Every Educator Needs a Teaching Philosophy

As an educator, what would you want to say about yourself if you were asked to explain your teaching philosophy.You may be surprised, and perhaps you are included in this category, with the number of educators who either do not have a mystical teachings of jesus philosophy or cannot articulate clearly and concisely provide (without the use of clichés or generalizations about teaching) any indicator of their own beliefs about learning or teaching. Over the past few weeks I have been interviewing faculty for adjunct online teaching positions and many of the candidates I’ve spoken with have not developed a clearly defined philosophy statement or never thought it was needed. While that does not automatically disqualify them from a teaching position it does not help them provide a true representation of what could be expected if they were teaching a course.

Every educator needs a teaching philosophy statement. This is a summary that allows someone else (especially a recruiter or someone in a position to hire new faculty) to develop insight into their teaching and instructional strategies, methods, and practices. I’ve seen two different approaches used for those educators who have a well-defined statement; one that is researched-based and one that is very personal and written in the first person. If you are pursuing new positions, my recommendation is that you chose the latter approach and present an overview that represents you as an educator. In higher education, many teaching positions require a mandatory statement be submitted as part of the screening process. What follows is a condensed version of philosophy statement I have used, to help you get started or review what you have already developed.

Conceptualization of Learning

There is a five-part approach that was developed by Nancy Chism, a former Director of Faculty and TA Development at the Ohio State University, which is very helpful for educators. The first part is Conceptualization of Learning and it is meant for an educator to describe what they believe about learning based upon their knowledge, expertise, education, and experience.

Since my primary work is focused on distance learning, my view of learning is concerned with how students learn in a virtual environment. For online learning, it is my belief that the basic principles of adult education do not change. However, the format of learning has changed and that is the reason why new and updated instructional strategies must be implemented. In a virtual classroom the process of learning involves the acquisition of knowledge and the development of new skills. In order for knowledge to be acquired and retained in long-term memory, students must have an opportunity to apply what they are studying and given a context for learning that is relevant to their lives and/or careers. The same can be stated for the development of new skills; learning occurs when students are given an opportunity to practice what they are being instructed to learn.

In an online classroom, as with any classroom environment, learning is not a one-time event. Learning also does not occur because an online course shell has been created, an instructor has been assigned to teach the course, and students are enrolled in the class. Learning occurs as a result of students receiving and reading materials, processing the information received in a manner that prompts advanced cognitive skills, and then is applied to and connected with existing ideas, knowledge, and real-world scenarios so that it is retained in long-term memory. The learning process does not stop there as that new knowledge must be recalled later if it is to continue to be retained. This means that students will learn only if the subject and course topics are presented in a meaningful manner, one that requires them to do more than memorize concepts.

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