Sunday, September 23, 2007

Teaching Philosophies

I think that a philosophy of teaching and a philosophy of composition could be two different things altogether. A philosophy of teaching concerns your teaching style in any classroom while the philosophy of composition is concerned only with how you teach in the writing classroom. Both deal with how you think students should be taught in the classroom setting.

Certainly there are different types of philosophies. I am not familiar with the correct terminology for a teaching philosophy—this seems like an education major’s jargon. However, I do know some of the philosophies I’ve experienced. For example, some teachers believe in active learning, such as stimulating group discussions or classroom question and answer set-ups. The questions could be over the reading assignment or whatever the students had for homework the night before. Another style of teaching is smaller group work, in which students “teach” students what they learned from the assignment or the homework, etc. I think peer editing groups fall into this category. Finally, some teachers prefer to lecture, using either personal notes or power points. This is, perhaps, the most common teaching style.


For me, I think I want to use a combination of teaching philosophies. I know that I want my students to be actively involved in the learning process. I had an English teacher my junior year of college who wrote every students’ name on a note card. During class, she would ask a question about the literature assignment (a book we were reading or a poem), and then she would call out the name on top of her stack. That student had to answer the question. Eventually, she would move through the stack of names, though not every student answered a question every day. She rarely gave quizzes over the reading assignments, but every student read. It was usually obvious if you didn’t know the answer to a question because you hadn’t read. However, she was also very gracious about answering the question for the student if he or she could demonstrate knowledge that they read, but weren’t sure of the answer. The whole class participated, and we learned from our peers. I always enjoyed seeing what the other classmates felt about the reading instead of just being told how to analyze it by the teacher. I definitely want to incorporate something like this into my classroom if I ever teach a literature class. I would also like to have group discussions that are more flexible, meaning that any student could answer or contribute. Either way, I want my students to quickly learn how to analyze for themselves instead of expecting me to give them the answers. I want them to learn how to think critically and develop their own opinions. Finally, I realize I will probably have to lecture as well. There are aspects of teaching that require me to impart my knowledge about the subject to the students. Even in these class settings, though, I still want my students to feel engaged and a part of my lecture. I want them to be free to ask questions or make comments at any times. For composition classes, which I do think require a different or adjusted teaching philosophy, I want to use free writing or journal writing as a warm-up exercise. I also like the idea of peer editing for composition classes. Mostly, I want them to write as much as possible rather than just learn about writing. However, even in these settings, lectures are necessary. At some point, I need to explain how to cite sources, or how to organize a paper based on its genre, etc. I still want my students to feel free to ask questions and engage in the writing process even as I am teaching about it.


Well, I think I have thoroughly exhausted this question. So, that’s all for now.

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