In my brief introduction to teacher education in college, I remember that one of our very first tasks was to develop a philosophy of education. I thought this exercise, while useful at the end of a teacher education program, was premature for a young, 20-something, just beginning her “own” education. How could I possibly develop a concept of what I believed was the best way to teach, when I didn’t understand how people learned and I had not yet had any experience in the classroom?
Fast forward nearly 15 years, and after having spent the better part of those years either as a student or an instructor, I now believe that I can begin to formulate a better understanding of my own personal learning theory. As someone that subscribes to the theories of behaviorism and constructivisim, I have come to understand the dynamic nature of education. As a scientist, I seek to understand how people learn most effectively through empirical experimentation and data collection/analysis. I have seen that while there can be many methods in which information can be given to students, there are surprisingly few methods that result in learner assimilation and student success. In my current role as an online instructor, I find myself struggling with both the possibilities and limitations of the technology that I use to reach my students. Because the course that I taught was a hybrid course, and I was responsible for only the online portion, I found that the course could not be operated in the same ways that an in-person course was conducted. The lack of in-person contact with my students was unfamiliar and I had to devise methods to cultivate a personal experience in an impersonal platform. My main focus as the semester progressed was finding ways to not only help my students make connections in the course content, but to make personal connections with me and with each other.
One of the most challenging aspects of beginning to teach is that I was never trained or educated in the methods that result in greatest student learning. I still struggle with the best ways to design my lessons to accomplish knowledge acquisition and application. What is the best way to present the course materials? What is the best method to use to lecture? How much multi-media resources should I include? How can I assess the basic technological understanding of my students so that I don’t give them more than they need or can handle? My hope for this course is that I can continue to fine-tune my understanding of how people learn and how the technology that I use to deliver the course can be used to facilitate their learning and success.