expected to pursue answers to their questions through problem solving and critical thinking, and are rarely expected to find their answers in a book.
  • Intrinsic motivation. Rote memorization is discouraged because students don’t see what they’re doing as intrinsically valuable—they simply have to take the teacher’s word for it and work toward extrinsic results.

Progressivism in education has its roots in the philosophical criticism of European philosophers such as John Locke and Jean-Jacques Rousseau. In Locke’s Essay Concerning Human Understanding from 1689, he stressed the importance of experiential learning, writing that all reason and knowledge come from personal experience.

Rousseau also criticizes educators who teach by requiring students to merely memorize facts in his 1762 book In Emile, or On Education: “You think you are teaching him what the world is like; he is only learning the map; he is taught the names of towns, countries, rivers, which have no existence for him except on the paper before him.”


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Teacher-Centered Philosophies

Tuesday, July 8th, 2014

Teacher-centered philosophies of education require that children are educated using certain methods put into action by their teacher, as opposed to student-centered philosophies, in which teaching methods are formed according to the needs and learning styles of individual students. In short, teacher-centered philosophies force the student to adjust to the teacher; with student-centered philosophies, the teacher adjusts to the student. Essentialism and perennialism are the two teacher-centered philosophies that are prominent in the United States.


Essentialism is a teacher-centered philosophy that stresses rigorous practice with the traditional subjects: reading, writing, math, and science. An essentialist curriculum is structured to develop discipline and a common culture of knowledge. Essentialists value deep knowledge on a few core subjects, as opposed to more general knowledge on a wider array of subjects.

In 1938, education reformist William C. Bagley pioneered essentialism in America. As outlined in his publication Essentialist’s Platform, he pushed for a strong, common core curriculum to help America’s school systems compete with higher-ranking countries. He believed that the influx of immigrants was threatening American culture by weakening the schools, and responded with his attempt to raise academic standards.

The Essentialist’s Platform detailed three main components of essentialism in the classroom. First, students were to be taught by an essentialist teacher who is well-educated and knowledgeable in the core curriculum. In Bagley’s book Craftsmanship in Teaching, he framed the teacher as the center of the essentialist classroom. The teacher’s role in essentialism was to teach a strict curriculum with knowledge and authority, but the method was at the teacher’s discretion.

The second component was to weave community into the curriculum. The essentialist reform was set to promote the customs of American culture to each student regardless of the school, to ensure that all schools of varying demographics had a common foundation. This element of essentialism is in direct contrast to student-centered philosophies of education, which focus on the growth of the student as an individual.

Third in the Essentialist’s Platform, Bagley pushed for a higher standard for all students in “the essentials.” He took a “pass or fail” approach to promoting students to the next educational level; the only way a student could progress was to prove knowledge of the required subjects through grades and testing. “If education abandons rigorous standards and consequently provides no effective stimulus, many persons will pass through twelve years of schooling to find themselves in a world in which ignorance and lack of fundamental training are heavy handicaps,” Bagley said.

by Allie Figures.

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Who is responsible for people’s welfare?

Thursday, January 9th, 2014

THE STATE OR THE INDIVIDUAL? Because governments have so much power, public expectation is that it will be used for their benefit.

THINK that political philosophy is irrelevant to you, the average Malaysian? Think again.

Since the birth of modern democracy, and particularly after the birth of socialism, one question has been repeatedly asked: Whose responsibility, if anyone’s, is society’s welfare?

Does it lie with the state, as Karl Marx postulated in 1848, or with the individual, as John Locke had argued 150 years earlier? Who should be held accountable when people are deprived and suffer?

The answer to this philosophical question has led to the rise and fall of governments in seemingly endless cycles. If history is any guide, the answer appears to be, at times, the government of the day and at other times, citizens left to their own devices.

In the early days, life was somewhat simpler, with voters being labelled either liberals or conservatives. Liberals, often incorrectly termed leftists (among other derogatory terms), generally favour bigger and more government intervention while conservatives favour less of both.

Today, things are not quite as simple. Both liberals and conservatives have, today, largely become more moderate and centrist in nature. New groupings have emerged within to challenge the ruling ideological ethos, hence, the rise of the Republican Tea Party in the United States.

Remember that these differences are not just about personalities but also the fundamental issue of whether state power, through policies, should be directed at alleviating poverty and the hardships of the people.

A great deal, of course, rests on the capacity of governments. Not all countries, especially those at low levels of development, have the financial resources to intervene in a big way, even if they wanted to.

Strategies for Writing Better Teaching Philosophy Statements

Wednesday, December 5th, 2012

Teaching philosophy statements are now prepared for a variety of reasons: as part of a job application process; to be included in a promotion and tenure dossier; for a teaching award; or to foster reflection about how and why you teach. Regardless of purpose, the goal ought to be preparation of statements that reveal those beliefs and practices characteristic of an individual teacher. Writing teaching philosophy statements that accurately describe the instructional self isn’t easy, given that so many of us begin teaching careers with little training and continue them with episodic professional development. A set of resources can do much to assist the process and an impressive collection appears in the article referenced below.

Among resources included in the article are summaries of seven websites that contain a range of materials on teaching philosophy statements, including definitions, suggested formats, writing exercises, sample statements, and rubrics that can be used to assess them. It also contains a list of questions that can be answered when writing about learning goals, teaching methods, assessment of student learning, and assessment of teaching.

Several writing exercises are proposed that would not only help candidates prepare statements that might stand out, but that are wonderful ways to deepen individual reflection about teaching and learning. For example, “Think about a moment in your classroom when you and the students were having a great time. Write about that ‘great moment’ using the following series of questions: What was the topic and activity during which this great moment happened? What was the goal of the activity? How did you structure the activity? What did students do during the activity? How could you demonstrate that the activity resulted in significant student learning? How does this great moment exemplify what you value about your discipline and your personal and instructional style?” (p. 140)

This is followed by the suggestion that you write about a not-so-great moment, responding to a similar set of prompts. Or you might start with a “story” that “refers to a pivotal moment, either in your own learning or in your teaching.” (p. 140) Finally, there’s a prompt that asks you to imagine that you are being interviewed for a magazine article about effective teachers. Here are some of the questions you can expect to be asked: “What is a ‘personal best’ achievement for you as a teacher during the past year? What of your worst qualities as a teacher would you throw away? If you wrote a book about teaching, what would the title be?” (p. 141)

They also identify four areas where most teaching philosophy statements could be improved. “Many early drafts of teaching philosophy statements lack concrete evidence of student learning and assessments of teaching.” (p. 142, bold added) Here writers need to either include or write about those classroom artifacts and evidence that constitute proof of learning and good teaching.

For new teachers or teachers without much experience, it can be challenging to write about the breadth and depth of teaching experience. But if different courses and different student populations have been taught, those should be described. And whatever the teaching experience, writers can explain how an experience in one instructional setting would inform what they would do in a different setting.

by Maryellen Weimer, PhD.

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Be Happier in Business and Life: 10 Things To Stop Doing Right Now.

Friday, October 5th, 2012

Alex and Laila / Getty Images

Alex and Laila / Getty Images

Happiness–in your business life and your personal life–is often a matter of subtraction, not addition.

Consider, for example, what happens when you stop doing the following 10 things:

1. Blaming.

People make mistakes. Employees don’t meet your expectations. Vendors don’t deliver on time.

So you blame them for your problems.

But you’re also to blame. Maybe you didn’t provide enough training. Maybe you didn’t build in enough of a buffer. Maybe you asked too much, too soon.

Taking responsibility when things go wrong instead of blaming others isn’t masochistic, it’s empowering–because then you focus on doing things better or smarter next time.

And when you get better or smarter, you also get happier.

(MORE: More Turbulence for American Airlines)

2. Impressing.

No one likes you for your clothes, your car, your possessions, your title, or your accomplishments. Those are all “things.” People may like your things–but that doesn’t mean they like you.

Sure, superficially they might seem to, but superficial is also insubstantial, and a relationship that is not based on substance is not a real relationship.

Genuine relationships make you happier, and you’ll only form genuine relationships when you stop trying to impress and start trying to just be yourself.

3. Clinging.

When you’re afraid or insecure, you hold on tightly to what you know, even if what you know isn’t particularly good for you.

An absence of fear or insecurity isn’t happiness: It’s just an absence of fear or insecurity.

Holding on to what you think you need won’t make you happier; letting go so you can reach for and try to earn what you want will.

Even if you don’t succeed in earning what you want, the act of trying alone will make you feel better about yourself.

4. Interrupting.

Interrupting isn’t just rude. When you interrupt someone, what you’re really saying is, “I’m not listening to you so I can understand what you’re saying; I’m listening to you so I can decide what I want to say.”

Want people to like you? Listen to what they say. Focus on what they say. Ask questions to make sure you understand what they say.

They’ll love you for it–and you’ll love how that makes you feel.

(MORE: The Myth of Chinese Efficiency)

5. Whining.

Your words have power, especially over you. Whining about your problems makes you feel worse, not better.

If something is wrong, don’t waste time complaining. Put that effort into making the situation better. Unless you want to whine about it forever, eventually you’ll have to do that. So why waste time? Fix it now.

Don’t talk about what’s wrong. Talk about how you’ll make things better, even if that conversation is only with yourself.

And do the same with your friends or colleagues. Don’t just be the shoulder they cry on.

Friends don’t let friends whine–friends help friends make their lives better.

6. Controlling.

Yeah, you’re the boss. Yeah, you’re the titan of industry. Yeah, you’re the small tail that wags a huge dog.

7. Criticizing.

Yeah, you’re more educated. Yeah, you’re more experienced. Yeah, you’ve been around more blocks and climbed more mountains and slayed more dragons.

8. Preaching.

Criticizing has a brother. His name is Preaching. They share the same father: Judging.

9. Dwelling.

The past is valuable. Learn from your mistakes. Learn from the mistakes of others.

10. Fearing.

We’re all afraid: of what might or might not happen, of what we can’t change, or what we won’t be able to do, or how other people might perceive us.

by Jeff Haden.