What’s your teaching philosophy?

What’s your teaching philosophy? Do you have one? Have you ever written it out? When was the last time you did so?

Being aware of your philosophy of teaching and learning can be quite helpful (should I say essential?) when reflecting on your teaching practice. A useful (and free!) tool to help you get started is the online Teaching Perspectives Inventory

Teaching Perspectives Inventory

The first time I took the Teaching Perspectives Inventory was in 2005 when I was teaching as a part-time instructor at several universities in Sapporo, Japan. I had finished my MA in TESOL and had given several presentations at language teaching conferences, but hadn’t yet gotten into formal teacher training. The TPI helped me to understand myself as a teacher more clearly and I’ve recommended it to other teachers since then.

I took the TPI for a second time two months ago as part of an assignment for a course I was taking. Since I’m not teaching right now I used language teacher training as my context this time. This probably made a difference in the answers that I gave. And, of course, the eight years of classroom experience since first taking the TPI could also mean that the results might be somewhat different.

Basically the TPI consists of 45 questions that assess your “orientation to teaching.” After you’ve answered the questions you receive a profile based on your scores. The results are divided into three sub-scores of beliefs, intentions, and actions which can give an indication of how consistent you are in your teaching practice.

My results in the Teaching Perspectives Inventory

TPI Categories

2005 results

2013 results

Transmission

31

28

Apprenticeship

35

34

Developmental

30

38

Nurturing

41

38

Social Reform

26

29

When examining these results it’s useful to keep in mind that results under a score of 29 are considered recessive and scores over 38 are considered dominant.

The first time I took the test my highest score was a 41 in Nurturing. According to the explanation on the TPI website, teachers who score high in this category believe that: “Effective teaching assumes that long-term, hard, persistent effort to achieve comes from the heart, not the head.” At that time I thought this was true for me and I still think so. It is not surprising that my score eight years later is still quite high at 38.

What’s more interesting to me is that my score in the Developmental category rose by eight points and is now a tie for the top place at 38. The description for the Developmental perspective on the TPI website states that: “Effective teaching must be planned and conducted “from the learner’s point of view.”” This makes sense to me since much of the teacher training that I’ve been doing recently is more like mentoring than transmitting the knowledge and skills involved in language teaching.

The TPI profile that you’ll receive includes the scores of the three sub-categories (beliefs, intentions, and actions) that make up the final total in each perspective. (E.g. my scores in Nurturing were quite consistent with Beliefs: 14, Intentions: 12, Actions: 12 for a total of 38 points.)

The scores in each perspective are said to be internally consistent when the three sub-scores have a gap of two or fewer points between them. The only inconsistent score in my results was that of the Transmission perspective with a six-point gap between the lowest and highest sub-score. (The results being B:13, I:7, A:8.) This is quite similar to my results in 2005 when there was a five-point gap in my scores in that perspective (B:13, I:10, A:8).

Teachers who score high in the Transmission perspective believe that: “Effective teaching requires a substantial commitment to the content or subject matter.” I would generally agree with that statement, but apparently there’s a disconnect between my beliefs and my intentions and actions.

I’ve been wondering what the reason is for this inconsistency. Is it connected to the context I’ve been working in? Is it because much of my experience as a student has been in a “transmission” type of classroom? Have I internalized the assumption that this is the preferred way of studying and learning, even though I don’t necessarily follow that in my own practice? These questions will definitely require some more thinking to puzzle out.

As teachers we might not always be clear on what our beliefs actually are. Our intentions show what we want to do and our actions are what we actually do do, but our beliefs are often less apparent.

Taking the Teaching Perspectives Inventory is a useful way to start clarifying our teaching beliefs and developing a teaching philosophy that can sustain us.

 

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