Considerations of Personal Teaching Style

W. Steven Schneider


05 November 2003

EDPS 310 A7

Roy van Hoodonk

Over the past several months I have been learning how to be an effective teacher, but so far it has been mainly theoretical. A couple of the things that I had to consider in class were what kind of teacher I wish to be, and how I wish to manage my class. When I begin teaching I would like to be the kind of teacher who regularly reflects on what he has done in class, and how the students are affected. To not only teach them the content of the course, but how to think critically, and treat each other with respect.

In my opinion, being a reflective is an important characteristic for a teacher to possess. To be reflective implies that I constantly examining my actions and the reactions they induce in others. Sebela (2003) touched on this when he said, "One means by which teachers might be able to improve their classroom teaching practices could be through reflective practice" (The South African context, ¶ 2). It is reasonable therefore, to assume that by learning to manage my behavior positively the students will better manage their own.

What also comes out of this is that proper use of reflection can affect how the content is being taught in such a way that the intended outcomes are better achieved. During my observation week I had a conversation with one of my fellow student teachers. Apparently he had questioned his mentor about her teaching style, and she immediately became offended. I was not there myself to witness it, and I cannot say if he was totally innocent in the exchange, but she was obviously uncomfortable with his line of questioning. Perhaps she was comfortable with what she knew and did not appreciate a differing viewpoint. In their paper Grant and Kenneth (1984,

p. 56) mentioned, "These teachers [who are unreflective] lose sight of the fact that their everyday reality is only one of many possible alternatives.” In light of this it is important for me to reflect regularly in order to avoid becoming static and inflexible.

Whether one is reflective, or not it can still be a challenge to teach the course content in a way that is meaningful to the student. One method to achieve this goal in mathematics is to teach for relational understanding. Schneider (2003, p. 3) stated that, “…the educator must believe that meaning in mathematics comes from a deeper understanding then a list of rules,” which is what many students see mathematics a being, a listing of dry, dusty rules. Because cannot see how things fit together they find it difficult to understand, it is boring, and forget it as soon as possible. Relation understanding allows the student to know, “…how they [different mathematical rules] are inter-related enabl[ing] one to remember them as parts of a connected whole, which is easier [to remember],” (“Relational Understanding and Instrumental Understanding,” 1978, p. 159).

Being able to teach the content effectively is certainly a worthwhile goal, but as I do so I am also modeling the behavior of a responsible adult. If I wish that the students be respectful of myself, and each other, then I must constantly demonstrate that behavior myself. Once again, this is an area where reflection can be of assistance. According to Grant and Kenneth (1984, p. 56) who stated, "...much of what children learn in school is imparted through the covert process of the so-called `hidden curriculum’…” So my behavior as a teacher is certainly part of this "hidden curriculum", and it is important that it be appropriate at all times that I might be in the presence of any of my students.

If independence is my goal than one thing I can do to assist that is to work with my students to develop a classroom setting that would be favorable to them, and myself. Here I would probably want to maintain control of certain vital areas, but their input would be necessary for developing many of the rules and policies to be used in the classroom. Levin and Nolan (2004, p. 91) noted on collaborative management, "The collaborative theory of classroom management is based on the belief that influencing student behavior is the joint responsibility of the student and the teacher." They went further to say, "...a long-range goal of schooling is to enable students to become mature adults who can control their own behavior, but the teacher, as a professional, retains primary responsibility for influencing student behavior because the classroom is a group learning situation" (p. 92).

Independence can also be fostered in how the content is taught. Students will come to my class knowing all sorts of things, and they all come with some ability to learn independently. According to Hewitt (1999, p. 4) who stated, "If a student does have the required awareness for something, then I suggest that the teacher's role is...to introduce tasks which help students use their awareness in coming to know what is necessary," the "necessary" is something that arises out of a relation in mathematics, and can be discovered by the student who possesses the required knowledge, or abilities. Giving students the opportunity to discover knowledge on their own not only makes the information more meaningful, and less likely to be forgotten, but it also gives them the tools to learn on their own outside of school.

One goal of independence is that students finish their assignments one time. Often they will come to class forgetting to have completed some assignment, or another. In my opinion, whenever homework is assigned, it should be considered important. Homework gives the student needed practice to help them to master the subject, though the amount assigned can vary between subjects, or from day to day. My mentor teacher for my observation week was known as the Homework Queen, in fact she was the head of the homework program at that school, and she took homework very seriously. When I first saw her deal with kids who were delinquent with their assignments I thought that she was being a little too strict, but when she explained some of their individual history’s it began to make a little more sense. I also saw that she tried never to give them too much homework on any given evening because, as she put it, “They have lives too.”

As well as independence, students have to learn to work together as well. Large group discussions can be used as a means of achieving the intended outcomes, and helping students to learn, or discover information together. In this interaction the teacher is attempting to engage his students in an informative, and meaningful dialogue. It is important to note Simmt, Glanfield, and Sookochoff (2000, p. 52) where they state, “…the teacher’s demand for talk and interaction did not depend on who was the initial source of the explanation…students were expected to actively participate in the large group discussion.” One of my goals is to be able to hold some these discussions, as it will be interesting to see what the students come up with in their discussions with each other and me.

Such large group discussions are particularly important to Constructivists Like Sebela (2003) who stated, “…knowledge is a social construct that is gained through interacting with other people,” (Constructivist learning environment and Curriculum, 2005, ¶ 1). I suspect that there is a certain amount of truth to this, and this is another reason that I would like to have large group discussions in my classes. Knowledge is not simply transmitted from teacher to student, the teacher has to find something that the student can relate to, and tie it in with the material being taught. In my lesson plan presentation on Probabilities and Statistics, my partner and I came up with the idea of having our students count and record the number of pencils, pens they had in their possession as the opening exercise. When we presented it to our peers some of them turned it into a sort of contest to see who had the most pencils, and pens, or the least. Having them count their pens, and pencils made the exercise more meaningful to them, and gave them an opportunity to enjoy themselves even though most people normally find Probability and Statistics a dry subject.

So this is the kind of teacher I wish to be based on what I know about myself, and what I know about teaching so far. I do not know how many of these things I will have an opportunity to attempt in my IPT, or even my APT though it seems doubtful that I will actually ever try most of them till my first year. At the moment I am looking forward it, and with any luck I may be able to try out at least some of these things before then. In time I may discover that I do not like some of the ideas that I presented here as much as I thought I did. There is also the chance that some approaches I do not like now I will like then. The point is my experiences are very limited, but as it grows I will be able to make more sound judgments on what works and what does not. The important thing is that I provide a safe, learning environment and teach the expected learner, process outcomes for that course.


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