Teaching Philosophy upon Social Learning Theory, Originally Developed by Albert Bandura
I take great pride in my accomplishments as an instructor at the institutions where I have had the privilege to teach. My success and respected reputation with students are a direct result of not only having a specific educational and teaching philosophy but living this philosophy as well. The following ideals represent how I have approached the learning environment in and out of the classroom, as well as how I conduct myself both professionally and personally. This educational and teaching philosophy is based upon four ideals:
Ideal 1: Set a Positive Example for Others to Follow
‘Real education should educate us out of self into something far finer; into a selflessness which links us with all humanity.’ Lady Nancy Astor
It is upon this premise by which I base part of my teaching philosophy upon Social Learning Theory, originally developed by Albert Bandura. According to the basic framework of Social Learning Theory, persons learn through observing others in their environment and then behave accordingly based upon those observations. ‘Others’ in one’s environment are considered models. Through this observation, persons learn about the world and make evaluations in how to think and behave based upon what is demonstrated by their models. Therefore, in my instructional strategies and interactions with others, I take this role of ‘model’ very seriously. I firmly believe in demonstrating to students that dedication to the course is important both in and out of the classroom. This can be found in my hard work ethic to prepare for courses, timely communication and feedback to students, willingness to be available outside of the classroom, and very simply, on-time arrival to class despite any number of challenges.
I also try to model ethical and Christ-like behavior, a deep passion for learning, interest in others’ ideas and beliefs, and enthusiasm for the subject matter. I firmly believe that if I model these various attributes and behaviors, then students may in turn learn from my example and develop some of the very same behaviors. It also is intended they learn through my example, not only as it relates to student life, but how it also flows into living life as a positive and contributing member of society. If I can show them a ‘finer’ example of how to live life as not only a successful student but a better human being, then I have succeeded in my job as an ‘educator.’
Ideal 2: EVERYONE Matters and Deserves a Quality Education
It is not a secret that a number of college students experience a variety of challenges and numerous life stressors. They are unique and bring to our institutions an exceptional pallet colored with their own personalities, experiences, viewpoints, and life or learning challenges. I appreciate that most students entering higher education are there to strive for something better in their lives. It is my mission to strive to reach every student and help him/her achieve their goals. I also strive to demonstrate to every student that he/she is not just a number in my class, but someone who has value and whom I wish to see succeeds despite life circumstances and challenges that may threaten achievement.
An effective educator must also recognize these same students possess a number of learning styles and preferences. I address this successfully by creating a course environment conducive to all learners, encouraging collaboration amongst peers, and promoting tolerance of diverse populations and persons in my curriculum. I take very seriously my critical role in the educational success of my students, appreciate diversity, and give what I possibly can to see their potential and goals realized. Perfectly stated by Alfred Adler, “The educator must believe in the potential power of his pupil, and he must employ all his art in seeking to bring his pupil to experience this power.” My students can be successful if I demonstrate to each that he/she has value, limitless potential, and the power to accomplish great things.
Ideal 3: The True Essence of Learning is not about Memorizing Facts, Theories, & Figures
‘The aim of education should be to teach us rather how to think, than what to think–rather to improve our minds, so as to enable us to think for ourselves, than to load the memory with thoughts of other men.’ Bill Beattie
Every course is filled with a great number of terms, dates, facts, and/or figures. Although it is important to have exposure to the ‘what’ information provided in courses, retaining and utilizing that information for a greater purpose are the critical pieces for students in their jobs, careers, and life in general. Therefore, I fall short of being an effective educator if students are only challenged to memorize the ‘what’ in our subject of Psychology. Yes, content knowledge is critical. However, how to think for oneself, how to analyze and evaluate in-depth are the processes of learning that reap many benefits later once students have left the classroom and the institution. In order to implement this in the classroom, I have developed the curriculum for my own courses around the premise of enhancing the learning environment and fostering valuable critical thinking and life skills among those students in my courses.
The variety of project requirements and other assessment details emphasize project-based-learning and promote critical evaluation as well as personal reflection skills. Beyond project requirements, a number of assignments are included in each course that challenge students to develop the ‘what’ from the assigned materials into an application of the ‘why’ and ‘how’. Students are asked to tackle controversial issues present in our society today, evaluate the validity of various schools of thought and viewpoints, and derive logical conclusions through critical analysis. Each project and assignment do not simply require looking through academic resources and regurgitating facts; they also require the application of the information, reflection upon the relationship to the real world, and the development of ideas to promote more positive results and the welfare of others. In essence, we take what is in print and make it meaningful to our lives, society, and humanity. I believe this type of learning is what makes a difference in my students and, in the long run, leads to people who make a positive difference for themselves and others around them. It is not the ‘what’ students learn that is important, but the experience and becoming a better thinker for themselves that truly capture the essence of learning.
Ideal 4: Demand Much, Demand the Best and it WILL Pay Off
Ask students who experience a course under my instruction about the amount of course work required and my expectations, and you will likely find the answers to be similar – I expect much from my students. Students who take these courses are challenged to work frequently and work hard for each requirement and the final grade. Considering the diversity that exists among learners, educators must continue to challenge them away from the classroom using a variety of methods in order to make positive strides in application and retention. Additionally, it is difficult for students to understand and internalize the material simply by reading without continued practice and reflection. Based upon the premise described in Ideal 3, reading a textbook and taking a test will do very little to fuel the meaningful process of learning. In the end it is my goal to push every student to reach his/her potential and discover that it takes hard work to get there. Students must be challenged above and beyond, and effort must be given to achieve success. Much is expected of my students, and there is much to be gained by working hard and being an active participant in the process of learning. In the words of Matthew Arnold ‘…what thwarts us and demands of us the greatest effort is also what can teach us most.’ Student feedback from my classes has confirmed this. They frequently say, “Man, I had to work hard”; however, they then follow that up with “… but I really learned a lot and enjoyed the experience.” Furthermore, many students return for more courses under my instruction, fully aware of my requirements and high expectations because they feel the experience is well worth the effort. I take great pride in knowing that students gain much more than a ‘grade’ in my class and acknowledge the challenging road ahead to get them to that final destination.
In conclusion, throughout my educational training and employment, I have been fortunate to study others’ behavior, learn various ways to interact and educate others. as well as positively impact many lives. I enjoy seeing students view their own and others’ lives more openly and this has been most rewarding. With continued involvement and education in Psychology at the college level, it is my hope I am able to make a positive difference in many students’ lives. I am a life-long learner and educator. I cannot imagine myself doing anything else. In conclusion, I reflect upon the words of James Truslow Adams. He once said, ‘There are obviously two educations. One should teach us how to make a living and the other how to live.’ That is the essence of ‘educator’ in my opinion and captures my personal philosophy toward education.
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