My teaching philosophy draws from my experience. When teaching, it is necessary to know what you are capable of as an educator. I have learned this about myself and have discovered a few things about learning as well.
From my experiences I have discovered that there are different types of learning and they require different methods to be achieved. To remember all fifty state capitols rote repetition will work, performing an analysis of a piece of literature requires a different method. Information literacy, my field, requires various methods to capture an understanding of information, where it comes from, how to evaluate it, and when to employ the many types of information.
My role as an educator is to facilitate student’s learning and ability to problem-solve by helping them to develop critical thinking skills. Writers often apply a “show, don’t tell” technique to their writing and this has been accepted as a teaching method, to show students how a task is done, rather than telling them how it is done. While this practice can be valuable, it doesn’t go far enough in many cases, especially those that require critical thinking. Most of the competencies that are sought after when teaching information literacy require critical thinking. This demands that students take it upon themselves to uncover useful sources of information and to determine which can be trusted. In short, they cannot be simply “shown” these things; they must be motivated to find these for themselves.
As an educator, I am there to present students with situations and tasks that require both individual and group analysis. I am there to ignite a passion within them to discover and wonder about information and its effect on their daily lives. This encourages them to think for themselves. My role is not to show or tell, but to push them to find what they are seeking as individuals. I do this through carefully crafting lessons and assignments to result in active learning outcomes.
Sometimes students struggle with their assignments and activities. It is necessary to identify these students and give them more guidance if needed. However, I believe that a lot of learning can be gained through struggle. In life we are often met with difficulty and we learn from it. If a student strives and searches for the solution to a difficult question and doesn’t find it, they still have learned. They must make an effort as a student, to find better resources to uncover a solution. The struggle often brings growth and learning. This inspires critical thinking.
Student interaction is a powerful learning tool and I employ many partner and group projects or activities as I teach. It requires students to express their thoughts clearly to others. I have learned first-hand, how well you must know a subject to teach it to someone else. Learning how to clearly communicate prepares students to interact with others when they encounter a problem or when learning something new. No matter which field students enter they will ask their colleague’s advice and present their findings to others.
Using evaluations from students helps me adjust and improve my teaching. I have looked to these evaluations throughout my teaching career. I develop my own formal and informal evaluations for students to complete throughout the classes that I teach. Feedback from colleagues is useful for an educator. I invite other teachers to sit in on my classes and offer feedback. Reflection about what works in the classroom and what doesn’t is also necessary to improve as an educator. I learned this early in my teaching career and find it invaluable.
Trying new methods, using new technology, and keeping an open mind invigorate me as an educator. I am a strong proponent of these activities and will continue to attend conferences, read about new methods of information literacy education, and learn from my peers.