I've been asked to submit my teaching philosphy for a position in an adult high school diploma. I wrote an earlier one for a community college position I applied for which I posted here in July, which can be accessed here http://thecomprehensiveadulteducator.blogspot.com/2010/07/teaching-philosophy.html.
I took that initial dscription as a basis for a re-write as follows, for the high school diploam application. This is all part of my broader effort of seeking, if not to re-invent, to refine myself once again at age 63 in determing the extent and/or manner to which I can remain connected in a professional manner to the field of adult education.
I’ve drawn deeply on the work of the pragmatic philosopher John Dewey, especially from his short powerful book, Experience and Education and his more detailed Democracy and Education, both to develop my philosophy of teaching and philosophy of education. What I have drawn mostly from Dewey is a passion of probing inquiry within the context of a collaborative class dynamic and a strength-based model of teaching drawing on the knowledge that students do possess as the avenue for tapping into their areas of curiosity. These serve as pivotal entry points in the stimulation of greater learning whether teaching in adult basic education classrooms, adult high school diploma programs, or online graduate courses in adult education.
I believe it is the primary responsibility of the instructor to provide an orienting structure to any given course or class session. As a consequence I place a great deal of thought and detail into structuring a syllabus which serves as a working plan which includes scope for revision and modification throughout the course. This is a fluid process that I shape and reshape through a continuous working through of the identification of key texts, websites, and the sequencing of assignments throughout the semester until a sense of completion emerges.
I also place a good deal of attention into the up-front planning for each of the class sessions especially in the first few weeks in thinking through the content and also the instructional strategies designed to open up the materials and to encourage optimal student engagement. In the process I am seeking to bring together the course content to be covered, a deepening of my understanding of the subject matter through intense engagement, the learning needs and interests of the students, and a provisional sense of what comprises an optimal teaching/learning situation within each class session. Once in class, my primary mode of instruction becomes broadly interactive in which I might open with a question or some basic information and engage in a dialogue with students in the probing of the significance of the topic under discussion. The responses may open up the class in directions not specifically identified beforehand, in which I seek to keep the broad direction of what I am attempting to accomplish in mind based on the syllabus and the specific lesson plan for the day. Through such a process students strengthen their internalization of the content which increases both their motivation and comprehension.
In working both with emerging student understanding as well as the logic of the content itself, I usually find a way to spiral back into the main direction of the lesson plan in illuminating the significance of the class objectives for the students in which I have also gained some knowledge and appreciation as well. Throughout all this I seek to work at the higher edge level of given student potential in the process of encouraging and inspiring students to stretch further in their knowledge and in their intuitive leaps. In working with the grain of each student’s developmental process as the best possible way of advancing educational progress I am drawing on Dewey’s core concept of “growth” or optimal potential that he so clearly articulated in his timely as ever test, Democracy and Education. This learning objective, in turn, requires close attunement to the importance of scaffolding in identifying that nexus between what students can accomplish independently and what they could come to achieve with critically supportive assistance at just the right time. Stated otherwise, each class session serves as an opportunity to hone my own skills in deepening my mastery of the art and science of teaching.