TEACHING PHILOSOPHY STATEMENT
My work as a professional educator is rooted in an ever-deepening commitment to teaching and scholarship in a spirit of cooperation. I enjoy the academic environment for its intellectual vitality, constant invitation to learn, and especially for the opportunities it offers for engagement with colleagues and students. My philosophy of teaching is informed by the material I teach, relevant scholarship, personal knowledge deficits, times I have erred, and the lessons learned from teaching successes and failures.
The basis for all learning is social interaction. I apply constructivist pedagogy by shifting from teacher-centred didactic instruction to student-centred applied learning, giving those in my class(es) frequent and repeated opportunities to act, react, and interact with each other. As Vygotsky emphasised, social interaction precedes the development of knowledge and ability. Indeed, the essence of language learning is to master/command language as a medium for communication and this requires parallel development of fluency and correctness. An intercultural and communicative approach offers opportunities for contextualised and cooperative language acquisition, and also assists learners in becoming effective communicators i.e., well-rounded speakers, listeners, readers and writers. To cultivate this space, my positive energy helps to facilitate learning and rapport within and beyond the classroom.
I begin with the belief that all students enter my classroom with pre-existing knowledge. I try to use this knowledge from the outset by surveying my students’ social, cultural and linguistic familiarities and capabilities as distinct from their formal English scores. I have a fundamental role to play in disseminating information in ways that will enhance the chance of new words, expressions and academic writing conventions ‘sticking’, especially when such instruction is crucial for their academic achievement. Ladson-Billings acknowledged three central tenets in her student/learner-centred framework that helps nurture the uniqueness of individual students, namely: (a) holding high expectations for all students; (b) assisting students in the development of cultural competence; and (c) guiding students to develop a critical cultural consciousness. Such a framework suggests that learning is incomplete without questioning and lessons must provide the atmosphere and forum congenial enough for students to ask questions.
Relatedly, a Culturally Relevant Pedagogy (CRP)—otherwise referred to as ‘Culturally Relevant Practice’, ‘Culturally Relevant Teaching’ or ‘Culturally Responsive Teaching’—builds on the understanding of how people are expected to go about learning, which may differ across cultures, and in order to maximise learning opportunities, educators must gain knowledge of the cultures represented in their classrooms, then translate this knowledge into instructional practice. Thus, at all times, the intellectual diversity within my class(es) is respected and promoted. I feel it is my fundamental responsibility to promote critical thinking without being imposing and to encourage debate without being patronising.
I am a firm believer in a continuous process/cycle of rigorous critique via reflective teacher practice. By incorporating deep introspection, I feel that I am able to continually excel as an educator and adapt to the changing needs of my students. Periods of self-reflection are based on the principles of action research and include a teaching journal, annotated lesson plans, and video-recorded class sessions. My goal in and beyond the classroom is to provide an atmosphere conducive to learning and self-discovery in order to facilitate students’ advancement—active participation rather than passive learning. While I have learned that knowledge is not always an easily transferable commodity, passion often is. I believe my presence in the classroom exudes my passion for what I am doing and serves as inspiration/motivation for students to realise their own intellectual potential.
Further, my teaching philosophy recognises that education is a vital lifelong process that—like the society to which it responds—is never static nor completely realised. Prime among my professional strengths is my ability to teach students from varied cultural backgrounds and to demonstrate a learner-centred and culturally relevant pedagogy. For many reasons, I find teaching to be an enlivening profession that presents and demands continuous reworking. I am committed to utilising a range of established and new methodologies and technologies, and I look to the heuristic value of my chosen vocation to grow in my approach.
Finally, as I grow as an educator, I expect that there will be adjustments to my philosophy, but one thing will always remain constant—my desire to maintain high-quality, well-designed and inclusive lessons in an active and stimulating learning environment that is engaging, conversation-filled, and student-centred in order to heighten intellectual productivity and overall success.