My Research-Based Theory of Teaching
Educational Psychology research can be applied to solve everyday problems in teaching. Teachers must have some research-based practice for managing classes, but also must be able to stray from the practice when the situation calls for a change. Anita Woolfolk’s Educational Psychology provides multiple views for different aspects of learning and teaching. Theories presented in the areas of cognitive and psychosocial development, labeling students, diversity in classrooms, Operant Conditioning, motivation, and classroom management strongly influenced my views on teaching. Based on the Educational Psychology research included in Woolfolk’s text, I have developed my own philosophy for teaching adolescents and high school classes.
Development occurs in all human beings from birth to death, which makes understanding where adolescent students fall in the stages of cognitive and psychosocial development important to effectively teach them. Jean Piaget’s Stages of Cognitive Development have implications for teachers about what students of a certain age think and what they can learn. Piaget’s fourth stage, formal operational, applies to adolescents age eleven through adulthood, which includes high school students. At the formal operational stage, students develop the ability to solve abstract problems in a logical manner, think scientifically, and concerns for social issues. Not all students, however, will reach the levels of formal operational thinking and may only be able to use formal operational thinking in areas in which students have the most experience or interest (Woolfolk, p. 38-39). Because all high school students may not be able to think hypothetically or abstractly when solving new problems, I would present new information in a manner to aid students in using formal operations in my classroom. For example, I would provide visual aids for the concrete operational students while also requiring the students to reason scientifically to answer questions through group discussions.
Vygotsky’s views of cognitive development differ from Piaget’s views and highlight the important role a teacher plays in a student’s cognitive development. Although I value the importance of Piaget’s stages of cognitive development, one aspect of Vygotsky’s view will greatly influence my teaching philosophy. Vygotsky believes that learning takes place within a zone of proximal development, a phase at which a student can understand and master a task with the appropriate guidance (Woolfolk, p. 47). In order to effectively teach my students, I will have to establish the level of understanding the students already possess and teach information and provide tasks slightly beyond their current reach in order to make lessons challenging and exciting. If the students the task is too easy, the students will be bored. At the other end of the spectrum, teaching information that is too difficult and beyond the grasp of the students may cause students to give up. Therefore after teaching a lesson and providing my classroom with a task to complete, I will walk around the room checking for understanding and assisting students in the process.
While developing cognitively, students also develop socially and create identities for themselves. In explaining the concepts of self and reality, Erik Erikson proposes Eight Psychosocial Stages of Development in which crises occur and resolving the crises result in a greater sense of self. Adolescents fall into the fifth stage, identity versus role confusion. In this stage, adolescents attempt to achieve identity in gender, sexuality, religion, and politics in order to gain peer acceptance in answering the question, “Who am I?” (Woolfolk, p. 83). To assist students in achieving identity, in my classroom I will allow students to provide their own views and opinions on topics and allow the discussion student’s feelings on the importance of those topics in their lives...
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