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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
To be continued