Beliefs about Teaching and Learning

Published on August 7th, 2016

This time of the year finds principals and teachers gearing up for yet another academic year.  When this article is released, most, if not all, will be preparing for their first day of school or may even have begun.

It is no secret that our beliefs about teaching mitigate practice and provide a significant influence on what and how we instruct students.  Rosenfeld and Rosenfeld (2008) report novice and experienced teachers alike possess a continuum of viewpoints about teaching and student learning.

Below are some shared beliefs about teaching and learning:

  • Principals and teachers believe that all students can learn.
  • Principals and teachers believe that teaching and learning is a shared endeavor.
  • Principals and teachers understand and value the importance for reflection and adjustment of teaching based on daily work and tests, both formative and summative.
  • Principals and teachers most likely believe that aligning pedagogical practice with student interest and ability will yield positive results. In other words, students most likely will understand the concepts and achieve mastery.

In the most recent ASCD book, entitled, Cultivating Curiosity in K-12 Classrooms, Ostroff (2016) proposes four practices that afford students great opportunity to engage.  Those practices and a brief explanation are what follow:

Inquire:

Teacher and student inquiry does not happen by happenstance.  You must intentionally plan for inquiry to happen through preparation in advance that renders appropriate and timely questions for your students.  And, inquiry leads to curiosity.  It is a well know fact that curious children are more likely to remember information that peeks their curiosity because a chemical (dopamine) is released that enables the hippocampus to function better (Gruber, Gelman, & Ranganath, 2014).  The hippocampus is a part of that brain associated with long-term memory.

Explore:

It seems as if children and young adults have a propensity to check out new things.  Just observe an infant exploring the world around him or her through touch, smell, and site as he or she lies in his or her crib or begins their venture to explore through crawling.  Having knowledge about the value and benefits of exploration, teachers afford students opportunities to explore and construct their understandings about a concept.  Research conducted by Engel and Labella (2016), suggests that teachers own belief and behavior about allocating time for exploration has a powerful impact on a child’s desire to explore.  And Bolden and Newton (2008) propose that exploration with any subject matter affords students more open-ended activity and more responsibility for learning.

Discovery:

Discovery is when your students have that “Aha” moment about something – their content possibly.  It is that moment where previous knowledge and current information connects and sticks.  Teachers preparing for and building time in their day for discovery and investigation provide a balance between being a ‘giver’ of information and a ‘facilitator’ of information.

Practice:

Students are more readily able to transfer their learning to new situations when they have opportunity to engage in meta-cognitive thinking.  The process, Gradual Release of Responsibility (Pearson & Gallagher, 1983), encourages such thinking.  The Gradual Release of Responsibility Framework encourages a four step process:  teacher-directed, guided instruction, collaboration, and independent learning.  I, We, Together, and Alone approach helps students scaffold their initial attempts with support from teacher and peers to bring about a deeper understanding.

Summary:

Small adjustments in one’s instruction can ignite your students’ curiosity and wonder about their learning.  As teachers, we must always be learning.  We must always be open to try new and different instructional strategies and practices.  May I continue to encourage you to have a nice balance between teacher-directed and student-centered instruction and learning.

May God continue to bless your school year!

Resources:

  • Ostroff, Wendy L. (2016). Cultivating Curiosity in K-12 Classrooms. Alexandria, VA: ASCD. (New Release)
  • Fisher, Douglas, Frey, Nancy, & Pumpian, Ian. (2012). How to Create a Culture of Achievement. Alexandria, VA: ASCD.