Since the writing of this paper, my philosophy of learning has not changed very much. I wrote this philosophy the summer of 2016, before my fourth year as an educator. Now that I am halfway through this year, I can see my philosophy come alive in my classroom. I have been able to implement what I have learned throughout this program. For instance, I began teaching Texas History in 2015. I taught the class using PowerPoints and note taking. I was bored and so were my students. Though I was learning the new material, my teaching style was a disservice to my students. While I had a few PBLs throughout the year, overall, students were just regurgitating the information I taught them on a test. They did not make many personal connections with the information nor did they learn how to synthesize the information and create something new. This experience helped shape my learning philosophy.
I knew that I wanted this year to be different. I wanted my students to experience Texas History in a new and engaging way. I thought back to my own educational experience, the lessons I remember most vividly were lessons that fully engaged me. I remember writing a tall tale that I had to share with the class around a “campfire”. I remember the personal connections I made with Anne Frank as we read her diary and then created my own. I remember a book character parade, where I dressed up as the main character and told my classmates the story of that novel. I remember learning about budgeting and I had the opportunity to create my own budget for my future. These lessons stood out to me because I was creating connections and synthesizing what I was learning. This was the type of classroom environment I wanted to create.
This semester I have worked to create a completely different curriculum for my students with my Constructivist theory at the center. I often spend a day teaching the material using a presentation website called Peardeck. Peardeck involves the students in the lecture rather than having my students just take notes. Because I work in a district that provides iPads for each student, I am able to use that technology to my advantage.
After one learning day, I assign a project that students complete. I become a facilitator and my students are the explores. My latest project was about Westward Expansion and students had to go on a “journey” as they learned about Manifest Destiny, the Mexican-American War, and the Compromise of 1850. They put together a short video using Explain Everything to teach these 3 topics to the class. Students take control of their learning and create something to teach others.
Using my philosophy of learning, I would argue that my teaching has improved for the better. My students are more engaged and I am enjoying watching them really dig deep into the content.
My Philosophy of Learning
In the perfect classroom, students are sitting quietly at their desks, which happen to be all in rows. The teacher is at the front of the room, writing on the board. When her back is turned, no one is disturbing the class or shooting spitballs. All of the students are taking notes on the material that is being shared with them. They are in awe of the teacher’s wisdom and knowledge. While this classroom is commonly seen in old movies or depicted in fiction novels, this is the classroom I dreamed about as a little child. I imagined myself as that educator, respected and all-knowing. I imagined my perfect students sitting quietly in smart rows. I could not wait to be a teacher with 20 little souls looking up to me. Well, my student teaching experience quickly squashed my dreams of the “perfect classroom”. I realized that learning does not take place in little rows of silence. Students need action and movement, connection to prior knowledge, and a chance to explore for learning to occur.
Learning is more than the transfer of information. Students should be involved in the learning and experience the material in an authentic way. Molenda (2009) suggests that students should be producers rather than consumers. He says, “rather than receiving a service, the learner is actually creating the product… with an instructor and sometimes without” (Molenda, 2009, p. 86). When students are allowed to explore and create, they are making their own personal connections to the content. Authentic learning experiences are best taught through Project Based Learning (PBL). Bell (2010) states that “learning responsibility, independence, and discipline are three outcomes of PBL” (Bell, 2010, p. 40). Not only are students challenged to learn and interact with content, but they also experience a deep and rich authentic learning experience. They are allowed to move about the classroom, collaborating with their group mates. Learners are forced to make real life connections and see the content in a new light. They learn how to cooperate with others and develop skills that will help them in real life. Instead of route memorization, lectures, and tests, learning is authentic and natural. They are given a freedom that they did not have before.
Educators should view themselves as designers of authentic learning experiences. It is easy to pull up a PowerPoint and talk for 40 minutes, but what are the benefits for the students? More likely than not, they are day dreaming and thinking about their next class period. A teacher should put in the work up front to create PBL experiences. During the PBL, teachers should monitor the classroom and facilitate the conversations. As Bell states, “PBL promotes social learning as children practice and become proficient with the twenty-first-century skills of communication, negotiation, and collaboration.” (Bell, 2010, p. 40-41). PBL also make it easy to integrate technology authentically into the curriculum (Kean & Kwe, 2013, p. 191). Students can look up information on the internet, and learn how to research well. Learners can incorporate computers, video cameras, iPads, apps and more into their projects while the teacher supports their learning experience. Kozma argues that the learning is influenced by the medium and the method (Kozma, 1991, p. 205). Students are able to experience new methods of teaching through the use of technology and the PBL experience.
By implementing PBL and allowing students to create in a meaningful and authentic manner, suggests that I agree with the Constructivist theory. According to Ertmer and Newby (1993), “both learner and environmental factors are critical to the constructivist, as it is the specific interaction between these two variables that creates knowledge” (Ertmer & Newby, 1993, p. 63). Learning should be authentic and connect to a student’s prior knowledge (Ertmer & Newby, 1993, p. 63). When I create an environment for my students to interact and explore the material, they process the information in a meaningful and deep way.
It is through this lens that I now imagine my classroom. I challenge myself to make my lessons engaging and meaningful. Students are able to make connections, draw deep conclusions and personally interact with the content. No longer do I long for a quiet and well-behaved classroom. I long for a classroom where real and deep learning is taking place and I strive to reach that goal daily.
Bell, S. (2010). Project-Based Learning for the 21st Century: Skills for the Future. Clearing House: A Journal Of Educational Strategies, Issues, And Ideas, 83(2), 39-43.
Ertmer, P., & Newby, T. (1993). Behaviorism, Cognitivism, Constructivism: Comparing Critical Features from an Instructional Design Perspective. Performance Improvement Quarterly, 6(4), 50–71.
Kean, A. C., & Kwe, N. M. (2014). Meaningful Learning in the Teaching of Culture: The Project Based Learning Approach. Journal Of Education And Training Studies, 2(2), 189-197.
Kozma, R. B. (1991). Learning with Media. Review of Educational Research, 61(2), 179–211. http://doi.org/10.3102/00346543061002179
Molenda, M. (2009). Instructional technology must contribute to productivity. Journal of Computing in Higher Education, 21(1), 80–94. http://doi.org/10.1007/s12528-009-9012-9