Philosophy

I have always thought of teaching as transformative. Whether delivering knowledge or instructing skills, I have always hoped to expand my students’ thinking—in context or in complexity, if not in content. I had two teachers, who explained to their classes what they were doing, who influenced my philosophy.

On the first day of PreCalc—the last required math class at my high school, generally taken in 11th grade—my teacher drew a number line on the board with no units. He made a mark near the lesser end of the line and said (paraphrasing), “Your level of thought complexity is here now. At the end of the year, it will be there,” gesturing at the greater end of the line. The purpose of learning PreCalc wasn’t to be able to take a first derivative or even to prepare us to take Calculus the next year: it was to challenge and expand our cognative ability to think rationally and quantitatively.

Not long after college, I became active in organizing the young adult ministry at my church, and I decided that I needed some theological background, if I was going to be involved in leading such a group. I began taking classes for a certificate in theological studies at a local college. Six courses were required for the certificate, but I ended up taking ten, because it was interesting. One of those interesting extra classes I took was Biblical Languages. It was a pilot course, and the professor knew that no one who took it could claim to be literate in Hebrew or Greek at the end of one semester, but he made it clear that his goal was to teach us the patterns of both languages, so that we might connect the necessary tools and be able to make sense of a text.

For much of my career thus far, my niche was teaching algebra—whether to middle schoolers as a substitute teacher or to adults preparing for the GED or to college students who needed a refresher—and I came to think of algebra as a form of literacy. When students asked me, as they often do, when they were going to use algebra in their daily lives, I would often answer with one of the two ideas from my teachers above: this will increase the complexity of your thinking; or this will give you a basic quantitative problem solving skills, so that you know how to approach promblems you encounter in the future.

As I reflect on these experiences and the various learning theories and taxonomies that I have encountered while studying Online Pedagogy, I come to understand my philosophy is informed very much by the Six Facets of Understanding and Fink’s Taxonomy of Significant Learning. I seek to educate a whole person to think beyond what I have taught them. I find that teaching math inherently relies on cognitivist learning theory, and I have carried that to the other subjects I’ve taught, but I find that, as I teach social studies or vocational exploration, I lean much more heavily on connectivist learning theory—giving students a basis of knowledge, so that they can continue to learn and adapt in the future.

Having taught in the adult education field for some time, I became comfortable with the idea that what I taught was literacy. Hearing the distinction made between literacy and information fluency gave me pause. I rethought some of what I teach and what I believe about what I teach. There is a space for tension and interaction between literacy and inforation fluency, but I hope to incorporate more information fluency in my work going forward. In some instances, I have already incorporated the learning-assessment cycle seamlessly into my teaching.

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