Try to answer these questions in conversation with a colleague or by writing down your responses on your own:
1. Describe the best learning experience you have had as a student.
Maybe also think of your worst. This helps to identify how we best learn and reminds us as instructors what it is like to be a student. Maryellen Weimer (2013) recently discussed this in the context of influencing the learning environment.
2. Describe the best teaching experience you have had as a lecturer.
And the worst? Are there any similarities to the learning experience you described above? This question attempts to link your learning to your teaching.
3. What are you trying to achieve in your students with your teaching?
This is a big question and may be best initially answered by thinking about it in the context of what you feel is the course you teach with the most success. Context is a very broad concept – start with YOUR students’ needs and contexts, and YOUR discipline. You can then expand to academic contexts in the academic field, the institutional context, and beyond: the social, national and international contexts. It is strongly recommended that you read up on micro/meso/macro contexts of higher education.
4. Why is this important to you?
This consideration helps in articulating your approach to your students in the context of the teaching discipline. Your approach may be broader than the discipline itself and may link to the personal growth of students and not only their intellectual growth.
5. How do you achieve the objectives you wrote down for question #3 above?
That is, what teaching strategies or approaches do you use in your classes that produce the learning environment or opportunities for your students to reach your teaching objectives? Hopefully, this has been informed by your answers in questions #1 & 2 above. If there is no apparent connection between this question and your answers to #1 & 2, then this might be cause to pause and reflect why this is.
6. Why do you use these particular teaching strategies as opposed to others that are available to you?
Have your strategies developed over time through courses attended, articles read, trial and error, student feedback? Why? This is where you start developing the argument or citing the evidence for the value or success of your approach to teaching. Hopefully, you are able to make links to your own learning and teaching philosophy.
In short, the following questions can guide your reflection:
- My best (and worst) learning experience as a student was…
- My best (and worst) teaching experience as a lecturer is/was…
- Through teaching, I try to achieve the following in my students …
- This is important to me because…
- My objectives (#3) are achieved by…
- I use these strategies rather than others because…
These questions help to develop our teaching philosophies. They can be strengthened with regular revision and by grounding them in questions of philosophy (Beatty et al 2009). Considering our teaching philosophies in the context of our own and our students’ learning philosophies has the potential to help us, as lecturers, aid our students’ development from dependent to independent learners.
My learning philosophy is …………………………………. thus …….
How does your learning and teaching philosophy manifest in the teaching strategies that you have chosen to use in your classes?