I start with the students and the prior knowledge and beliefs that they bring to class regarding the subject to be learned. I help students to build bridges linking new content and skills to their prior knowledge and to draw out any misconceptions they may have about the topic that may distort their learning. I expect students to be curious, to act upon their own intellectual initiative, and to reflect on their own learning with the skills and knowledge that they have at their current level of development. Thus, I view my role as one of exposing, stimulating and nurturing my students’ own mental elaborations of knowledge by helping them grow in their capacity to monitor and guide their own thinking and learning. In short, I help my students to learn how to learn.
As an art teacher educator, I am constantly looking for ways to improve my subject knowledge and pedagogical skills. I set an example by continuing to be a student of Art, of teaching, and of learning. I always endeavor to do the very best I can in the classroom, never forgetting the influence I have on my students who will become future teachers themselves. I instill in them an enthusiasm for Art, for teaching, and for learning by the enthusiasm I bring to each lesson.
In sum,I am a firm believer in a constructivist approach to education that places emphasis on students building their own understandings of the world through first-hand experiences and reflecting on those experiences in light of what they already know and believe. Implementing this constructivist view of learning can be seen in a number of different teaching practices in my classroom.
Implementing My Teaching Philosophy
We ask a lot of questions in my classroom. We explore what we know about the subject at hand and we assess new information in light of our prior knowledge and experience. For instance, I often begin my art methods class with questions like “What does the phrase a really good art teacher mean to you?” and “How do we decide what’s worth teaching in Art?” Students share their written responses to these questions with each other, prior to reading about these topics in professional literature, reviewing state teaching and learning standards, and hearing how experienced art educators responded to the questions. By linking students’ preconceptions to the course content in this way, I hope to set the stage for the thoughtful consideration of those beliefs in the context of new ideas.
Other examples of my teaching include having students revisit their own personal histories of art education prior to studying the recorded history of the field and at the end of a class having students fill out “one-minute” notecards that require them to respond to two questions: “What was the most important thing you learned in class today?” and “Is there anything that is still unclear or that you have a question about?” I then respond to misconceptions and to lingering questions in subsequent classes.
If I had to sum up my teaching philosophy in one sentence it would be a quote from noted art educator, Viktor Lowenfeld, who said, “The teacher’s primary role is to expand the students’ frame of reference.” This doesn’t mean always starting at the level of the student. Rather, it means starting just out of the reach of a student, and encouraging him or her to explore new possibilities and new ways of understanding the world.
–Craig Roland (2012)