Philosophy of Teaching & Learning

Philosophy of Teaching and Learning

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As with any philosophy, there are several key assumptions which underlie my particular philosophy of teaching and learning.  First, human beings (as created in God’s image) are integrated wholes and not reducible to any one of the components that make up the whole person.  Put another way, the human person is composed of a heart, mind, body, soul and spirit.  He or she is also, by and large, the product of his or her past experiences.  All of these operate in an integrated whole– they are interconnected, interdependent, and intertwined.  To impact one area is to touch them all.  Modern reductionistic notions that a human person is merely a mind, a body, or a machine, is thoroughly rejected here.  Second, the act of teaching is also a holistic act (whether it’s intended as such or not).  I reject as false the idea that teaching is merely the process of dispensing knowledge, data, or skills.  To teach is to cause real change in the whole being of the student.  Third, therefore, the goal of teaching should, in fact, be the transformation of the student into something significantly more and better than what he or she was at the start.  Fourth, and last, human beings are, by nature, social beings.  The individual functions the most fully when integrated into community.  Learning is not an isolated, autonomous act, but a communal endeavor.  What follows is what I believe flows naturally from these assumptions.

The standard image of teaching or learning is the modern classroom.  Students’ desks all in neat rows, with students’ faces all pointing with rapt attention to the front where the teacher is “teaching” by talking, writing on the board, asking questions, etc.  The idea being that the teacher is actively dispensing knowledge while the students are passively receiving it.  In truth, even when the teaching is viewed as boring, the students are receiving much more than information.  They are also taking in the world-view and assumptions about life through which the teacher is filtering his or her teaching.  I believe this process should be much more open-eyed, intentional, and collaborative.  The teacher should facilitate learning by expressing his or her assumptions about the world (which were gained by experience) and by providing opportunity for the students to express theirs as well.  Yes, the teacher must train his or her students in a given field of knowledge or in a particular set of skills, but this should be done with the purpose of integrating that knowledge or skill into the whole of life.  In addition, this ought to be carried out in such a way that all the students are cycled through the various learning styles (hearing, seeing, doing, talking– or in Lefever’s terms– Imaginatively: engaging past experiences, Analytically: providing new insights, Common-sensically: seeing immediate application, Dynamically: putting to work what has been learned).  Again, this should be collaborative so that the teacher can keep learning as well.  It should also be in a setting that can accommodate various learning paradigms.  Lastly, the teacher must set the tone for a “safe” environment where abusive language, behaviors, and attitudes are dealt with decisively and firmly.

Another way to express my philosophy is to offer a counter-image to the classroom (and one that I think is much more trans-cultural):  The apprentice’s shop.  In this setting there is movement, dialogue, struggle, encouragement, and a deep sense of shared experience that is transformative.  All the senses, all the learning styles, and all that makes up the human person are engaged as the apprentice is initiated into a whole new world where he or she will be an effective artisan.

(Note: I have not mentioned technology, quite on purpose.  Technology is always in flux and is not universally accessible in all locations.  The best of what is available should be learned and used, but the teacher/student should not become so dependent on certain forms of technology that learning must come to a dead stop just because the power goes out!)

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