Teaching Theory Essay

Excerpt from Essay :

Teaching Philosophy

Teaching is one of the most important, although also the most underrated, professions in the world. Teachers today prepare young people not only for their next level of schooling, but also for tertiary education and ultimately to become gainfully employed and contributing citizens themselves. The problem is that there are so many varying levels of education today, ranging from the extremely poor to the extremely excellent. One factor that plays a major role in how well teachers are able to present materials in the classroom is the education they receive themselves. Although the quality of teacher education depends on several factors, one major argument revolves around whether they should be exposed to unproven theory or not. On the one hand, the argument may be that exposing them to unproven theory may only detract from the central purpose of their education, which is to provide them with the tools and theories needed to create an excellent classroom environment. On the other, proponents of the idea may argue that more exposure to more kinds of theories would cultivate a better kind of teacher. On the basis of this, one might argue that it is vitally important to expose trainee teachers to both proven and unproven theories, provided that they are made aware of the status of such theories, because this would cultivate critical thinking, more focused research and development, and it would correlate better with the purpose of teacher education.

Critical Thinking

Critical thinking relies on questions rather than answers (Critical Thinking Community, 2013). Indeed, scientific fields rely on questions for their development. Without thinking critically about a topic, there is no development. The same is true of both teacher and student development. Critical thinking is a vital part of both teaching and learning. Hence, exposing a trainee teacher to both proven and unproven theory, they are taught to ask important questions about a certain technique or theory. On the other hand, a lack of critical thinking among teachers is likely to lead to a lack of critical thinking among students as well.

Teachers who provide answers, for example, rather than stimulating the desire to think and ask questions on a continuous basis, tend to stimulate a "full stop" in active thinking (Critical Thinking Community, 2013). The tendency of most students to sit in silence while absorbing (or pretending to absorb) whatever is said in the classroom signifies a lack of understanding or superficial understanding, at best. By asking questions, teachers stimulate the student's ability to ask good questions and to think critically about the various possible answers to such questions. This cultivates lively, active, questioning minds which would certainly be far better for the future of the country and the world than dead, passive minds only focused on receiving and absorbing whatever is offered. Indeed, critical thinking is a vital part not only of effective and stimulating future employment, but in other areas of life as well, including politics and general social life. Indeed, it is far too evident today how the non-critical, passive mind pervades important areas of work and life today, especially among political and religious leaders. Teachers can only stimulate critical thinking if they are taught themselves to become critical thinkers. This can be done effectively if they are made aware that even established and commonly-held perceptions should be subject to continuous research and questioning. By exposing them to both proven and non-proven theories, teachers can become aware not only of the importance of questioning established knowledge, but also of the importance of independent and continuous research to improve the excellence of the profession.

Stimulating Research and Development in Education

One example of an unproven theory is the effectiveness of leveled literacy programs. These function on the premise that books written for a certain level of lingual competence would improve the reading skills of students at that level. This premise has been both widely and unquestioningly accepted among teachers and teaching managers across the world. However, according to Porter-Magee (2013), there is very little research evidence to suggest that these programs are in fact as effective as they claim to be. The author points out various flaws in the assumptions behind such programs, along with the fact that there is little evidence to prove the effectiveness of the program. Being made aware of the critical shortcomings in such programs, along with the fact that they are largely unproven, would stimulate teachers to ask questions and do independent research.

Continuous research is a vital part of the education process. Indeed, "lifelong learning" has become a buzzword today, not only in adult education, but in all types of education. Lifelong learning can only occur when critical thinking is at its basis. Hence, a teacher who has become frustrated with certain programs offered by the curriculum or by a certain system of schooling can become inspired to do research of his or her own. This research can then form the basis of improved teaching and learning across the country and across the world. Since teachers are the ones who implement programs and theories, they are the closest to evidence regarding the effectiveness of these programs and theories. Hence, they are in the best position to ask questions that would stimulate further research.

As such, research and development are no longer only the premise of marketers or scientists. These are vitally important in the education field as well. Teaching must be assumed to be a continuously developing field in terms of continual research to prove and disprove various theories. In teacher education and training then, teachers should be continually made aware of the importance of constant development, not only of themselves as teachers, but also of the field itself. This is the only way in which the teaching profession can become one of consistent excellence, which would result in excellence among the youth as well.

Finally, training teachers to become good researchers that would advance the field of education would also result in guiding young people to become researchers. This is one of the most important skills in today's world, where information pervades every area of life, but also where much of this information is false and subject to being proven by concrete research. In order to maintain excellence in the collective brain power of humanity then, it is important to stimulate critical thinking and research ability not only among teachers, but by association among the youth as well.

The Purpose of Teacher Education

When considering whether to expose teachers to both proven and unproven theory, another important factor is the purpose of teacher education. This purpose should be made both consistent and clear if teacher education is to be effective and consistent in terms of quality. It has been mentioned that a high quality of teaching is vital in order to cultivate the kind of minds that will forward the country and the world in the future (Sutherland, n.d.).

Sutherland (n.d.) makes note of the basic purpose of teacher education in terms of specifying the specific premises of these. In presenting these, the author emphasizes the fact that there should be a clear and collective understanding of what good teacher training should constitute, and what its purposes should be.

The first purpose, according to the author, is "to produce professional teachers who have the theoretical knowledge and understanding, combined with practical skills, competences and commitment to teach to high national standards. This is a very broad statement, which seems to promote the idea that teachers should be made aware only of theory that has been proven upon which to base their practice.

However, the author goes on to clarity that, by association, "theoretical knowledge" entails that teaching should be research-based. In other words, the teacher needs the "critical capacities" to use established and ongoing research in an effective way to promote classroom excellence. Sutherland compares this premise to the same basis in other professions such as healthcare, which also relies heavily on research for its advancement. In this way, the implication is that teachers should not only be made aware of established and existing theory, but also those theories that are in the making. Great care should be taken, however, not to tout as yet unproven theory as accepted practice. Even for well established theory, independent research should be encouraged.

By association, Sutherland (n.d.) notes that teachers should be "reflective practitioners." In other words, they should be able to reflect not only on their own practice, but also on the way in which theories established by others can be to the advancement or detriment of their effectiveness as educators. In this way, critical thinking and research should be encouraged among all teachers.

Chye (2008) identifies three basic premises of excellence in teaching, which include "knowledge," "abilities," and "mindset." These three premises seem to support what has been stated above, that teachers should not only have a knowledge of his/her field and educational practice, but also the ability to identify needed knowledge and how to find it. The research premise…

Sources Used in Document:

References

Chye, T.E. (2008, Jul.) Learning to Teach, Teaching to Learn: A handbook for NUS teachers. Retrieved from: http://www.cdtl.nus.edu.sg/handbook/home/foreword.htm

The Critical Thinking Community (2013). The Role of Questions in Teaching, Thinking and Learning. Retrieved from: http://www.criticalthinking.org/pages/the-role-of-questions-in-teaching-thinking-and-learning/524

National Assessment and Accreditation Council (NAAC) (2007, Jul.) Quality Indicators for Teacher Education. Retrieved from: http://www.col.org/SiteCollectionDocuments/PUB_QITE.pdf

Porter-Magee, K. (2013, Feb. 8). Common Core v. The false promise of leveled literacy programs. Common Core Watch. Retrieved from: http://edexcellence.net/commentary/education-gadfly-daily/common-core-watch/2013/common-core-v-the-false-promise-of-leveled-literacy-programs.html

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