Teaching philosophy statement

My teaching philosophy is based upon the combination of my values and my beliefs of learners, language and learning and provides an excellent point to reflect on and organize teaching practice (Coppolla, 2002). My approach is eclectic and I draw on whatever method and means that will help my students achieve their goals and objectives in the most effective and efficient manner. Concepts that I regularly integrate into courses, include:

  • student-centred learning,
  • activity-based learning,
  • scaffolding through peer support,
  • autonomous learning,
  • blended learning and
  • flipped classrooms.

Two parallel teaching philosophy statements (TPS) are presented below. The first belief-based TPS was written based on introspective reflection for university administrators. The second research-based TPS was created based on actual practice and was created for purely self-developmental purposes.

1. Belief-based Teaching Philosophy Statement

I follow an essentially communicative approach based on humanistic views of education, cognitively-based views on the nature of language learning and sociocultural views on the nature of language.

Humanistic views of education

I adopt a learner-centred approach in which I teach each learner as an individual with differing needs, wants and lacks, which I try to meet. I view learners as a support network within which I encourage them to interact, help and evaluate themselves, each other and the learning process. To do this I try to develop self-reliance and a team spirit. I view learning as a process of self realization in which learners help select the methods and activities to achieve the objectives of the course. I emphasize meaningful communication. The texts I supplement courses with are either authentic or semi-authentic and the tasks are communicative. I see my role as a facilitator who is particularly concerned with creating a suitable class atmosphere. Although I follow a syllabus and use materials that are geared towards the students’ needs, where necessary I alter the syllabus and materials to ensure that an atmosphere conducive to learning is maintained. All interaction in the class is conducted in English. However, as a tool for raising awareness I encourage students to compare English with their first language. This is a way of attempting to reduce potential L1 interference by highlighting differences and so enabling learners to formulate hypotheses about English.

Cognitively-based views on the nature of language learning

I present tasks in a graded sequence from activities which demand less cognitive ability to those which are more demanding. I guide learners from context-embedded situations to context-reduced situations, enabling them to develop the necessary skills to use language in a variety of contexts. I incorporate both fluency-orientated work and accuracy work. The balance of this is dependent on the particular course. My expectations with respect to academic skills and fluency in English are based on the learners’ proficiency and general development in their first language. In short, poor communicators in their L1 are unlikely to be better communicators in their L2.

Sociocultural views of the nature of language

Not only do I help students learn the language code or the form of language, but also I enable learners to understand what to say to whom and how to say it appropriately in different situations. In short, I aim to develop their communicative competence rather than just their linguistic competence.

2. Evidence-based Teaching Philosophy Statement

Teaching philosophy statements are often declarations of beliefs interspersed with descriptions and metaphors. The disjuncture between the stated philosophy and actual teaching has been raised by numerous academics. To address this I created a research-based teaching philosophy statement through a systematic investigation of actual teaching practice. A retrospective think-aloud protocol was used to recount a lesson. The transcript was analysed, and teacher actions were identified, extracted and justified following pre-determined protocols. References to theoretical and empirical studies supporting or contradicting the justification were checked in the research literature. To counteract the potential self-bias, colleagues’ views on the reasons selected were surveyed. The discrepancy between the teacher’s justification of actions and the peer perspective revealed hitherto hidden idiosyncrasies and values. These values and the resultant teaching philosophy statement are summarized in the following sections.

  1. Integrity: "zero distortion between words and actions"
  2. Inspiration: "spurring learners into action"
  3. Innovation: "always experimenting"
  4. Integration: "mixing management, eduction, computer science and linguistics"

My beliefs about language, learners and learning determine the choices made in the planning, preparation and delivery. Each of the following three sections lists specific actions that are part of my teaching repertoire and provides reasons and where available academic sources for the reason. The references given are ones that influenced me. My current teaching philosophy has evolved from this and when I make time for it, I will update this.

Beliefs about language

  1. Contextualise language: Cognition and context quadrants (Cummins, 1984), Language in context (Omaggio, 2001)
  2. Prioritise authentic language: Increased motivation (Peacock, 1997), Cooperative learning in Japan (Hart, 2001)
  3. Pitch language appropriately: Comprehensible input (Krashen,1985) cf. White (1987)
  4. Select language with coverage: 3000 words for 95% coverage (Liu Na and Nation, 1985)
  5. Emphasize academic language: Academic word list (Coxhead, 2000) Needs updating!
  6. Harness word lists: Vocabulary acquisition (Nation, 2002)
  7. Highlight grammar in context: Consciousness-raising activity (Thornbury, 1999)
  8. Use tasks: Interface hypothesis in task-based learning (Ellis, 2003)
  9. Focus on communication: Performance vs competence (Chomsky, 1965), Skill-getting and skill-using (Rivers, 1972), Communicative competence (Hymes, 1973), Usage and use (Widdowson, 1978), Communicative competence (Swain, 1985), Communicative syllabus (Yalden,1987)
  10. Focus on meaning: Speech Acts (Searle, 1975), Meaningful communication (Swain, 1993)
  11. Focus on form: Necessity of form in Communicative Language Teaching (Norris and Ortega, 2000)
  12. Focus on pronunciation: Suprasegmental importance (Munro and Derwing, 1999)
  13. Focus on appropriacy: Contextual appropriacy (Brown and Yule, 1983)
  14. Maximize usage of L2: Goal setting (Hollanders and Modell, 2011)
  15. Avoid teacher-induced errors: Interlanguage theory (Selinker, 1972)
  16. Anticipate common learner errors: 151 common errors (Webb, 2006) Needs updating!
  17. Show cultural differences and similarities: Post-method condition (Kumaravadivelu, 1994), Teaching by principles (Brown, 2001), Local perspectives (Murphy,2001), Japanese language policy (Butler and Iino, 2005), Reframing EL Education (Mantero and Iwai, 2005)
Beliefs about learners

To be continued

  1. Set high expectations: Expectancy effects (Cooper 1979), Self-fulfilling prophecy (Boehlert 2005)
  2. Clarify aims, objectives, assignments, materials and methods: Expectancy-value theory in education (Elkof, 2006)
  3. Identify and analyze needs: Target vs. Present Situation Analysis (Munby, 1978), Needs perception (Allwright, 1982), Goal- vs. process-orientated needs (Widdowson, 1987), Objective vs. subjective needs (Nunan, 1988)
  4. Individualize learning: Learner-centred curriculum (Nunan, 1988), Language learning beliefs inventory (Horwitz,1988), Learner differences (Skehan, 1991)
  5. Create positive learning environment: (Duffy & Jones, 1995), Acculturation model (Schumann, 1978; Zolt´n, 1998), Increase teacher immediacy (Gorham, 1988), Strive for flow via high-support, high-challenge (Csikzentmihaly, 1996), Integrative orientation (Noels, 2001)
  6. Inject humour: Lighthearted atmosphere (Hill, 1988), Relaxed atomsphere(Warnock, 1989) , Silly examples (Schwarz 1989), Importance of laughter (Walter, 1990), Lower language anxiety (Young,1991), Risk-friendly environment (Ames, 1992), Face saving(Ohata, 1995), Language games(Wright, Beteridge and Buckby, 2005)
Beliefs about learning
  1. Maximize interaction: Vocab acquisition and group rapport (Ellis, Tanaka and Yamazaki, 1994), Group dynamics (Dörnyei and Malderez, 1997), Interactive approach (Brown, 2001), Integrate grammar into skills work (Burns, 2009)
  2. Encourage critical thinking: Questioning techniques (King, 1995)
  3. Develop autonomy: Learner directedness (Dickinson and Carver, 1980), Sustainability doctrine (Swidler and Watkins, 2008), Incidental vocabulary acquisition (Laufer and Hulstijn, 2001), Feedback mechanism (Genessee and Upshur, 1996), Habit formation (one-a-day tasks) (Larson and Smalley, 1972)
  4. Assess and act on results: Authentic, Clarification, Focus (Scrivener, 1994), Formative assessments (Bachman and Palmer, 1996), Effective and ineffective praise(Hitz and Driscoll, 1989), Sugaring the pill (Hyland and Hyland, 2001), Uptake and learning (Allwright, 1984)
  5. Raise self-esteem and confidence: Encourage error-making behaviour using error-feedback cycle (Edge, 1989), Communicative drills (Rivers, 1987), Pygmalion effect (Rosenthal and Jacobsen, 1968), Self-fulfilling prophesy in higher education(Rhem, 1999)
  6. Integrate technology: Harness the novelty effect (Clark and Sugrue, 1991), Efficacy of media (Koumi, 1994), Stretch tasks and limits (Hill and Ford, 2000), Concordancing and vocabulary (Cobbs, 1997), Harness unique support capabilities online (Hastings and Tracey, 2005)
  7. Scaffold learning: Zone of proximal development (Vygotsky, 1934 cited in Yasnitsky, 2011), Development zone (balancing support and challenge (Gibbons, 2009), Collective scaffolding (Donato, 1994)
  8. Experiment: Hawthorne effect (Olson, Verley, Santos and Salas, 1994), Demonstrate risk-taking behaviour by walking the talk (Crichton and LaBonte, 2003), Experiential learning (Rogers and Freiberg, 1994)
  9. Develop writers: Create learner support networks (Elbow, 1973), Focus on writing process (Zamel, 1982), Product-driven writing (Casanave, 1998)
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