Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Statement of Teaching Philosophy

I am engaged in the art and science of learning.  I have spent most of my professional career working in organizations created to provide learning opportunities for others.  I have been involved in the design and delivery of curriculum to traditional and non-traditional students in educational institutions and settings (both classrooms and via distance learning technology).  I have also been involved in the development and delivery of curriculum for training professionals in the workplace.  I have also been involved in the development of programming and learning activities for special events (conferences and seminars) in topics hobbies and general interest.   

I am now in the position to add these many years of practical professional experience to my academic research and training and teach others how to design instruction that helps people learn.
The most effective methods for teaching are those based on sound theoretical foundations of how people learn and the related instructional and teaching methodologies that create learning opportunities.  This is not only a principle for instruction, it is the way that I would teach those who I have the opportunity to mentor and influence.  

 The best way to understand the field and to develop the ability to design effective instruction is to actually participate in research and design projects that are ongoing within the field.  I believe that effective teaching requires instruction according to Merrill’s (in Reiser, 2007) First Principles of Instruction:
  1. Learning is promoted when learners are engaged in solving real world problem.
  2. Learning is promoted when existing knowledge is activated as a foundation for new knowledge.
  3. Learning is promoted when new knowledge is demonstrated to the learner. 
  4. Learning is promoted when new knowledge is applied by the learner. 
  5. Learning is promoted when new knowledge is integrated into the learner’s world.
These principles are the foundation for the way that I teach.  Students are asked to participate in real projects, under my mentorship, for real clients or through simulations of a real client situation that was part of my experience..

It is impossible for a student to evaluate the effectiveness of their instruction without the underlying knowledge of how people learn and how instructional design is based on that learning theory.  My students are engaged in a search of learning theories, and learning theorists, as they embark on the study of designing instruction.  This research is designed to expose my students to the various, and sometimes competing, theories of what learning actually is and how people best learn.  The research moves through philosophers, educational, cognitive, and developmental psychology, and the interdisciplinary learning theories and theorists of today.  I ask students to engage in actual design projects providing instruction that will teach each other the principles and concepts within the different theories.  This exercise, early in their experience with the field, is used to let them see how the different theories will be represented in the way that their classmates choose to design the teaching of that particular theory.  This same exercise is repeated for research related to instructional design, and the effective use of technology in instruction.

Class and Mentoring Experiences
My instructional and learning philosophies are in agreement with the approach that Collins, Brown, and Holum describe as Cognitive Apprenticeship.  This approach is a situated learning setting where the effort is to capture the benefits of centuries of proven learning through traditional apprenticeships modified in such a way that the learner is benefitted by the apprentice making their cognitive processes visible to the apprentice, and then providing scaffolding as the apprentice initiates participation in the real-world activities of the apprenticeship.  The approach requires that the apprentice reveal their cognitive process to the master as they participate in the real activity and receive support that is gradually “faded” as the apprentice becomes more capable.  Successful movement from apprentice to master makes the apprentice a member of the community of practice and our field is perpetuated.

Under the Cognitive apprenticeship approach, I ask my students to participate in projects reflecting the realities of the instructional design and technology fields.  That will include client and project identification, project definition and agreements with sponsors, project performance, and then review and acceptance.  Through my contacts and the ever-existing need for curriculum development, enhancement, and improvement within the University and local public/professional educational needs, my objective in support of my students is to form partnerships across these communities where my students can actually have real-world development, evaluation, and assessment projects.

Assessment and Improvement
Some courses where basic knowledge is obtained will require summative assessments to determine the student’s ability to recall theories, design tools and approaches, and relationships between them.  The summative assessments are used to determine student knowledge upoin which they can build through participation on the project teams and also act as formative assessments for me in evaluating the effectiveness of the instruction we provide for these basic building blocks.
The most effective assessment of the student performance is the formative assessment that occurs through the scaffolding I provide as the students participate in apprenticeship experiences.  The students can use the formative assessment to alter their participation and understanding in the projects.  The summative assessment for these projects may be my evaluation at the conclusion of the project, but comes mostly as they realize that they are now performing successfully without the scaffolding, and from the feedback they receive from the project clients.

My 22 years of experience participating in actual projects forms a basis for successful mentoring of my students as I assist them in their learning projects.  I thrill at the learning that occurs as I work side-by-side with students developing the next generation of effective instruction and advancing our knowledge about this most important human endeavor.  I have often felt at the successful conclusion of instructional design and research projects as though I am the captain of a vessel exploring the new world.  I am motivated by the seemingly endless capacity of the human soul to learn.  Creating a new generation of designers and learning theorists is an exciting prospect that gives my life deeper meaning.

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