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Teachers’ Practical Theories of Teaching

Teachers’ practice theories of teaching involve special techniques and practices used in education and during learning processes. The connection of general education to teachers’ practice theories is that of means to end. Education is the goal; it prizes mental freedom and responsibility, and an open-minded and humane spirit. A broad course of teachers’ practice theories has long been a favored means of reaching that goal. Although this means-end connection should be clarified in curricular deliberations for all grades, it needs energetic discussion in teachers’ practice theories. Interestingly, modern education is not necessarily a merely general one, since free and critical thinking could be developed by the study of just one or a few particular disciplines (Johnson & Johnson 2002). Certainly, the subjects originally included in teachers’ practice theories are relatively small in number. In teachers’ practice theories aims to improve education and support teachers in everyday practice and administration of the education.

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In general, teachers’ practice theories of teaching give direction to practice. It is known that practice without theory is blind. Without practice theories of teaching, responses to problems will be random and short-sighted. A logical theory is required to guide modern thinking about education. Teachers’ practice theories of teaching guide by establishing the aims of general education and projecting basic ways in which these ends can be achieved. Real decisions–such as whether liberal or art education should be conducted in schools or whether a college should add a certain agenda of instruction–can be made according to a theoretical framework of teaching. In the analysis, no teaching practices can proceed without theory (Meyers & Jones 2001). Every policy and procedure, whether teachers realize it or not, is laden with some conception of what education is all about and how it should execute its task. When these theories are brought to light, educators can more intelligently assess modern instructive activities. The correct method of teaching, then, is for us to maintain the close relationship between theory and practice, and to consider the options among theories of teaching (Brookfield 2002).

Teachers’ practice theories of teaching develop the ability to think critically within the methodology of certain disciplines and thereby gain a habit of thought which will stand them in the first-class stead in a variety of cases. On the other hand, a teachers’ practice theories of teaching is not necessarily a liberal one, since an uncritical and unquestioning mind might be produced through the study of many and varied disciplines (Course syllabus 2003). To think of theories of teaching exclusively in terms of curriculum structure and course content is to treat information as a product for consumption. Some types of teachers’ practice theories tend to do just this (vocational and technical training, for instance). Though, when the mission of teachers’ practice theories is broadened to include human liberation and fulfillment, treating learning as a product is inadequate (Jenrette & Napoli 2002). A very important principle of teachers’ practice theories is that knowledge has another side: an active, dynamic side. The pure attainment of truth, say, through practical implementation of knowledge or the recitation of prepackaged answers, is not enough. To speak of the teachers’ practice theories process is to emphasize the aggressive investigation after truth, the exploration of ideas, and the refinement of professional skills. Teachers’ practice theories, then, are not a matter of static achievement, but of dynamic activity (Meyers & Jones 2001).

Teachers’ practice theories of teaching involve the element of control and management. The element of control is a little-researched issue in distinguishing real teaching from indoctrination. Teachers’ practice theories can lapse into instruction when, within the social structure where it occurs, the educator is presumed to have the power and the right to reward or punish learners for their success or failure in accepting the knowledge that is being communicated, and perhaps for their behavior in general (Herr 2003). Again, following teachers’ practice theories, teachers and educators should take stock of this fact. It is not essentially the falsity of a belief but its manner of transmission that makes its spread indoctrination. If leaders have the right not to be indoctrinated, then educators, administrators, and parents have the duty to monitor the potential of indoctrination within the learning experience (Cooper 2001).

At the heart of the teachers’ practice theories is the difference between substantive beliefs and canons of thought by which to evaluate those theories. Any opinion or view is subject to rational scrutiny; and no belief should be recommended or adopted without rational persuasion taking place in a way appropriate to the maturity of the student. Teachers who respect this principle will not be indoctrinators. By the same token, learners would show more respect for their own intellectual rights and really reduce the risk of being indoctrinated, if they would not treat familiarity as something that can be passively received, but pursue it as something to be earned by diligent effort (Wright & Herteis 2003). For instance, a learner might memorize a lot of facts about many academic areas, credulously consider each textbook and each teacher in turn, and end up rather small-minded and role-bound. There are, of course, impressive reasons to think that general learning is a good basis for liberal education (Greive 2001). But teachers’ practice theories of teaching are neither a necessary nor a sufficient condition for a liberal education. Therefore, researchers must return to philosophical practicalities in order to understand what key factors enable a general education to be liberating. In fact there are two distinct conceptions of why general studies should create theories of teaching, each based on a different desired outcome (Wilcox & Ebbs 2002).

There is one striking difference between these two conceptions of Teachers’ practice theories of teaching. The educational approach holds that there are certain themes and truths which every learner should study, whereas the rhetorical one holds that it does not matter much what learners study as long as it relates to current society. A teachers’ practice theories of teaching, for the dialectical program, means that there should be a broad base in data essential to humanity, in learning which pertains to the large, perennial issues of human thought and action. The leaner should be brought to consider certain pervasive concerns about the nature of the universe, the meaning of life and common duty–as a prelude to working out his or her own frame of reference.

On the rhetorical system, teachers’ practice theories of teaching means that there should be broad exposure to as many different viewpoints as possible, a learning which reflects the varied opinions extant in the modern world (Whitman 2003). This view denies that it is significant for leaners to know about anything in particular and considers dogmatic the claim that certain kinds of knowledge are more worthwhile or more humanizing than others–the intellectual tyranny of some subjects over others. In recent decades, during which American universities have seemed to opt for this model, educators have seen course offerings for a “liberal” education include transcendental thought as well as psychology, astrology as well as astronomy (Silvernail 1989).

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The two components of teachers’ practice theories of teaching are effective teaching practice based on methodology and interpersonal communication. In a day when many schools are losing their theoretical moorings, it would be a move in the direction of greatness for mainline colleges and equivalents elsewhere to retain theirs. They should retain them not nominally, but with a conscientious search for philosophical identity. Lately, there is a noticeable swing of interest back to liberal education and the humanities, partly as preparation for coping with an ever-changing job market and partly as preparation for a fuller human life (Seldin 1999). Since a single curriculum format cannot be unilaterally prescribed, each institution will have to work out exactly what courses it understands to be most faithful to the great heritage of liberal education and the humanities (Meyers & Jones 2001). However, a college need not strive for a core curriculum which is overly general, but only one general to the extent that it adequately acquaints students with the great ideas and lasting values of humankind as well as transmits the essential skills of continued learning. This is the way to construct a liberal education which is general in the sense of ranging over a number of subjects, but is quite specialized in the sense of focusing on the major themes and discoveries of civilization. In the long run, such an approach to liberal education will far surpass other approaches (Rothwell 2004; Powers 2000).

One main cause of such teaching deficiencies is the loss of a coherent understanding of what liberal learning really is. When liberal learning is mistakenly equated with a general selection of courses, then there is no basis for holding that some courses are more important to humanity than others and thus should be required of all seeking a degree. Of course, there are good reasons for introducing courses, say, in religions or feminist studies. Surely, teachers’ practice theories of teaching must learn from a variety of perspectives and be aware of their critiques of traditional Western views (Frost 2005).

The point is that all studies should be evaluated in terms of their promotion of the goal of liberal education. Administrators and faculty who arrange their general curriculum by requiring “a little of each subject” or letting students “pick a course from each group” are forfeiting the high, The modern conception of teachers’ practice theories of teaching and the precise kind of general education it demands. The opposite conception typically dominates when there is no guiding philosophical consensus about what courses constitute a truly liberal education. Teachers’ practice theories of teaching decisions become purely political: departments simply demand “their share of the core,” or curriculum committees restructure the core purely on the basis of comparison with other “attractive” schools, or students pressure for fashionable courses which seem “relevant” (Turkle 1995).

Clearly, the methods of teaching action must be adapted to the learner’s stage of mental and emotional development. For example, in the elementary grades, a structured environment and an overt system of rewards and punishments is appropriate. By contrast, use of extrinsic inducements becomes dubious at the college level, since they are associated with a lower stage of moral development than that desired of young adults. Moral education at this stage will have to make the most of its appeal to the reasonableness of morality. At all levels, it is important that there be a learning environment in which mutual respect and support is present (Menges and Mathis 2000).

Only within such a framework can there be optimum moral growth, for it makes possible increased apprehension of moral principles, encourages acting on those principles and even allows room for some moral mistakes along the way. The ultimate goal of moral education is, of course, moral maturity, which is usually characterized in terms of the student’s acquiring certain virtues corresponding to moral principles and being disposed to act morally on the basis of proper motives (Frost 2005). Teachers’ practice theories of teaching view recognizes another element of moral maturity: the student’s being able to discuss and question the values which he or she has been taught. Naturally, the complete ability to do this is not present in younger children, but should be allowed to develop and not be stifled. This is essentially what Kant meant when he discussed the autonomous stage of moral living–not that the ego is the sole source of moral knowledge, but that one must appropriate what is moral for oneself, lucidly and rationally (Shuman 1989).

Surely teaching is an art and the teacher is something of an artist. But teaching does not resemble arts such as painting or sculpture. And if teachers are artists then they do not resemble painters or sculptors who impose a preconceived form on a passive medium, be it color or clay. The art of teaching must rather be compared to the art of medicine. The teacher works with the inner principles of human nature in somewhat the same way as the physician works with the physical principles of health. Just as the physician attempts to get the body to the point where it can heal itself, the teacher must help bring students to the point at which they can learn on their own (McKeachie 2003). Teachers do not so much impart something of their own creation, but try to draw out the natural abilities of the learner. They are like mediators of something which is higher than themselves, helping others acquire not only the facts and skills, but also the dispositions and qualities suitable for rational beings in the image of God (Sawyer et al 1999).

For teachers’ practice theories of teaching it is not enough to point out incorrect opinions and claims. To liberate lenders from error and falsehood teachers must also help them to identify the underlying dispositions which create and nourish such opinions. Egocentrism, prejudice and sloth merely begin the list of traits which never give truth a fair chance. Of course, release from error and falsehood must be linked with liberation to truth. But educators cannot be content to have students dutifully memorize a list of important truths any more than they can rest when the students can recite a list of falsehoods to be avoided (Dixson 2000). Educators must strive to cultivate in pupils those traits and dispositions which are accommodating to truth. This means that in addition to the love of truth and the fundamental honesty which accompanies it, teachers must stimulate tendencies toward logical thinking, conscientiousness and tolerance, as well as implanting and nourishing a mentality which is supportive of the life of the mind (Powers 2000).

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To spiritualize the mission of teachers’ practice theories of teaching is not to exaggerate its importance. Teaching deals with the very core of one’s being, the mind and its thoughts and aspirations. Insofar as the many duties of teaching point the mind toward truth, wholeness and excellence, teaching is indeed a type of ministry or sacred office, and learning is a kind of worship. However, in the classroom and other pedagogical situations, the teacher as ministerial agent has the function of leading others in “implicit worship” (McKeachie 2003). The educator is to lead students into study as a reflection of their ultimate concern and religious devotion. Without the appearance of any of the customary religious forms, the teacher has the opportunity to place students in a position in which their intellects are illumined, their wills energized for good, and their spirits suffused with new life (Newble & Cannon 2000).

In fact, the list of intellectual acts involved in teachers’ practice theories of teaching is quite long: telling, drilling, explaining, demonstrating, describing, narrating, announcing, reporting and so forth. Clearly what makes any of these intellectual acts teaching is not mere showing-and-telling. Some- In a day when teaching machines and self-paced instruction manuals promise “faster, more efficient” learning, educators must be particularly alert not to forfeit a high conception of teaching. There may well be certain types of factual materials or performance skills which students can learn through rather impersonal means (Magnan 2001). Each school and each educator will have to evaluate the extent to which these methods are appropriate. Though, the personal measurement of teaching, which comes through ever so many particular pedagogical transactions, is perhaps the fundamental quality which educators must refuse to relinquish. The model of persons interacting with developing persons is indispensable to a complete concept of pedagogy. Students need not simply learn facts and skills; they also need to witness well-integrated personalities using such facts and skills. Moreover, students need to observe whole persons who are able to employ their education to deal with the realities of life (Oser et al 2001).

Since the process of teachers’ practice theories of teaching is especially acute during the years of late adolescence and young adulthood, the consideration of liberal learning during these stages is very significant. Whether students attend a state university or a private school, they should seek a dimension of liberal learning in their formal education. Although there are a number of large universities in which a liberal education is officially offered, most have drifted away from any potent liberal arts program. This places a heavier burden on the student to select courses and read books which provide elements of liberal learning (Nyquist et al 2000). Although governmental favor may initially seem desirable, it presents a number of hidden dangers. For one thing, the official recognition of a religion by a public organization or agency tends to become purely perfunctory and rote. Psychological research shows that nominal agreement with a religious position, whether indicated by the meaningless recitation of prayers or other routine exercises, tends to damage real religious growth (Davis 1999). Hence learners ought to covet for themselves and their particular Minster the exclusive religious instruction and nurture of their students and be wary about the public support of any particular religion. For another thing, once the precedent is set, governmental favoritism of one religious faith can eventually change to governmental favoritism of another faith (Nyquist et al 2000).

The teachers’ practice theories of teaching rests on certain concepts of the rights and duties of the members of the academic community, whether at the elementary or university level. An examination of the concepts related to academic freedom and responsibility provides a deeper understanding of the educational quest and reveals that educational theism offers a solid basis for its integrity. Intellectual liberty is not automatically forfeited when an institution seeks to perpetuate its historic identity. After all, academic freedom promotes honesty and not total neutrality (Miller 2003). The problem arises when an educational institution conceives too narrowly of what constitutes its identity or of what counts as student and faculty loyalty. When a school forgets that responsible persons can interpret or apply the same basic commitments somewhat differently, it mistakes sameness for safety (Magnan 2001).

But before a helping hand is given, all of an institution’s educational constituents, both internal and external, must distinguish grievous abuse of academic liberty from desirable diversity of opinion. The principle of teachers’ practice theories of teaching demands that as much diversity be allowed as is consistent with the identity and aims of the institution, even one with a specific religious identity. In the course of things, it is wise to allow errors in belief and unpopular opinions to exist, because the evil of suppressing them is almost always greater than the evils they present Building a rather monolithic climate of opinion and belief is not only stifling to the minds of those living within it, but also robs a tradition of positive input and constructive criticism (Millis 2001).

In sum, the intent of teachers’ practice theories of teaching must be to discover and transmit truth in a way appropriate to the nature of the mind of the learner. When the intention of instruction, held at whatever degree of self-consciousness, is to get pupils to believe a certain claim, then that intent could shape every aspect of teacher-student communication into a form of instruction. If the plan is continually to smooth over doubts and protected credence rather than to bring studnets to a point at which they can judge truth from mistake for themselves, then the academic project has been compromised (Johnson 2005). Clearly a kind of open relativism, which is characteristically disinterested in what students believe, is not protection against indoctrination. The intent to get studnets to believe something may sometimes be appropriate. But the intent must be balanced by a number of other factors, including their need to develop the power of independent judgment (Millis 2001). Certain implications of the teachers’ practice theories of teaching bear more directly on the philosophy of education. These teachers’ practice theories of teaching doctrine that the created world–the one educators see–is real. Teachers’ practice theories of teaching follows are intelligible. Teachers’ practice theories of teaching provides teachers with ready-made knowledge and skills, and supports them in everyday task completion and learning processes.

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Course syllabus. (2003). Individual growth and human relations. Louisville, KY. Jefferson Community College.

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