The philosophy of education that I ascribe to has been the primary tool motivating my pursuit of a graduate degree in special education. My instructional philosophy has tended to focus mainly on hands on instruction where participants get involved directly in and take responsibility for their own learning. Much like the constructivist theorists and thinkers I believe that this active participation in learning is what makes learning more meaningful and that would produce the greatest successes in the classroom.
As a general education teacher I have therefore tended to adopt instructional strategies and learning activities that are reflective of this outlook and have attempted as far as possible to ensure that the learners in my classroom are given the relevant life experiences with which they can interact and which they can utilize in constructing their own meanings and understanding of the things around them. I firmly believe that proper planning is the key to success in the classroom. Planning does not only involve preparing a lesson plan, but psychologically preparing for the learners and their needs in the classroom, understanding each learner and being willing to accommodate all, as far as possible, in the learning process. It is through such detailed planning that the correct activities will be designed for an interactive, constructive and cooperative classroom.
Reflection on practice
Considerable work has been done in the field of cognitive psychology by numerous theorists and researchers. Much of the research has been focused on trying to understand the characteristics of learners, the optimal age and conditions for particular types of learning, the most appropriate teaching and learning strategies and generally and understanding of how learning takes place. Several theorists have attempted to describe the characteristics of learners. Among them Jean Piaget, Lev Vygotsky, Albert Bandura and Jerome Bruner and some of the most noted forefathers of thought in this areas. Having worked as a teacher for the some years now, the theorist that has been the most influential on my practice is Jerome Bruner.
Bruner’s philosophy emphasizes the concept of discovery learning and simulation. He posits that learning is most effective and meaningful when the learners actively explores issues as opposed to reading from textbooks or lectured to by the teacher (Good & Brophy, 1995). Simulation activities, Bruner suggests, are useful tools for promoting forms of discovery learning. I have found that the use of role-play and skits as simulation activities, have helped me deliver learning targets better than traditional lecture-type methods. Given the nature of the classroom and the variety of abilities and learning styles, I have found that the use of role-play and similar cooperative activities have helped me ensure that all learners are actively involved in the learning process.
However, throughout my teaching character I have noticed some deficiencies in my teaching methodology, particularly as it relates to meeting the needs of all the learners in the classroom. I have noticed that while I am able to adequately motivate a portion of the class in each year, I have often been unable to fully motivate the entire class of learners or to introduce activities and strategies that are attractive to all the learners in the classroom. I believe in reflective practice so I often review my teaching methodology, with the help of relevant research and theoretical foundations.
I have made whatever adjustments possible as I notice my deficiencies and have consistently been involved in improving my teaching strategies. However, despite my best efforts I have continued to face considerable obstacles in reaching out to some students in my classroom. Often these students were those who could be classified as at risk. They were sometimes from single-parent homes, students with tendencies towards delinquent behaviors and other similar students. There have also been students with noted cognitive or other physical difficulties, for whom the general education classroom, as is, was not adequate.
More and more it became evident to me that within the general education classroom there is a diverse mix of students of different socioeconomic, cultural and ethnic backgrounds. Furthermore they had a range of abilities and performed to varying degrees of competence. I have acknowledged that, to some extent, I have contributed to the inability of some students to perform as well as others, as a result of my failure to effectively orient lessons to meet the needs of all learners.
Another occurrence that has compounded this issue is the new move towards inclusion in the general education classroom. Increasingly more students with learning disabilities are being incorporated into the general education classroom. These changes in the educational framework has meant that needs have to modify their strategies to ensure that the needs of these diverse sets of learners are adequately met within their classroom and that students from all ability levels, achieve prescribed standards.
With the coming on stream of the NCLB act, more attention is being placed on ensuring that classrooms are inclusive and that each learner is allowed to achieve his/her full potential based on individual abilities. The NCLB is a formidable demonstration of the particular interest that the federal government places on education. This issue presents several challenges for teachers in both the general education and the special education classrooms. Special education students are now being incorporated into the general education classroom and even where they remain in special education classrooms students are still required to demonstrate progress similar to that being achieved by the peers who do not have these special needs.
Therefore teachers are required to ensure that every learner, despite their abilities or disabilities aspire to the same broad reaching goals and objectives as general education students. It is evident that the act, though it may present several benefits for special education, will also have its limitations. Educators are, however, still required to aim for the target of leaving no child behind.
I firmly support the overall spirit of the NCLB act. The overriding principle of the NCLB is that each child registered within the school system must be given all opportunities to develop and to achieve and I agree with this position. To ensure the success of every child and to guarantee that no child is left behind, the act holds educators directly accountable for ensuring that each child aims for and achieves the prescribed standards. Having a particular interest in the development of students I was inspired by the newly emphasized principles of the NCLB act to obtain adequate training in special education so that I am equipped to deal with not only special education students, but the range of abilities that will come into the classroom. These broad reaching goals are of relevance to all involved in the education of children.
Motivations to change
I wish to develop the know-how and the skills that would help me become a dynamic teacher that is able to hone knowledge, skills and attitudes within learners from different socioeconomic backgrounds, with different cognitive capabilities, with varying physical and cognitive challenges or any multiple needs that may arise in the classroom. Teaching today is becoming more and more challenging.
The influences of the teacher and what is taught in the classroom are being eroded by the mass media. The teacher has to compete with newly emerging communication technologies and the internet. The skills that were developed yesterday to tackle learner’s needs in the classroom soon become obsolete. I therefore wish to ensure that I remain on top of the game and continue to be a teaching who attempts to meet the needs of all learners.
Good, T.L.& Brophy, J.E. (1995). Contemporary Educational Psychology. (5th ed.). New York: Longman Publishers.