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MY PHILOSOPHY OF TEACHING AND LEARNING

By Allison J. Erickson
Teacher
Anchorage School District
4/10/2016

Introduction
My philosophy of teaching and learning is informed from my experience as a classroom
teacher, my studies as a teacher candidate, my role as a coach and mentor, my career as a
biologist, and my experience as a parent. It is through these experiences that I have developed a
teaching philosophy that is supported by three foundational tenets:
1. I will respect and honor every student
2. I will expect achievement
3. I will provide meaningful and intentional instruction
4. I will teach and practice life-long learning.
In support of these goals, this document is developed to articulate my personal philosophy of
teaching and learning, and the theories upon which it is based.

Respect for Student Development and Individuality


The Elementary and Middle School years are a time of great change in the cognitive,
moral, social, and emotional development of our students. My practice as a teacher is informed
by the work of educational theorists such as Jean Piaget, Lev Vygotsky, and others who have
contributed to the body of educational research.
I believe that student progression is fostered through exposure to, and participation in, a
challenging classroom experience that is responsive to their developmental needs. Using
theories of development derived from Lev Semionovich Vygotsky my approach is to expose
students to concepts within their zone of proximal development, provide the appropriate
scaffolding, and encourage communication within the classroom. Through the identification of
individual learning styles and abilities, I strive to find new ways to both challenge and support
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my students in their learning journey. This involves addressing students in relevant context that
aligns with their developmental stages. Jean Piagets work provides a foundation in
understanding how children construct their knowledge of the world around them. I apply these
concepts in the development and delivery of my lessons.
Each of my students is a unique individual, and each class has its own unique
experience. I believe that it is important to capitalize on the diverse contribution that my
students bring to the classroom. In alignment with the Alaska Content for Culturally Responsive
Educators (Standard E) and the Guidelines for Preparing Culturally Responsive Teachers in
Alaskas Schools (Standard 6), I teach my students to value diversity through thoughtful
interaction with the perspectives and practices of their peers and their community. Through
socially inclusive content, classroom collaboration, and community involvement, I support my
students as they build a strong sense of self-worth and confidence.

Instruction
Of great import to my philosophy is to build active learners who have the skills to
question the world around them. Our 21st century students have a myriad of facts literally at
their fingertips. My goal is to teach students how to find them, interpret them, and communicate
what they mean in a broader context. I strive to provide a classroom environment where students
are empowered to question, explore, and find new ways to think about old questions. Reinforcing
these learning strategies will support development of the skills my students need to succeed both
in school and in their post-graduation lives. My tools to accomplish this objective are the content
standards, integrated curriculum, thoughtful organization, and engaging classroom management.
I strive for active construction of meaning in the subjects I teach so that students gain a
more in-depth understanding of the material (Wilson and Peterson, 2006). Encouraging students
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to be engaged in their lessons through classroom discussions, projects, and collaboration, I


provide an opportunity for them to apply what they have learned. It also provides me, as their
teacher, the opportunity to observe whether they have understood and processed the information
delivered.
An integrated curriculum supports my students in developing the ability to construct
meaning and apply their knowledge in the world around them. I engage a variety of skills into a
lesson so that students must engage their knowledge in multiple contexts. As discussed in Caine
(1991), this strategy supports their learning of the content at hand, but also exercises their
cognitive abilities in critical thinking, questioning, and problem solving.
The youth of today are constantly exposed to technology, and their ability to navigate in
this new environment is mind-boggling. Applying technology in the classroom helps to engage
students in a context that is consistent with the world in which they live. When applied
appropriately, technology can provide a multi-faceted learning environment that integrates skills
in organization, creativity, and collaboration. In his article Our Brains Extended, Mark Prensky
(2013) gives examples of how technology can be used as a tool for teaching students effective
thinking, effective action, and effective relationships.
As an intentional teacher, my classroom is organized and methodical. In order to
effectively and efficiently deliver my teaching objectives, my lessons must be well planned and
clearly presented. Students know what I expect of them, as rules are clearly communicated and
equitably enforced. My students know also what they can expect from me as the content is well
organized and relevant. Within this context, I leave room for flexibility in my practice so that I
can adjust my plans in response to the fluidity that comes with a group of elementary age
students.

Assessment and Expectations


I expect great things from my students. As a teacher I am responsible for helping each
student discover their strengths and empower them to achieve their potential. Student
assessments play critical part in supporting this goal. As the teacher, I use assessments to
evaluate whether I am effective in reaching my students. My students gain valuable feedback on
their ability to recall and apply the information they have learned. As I build an assessment
strategy, I look to work by Gronlund and Waugh (2009) to ensure that assessments are a means
to provide feedback to students and teachers, incentives to students, information to parents,
information for selection and certification, and information for accountability.
Our students are expected to achieve to a well-defined content standard established by the
Alaska State Board of Education and Early Development (2006) with support from the Alaska
Assembly of Native Educators (1998). My job is to ensure that my students learn and
demonstrate their knowledge of the skills outlined in these standards. Utilizing backward design
to build lessons around learning outcomes, I can clearly identify what I want my students to learn
from my instruction. I incorporate formative and ongoing evaluation to inform my teaching
practice (Tomlinson, 2008), which allows me to adjust my strategies to address the varying needs
of my students.
I believe that all students have a unique learning style. I work to provide a variety of
outlets for them to demonstrate their understanding of content by incorporating both traditional
assessments (i.e., tests) and authentic assessments (i.e., portfolios, projects) into my practice.
Traditional testing is a valuable and methodical way to assess my students understanding of the
content taught in class. When combined with authentic assessments, which provide my students

with the opportunity to demonstrate their learning over time (Burke, 2009), I can develop an
overall picture of student achievement.

Building Life-Long Learners


My goal is not only to teach content but also build the skills necessary for my students to
become informed and engaged citizens. I strongly believe that my role is to construct knowledge
in a context that is relevant to the student, and that engages the student to employ critical thought
in their future. To that end, I work to incorporate world-views, technology, and relevant topics
into my curriculum.
My role as a teacher is to support a student as they realize their power as individual
contributors to the future. I strive to provide an empowering education (Perrone, 1991. p9) that
cultivates a desire to participate in the discourse of a greater society.
The most effective way to teach life-long learning is to model this behavior in my
teaching practice. My philosophy of teaching and learning continues to be influenced by my
experiences in continuing education, professional development, student engagement, and
practical experience. Engagement in professional societies and community organizations is an
integral part of my ongoing journey as an educator.

Conclusion
I teach not only to have a positive and memorable influence on my students. I teach
because I truly believe in the power of the individual as well as the power of the collective, and
that a robust education is critical in enhancing the lives of my students. My goal is that students
will leave my classroom with a strong sense of self, an appreciation for diversity, and a genuine
belief that they can make a contribution to society both now and in the future. Whether they

aspire to be an Astronaut, a Taxi Driver, or Stay-at-Home Dad, they will all have influence in the
world around them. My goal is to empower them to grow into thoughtful and informed adults
who strive to positively influence the world around them.

REFERENCES
Alaska State Board of Education and Early Development (2006). Alaska content standards:
content and performance standards for Alaska students.
Assembly of Alaska Native Educators (1998). Alaska standards for culturally responsive
schools.
Burke, K. (2009). How to assess authentic learning. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin.
Caine, Renate Nummela, & Caine, Geoffrey (1991). Making connections: teaching and the
human brain. Association for Supervisions and Curriculum Development. Alexandria,
VA
Gronlund, N.E., and Waugh, C.K., (2009). Assessment of student achievement. Upper Saddle
River, NJ: Pearson.
Perrone, V. (1991). A letter to teachers: reflections on schooling and the art of teaching. San
Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
Prensky, M, (2013) Our Brains Extended [Electronic version]. Educational Leadership, 70(6).
22-27.
Tomlinson, Carol Ann. (2007-08, December/January) Learning to Love Assessment.
Informative Assessment. 65(4). 8-13.
Wilson, S.M. & Peterson, P.L. (2006). Theories of Learning and Teaching: What Do They Mean
for Educators, National Education Association