Exploring Your Own Conceptions of Teaching and Learning/Introduction

A good teacher, like a good researcher, will always seek to extend the boundaries of their own knowledge. As teaching is an applied discipline, this also means extending the associated practical skills. Teaching, however, is also somewhat idiosyncratic in-as-much-as the personality of an individual teacher will influence how well they are able to use the proven tools of good teaching.

As Biggs (2003: 6) says,

"Wise and effective teaching is not…simply a matter of applying general principles of teaching according to rule; those principles need adapting to your own personal strengths and to your teaching context. A characteristic of award-winning university teachers is their willingness to collect student feedback on their teaching in order to see where their teaching might be improved (Dunkin and Precians 1992). Expert teachers continually reflect on how they might teach even better."

Brookfield (1995) points out that one of the hardest things for teachers to learn is that the sincerity of their intentions does not guarantee the effectiveness of their practice. Teaching always takes place in social setting with all of the cultural, psychological and political complexities that complicate all human relationships (including those between students and teachers.

Brookfield goes on to warn against what he calls “teaching innocently” by which he means assuming that the meanings and significance that teachers place in their actions are the ones that students will take from them. Since we rarely, if ever, have a full awareness of how others perceive our actions teaching in this way is naïve and potentially dangerous because it can lead to a misreading of what is happening in the classroom. Taking an uncritical stance towards teaching can result in teachers being either unaware of, or unable to change, the blocks to learning experienced by their students. On the other hand, becoming a critically reflective teacher, one who continually seeks to understand what students are going through and how they can be helped to maximise their potential, can enable teachers to have be much more effective facilitators of learning.

One technique shown to prompt such a critical stance is the production of a teaching philosophy statement (Goodyear & Allchin 1998).


Back to Teaching and LearningTeaching Philosophy Statement

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