Teaching Philosophy

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At the centre of my teaching philosophy is the student led approach. I act as a facilitator to shine a light on my students’ ability to lead their own learning experience. I use the constructivist methods of scaffolding and the zone of proximal development to build on their prior knowledge. I get great satisfaction from my role as a mentor by fostering students’ curiosity and joy in learning. My main aim as an educator is to give confidence to my students to self-direct their education and become masters in their chosen fields. This is something I hope they will carry with them beyond the education system and into their daily lives

Constructivism and Humanism are two teaching philosophies that I like to follow in my teaching. Humanism allows for student-led learning, while Constructivism involves building each layer of new knowledge on the solid foundation of the previous layer (McLeod, 2019). These methods can be seen in my Lesson Plans where I allow students to take the lead in experiments and construction tasks before guiding them along the optimum path.

Vygotsky famously coined the "zone of proximal development" (Vygotsky, 1978) to show how learners progress from what is known to what is not yet known. The educator can provide “scaffolding” for a student to progress from one stage to the next to lead them through this zone of proximal development. This could be in the form of verbal assistance, demonstration or student led exploration. The scaffolding or support can be reduced gradually as the student becomes more comfortable with the skill or knowledge, eventually being withdrawn completely as the student masters it.

A background in materials engineering and a Ph.D studying natural materials give me an appreciation for this method of education. The nautilus (pictured in background) builds successive layers onto its super-tough shell as it grows and develops, much the same way a student grows their skills and knowledge as they develop and progress through third level education.

Graphic from this site

Graphic from this site

Graphic from this site

As part of my T&L course, I have written a review paper where I focus on my own preferred teaching methods in order to analyse and elucidate my own educational philosophy. Here, I articulate my own views and experiences of learning, my professional values, beliefs and goals.

I examine the educational theory methods highlighted above focusing on  humanism approaches used by Maria Montessori and Carl Rogers, and constructivism used famously by Jean Piaget and Lev Vygotsky (quoted, left), It seems I have followed many of these student-led approaches during my teaching career often without fully realising. I have found that “learning by doing” works wonders for actively engaging students in their own education, giving them ownership over material covered in class. This is evident in my lesson plans where students lead their way in experiments and construction.

I have found these approaches extremely useful in developing students’ confidence in their own ability to learn as well as instilling curiosity and a joy in learning.

 

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References:

  • McLeod, S. A. (2019). Constructivism as a theory for teaching and learning. Simply Psychology.

  • Vygotsky, L. S. (1978). Mind in society: The development of higher psychological processes. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

  • Quotes from Philosophers taken from AZ Quotes website (www.azquotes.com)

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