Category Archives: Teaching Philosophy

The Problem with Problem Based Learning is the Problem

This term I have started a new position at Ulverstone High school teaching grade 9/10 Mathematics, Science and Physical Education, having picked up a full time contract. I have started out wanting have a different approach to Teaching and Learning within my classes. Yet how is the best way to go about this. The science classes are currently finishing off group inquiry units with their personal interests guiding the points of inquiry. Both math classes are starting new units with a clean slate for me to put my spin on how I would like them to learn.

Previously I have taught mathematics from an Instructional design standpoint. I am up front of the class leading all learning instruction through guided examples then working through the chapter and questions within the prescribed text book. Following the work set out by someone else in the department usually the head of learning area. Whenever I have read an article about deep learning and teaching for a deep understanding in Mathematics this approach is the one that is not recommended. Problem based learning is the way to go, using this approach to drive student centred learning in the class and better, deeper, and often more engaged learning environment for students.

The problem for me with problem based learning is to find the right problems. I would like to use the textbook less, following the #ditchbook movement of not using a textbook. Does that mean not using the textbook at all or just not solely relying on the textbook. One lesson can use online based resources, another a few questions from a textbook, problems from other educators and classes. Math is not a subject that I was originally trained in so the depth of knowledge to what makes a good question or problem and how each unit should be structured don’t come naturally to me. So my problem is finding the right problem, one with enough challenge for all, creating the flow of learning and learning experiences.

Designing questions and then the learning sequence appear to be my biggest challenges going forward. What are the best questions to use, can i cover multiple desired learning outcomes through 2 or 3 well chosen questions? How many questions in a session and how should that lesson flow to achieve the best sequence of activities and learning for students. Another thought is unit length, this is a tough balance between the restraints of the school term and timetable, whilst attempting to provide enough time in all units for that deep learning.

Being a new approach to the way I lead my classes and construct learning experiences for students is a challenge but one I have wanted to attempt when given the opportunity again to have a full time teaching position. Student centered learning is an approach that I have read about in many varied contexts and is talked about through many tweets and blog posts relating to student engagement and higher learning outcomes. My challenge is to learn through this and apply my ongoing learning as I progress through the term to develop better practices and habits. I hope through use, practice and being better switched on to where I want the learning to go, I will choose better problems and construct good learning opportunities for my classes.

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My classroom teaching philosophy

I aim to be a facilitator of student learning interactions, not a transmitter of information. Student centered learning is the goal of all lessons and subjects that I teach. Using a constructivist approach to teaching, I encourage group work and discussion, guiding students to use each other as learning resources to construct knowledge together. Students then gain a deeper understanding of concepts involved, not just the capability to reproduce content or procedures. Students should be given the skills and tools to be able to use their learning in any situation, not limited to certain contexts or reliant on a formula or practice that only works when information is presented in a certain way.

I aim to be well prepared for each learning experience provided to students. Ensuring I have sufficient content knowledge of what I will be teaching and spending enough preparation time to deliver effective lessons. My personal confidence and flow of classroom interactions is vastly improved when coupled with proper planning and preparation, providing greater abilities to create and be involved in interactive learning opportunities.

Formative tools that I will be using in my classrooms include Socrative teacher as a mobile application or web tool, video recordings of group discussions, where multiple groups can be talking and their interactions assessed and analysed later. Students will be encouraged to reflect on their learning through the use of web 2.0 tools, especially blogging. Students will be encouraged to use multiple tools to showcase their learning, submitting work in formats that suit their learning preferences and provide the opportunity to reflect on their work. Digital or ePortfolio’s will be used to develop a learning record for students, which showcases snapshots of multiple points in their learning journey. Reflection and peer interaction provides opportunities for students to develop deeper understandings of theories and concepts, constructed together and informed y collaborative understandings.

My Physical Education teaching philosophy

Physical education provides opportunities for students to display learning that involves activities outside normal classroom work. Allowing students to engage with this subject is a challenge I keenly aim to achieve. I attempt to link in student preferences and capabilities in certain areas to encourage engagement and participation. I aim to involve all students in lessons regardless of capabilities, welcoming their input and trying to provide opportunities for them to succeed. Disengaged students are encouraged to participate, invited to give feedback as to preferences for learning topics and skills. Non participating students that are injured or unwell are engaged in umpiring and coaching to keep them involved in learning and providing different perspectives of activities.

I aim to be well prepared for each learning experience provided to students. Ensuring I have sufficient content knowledge of what I will be teaching and spending enough preparation time to deliver effective lessons. My personal confidence and flow of class interactions is vastly improved when coupled with proper planning and preparation, providing greater abilities to create and be involved in interactive learning opportunities.

I use the teaching games for understanding (TGFU) approach to develop skills in students. This approach has the advantage over skill and drill of involving students in learning through a game or modified game. Skills can be practiced in an environment where they can gain more time on task than single student skill and drill practice. I also use questioning throughout various parts of each lesson to encourage students to think about how and why certain skills, movements, tactics, and variations can change or improve performance.

When assessing student I use observations of lesson activity, writing and recording specific student activities, skills, and actions during multiple lessons. These observations and written notes allow for a broader picture of student participation, actions, and capabilities to be built up over a period of time. This formative assessment based over many lessons then builds a picture to provide a more complete summative assessment grade and observations available at reporting time. Assessment involves more than just skill competencies with the ability to actively involve other people in games, especially for those students who have a more natural ability in the physical or sporting realm.

This approach I use is aimed at developing student that are prepared for higher grades of learning, and ultimately to be physically active and capable member so of their future communities. Students are encouraged to develop healthy habits from a young age to give them the greatest chance of developing lifelong habits and skills.