Teaching Philosophy

Andragogy and My teaching philosophy:

I was first instructed – advised to acquire an educational philosophy in the first course of my doctoral program. The choices were Perennialists, Essentialists, Existentialism and Progressivism. By the time this happened I had conducted years of educationing for cognitive behavioral changes. From my work with inmates I developed a pragmatic philosophy of getting to resolution and empowering as much as feasible. In those challenging circumstances I lowered my bar and settled for the best deal I could cut with reality.

Once transferred to staff development, I had increased opportunity to refine my beliefs in education as being transformative. First recruits, then staff including the department’s executive staff, were exposed to the evolution of my educational beliefs. While running my first recruit academy I developed a simple practice we called Student Focused. My staff and I agreed that decisions regarding the running of the basic training class would be driven by the question, ‘What is best for the students.’ Adopting this credo meant pre and debriefing all guest instructors and monitoring large portions of the instruction. In the next morning exercise session we would pepper the recruits with questions from the prior day’s classes. The student squad leaders eventually led the exercises and continued asking.

Moving on to in-service training of seasoned civil service correction workers demanded further refinement. During my years working in institutions I had attended numerous trainings. I thought them an affirmation of the value of the workers. That was not a universal sentiment. I was concerned about the effectiveness of the in-service program. An ethos of resisting and disparaging training can develop quite easily within a group of public safety workers.

I went to a trainer training at the Federal Office of Personnel Management. There they taught and demonstrated Ned Herrmann’s Whole Brain Learning theory. He proposes four domains of learning; Fact Based, Order Driven, Emotional and Active. Learning, slightly more broadly, interacting with the world happens based on individual’s mix of domain emphasis.   I started developing curriculum considering each domain. My classes responded positively and we incorporated it into our trainer training. Herrmann started as a physicist for General Electric. His target to teach were adults.

I am trained in curriculum development and build outcomes in as a matter of course. Yet outcomes are only foundations in learning. Outcomes are to discipline our focus of intellectual capabilities. This develops a habit in the person to thirst to know. John Dewey a founder of the Philosophy of Pragmatism urges the charge of education to develop members of society with good habit.

Paul Genderau urges the teaching of pro social behaviors. I see Good habit and pro social behaviors as synonyms. Gendreau and the other cognitive behaviorists offer strong evidence of the power of this approach. Affect is not lost however, delivery of such education requires human compassion. This is where I transition to Albert Ellis’ Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT).

I attended a session of REBT where the humanity of behaviorism was highlighted to me. I learned to convey to an individual the success in their lives so far is their trajectory. It is illogical to think otherwise. REBT points out how destructively harsh we can be on ourselves, regularly more harsh on oneself than we would on even an enemy. I seek to counter discouragement to support and respect my students.

Ed Delattre is an educator, philosopher and mentor of mine. In his book, Education and the public trust, he talks of those Michael Lipsky calls the street-level bureaucrat – teachers, police, social workers… Delattre claims that their charge is to be exemplars. That is what I am going for, with modest expectations. I was an education failure until I became an adult. Through encouragement and discouragement I persevered. Strangely I have used altruism to my advantage.

Chris Menton

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