The great psychotherapist Carl Rogers (1990, p. 26-27) was a source of inspiration to me; although he was writing about psychotherapy his ideas equally apply to teaching and learning. He once said that we may not know exactly what we want in life but we do know what we don’t want. It was his experience that people move in a positive direction (Rogers 1990). The words which I believe are most truly descriptive are words such as positive, constructive, moving towards self-actualization, growing towards maturity, growing toward socialization (Rogers, 1990, p. 26-27). My teaching philosophy is to facilitate growth and self-actualisation in learners and to allow them to be themselves and to find their own voice. My wish for my students is that they become independent self-directed learners and discover the joy of learning. I hope my teaching is inspired by inquiry, reflection and a passion for the subject matter! (Fitzmaurice and Coughlan, 2007). The many weak teachers I met along the way inform my philosophy as much as the really good inspiring ones. I hope to emulate what was best in their methods and eschew what was worse. It is hard to believe that in my primary school days teaching was usually by the stick, children were bullied and verbally and physically abused. When I went to college, it was said that first year students should be treated like mushrooms, kept in the dark and manure heaped on them. Thankfully these days are gone and teachers at all levels use reflective practices. This leads me to characteristics and traits that I would like to demonstrate in my teaching practices.
Table 1 Characteristics of good pedagogy
|What I don’t want||What I want|
|To humiliate or patronise student||To respect student|
|To be so critical of student that they become dejected and demoralised||To encourage student to be their best self in terms of academic and creative expression and to become active learners. To facilitate them to have an internal locus of control and critically evaluate their own work|
|To dismiss students work as rubbish||To provide positive feedback and gentle criticism, focusing on the positive areas of their work but pointing out areas for improvement|
|To treat students like mushrooms: Keep them in the dark and pour manure on them! (This was said to us in first year!)||Encourage students to do their own reading but also to move them into the zone of proximal learning by scaffolding learning and making theories interesting and accessible so that students can become enlightened. Tease out theories in tutorials.|
|To keep students subordinate so that I can feel superior||To enhance student’s academic growth by applauding their achievements and encouraging them to publish their work or present at conferences|
|To do all the talking||To allow lots of spaces for the students to express and think for themselves|
|To do the thinking for them||Encourage students to become independent critical thinkers|
|To create a hostile, formal space||To create a warm welcoming environment for the learner|
|To do their work||Allow student to do their own work and make their own mistakes|
|Squash enthusiasm||Encourage curiosity and exploration|
|Oppress||Mentor and emancipate students to become their best self|
My teaching philosophy is congruent with the mission statement of the organisation for which I work (Fitzmaurice & Coughlan 2007). Hibernia College’s mission is to:
Make a significant contribution to the development and access to innovative education. We believe that our programmes should be measured not only upon their academic rigour but in their effectiveness in helping our students meet the challenges that they face every day in their professional lives.
My mission statement or teaching philosophy is:
To enable and encourage students to become independent self directed learners; to stimulate their curiosity of and passion for continued learning; to increase their awareness of societal inequalities so that they as teachers can help to mitigate these inequalities in their classrooms and schools.
It is also my desire to foster positive relationships with students. Fitzmaurice and Coughlan, (2007) discuss the importance of having positive and healthy relationships with students. Some teachers may judge or label learners as ‘lazy’ etc. however, I concur with Biggs & Tang’s analyis of lack of motivation.
There is no such thing as an unmotivated student: all students not in a coma want to learn something. Our task is to maximise the chances that what they want to do is to achieve the learning outcomes. Unfortunately, there are many aspects of teaching that actually discourage them from doing that: we need to identify and minimize these as far as we can (Biggs & Tang, 2007: p.31).
Some students may be unmotivated simply because they are in programmes that they are either not suited for or that they don’t like. This lack of fit between the programme and the student may be demonstrated in student behaviour, apathy, weak performance in assignments etc. Others may be unmotivated because of poor interpersonal relationships between the student and the teacher. I work on fostering positive relationships by being accessible to students by building up rapport, getting to know students, being interested in them, and by encouraging them to email me etc. However, I discourage dependency as my aspiration is for students to become independent learners. From studying psychological counselling I have learnt that too much help can actually disempower people. The study of sociology is by its nature critical of society, therefore I try to foster critical thinking in my learners, they are also required to master information about sociology and apply it in a critical way in their everday teaching practices. To the best of my ability I try to model good behaviour by being prepared for class, punctual, organised and efficient, providing students with interesting readings, course notes and stimulating PowerPoint Presentations.
Fitzmaurice, M. & Coughlan, J., 2007. Teaching Philosophy Statements A Guide. In Teaching Portfolio Practice in Ireland. Ireland: Higher Education Authority.
Rogers, C., 1990. On becoming a person, Wiltshire: Redwood Press Limited.