Teaching philosophy: Methodological integration to meet the needs of diverse learners and expectations of employers
- Written by Brent Duncan, PhD
When the teacher's mission is to facilitate learners toward self-sufficiency in learning so they can perpetually develop beyond the classroom and throughout their careers, the teacher must integrate a wide assortment of methods from different perspectives. This becomes an integrated systems approach that allows the scholar-practitioner to assume a classroom leadership role that distributes power, authority, and responsibility among teacher, students and environment to better prepare students for professional success in a turbulent competitive environment. An integrative systems perspective requires that teacher develop a flexible skillset that allows context to illuminate the method. The effective teacher not only understands which approach to use for a situation, he or she will develop the capacity to tap the strengths of multiple methods and philosophies to match practices to motivate performance at the individual, group, and classroom levels.
Didactic methods still serve the purpose of shaping learners. However, emerging practice is recognizing that learning is more than shaping behavior and imposing knowledge. It's also a process by which individuals develop capacity, construct knowledge, grow toward inherent potential, and transcend self. This understanding helps teachers see the learner and classroom through seemingly disparate philosophical lenses to identify practices that align with context.
This lays the foundation upon which I answer questions about the theoretical lens through which I teach with "methodological integration". This means that I attempt to see complex problems through multiple perspectives, so the problem can illuminate the correct approach. To do otherwise risks escalating commitment to failed courses of action by attempting to impose a single limited perspective on a dynamic context.
- Through a behaviorist lens, the teacher can shape student knowledge and behavior within the frameworks of the institution, field, or test. This includes delivering lectures, programmed instruction, and pre-packaged training.
- Through a cognitive lens, the teacher can structure activities for teaching students how to learn, acquire skills, and build memory. This includes social cognitive approaches through which the teacher establishes learning goals, explains and demonstrates concepts, monitors student practices, guides students toward independence, evaluates the outcome, and provides feedback.
- Through a constructivist lens, the teacher can leverage social interaction, collaborative activities, and assessments that allow colleagues to construct deep understanding and complex solutions. This includes cognitive-mediation approaches through which the teacher acts as a coach who motivates learners to push their zones of proximal development as individuals and teams.
- Through a humanist lens, the teacher can apply student-centered approaches that allow learners to recognize connections between learning and personal development, while helping learners transcend self-interest to improve the lives of others. This includes Socratic methods that help students understand the values in the concepts they are learning.
- Also vital to consider is the Mind, Brain, Education Science perspective, which synthesizes data and practice across disciplines of psychology, neurology, and education to illuminate effective teaching practices.
Through methodological integration, each classroom can become a laboratory through which teacher and students collaborate as co-researchers to identify needs, define goals, monitor progress, and improve practice through implementation. In short, by seeing the classroom as a dynamic learning system the teacher can synthesize a broad range of practices that allow mutual influence and development among students, context, and methods.