My view of Knowledge and its effects on My Teaching Philosophy

I am a reflective teacher, hence I do think about how I am teaching, facilitating or running my classroom and if it is effective around student learning. But to define what theory or theories underpins my teaching philosophy, I am forced to dig deeper than just what I do but what I feel is right at my core. I need to look at who I am as a person, and how I view knowledge. Anthony Bates explains our “epistemological position has direct practical consequences for how we teach.”

At my beginning of forming my own ideas I believe I would have named myself a positivist. In school I was trained to find the right answer. The academic classes I enjoyed were math and science which had right, or wrong answer and I was praised if I figured it out. The creative classes I did not enjoy, it was too arbitrary. I was and am still very motivated by solving complex problems and finding the answers.

However, into my adulthood I started to learn there were multiple answers and multiple experiences and these are all valid types of knowledge.  Even with an objective reality there are mysteries and unknowns. Knowledge is ever changing but I believe it is objective in the idea that what we know now is true until we can prove it is different otherwise. I also realize in certain subject areas experiences do shape our knowledge and this is also valuable. This is why I have developed to be more post positivist as I am moving through university, teaching in a classroom and my masters. I believe there is objective truth but I think this truth is individualized. We all have bias and background experience. This will influence our world view. This won’t affect objective scientific truth most of the time but when it comes to the discovering , and analyzing new ideas this will affect learning. It is important to explore different perspectives, abstract ideas and unique processes. Hence in a classroom to have intellectual conversations and abstract thinking we will need multiple theories of learning for success.

Firstly students need their basic needs met, feel safe and feel like they belong. This is Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs which is involved in the Humanistic Theory of learning. Learning will never occur without these basic things. Students need to have drive for learning, have structure and organization, feel safe, enjoyment, and praise. All of these things I accomplish through the Behaviorism theory. This means we need to use behaviorist techniques to teach students how to behave. A specific one I use is “Tribier tickets”. They are little cards that give students privileges if they complete their personal goals. Goals could be completing work in class instead of being distracted by friends, or handing in assignments on time or getting a certain grade on an assignment.

With some support, motivation and organization we can move to teaching concepts. This is a cognitivist idea. It is the process of learning, connecting, explaining, and applying information. This still has the idea that there is right answers and we go through a process to find or explain these answers. In my classroom I do this through direct teaching different processes, activating prior knowledge to make connections between ideas, science labs to experience concepts, and problem solving real life math questions. The cognitivist theory uses Bloom’s Taxonomy which explains at what level students are learning. I find it to be a very thin line between high level concepts of thinkings such as creating, and evaluating in the cognitivist theory with the constructivist approach to learning.

“For a constructivist, even physical laws exist because they have been constructed by people from evidence, observation, and deductive or intuitive thinking, and, most importantly, because certain communities of people (in this example, scientists) have mutually agreed what constitutes valid knowledge.” . I love this quote, we wouldn’t have science without people who have tried to make sense of our world when there were unknowns and no right answers. Hence why forming your own thoughts, through experiments, trials, proofs or exploring new ideas is so important in education. It just takes a long time and effort to get there. The constructivist approach is about creating ones own ideas, and forming opinions. In the classroom I have used debates, inquiry research, interactive gizmos, manipulatives, experiments, discussions and videos that provoked opinions and feelings about a topic. This has all been successful to get students to develop their own ideas around science theory.

However, it can be unsuccessful when it is used alone. I remember when I was first introduced to inquiry learning, I would send students onto the world wide web to read and interact with new concepts without giving any background information. The depths of knowledge they obtained was minimal. They could not have deeper discussions about the topic because they didn’t understand first. Students need guidance from the teacher to find appropriate knowledge base. This includes teaching students how to find information, credible sources, fact check, find evidence before they can create. I will continue to use a blend of these theories as this is the bests practice in my opinion. Is this the best practice? As time will tell new theories, and new knowledge will arise. So true best practice is to continue to be a lifelong learner and keep trying new ways to grow as a teacher.