On Epistemological Beliefs

The following are the epistemological beliefs I held during from elementary to college:

  • I believed that I will learn better if I memorize concepts
  • I believed that teachers are the sole authority of information
  • I organized chunks of information in separate compartments

These beliefs helped me achieve excellent grades during elementary and high school.  But if someone asks me if I found my primary and secondary education meaningful, I would probably have to think about it.  I would probably say, the best thing I learned from my formative years was the value of self discipline primarily due to fear of authority.  The epistemological beliefs I had did not help me in college.  I took a business course in college which demanded that students think creatively, to be inquisitive, to learn on their own, and apply critical thinking.  During the first few years, I had a difficult time coping with this kind of learning environment.  I was so used to being spoon-fed and relying on teachers to hand down information right away.  During college, I learned to be independent, I learned to scour through variety of sources to gain more knowledge, and I learned to think critically.  I am thankful for taking the PTC program because it helped me reflect on my learning experiences from elementary to college.  This program made me realize that I am in control of my own learning.

The following are additional insights I gained from this module:

  • The instruction methods and assessment tools affects students’ epistemological beliefs.  Student-centered type of environment encourages students to focus on their learning rather than grades.
  • It is a challenge for teachers and school officials to design curriculum and learning activities that will help broaden the students’ perspectives.

Developing a Critical Being

Every module that I came across from the courses in this program emphasized on the important role teachers have in terms of developing students’ critical thinking.  Module 7 posed a new challenge for me as a teacher.  How do I guide my students in becoming critical beings?

I think that critical being is reconceptualization of critical thinking.  Critical being considers all the complex aspects of human beings in terms of learning.  While critical thinking mostly involves high order cognitive skills, critical being covers intellectual, emotive, affective, spiritual, and physical aspects of a person.

As teachers, we should carefully plan the learning activities that will produce a critical being.  We must teach holistically, encompassing the complex aspects of a human being.  Bloom’s taxonomy for the development of cognitive, affective, and psychomotor skills should serve as a guide in designing assessment tasks and learning activities in the classroom.  Had I not read this module, my pedagogy would probably still focus on developing students’ cognitive skills.  This module made me realize that critical thinking does not automatically equate to success.  A critical being will be equipped with critical thinking that is capable of making fair and sound decisions and can reflect on his own actions.

Change Involves Critical Reflection

“If we teach today as we taught yesterday, we rob our children of tomorrow.”

– John Dewey

The sources from Module 6 covered relevant topics for effective teaching.  After studying the module, I’ve come to realize that now, more than ever, changes in teaching must be adopted.  Times have changed and students need advanced skills to be able to cope and deal with complex situations.  Traditional methods, where teaching is merely transmission of information, are no longer effective.  Twenty first century requires teachers to be able to cater to diverse classrooms and encourage students’ creativity.

For change to happen, teachers must examine or critically reflect on their underlying assumptions and autobiography.  They must search for personal biases and stereotypes that can hinder them from creating a supportive environment for diverse students.  They must also reflect on their own perspectives about creative pedagogy – if they still believe that traditional instruction is more effective than contemporary ones.  By reflecting on their own autobiography, teachers can fully understand the reasons behind their methods of instruction.  Teachers must accept the need for change and must be open to make drastic efforts towards providing meaningful learning experiences for students.  Change is more often than not difficult, but if people accept it and are open to it, the consequences could be great.

To facilitate change, teachers must deliberate on how their actions will affect the students.  In order to provide a safe and supporting environment for diverse students, they must feel that what the teachers say and do manifest acceptance of differences.  The activities that students engage in should make them feel included in spite of being different.  The activities should make them feel that being different is not a bad thing, that it is essential in society.  In terms of creativity, students should feel that they are free to express themselves and encouraged to think differently.  The tasks that teachers design must make students feel that they can explore many options and discover a lot of possibilities.

Change also involves collaboration with stakeholders and review of literature.  Collaboration can give teacher explanations to real-life events that occur in classrooms.  Teachers have an open communication with each other to facilitate exchange of ideas.  Review of literature, especially with regards to scholarship of teaching and learning, can help teachers construct new knowledge and modify their old ways of thinking.  Also, teachers are encouraged to participate in contributing and critiquing to the education literature.  Collaboration and SoTL will make teaching profession strong and foster unity among professionals.

On a personal note, I was delighted after reading the last module because I was able to really absorb the interconnection of each module.  =)

Continuous Learning

As teachers, we have to acknowledge that we do not know everything, that we need to continue to learn in order to provide the best learning experience for our students.  After reading the module, what struck me the most is the concept of humility.  That the first step towards learning is accepting that we still need to learn, grow, and improve.  If we reflect on our works, we will be inquisitive as to how we can still improve our pedagogy.  Through collegial and collaborative efforts, teachers and school officials support each other in the exchange of ideas and experiences.  Another important take away from this module is that teachers should be included in the decision making process.  Principals need not be authoritative, they must be good examples themselves to facilitate changes and uphold the teaching profession.

Reciprocal Learning

Social Constructivism values collaboration between teachers and students where both learn from each other.  Students learn to construct their own knowledge with teachers’ guidance or coaching.  Some people may be apprehensive about the concept of reciprocal learning since teachers are seen as the authority of information.  Through collaboration, teachers too can learn from their students.  For one, their content knowledge will grow.  Allowing students to construct their own meanings can be an opportunity for teachers to explore more about the content they are teaching.  Teachers can also learn more relevant concepts to modify their old or traditional content knowledge.  Moreover, collaboration with students can help develop teachers’ pedagogical knowledge.  By engaging with students, teachers observe their behaviors and dig deep into their minds.  The evidences gathered can help teachers adjust or modify their teaching strategies to lead students towards meaningful learning experience.

As an English teacher, I have more than sufficient knowledge about the content I’m teaching – vocabulary, grammar, listening, speaking, and writing.  However, when I engage my students in a lesson, I also get new ideas from them.  For instance, when I let them explore vocabulary words, my vocabulary list also grows and some words I don’t use make much sense.  Also, when I facilitate my students’ learning, I am attentive to their reactions and determine how they process information.  This makes me adjust my teaching style to help them achieve the learning goals.

Being a teacher doesn’t mean that you already know everything.  Throughout our lives, we are learning.  And I do believe that every interaction we have, may it be with peers or our students, we get something valuable – knowledge.

Towards Holistic Teaching

After reading the resources from this module, I’ve come to a conclusion that perspectives and approaches in teaching aim to nurture learners holistically.  Our role as teachers is not only to guide learners’ critical and cognitive abilities but also to assist their social-emotional learning (SEL).

The concepts presented in resource 1 were not new to me.  Thanks to other courses I took in the PTC program, the idea that students are not passive learners nor empty vessels that need to be filled has already been part of my autobiography.  As teachers, we need to engage students in relevant activities and provide a safe environment where they can construct their own knowledge.  We should allow them to test their theories and be creative in finding solutions to problems.  Looking from the point of view of our students, they expect teachers to be knowledgeable about content and teach them to learn how to learn.  They expect teachers to implement meaningful activities that will make them understand the relevance of the lessons.  Teachers should collaborate with co-teachers and school officials and use the vast theories on learning to improve their teaching strategies.

What I found insightful from this module was the concept of SEL.  This is actually the first resource I encountered that emphasized on the need to develop SEL and the benefits students can gain from it.  Having high cognitive ability is not enough to prepare students for the real world, they also need to have the ability to make right choices.  Bloom’s Taxonomy provided a framework for cognitive development and I interpret the five SEL competencies (self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationship management, and responsible decision making) similar to that of Bloom’s.

I believe that when cognitive and social-emotional skills are developed, students can have success in their future endeavors.

On Memory

It would be bliss if we could process information like a computer.  Throughout my education experience, I had a difficult time remembering concepts and ideas.  After a class, I tend to remember how I felt during the lesson, how the teacher spoke or her reaction to our behavior, instead of what she actually taught.  Retaining information was a bit of a challenge during my formative years, unless I find the subject interesting and relevant.  Looking back, I realized that the knowledge that I still remember now are those that I found useful and interesting.  To compensate for my poor memory, I always made concept maps and diagrams to help me prepare for exams.  I found visual organizers helpful in recalling and understanding what was taught in class.

I wish I could process foreign languages like a computer.  Studying different languages has always been a dream of mine.  Understanding grammar rules for various languages is not too tough for me.  What I find challenging is remembering vocabulary words.  If only I could memorize every single foreign language, communicating with different nationalities will be a piece of cake.

My point is, people will usually remember what they want to remember.  They remember information that they find interesting and relevant.  As teachers, we have to formulate instruction strategies that will make students realize how useful and applicable the lessons are in the real world.

On Wisdom of Practice

Module 3 discussed pertinent concepts on the knowledge base of teaching.  For this reflection, I’d like to focus on wisdom of practice as one of the sources of the knowledge bases.

The concept of wisdom of practice was something I was unaware of before studying the module.  Practitioners, scholars, and experts must continue their research on exemplary pedagogical practices to serve as a guide for teachers.  These practices must be continuously documented, not just sporadically done.  I agree with Shulman that the teaching profession has no extensive collection of documents like other disciplines such as architecture, law, and medicine.  Collaborative work is really essential in uplifting the teaching profession.  I am hopeful that through changes in teacher education programs and consistent and continuous professional development programs, teaching profession can gain the respect it deserves.

Distance Learning Behavior

I think that one important behavior in a distance learning environment is being receptive.  Students must be willing to listen to other people’s opinions and viewpoints.  To be honest, I was surprised during my first trimester on how distance learning works.  I was used to teachers telling me if my answer is right or wrong.  However, I realized that distance learning promotes collaborative work because students can freely and safely express their ideas.  It’s actually helpful to read different opinions from the discussion forums and eJournals.  In this kind of environment, learning can be enriched if we are open to other people’s ideas and how they come up with their own conclusions, not just to identify which answers are correct.

Teacher Professionalism

Before studying this module, my idea of professionalism was mainly about a person’s credentials.  To be a professional means to undergo rigorous education programs and exams and obtaining license to practice.  Simply put, a professional is someone who has vast knowledge and skills and earns more income than normal laborers.  Using the autobiographical lens in critical reflection, I realized that my view was based on childhood experience.  My parents, and even relatives, would advice those who are going to college to choose a course that will yield to a license.  For them, having a license is a way to be highly respected and generate more income.  Being a professional will bring more financial opportunities.

After reading the sources, I realized that there are a lot of factors that affect professionalism.  In addition to obtaining a license, professionalism means exemplifying ethical behavior and having values.  I consider this as very important in teaching professionalism.  As teachers, we must lead through example.  Another important factor is autonomy.  Sadly, many teachers complain of being burdened with piles of administrative work and not having enough freedom to design their own lesson plans.

Studying this module made me think that one pertinent issue about teacher professionalism is how society views teachers.  In this country, professionals like doctors and lawyers are highly respected.  They also are highly paid compared to teachers.  As a result, teachers are opting to work abroad for better compensation.