Tag Archives: teaching philosophy

Meaning-Centered Education

The evolution of teaching philosophy intrigues me. I started with the traditional “sage on the stage” philosophy where the professor shares his/her great knowledge and the student is left to make sense of this knowledge outside the classroom. As a student, I found this authoritative approach frustrating because of the lack of direction. As instructor, I improved how I was taught by adding more direction, but I still predominantly use this approach to teaching.

Learning-centered teaching puts the teaching onto the students. The instructor acts more as coach or guide, rather than dictating the subject matter to students. The goal is one of engagement and active learning activities form the basis of classroom activity. This is a handy chart to compare teacher-centered vs. learner-centered teaching. Learner-centered teaching is considered more advanced that the traditional method. Maryellen Weimer describes 5 characteristics of learner-centered instruction. I have been trying to be more learner-centered in my classroom, but found that a very careful balance needs to be maintained. Students resent being thrown into the deep-end and expect some level of instruction. At the same time, students acknowledge that they learn more if they are the responsible for their learning.

Meaning-centered education and meaning-centered learning appears to be a recent progression beyond learner-centered instruction. In this educational philosophy the goal is to have students place the new knowledge in a context that means something to them. This approach appeals to me as the motivation for student-learning is built into this philosophy. Integration of new ideas into our current knowledge is how the brain deals with new knowledge, thus meaning-centered learning will be intuitive to students. Finally, the approach emphasizes learning for life. The goal is not just to master course content, but to integrate this learning into who the student is as a person now and who the student wants to be in the future. Since I teach students that want to be nurses, I can see this approach having an impact on their lives long after they leave my classroom. This is important because the course material forms a foundation for their professional practice.

The Institute for Meaning-Centered Education appears to be in its infancy. I’m looking forward to seeing how this educational philosophy develops and how I may incorporate it into my classroom.

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Educational Research Paradigms

Flying Fishes by Jorbasa on Flickr

One thing I like about learning new things is that as I investigate one problem, I discover whole areas of knowledge that I was previously oblivious too. Yesterday I was exploring the idea of student feedback and my concern about the validity of this feedback. So this morning I set out to read some of the papers I discovered yesterday. The first paper mentioned the positivisitic paradigm which I had never heard of before. Google led me to “Educational Research Paradigms: From Positivism to Multiparadigmatic” by Taylor and Medina. This work was published in a brand new journal from the Institute for Meaning-Centered Education in February, 2013. The authors use analogy of a fisherman studying fish to illustrate the different paradigms.

Continuing with the aquatic theme, as I wade into the paper, I am amused that my whole career is based on the positivist paradigm and I didn’t even know what it was called. The positivist paradigm or positivism refers to the scientific method that I am used to. In addition to now having a label for the paradigm I’m used to using, I also learned about other paradigms:

  • The post-positivism paradigm refers to the modified scientific method used by the social sciences. This modification allows for the researcher to interact more with his/her object of study than what is acceptable in the positivism paradigm.
  • The interpretative paradigm involves the researcher immersing herself into the environment of the object of study and attempt to experience that environment from the study object’s perspective by trying to be like the object.
  • The critical paradigm strives to identify social injustices and helps the object of study overcome these inequalities.
  • The postmodern paradigm uses various artistic means to represent thoughts and feelings which are unseeable to the outside world.

The end of this article emphasizes multi-paradigmatic approaches to educational research. I suppose that this blog represents my multi-paradigmatic approach to educational research. I’m interested in exploring all the different ways of thinking about education and using the best of each to improve my teaching.

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Filed under Learning How to Learn