My Educational Philosophy
I begin my philosophy by asking the questions: What is the purpose of education and what is the role of the teacher?
To answer the former, I turn to: Freire, Pearl and Watson. According to Freire: (1996, p. 60), education is liberation as praxis: it is about giving people the skills to reflect ‘upon their world in order to transform it’. Similarly, Pearl (2012) argues, that education ‘is about empowering citizens and preparing people so they can design a better future’. Watson (n.d.) adds a further dimension, by once saying:
‘If you have come here to help me, you are wasting your time.
But if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together.’
What is clear in all three philosophies, from both a western and Indigenous perspective, is that education is about emancipation and empowering people to act. In addition, it is a collaborative effort.
To answer the latter question on the role of the teacher, I once turn again to Freire who (1996, p. 64) argues, that the teacher-student dichotomy is a false one. Through dialogue, the teacher and student work together in the co-construction of knowledge (Freire 1996, p. 61). According to Freire (Clarke 2005) the teacher is a facilitator who sets up situations in which information is shared between the teacher and the group and among the group members. Thus, information is not owned by the teacher but is multi-directional. In addition, the facilitator does not give the answers, but through problem solving, guides the students so they find their own solutions. This is in stark contrast to the traditional style of teaching I grew up with in which information was one – directional; the teacher to the student and answers were given to students.
My educational philosophy is therefore based on those of Freire, Pearl and Watson and is one in which my role is that of facilitator who guides students through their learning. This is achieved by questioning, offering ideas and discussion and getting students to analyze and come to an understanding. Through this process, education is a liberating venture. This is clearly more empowering than simply giving students answers and transferring information. See p. 3 of inquiry-based grammar lesson Although at times individual work is necessary, my classroom is also collaborative in nature. Students are encouraged to contribute and share information, ideas and stories. This is particularly important for my English as an Additional Language Students (EAL) with varying levels of literacy and English proficiency. The collaborative nature of the classroom allows for peer scaffolding in which the more literate students support the learning of their peers with less literacy and formal schemata to bring to their learning.
As a teacher of English as an Additional language (EAL), in which many cultures are represented in the classroom, I am proactive in building an inclusive, cohesive learning environment. This is one in which my students can bring their stories and experience into the classroom. An inclusive classroom is more than just sharing stories, it is about awareness and recognition of the ways of knowing and being of our students. Through research, this year I discovered the Australian indigenous pedagogy of the eight way framework which is eight interconnected indigenous pedagogies. One particular pedagogy is learning maps in which diagrams or other visualizations are used to map out processes explicitly for the learner. When this is applied to a mainstream classroom, lesson plans and units of work can be explicitly mapped out for students including assessment tasks. Learning Map of WWI unit of work. This is clearly beneficial; not only by allowing students to see the journey on which they are about to embark but also by creating an inclusive classroom culture in which other cultures are represented.
As a bilingual Australian and teacher of German, I am an advocate for the teaching and learning of languages in Australian schools. In spite of a long history of multiculturalism, Australia remains predominantly monolingual. As Clyne (2007) suggests, however, monolingualism is curable and it is encouraging to see both the state and federal governments see the value of language learning. The State government is committed to having every Victorian Foundation Year student from 2015 learning a second language. In order to retain student numbers past the junior years, however, language learning must be taught using a communicative, inquiry-based approach so students retain their interest. This is particularly important with grammar which can be dry for students. A communicative, inquiry based approach is evident in my language classroom in which students engage in a variety of activities including problem solving and discovery learning. Fairytale worksheet
As mentioned I am also a teacher of English as an Additional Language (EAL) and an advocate for literacy ‘for all’, including Indigenous students. Australian Aboriginals remain the main disadvantaged group in Australia and I am committed to seeing the outcomes for indigenous students improve. This will require a combination of both research and praxis. For my paper on the barriers to effective learning for indigenous students as wells initiatives which are helping to improve the situation click here
Finally, I am an advocate of teachers doing research. Through my process of active inquiry this year, my practicum school now has valuable information to bring about positive change. See the hard copy of my Applied Curriculum Project (ACP)
In the short term, I intend teaching in one of my two methods or both. I aim to continue developing in terms of both curriculum design and delivery. One area in particular, I need to develop in is digital literacy in order to engage fully with the literacies of my students. In order to do this, I participated in the VicTESOL PD titled: Information Technology and EAL learners. Although I expect to graduate with a Graduate Diploma in Secondary Education this year, I intend doing further study. In order to further develop my understanding of EAL pedagogy and stay abreast of the latest research, I have applied to do a Master of TESOL in 2013.
Long term Goals
In terms of teaching, my main aim is to become an even better teacher than I am now. I already have experience in teaching and have therefore much to bring to my praxis. I am not sure if I will remain in the school sector for the long term or if I will transition to tertiary education. I guess time in the school sector will decide this for me. As an active researcher, I intend doing further study. I am particularly interested in bilingual perspectives in education and in applying it to both my methods, English as an Additional Language (EAL) and German. Currently, EAL classrooms tend to operate on an English-only zone principle enforcing a monolingual approach. Recent research in this area, however, highlights the need for a more inclusive, bilingual approach to language learning.
Clarke, S 2005, Effective Facilitation, Tearfund International Learning Zone, viewed 29 October 2012, <http://tilz.tearfund.org/Publications/Footsteps+5160/Footsteps+60/Effective+facilitation.htm>
Clyne, M 2007, The Time has Come to Go Forward Together, Speech to Canberra Region Languages Forum, viewed 29 October 2012,
Freire, P 1996, Pedagogy of the Oppressed, Penguin Books Ltd, London, England.
Pearl, A 2012, Democratic Schooling, lecture notes, AEG5108: The Social Context of Teaching and Learning, Victoria University, delivered 6 April 2012.
Watson, L n.d. Inspirational Quotes, The Denver Foundation’s Inclusiveness Project, viewed 29 October 2012, <http://nonprofitinclusiveness.org/inspirational-quotes>