Myself as teacher and learner

The following is a first draft of part of an assignment for a University course titled “Learning and Pedagogy in Secondary”. A part of the assignment description is

It is important for you as an emergent secondary school teacher to reflect on your own attitudes and perceptions towards learning; to understand your own preferred learning styles and strategies; and to identify any areas that you have little experience of or may not prefer. Many of the students in your classes may learn in very different ways to you, so it is important that you are aware of your own biases and consider ways to address these to meet the needs of all learners. In this section identify and reflect on your own strengths and weaknesses, especially in relation to using strategies for Dimensions 1, 2 and 5 and reflect on what this means for your work as a secondary school teacher.

As a learner and teacher

In high school I was probably what some might call a “girly swot“. But that characterisation might be entirely wrong in terms of what my fellow students thought given that I wasn’t one to engage in conversation about their perceptions of me. I was quite happy to beaver away at some piece of academic work. For example, I was the nerd who completed all the set mathematics exercises during class time. At least if I valued that academic work. My only failing grade at high school was in metal work. A subject in which I had little prior experience, no innate talent, and no interest.

In completing the mathematics exercises I was intrinsically motivated enough by the challenge of the mathematics exercises and sufficiently indoctrinated by the industrialised, academic-focused school system to do what I was told. Consequently I left school with little knowledge of the practical relevance of mathematics and only a shallow appreciation and understanding of the field. Something that is coming back to bite me as a trainee high school mathematics teacher for two reasons. First, my indoctrination into the current industrialised, academic-focused schooling model leaves me with little understanding of the experiences and perspectives of those who have not been indoctrinated (i.e. what appears to be a significant majority of students currently at school). Second, my school-focused understanding of mathematics is a poor foundation upon which to construct authentic learning experiences for these dis-engaged students.

This assignment and broader discussions in all of the courses makes it seem necessary to label myself through learning styles, multiple intelligences, and/or personality styles. According to the Kiersey Temperament tests I am an architect confirmed by a couple of tests. The results of a “multiple intelligence” test can be viewed here as can results from a Soloman and Felder type learning styles test. Though I retain a skeptical perspective on the value and use of such insights, there is a level of consistency. I’m an introvert, reflective, and intuitive learner, but am neither really visual or verbal, nor sequential or global. In terms of implications for teaching there is a possibility of being seen by students and colleagues as aloof or arrogant, not a positive in terms of a task that rests heavily on building good relationships. Perhaps more useful, is the understanding that there are differences in terms of preferences and personalities and that good teaching should reflect that diversity.

As a student who achieved levels of academic success the attitudes, perceptions and habits of mind I use for learning are fairly well match what the Dimensions of Learning suggest. This makes it somewhat easier to model these, but at the same time can also reduce awareness of students not practising these skills. Becoming more aware of students limited practice of these dimensions and modifying lessons appropriately needs greater focus. In terms of content and curriculum knowledge (dimension 2) the biggest challenge remains to increase my level of PCK and TPACK. As a successful student, I have good knowledge of my two subject areas: mathematics and information technology. That knowledge, however, is not sufficient for teaching. I need to engage in more reading, experimentation, and reflection designed to increase my knowledge of how these subject areas can be taught. In addition, teaching information technology also requires some knowledge of specific technologies and the common technologies used in schools (e.g. Access and Visual Basic) are not technologies that I have previously used. Some upskilling here is required.

It is arguable that improving my level of PCK or TPACK covers what I’m seeking to improve this term. At a more specific level, I am aiming to work on the following this term

  • Improve and expand my PCK around mathematics, with a particular emphasis on addressing the relevance problem.
  • Expand knowledge of the tools being used for IPT at my placement/internship school.
  • Increase my understanding and ability to build relationships with all students, but especially the “non-academic” students.
  • Develop ideas for how to effectively inhabit and extend the existing learning environments within each of the courses I’ll be teaching within.

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