Personal Philosophy of Literacy Education
Throughout my first year as a middle school Language Arts teacher, I have developed a theoretical understanding of what I believe are the necessary components to providing a meaningful and generative environment in which students develop and expand literacy skills. The teaching of literacy needs to include a balance of reading, writing, speaking and listening activities, and needs to be a social endeavor that provides a variety of instructional strategies to meet the needs of all diverse learners. My teaching strategies, beliefs and personality that I bring to my classroom can be characterized as a blend of two types of philosophical theories: social constructivism and relational teaching and learning. My philosophy of literacy education centers around five different ideals which I believe make my classroom a successful learning environment that promotes literacy acquisition. Those five elements in no particular order are: 1. building meaningful relationships with students, 2. encouraging collaborative learning, 3. providing generative learning experiences, 4. bringing relevance to subject matter, and 5. empowering students. I will discuss the research that supports these five methods, along with specific examples of their practical application in my classroom.
A major component of my philosophy of education in general is the need to build meaningful relationships with students. I am firm in my beliefs that students must feel a personal connection to their teachers. When mutual trust and respect between students and teachers flourishes, two important phenomena occur. First, teachers are able to allow students more freedom and independence in the learning process, without worrying that classroom management will be compromised by a particular activity. In addition, students develop a positive attitude toward the class, and feel assured that the learning that takes place on a daily basis will be understandable, fun and engaging. With a strong student-teacher relationship as a foundation in the classroom, the teacher becomes both a model and an advocate for lifelong learning for the student to follow.
In addition to my strong beliefs in the importance of building relationships, I also believe that collaboration is extremely effective in providing endless opportunity for literacy growth. Because I value relationships and collaboration, my teaching philosophy falls mainly under the theory of social constructivism. At the heart of constructivism is a concern for the lived experience, or the world as it is felt and understood by social actors (Schwandt, 1994). I have witnessed the gains in students’ knowledge and understanding of a multitude of concepts through working with and listening to others, including peers, teachers, parents, and members of the community. This evidence had led me to hold great value in social constructivist theory. Social constructivism is based on specific assumptions about reality, knowledge, and learning. To understand and apply models of instruction that are rooted in the perspectives of social constructivists, it is important to know the premises that underlie them. Social constructivists believe that reality is constructed through human activity. Members of a society together invent the properties of the world (Spivey, 1997). For the social constructivist, reality cannot be discovered; it does not exist prior to its social invention. To social constructivists, knowledge is also a human product, and is socially and culturally constructed (Schwandt, 1994). Individuals create meaning through their interactions with each other and with the environment in which they live. Social constructivists view learning as a social process. It does not take place only within an individual, nor is it a passive development of behaviors that are shaped by external forces (Mehan, 1981). Meaningful learning occurs when individuals are engaged in social activities....
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