Teaching and Learning
by Michael Dulay, August 2000
Learning is the process by which people acquire knowledge, skill, insight, or ability through experience. As a teacher, my duties are to provide opportunities for students to have these experiences, and to facilitate what they do with them. My teaching philosophy stems from these duties, emphasizing variety and diversity, teachable moments, lifelong learning, knowledge integration, and highly contemplative questioning.
Since experience is the catalyst for learning, and since people learn in different ways, I believe that I must provide a variety of experiences from which my students may learn. Variety is necessary because it allows students to seek out course content in a form that is most conducive to their learning. This may involve anything from group work and detailed visual aids to individual research projects and introspective writing assignments. Variety also provides a paradigm, built on flexibility, which can be used to work with students from a multitude of backgrounds, ages, and lifestyles.
Learning occurs best when we seize teachable moments. In other words, we- both the students and I- must take advantage of the events that occur in our lives that can be used to help us understand those ideas and concepts with which we would otherwise struggle. By seizing these moments, we are able to see new theories, axioms, and constructs being applied to our lives, thereby removing any of the mysteries that often accompany the abstraction used to explain them. Current events provide a fantastic means for discovering seizable moments for learning. I, therefore, make it a point to interject the world's news into my teaching to provide various opportunities for students to understand the ways that psychology can be used in their own lives and in the lives of others.
Though it may occur only in brief spurts that last the duration of a school session, learning should be a life long process that stems from a person's lifestyle. This way of living extends from the principles of critical thinking. It begins with wonder- simple curiosity. And when wonder is nourished, it can blossom into thinking and carefully planned questioning. This is where my role in learning lays- I teach the joy of wonder and the power of critical thinking. I must teach that the latter has the power to invigorate the way people live and change the world around them.
Learning occurs most efficiently and effectively when new experiences are interwoven with previous ones. That is, when new knowledge and/or skills are incorporated into those that a person already has, they are better understood and more long-lasting. Since psychology courses are typically taught as part of a general education program, I believe that I must use a great deal of foresight and flexibility in my curriculum development so that material from other disciplines can by integrated into my teaching as tools for achieving my own course objectives.
Learning is challenging. In its truest form, learning involves questioning something repeatedly, through the angst of frustration, to get to its meaning and truth. It is a struggle. As a teacher, I must be a guide and a base for the struggle, helping and encouraging those who have difficulty seeing beyond the challenges of learning.
Ultimately, my role in learning is threefold. First, I must learn from my own teaching. That is, I must constantly question my own pedagogy so that I too learn from my experiences. This is a vital part of being a role model- my second role in learning. My own behavior should be a reflection of those ideas that I teach, so that students can see that the lessons that I teach are not limited to exams and term papers. My third role is that of a confidant to my students in their learning experience. I must help them realize that I too struggle with learning and growing, but that it is my duty to help them through their experience. It is a journey that both they and I must venture in together.
Those who enjoy learning and helping others learn do so in all aspects of their life. Whether they are sitting in the sun at a coffee house, competing in a hard fought game of basketball, or playing in the park with the children who are nearest to their hearts, they learn.
I always wonder.
I wonder, why.