The evolution of my teaching philosophy and classroom practice

Over the past decade, my teaching philosophy has shifted from theoretical concepts reviewed throughout my undergraduate career to teaching beliefs founded on firsthand experiences within the classroom. To prove this point, I will share a story regarding my classroom setup that took place my first year of teaching that explains how quickly we can adapt our teaching ideologies to fit the needs within our classroom.


I remember that when I first convocated from the Faculty of Education and started my first teaching job, my teaching beliefs were centered around a socio-constructivist perspective where it is more of a learner centred approach to teaching that focusses more on the students rather than the teacher and this approach is consistently asking students to be actively involved in their own learning process (Social Constructivism: Implications on Teaching and Learning). For instance, I recall that in many of my undergraduate courses when we discussed classroom setup, rows had a negative connotation that impeded teaching to be student centred. Therefore, when I started organizing my classroom my first-year of teaching, I remember I set up my student desks in little groups of four. I recall my vice-principal coming to check on me before my students arrived and he mentioned the way I set up my desks and made mention that they were not set up in rows. My first group of ducklings were some of the sweetest kiddos I have ever met, but they were definitely social butterflies haha. Within the first couple of weeks of teaching, I switched up my classroom seating plan pretty quickly. Little learning pods did not work for my students and it did not set them up for success; the original seating plan I had come up with, helped to create too many distractions. I quickly reverted to what could be considered as more of a “traditional” classroom set up that used rows to organize my students seating plan (my VP preferred this seating arrangement and congratulated me for making the changes I deemed necessary for optimal learning during one of my first formal observations). For that particular group of students, rows were the best option for optimal learning to take place and when I wanted them to engage in partner or group work, I would let them find a spot and spread out across the classroom. Even though I had switched up my seating plan for a more “traditional” classroom set up, my teaching philosophy remained mainly centred around a socio-constructivist perspective.


As I have gained more experience in the teaching profession, I have come to appreciate certain beliefs pertaining to other teaching approaches such as behaviorist, cognitivist, and constructivist teaching styles. I agree with behaviorists when they state that “both learner and environmental factors are considered important, [with] environmental conditions [receiving] the greatest emphasis. Additionally, behaviorists assess learners to determine at what point to begin instruction as well as to determine which reinforcers are most effective for a particular student” (Ertmer & Newby, 2013, p. 9). Furthermore, I also align myself with “cognitive theories [that] emphasize making knowledge meaningful and helping learners organize and relate new information to existing knowledge in memory. [I believe that] instruction must be based on a student’s existing mental structures, or schema, to be effective [and that it] should organize information in such a manner that learners are able to connect new information with existing knowledge in some meaningful way (Ertmer & Newby, 2013, p. 17). Moreover, I also align myself with the constructivist when in believing that “it is critical that learning occur in realistic settings and that the selected learning tasks be relevant to the students’ lived experience” (Ertmer & Newby, 2013, p. 20). Finally, I have also included some teaching beliefs related to connectivism to complete my own teaching philosophy by “understanding that decisions are based on rapidly altering foundations [and that] new information is continually being acquired, [thus] the ability to draw distinctions between important and unimportant information is vital” (Siemens, 2005, p. 5).


I believe that teaching needs to be flexible to meet the needs of our students to optimize their learning experience. There are times where we will need to be structured in our teaching and other times where we will be able to loosen the reigns and allow our students to lead their learning journey. Students need to feel heard and respected and it is true what they say about respect needing to be earned rather than demanded. There is no greater feeling than having students want to learn because they are engaged in their learning instead of having to force them to partake in their education because educators are telling them to do so. I still stand behind my initial teaching philosophy being centered around a socio-constructivist perspective, but now I have evolved my teaching beliefs to include a broader range of different teaching ideologies – taking teaching concepts from the behaviorist, cognitivist and constructivist approaches – that I believe make me a more complete educator that is better equipped to teach her students.

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