Tag Archives: PGCAP

Teaching philosophy statement

As part of the Post Graduate Certificate in Higher Education that I am taking I need to outline my conception of teaching and learning and describe how and why you do (or will) teach”

modelLearner On the left is a model learner I found in Leuven. If you think of it as showing knowledge flowing into someone’s head as they read a book, then it is not my conception of learning. I believe:

  • knowledge is not something that exists externally and can somehow be transferred into a students head, it is something that is built and rebuilt in the brain.
  • learning is not something that can be done passively simply by absorbing what is in a book, it requires an active effort
  • education is a social activity, not a solo activity

(For the avoidance of doubt, I don’t preclude reading as an active effort or as part of a social activity.)

Part of my role as a teacher is to provide and be part of the social setting, activities and resources through which students may develop their knowledge and understanding of the outside world.

I am involved in education because I believe in the capability of people learn, to change and to improve, throughout their life. Their time at University is part of that, but I think it is important to consider what students will need the day after they leave University and in 10 years time. Once they leave University many of them will find themselves without a teacher for the first time in their life. Part of my role as a teacher is to prepare them to be without a teacher. The area that I teach (computer science/information systems) is rapidly changing. When I suggested to a colleague that he should tell his new students what it is that they will learn in the next four years that will be useful in ten years time he replied “Tough question – ‘we are/should be teaching students to solve problems we don’t know using technologies we don’t know'”. That suggests to me that problem solving and the ability to learn new things are more important that content knowledge. Now that is a thought that is quite terrifying, the content knowledge is way easier to teach, but I can at least encourage students to think about what they know, what they need to know and how they are learning.

I also believe that teaching is difficult and the resources and approaches used are difficult to create. It is important to evaluate what works and what doesn’t, to change and to improve what doesn’t work, and to share what does.

[The image is my own available on Flickr under a Creative Commons attribution only licence http://www.flickr.com/photos/philbarker/4663480615/ Leuven being the brewing capital of Belgium and therefore of the world, and alternative interpretation is that it represents the role of beer in learning.]

I’ve just been inducted onto Heriot-Watt’s Post Graduate Certificate in Academic Practice. One of the exercises asked us in pairs to think about “What makes a good learners”

Slide that looks like pinned note asking "what makes a good learner"
Prompt for discussion
We were to think about this, discuss with a partners and then feedback. The intention was to identify the attributes of a good learner (reflective, open to new ideas etc. etc.) but one pair reported back ideas that seemed to me to be more about what factors are conducive to producing a good learner, literally how do you make a good learner. And I wonder whether that isn’t in fact a more interesting question–not that I think that you can make a good learner in the same way that you can make a milk shake.

Anyway, the first activities we have is to produce a teaching philosophy statement, and I think that making good learners is not a bad thing to base a teaching philosophy around.