Last Updated 03 Nov 2022

My Teaching Philosophy Is Based on Lev Vyhostsky’s Social Constructivism

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Learning is the process of building knowledge and being able to apply concepts to the real world as well as thinking critically about them. In other words, learning is going beyond memorizing facts and should focus more on deeper analysis. In order to accomplish this goal, there are many tools available, but working with others is the most important factor. With this point, my philosophy aligns most with Lev Vygostsky’s social constructivism perspective. Vygotsky believes that students learn well when they work with a more knowledgeable other (MKO), who is more skilled than the student and provides help through scaffolding. An example of scaffolding is when a student is guided through the steps to follow in solving a math word problem, as the teacher prompts with questions. After the student masters the concept, scaffolding is removed.

In a perfect situation where Vygotsky’s theory can take place, it is up to the student to ensure that learning occurs. It is important for the student to be willing to be cooperative and respectful to the person trying to help them. Once a student truly masters the material, they can help others and be the MKO to other classmates and peers. Learning is considered successful if students can complete a task on their own without any help after working with a MKO.

A student’s role and responsibility as a learner is to figure out what learning style is best for them. Because everyone has different capabilities and needs, one learning style that works for some students may not work for others. Examples of learning styles include the use of visual, physical, and verbal aids. Visual learners find it best to learn by looking at pictures, diagrams, and other types of charts. Physical learners find it helpful to use body movement, and verbal learners find speech to be the most effective mode of communication.

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Most students, including myself, follow a combination of learning styles. These preferences may change over time. Throughout elementary school, I learned primarily by watching teacher demonstrations, completing class activities, and doing practice problems. For example, I remember that when my teacher taught the class about why we have seasons and days, she used the globe as Earth and a flashlight as the sun. She essentially used the two objects to demonstrate the Earth’s axis tilt, a revolution, and a rotation. I found the demonstration helpful since it was hard to imagine the Earth rotating and revolving at tilt without a model. On the other hand, doing practice problems was extremely beneficial for me and it allowed me to work faster on quizzes, especially when it came down to grasping addition and subtraction.

As I entered middle school, I realized that I had great memorization skills and that I was better in math but weaker in English. It was then when I changed my study habits and learning style. I found that taking organized notes, and memorizing the information numerous times helped me internalize information better and ultimately allowed me to ace history and science tests. Looking at charts and reading textbooks also helped me better understand how concepts related to one another instead of visual demonstrations. For my math classes, I continued to work on practice problems to make sure I was familiar with different types of word problems. Because writing analytical essays for English and history was difficult for me, I tried my best to participate in class, took notes during fishbowl discussions, brainstormed ideas, and often checked in with my teachers to make sure I was heading in the right direction. The takeaway from these experiences is that students need to take initiative in helping themselves in the learning process by figuring out what study habits and methods work best for them.

The MKO should understand that his or her role is to guide the student’s thinking in the correct direction and by scaffolding. Scaffolding techniques include many forms such as asking questions, providing a “think out loud” process, and breaking a big problem into smaller pieces. If one method does not work, the MKO can try another scaffolding method while being patient throughout the entire process. The MKO might become frustrated if a student is not grasping a subject, but it is important to realize that sometimes a student just needs some extra time to completely master a skill.

In my opinion, teaching means creating a fun and safe learning environment for students where they can gather skills and retain information. Making a class boring might cause students to fall asleep and as a result, there would be no learning. A safe environment with happiness and laughter makes the classroom and the teacher even more welcoming. Children who enter these types of classrooms are more likely to enjoy their time at school and look forward to returning each day. Creating a fun environment is a key first step to motivate students.

Teaching also means challenging students to think more critically and abstractly. A teacher’s role is to help students develop as individuals and as critical thinkers. Teaching moves beyond just giving out information to students to memorize. Instead, it is more about helping students explore and draw conclusions, relate concepts to one another, and think more deeply about a topic. Challenging students to think in a new light is key. If teachers fail to challenge their students, students do not grow as learners. Hearing another viewpoint opens a student’s eyes to new possibilities that they might have never thought about or come across.

I think teaching should be more student centered than teacher centered. In other words, the best way for students to learn is to have teachers focus more on their students’ own role in the learning process. Teachers should guide students in the right direction, but ultimately let the pupil discover important concepts on his or her own. Active learning is critical so students can engage in activities and improve on analytical skills. Another benefit to this method of being more student centered is that students will hone in and possibly learn new skills. Projects, discussions, and debates are great ways for student centered learning and often involve collaboration and group work. Through working with groups, communication skills can be improved and students can learn how to resolve conflicts with others. These social skills are just as important as academic ones and are necessary to survive in the real world.

As a supporter of student centered teaching, I hope to use methods that involve engaging discussions and thinking more deeply in my classroom. A method I believe will work best is the “think, pair, and share” method. By this method, the teacher poses a question to the class and gives some time for the students to brainstorm and write down their answers. Students then share their ideas in groups of three or four. When this is completed, the teacher signals students to regather and asks them to share their original ideas. This strategy is beneficial because students engage actively with each other in the process. In general, students are more comfortable in sharing with a small group before sharing with the entire class. This process also allows students to hear multiple perspectives and to think about concepts in a new way. Essentially, this method is used in student centered instruction and helps improve critical thinking skills.

Another method I plan to use in my classroom is the reciprocal teaching technique. I would like to use this particular strategy, especially when it comes to improving reading comprehension. In this method, the teacher divides the class into groups of four. Every student in each group has a specific role such as the summarizer, clarifier, predictor, and questioner. One member of the group reads part of the text and everyone discusses it in depth. The summarizer picks up key points of what is discussed, the questioner asks questions about confusing parts of the text, the clarifier helps by answering questions, and the predictor tries to predict what happens next. The group dives into an in-depth analysis of the text they have just read. The teacher circulates around and scaffolds students who are not thinking in the right direction. This specific method is another form of group work where students help each other understand something better. The activity is more hands on than simply reading a book and taking notes. Instead, it is a fun way to learn and engage with others.

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