Exploring Images of Teaching and Learning about Education: A Reflective Account. A Curriculum/Pedagogical Autobiography.
You are at an important stage in your formal study of and work in education by virtue of your enrollment in graduate studies and work in a classroom with students. This is a time when you may find it useful to think about your reasons and perspectives for your work in education and your thoughts about what teaching and learning in schools are, will be, or ought to be. One strategy to uncover your thinking may lie in examining your own life story. Think, for example, of the first point at which you thought about becoming an educator. Do particular people, experiences, or incidents come to mind? Who or what was it that influenced you? How might these have an effect on your views of curriculum? schooling? If no particular incidents stand out, was it a general feeling you had? In what situations did these thoughts emerge over time? What might these have to do with your educational beliefs? With the curriculum experiences you design for students as their teacher?
The purposes of this writing assignment lie in several areas. First, this serves as a way of getting to know each other. Part of the “curriculum” of the course, of any course of study, is the relationships we form with one another – not just the topics or concepts we read, discuss, and construct meaning about. Our discussion in this assignment can be a good beginning. The assignment is also a record for you of your thoughts right now, a place to begin the semester. By reconstructing the events and processes by which you have arrived to this place, by identifying key events and influences that contributed to your decision to teach and study education, and by examining the connections of these to your beliefs about curriculum, teaching, and schools, you may discover important aspects of your knowledge, skills, and dispositions which may prompt you to continue to learn over this semester. Linked together, these form part of your teaching and learning biography or story. These also often carry with them your own implicit or personal theories and philosophy about education, which a teacher must be in touch with in order to design effective, meaningful, relevant, and satisfying curriculum for students.
Using the following framing questions –- and please feel free to add your own or modify these –- (re)generate the incidents and insights that led you to where you are today.
1. Biography and Social Context
Has your upbringing – or your present home and family life – influenced your choices to be an educator and study education, or your views about it? If so, how? If not, why not? Think about the whole context – personal, social, political, cultural, and economic – in which you became an adult. What factors might have influenced your decision to become a teacher? What did your decision mean to you at the time? What does it mean now? If there have been changes (you may define “changes”), what might have affected your thoughts and decisions?
Consider events that may seem to be outside your immediate world (e.g. public opinion, societal and world events), but consider also your own schooling experiences – the kinds of teachers you had, other children with whom you had relationships, the kind of student you were in elementary, secondary, and higher education. Did these, what we might call an “apprenticeship of observation”, influence you? If so, in what ways?
2. Formal Preparation
If you are a teacher or have been a teacher, what was your formal preparation for teaching? Do any courses or field experiences particularly stand out? Can you recall your impressions of teacher education and how well it prepared you for teaching? Do you remember what you thought teaching would be like based on your preservice experiences?
How did you learn to plan, develop, and craft curriculum in your preservice teaching experiences? Were these experiences meaningful and applicable to the “real world” of teaching?
If you are not presently teaching, address your undergraduate education. What was it like? What courses stand out? What impressions did you have of how well this educational experience prepared you for your chosen profession?
3. On the Job Experience
Recall your first job (in teaching, if applicable, or in other areas). What was this like? Were there helpful colleagues to rely on or mentor you? Did you have to “go it alone”? What did you learn during your first year of work, and how has it shaped the kind of teacher/other worker you have become? If you are a teacher or have taught, how did these shaping influences connect to curriculum work?
If you have been in teaching or another career/job for awhile, how have you changed over the course of your career? What professional experiences or continued education have influenced your development as a teacher? Do you teach/work now in the same manner you did at an earlier time in your career? Why or why not? What growth or evolution has occurred? What contributions have inservice or continuing education activities made to growth and learning in your work? Have particular assignments or colleagues been salient? How has educational reform affected your professional practice? What leadership roles do you play in your school related to reform agendas? What more have you learned about curriculum and curriculum matters as these relate to teaching, relationships with students and peer teachers, or other?
What other experiences or contexts might have been involved in your quest to complete this reflective assignment? Have other jobs you have undertaken influenced you? Do you have children of your own? Are you close to children of family members or friends? Do these relationships enter into your vision of education, teaching, and learning? A particular cause or advocacy? Have you undertaken jobs or engaged in volunteer work (either involving children/students or not) that have influenced your decisions to teach and further study education? Include, too, experiences at the university. What has there been in the form and content of coursework, social experiences, part-time work, or other experiences, that continues to contribute to your plans, views, and goals about teaching and education?
Family life, friendships, jobs, and other life and educational experiences – these are some of the possible rich sources of influences on your professional choice and on your views of teaching and learning. What stands out for you?
Write a paper—roughly 8-12 pages, or 2000-3000 words in length—that is your curriculum/pedagogical autobiography. There is no set format for the paper. You could:
- Organize your account chronologically, devoting a section to each phase of the continuum that brought you here. However you do this, please use headings to indicate what you have addressed.
- Or, you could approach the task as a biographer, selecting an event to serve as the outcome of your story and arranging and linking critical incidents together to produce an intelligible account of how you came to teach and study education.
Be specific! Work in your writing to showcase:
- What your experiences have been like.
- How these experiences have helped form and shape the kinds of views, philosophies, and beliefs about education, curriculum, teaching, and learning that you hold.
- The ways in which you have evolved or changed over time and the influences or impetuses for those changes.
Using the grading rubric in the course syllabus, write a brief self-assessment at the end of your paper and assign yourself a mark between 0-20.
As background for this assignment, please read: Kanu, Y., & Glor, M. (2006). ‘Currere’ to the rescue? Teachers as ‘amateur intellectuals’ in the knowledge society. Journal of the Canadian Association for Curriculum Studies, 4(2), 101-122. (Available from: http://pi.library.yorku.ca/ojs/index.php/jcacs/article/view/17007/15809). In addition, you can read a version of this assignment, which I have written, here.
 This activity was originally developed by Dr. Ann Larson at the University of Louisville.