My long held aims as an educator have been to engage, challenge and inspire learners. I seek to do this through using innovative pedagogy in the classroom and using technology new and old to enhance learning.
My background as a science teacher has led to a heavy influence of the constructivist movement on my practice as this is the dominant school of thought in science education. My teaching involves creating opportunities for students to build their own knowledge and understanding though being active participants in their learning. I draw on Ausubel’s ideas around meaningful learning and see establishing what the learner already knows as a being a crucial starting point to teaching. I draw on Vygotsky’s ideas of social learning – learning through interactions and ‘more knowledgeable others’ which translates into group discussion embedded within my teaching.
In 2008, I saw George Siemans give a presentation on his theory of connectivism – learning through being part of a network. This extends ideas of social constructivism and instantly resonated with how I learn through collaboration and participation in networks both physical and online such as #LTHEchat on Twitter. This has gone on to influence my thinking and practice in the opportunities that I facilitate for my learners, looking to connect them into networks of students in similar circumstances, and linking them with complimentary specialisms.
I believe it is unhelpful to have a totally concrete philosophy/approach and rigidly stick with it, as very little is established as proven fact in the field of pedagogy, teaching and learning. In the past year I have been reading and considering the work of Sweller in cognitive load theory and although it could be argued that it is at odds with some aspects of constructivism my philosophy has evolved to embrace the theory alongside the ideas of dual coding theory. To that end clarity and modality of the presentation of information and design of tasks is now at the forefront of my mind in order to minimise the cognitive load of the task and instruction in order to maximise the available capacity within the working memory to process the information and engage in learning.
The work of Black & Wiliam on Assessment for Learning helped me form my views and approaches to formative assessment. This important aspect of teaching can empower learners to have an understanding of where they are and where they need to go and so gain agency in their own development. I have found Biggs’ work on SOLO taxonomy particularly influential in how I structure learning opportunities and useful as a framework for self and peer assessment.
In terms of module design and formal assessment, Biggs’ notion of constructive alignment has also been an influence on my approach to module design and developing formal assessments that are relevant to the context, learning and subject matter of the module
Throughout the PGCE course we extol the importance of being a reflective practitioner to our trainee teachers. I believe it is important to practice what I preach and so routinely reflect on my own practice and have begun to reflect more publicly through my blog and Twitter to create dialogue with peers and help others through my reflections.
Embedded within my philosophy and demonstrated consistently through my practice are the notions of innovation, reflection and evidence based practice. The combinations of these ideas has led to my engagement in pedagogic innovations and action research. Current areas I am exploring include using digitally recorded audio feedback for formative assessment and using twitter to facilitate collaboration and critical engagement with literature. These are intertwined with core aspects of my teaching philosophy – engaging learners through technology and empowering learners to be active agents in their learning. It also links with my belief in evidence based practice.