Oct 03

Knowing Yourself as a Teacher, Learner & Person

Posted by Pamela M. Jones in Fair Is Not Equal on Oct 03, 2012

The Connection to Successful Behavioral Intervention

Knowing Yourself

Do you understand your strengths and challenges as a learner? Are you apt to do more direct instruction or guided inquiry with your students? Further, are you comfortable or uncomfortable when your students are confused about a concept and are asking you how to help them understand? These are but three of countless (possible) questions you might ask when seeking to know yourself more as a teacher, learner, and person.

In the courses I teach, I always take my master’s students on a journey of self-exploration and discovery for two main reasons: (1) so that they can get to know more about themselves and (2) so that they can take this knowledge and see how it impacts their teaching (and, consequently, their students). 

Let’s consider two alternate teacher scenarios and the potential impact on student engagement and behavior. 

In scenario #1, the teacher considers herself to be drawn equally to visual, auditory, and tactile modalities.  When she teaches, however, she often relies heavily on the auditory modality—sharing most information orally at the expense of visual or other means. This includes everything from explaining the lesson’s content to giving students directions on how to complete assignments.  I’d venture to say that this teacher, perhaps unbeknownst to herself, prefers the auditory modality and is unaware of how it dominates her practice. While she’s no doubt reaching the segment of her students who (like her) gravitate toward the auditory modality, she’s also missing those students for whom oral directions and receptive language skils are a challenge. 

In scenario #2, the teacher “thinks” he’s a visually dominant learner, but isn’t sure. He integrates a lot of visual supports in the way of photos and picture cues for textual support. This almost surely supports his students who are and aren’t visually dominant; however, he’s most likely still missing segments of his class.  Since he wants to ensure that he reaches increasingly larger numbers of his students, he wondered how he could learn more about himself so that he could become a more effective teacher. Below are some ideas I share with my students who have the same questions and wonderings:

  • Learning Styles Inventories (LSIs): Though not without a few drawbacks, learning styles inventories can help you begin to understand which modalities fuel your thinking and learning most. It’s most helpful to complete a few of them, as none of them provide you with definitive answers—just clues as to where you are leaning.  Some sites we’ve used in the past include the following: (1) LSI (option #1) & (2) LSI (option #2).
  • Lifelines: Another activity I ask my students to do is a “lifeline.” Basically, a lifeline is a personal mapping activity whereby you plot the 3-5 pivotal points in your life—moments that altered your thinking and/or shaped you in some way. No matter how often I see teachers engage in this activity, it never ceases to amaze me how this type of reflection helps my students better understand why they think and act the way they do.
  • Teaching Philosophy Statements: Do you know your teaching philosophy? What makes one teacher require her students to sit quietly during independent work while another teacher encourages a hum or “buzz” of conversation and activity? Understanding the “why” behind our actions is critical to reaching our students and growing in our teaching practices.

Take a moment and think about how you can embark on this journey and learn more about who you are as a teacher.  Both you and your students will reap the benefits!

tagged learning style, self-knowledge, self-reflection, teacher
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