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Teaching Philosophy Katie Hill LI837A June 25, 2009
2 Teaching Philosophy Abstract
Throughout the years there have been many approaches to teaching, but it has just been within the last century that educators have begun to use the learner-centered approach. Learner-centered teaching allows the students be more actively involved in the education as well as encourages them to be lifelong learners.
Teaching Philosophy Throughout a graduate student’s career at the School of Library and Information
Management (SLIM) at Emporia State University they are introduced to many different ideas, theories, and concepts. Within the Master of Library Science curriculum at SLIM students are required to look at themselves in many different aspects. The biggest and most important aspect in which they must discover about themselves is in regard to what style of learning they utilize, in other words, what kind of learner are they. It is imperative for teachers and instructors to realize this about themselves in order to be a successful educator. Once a person is aware of the different learning styles people tend to have and utilize they will be more adequately prepared to create and mold their instruction to a learner-centered format, which in turn, will lead to a more fruitful educational experience for the learner. By creating a learner-centered environment the instructor encourages the student to become a lifelong-learner. Learner-centered thought has been around for many years. However, it was not utilized on a widespread level until the early 20th century (Zilversmit, 1993). There are many theorists and academics who adhere and promote a learner-centered environment. Many of whom have built on each other’s work making needed improvements and adjustments as changes in technology and strategies come about. Jean Piaget is a notable theorist for Constructivist thought. Constructivism is a method of teaching and learning in which the student must construct their own ideas. One definition of Constructivism, provided by Carol Kuhlthau; “Students learn to think through issues that do not have prescribed responses or preset solutions” (Kuhlthau, 1997, pg. 3). Piaget was very interested in the idea and the process of learning. He believed that the focus should be placed on the leaner as an individual as opposed to the group (Henson, 2003, pg.13).
Teaching Philosophy Another influential thinker and theorist of the learner-centered philosophy is John
Dewey. John Dewey was an advocate for educational reform. “He had inspired a movement to establish new schools that would be democratic rather than authoritarian” and he shifted the focus of education to the needs of the students (Zilversmit, 1993, pg. 1). Dewey’s ideas on education led to reform of many educational systems in the United States. Dewey’s words also helped illustrate the idea and necessity of becoming a lifelong learner, “It is the very nature of life to strive to continue in being. Since this continuance can be secured only by constant renewals, life is a self-renewing process” (Dewey, 1957, pg. 11). Dewey also believed that children will be more successful in their learning potential if they were asked to think critically. In many academic settings a student is only asked to memorize and regurgitate what the instructor has fed them. Dewey, using history as an example, says “To study history is not to amass information, but to use information in constructing a vivid picture of how and why men did thus and so; achieved their success and came to their failures” (Dewey, 1960, pg. 151). From the early work of Piaget, Dewey, and other such theorists many individuals since have taken their work and expanded it. In today’s information age, educators are determining that they need to rethink about the education process. One of these educators is Carol Kuhlthau. Kuhlthau has done a lot of work in the field of education as well as library and information management with regard to information seeking behavior. Kuhlthau explains in one of her articles that Constructivist learning and teaching is very crucial in today’s digital learning environment; “Living in the information age requires people to go beyond the ability to locate information and requires competence in seeking
meaning and understanding” (Kuhlthau, 1997, pg. 3). Kuhlthau took the ideas of Dewey, Piaget, and other Constructivists and created the Information Search Process. Researching is a fundamental component of learning. A person cannot learn something new if they do not first research it. Kuhlthau, being aware of this, conducted studies about the process people use while searching for information. From her research she was able to develop the information search process six stage model. Kuhlthau’s studies also showed that students used a variety of methods to help them reach their ultimate goal. From these findings she also determined that there are important steps that the educator or librarian can take in order to help the learner reach their intended goal. These steps include collaborating, continuing, conversing, charting, and composing (Kuhlthau, 1997, pg. 5-6). All of these steps are also important tools in implementing learner-centered instruction. Another author worth mentioning is Maryellen Weimer. Weimer is an educator who has taught in the University setting for many years. She approaches teaching with a learning-centered philosophy. Her book, titled, Learner-Centered Teaching: Five Key Changes to Practice, gives a thorough explanation and examination of different techniques utilized in a learner-centered environment. One very helpful aspect of Weimer’s book is her examination of how a learning environment will change once an educator switches from traditional teaching to the more progressive learner-centered instruction. Weimer states that five key elements of change take place with this transition of instruction. These changes are the balance of power, function of content, the role of the teacher, the responsibility for learning, and the purpose and process of evaluation (Weimer, 2002). By becoming aware of these essential changes you will be able to create
6 the most advantageous learner-centered environment.
As mentioned earlier, understanding one’s own learning style is an important step in becoming a good educator. However, not only is it important to know what type of learner you are, but you must also be aware of how education and information dissemination is changing. The American Association of School Librarians put out a set of standards about the 21st Century learner. This document details the importance of lifelong learning and how learning and teaching needs to be adapted to support and utilize the increase of information available to learners and information seekers. “The amount of information available to our learners necessitates that each individual acquire the skills to select, evaluate, and use information appropriately and effectively” (AASL, pg. 3). So as a learner you must understand how you will best digest information but you must also learn how to utilize all kinds of resources so that you will have access to all relevant information no matter what format it may be presented. A patron or student does not formally have to recognize his or her own learning style and information seeking behavior. An educated and trained instructor, such as an MLS graduate from SLIM, will have been formally introduced to these ideas in order to better assist their students and/or patrons. While it may help, it is not necessary for the learner to be aware of different learning techniques and information seeking behavior. This responsibility must be placed on the educator to recognize specific mannerisms and in so doing craft their instruction to best suit their learner. Learning styles and information seeking behavior will be different for every person. A person’s age, gender, or economic situation might have a determination as to how they will likely search for information. A trained librarian or educator should be
skilled and prepared to handle any type of learner as well as be willing to ensure the best education and service to everyone. Education and the ability to learn should not be denied to anyone in a society. It is the task of today’s educators to continue to promote the idea of lifelong learning; as Dewey says “society determines its own future in determining that of the young” (Dewey, 1957, pg. 49). The American Library Association has put forth a list of core values for libraries and other professionals to follow. Similarly to Dewey, ALA has a specific value related to democracy and society. This value states:
“A democracy presupposes an informed citizenry. The First Amendment mandates the right of all persons to free expression, and the corollary right to receive the constitutionally protected expression of others. The publicly supported library provides free and equal access to information for all people of the community the library serves” (ALA website, 2009).
As shown above it is important to use constructivism and a learner-centered approach to teaching and instruction. Some educators find it difficult to create lesson plans or syllabi that utilize learner-centered techniques. Weimer’s text, Leaner-Centered Teaching, gives many examples for different methods that instructors, such as herself, have used to promote learner-centered education. The examples that she presents can be used throughout the course of a class or instructional session. One example that can be implemented at the beginning of a course is allowing the students to help develop the syllabus. By allowing the students to take part in this process you allow them to take their education into their own hands as well as actively participate in the content that will
be presented to them. Weimer also suggests that continual input from the students is an important part of learner-centered education. Without seeking input from your students you will be unaware of their academic progress and the possible areas of ambiguity (Weimer, 2002, pg. 21-119). All of the theorists, authors, and organizations mentioned have contributed to the education and library science fields. As these individuals have illustrated it is imperative to encourage students and learners of all ages, whether it be in the school or library setting, to be passionate about learning. Passion for learning is the foundation for society to improve upon itself. Without improvements and renewals the society will not flourish. It is up to today’s educators to create a learner-centered environment that will promote lifelong learning. By creating the welcoming learning atmosphere of learner-centered instruction you allow the students to open their hearts and minds to knowledge and the continuous search for information.
American Library Association. (June 29, 2004). Core Values of Librarianship. ALA Council. Retrieved June 23, 2009, from http://www.ala.org/ala/aboutala/offices/oif/statementspols/corevaluesstatement/co revalues.cfm. Dewey, J. (1956). The child and the curriculum and the school and society. Phoenix books, 3. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Dewey, J. (1957). Democracy and education; An introduction to the philosophy of education. New York: The Macmillan Company. Dougherty, J P (Wntr 2007). Using the past to rescue the future. (the future of education ). Modern Age, 49, 1. p.3(9). Retrieved June 24, 2009, from Academic OneFile via Gale: http://0find.galegroup.com.www.whitelib.emporia.edu/itx/start.do?prodId=AONE Henson, K T (Fall 2003). Foundations for learner-centered education: a knowledge base. Education, 124, 1. p.5(12). Retrieved June 24, 2009, from Academic OneFile via Gale: http://0find.galegroup.com.www.whitelib.emporia.edu/itx/start.do?prodId=AONE Kuhlthau, C. C. (Spring 1997). Learning in digital libraries: an information search process approach. Library Trends, 45, n4. p.708(17). Retrieved June 25, 2009, from Academic OneFile via Gale: http://0find.galegroup.com.www.whitelib.emporia.edu/itx/start.do?prodId=AONE Weimer, M. (2002). Learner-centered teaching: Five key changes to practice. The Jossey-Bass higher and adult education series. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass. Zilversmit, A. (1993). Changing schools: Progressive education theory and practice, 1930-1960. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
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