The Lehman College Graduate Childhood Education program, which leads to an M.S.Ed. Degree in Childhood Education and initial New York State certification in grades 1-6, piloted ePortfolios in a capstone course for three years and is now implementing a program ePortfolio in the fall 2013 semester. The ePortfolio asks students to include two educational philosophies. One that they wrote in their first course in the program and one that they write 2 years later in the capstone course. They are also required to write a reflection on the changes made in the old and new educational philosophies. The directions for the beginning of program and ending of program educational philosophies are identical. The prompts for the educational philosophy are:
A philosophy of education is a statement of your beliefs as an educator. The philosophy of education answers the questions: What do we know about how children learn best and based on that information what do we believe is the best way to teach children? A philosophy therefore should start with statements about what you know about how children learn best. Referencing literature and educational theories and/or research is an important foundation for your argument. The philosophy should then discuss your beliefs in how to best teach children. As well it should include statements on how your beliefs connect to the LUTE philosophy. Feel free to include classroom environment and tone as well as pedagogical and instructional strategies. Some questions to help guide your thinking:
- What are the values & principles that guide my teaching?
- What do I believe children need to succeed in school and in life?
- How do I meet those needs in the classroom?
- What is the most important goal I have for my students?
- How do I reach that goal in my classroom?
- How does my philosophy reflect the LUTE conceptual framework (Lehman Urban Transformative Education)?
The prompts for the Reflection on the 2 philosophies are:
Next Steps & Last Thoughts Prompt: Reflect on the changes from your first educational philosophy to your current philosophy. Some questions to consider:
- What has changed?
- What has stayed constant?
- What do you think has encouraged any changes? In other words, what experiences, information, people, etc., have contributed to these changes?
- What elements of your philosophy do you think might change again?
- Where are you headed? Remember, a teacher is a life-long learner, so in what areas do you still need to learn more? What skills still need strengthening; what areas still need developing; etc.? How do you plan on being a life-long learner?
Where is the practice used?
The practice takes place in two separate courses. One at the beginning of the Masters (beginning of program philosophy) program and one in the capstone course (end of program philosophy and reflection). These are assignments given by the Professor that students complete outside of class and then post to their ePortfolio.
Reflection as Integrative
Students’ ePortfolio reflections are designed to help them:
- Make connections within a course
- Make connections across courses and semesters
- Make connections among academic experiences, co-curricular & lived experiences
In the beginning philosophy students are asked to make connections within the course. They read about the 5 major education philosophies and take a quiz regarding their perceptions to see where they fall on the continuum of philosophies. Based on the readings for class, required elementary school observations, class discussions and life experience they are asked to write an initial philosophy. They are then asked 2 years later in the capstone course to revisit the initial philosophy and based on the experiences they have had in courses, in classrooms in elementary schools and life experiences, to make changes to their philosophy. They are also asked to reflect on the changes and to think ahead to how it might change again in the future.
Reflection as systematic & disciplined
Students’ ePortfolio reflection processes embody:
- A structured & scaffold process
- The reflective cycle
The process is structured and scaffolded so that students are given specific assignments with detailed prompts at specific points within the program. It is a reflective cycle because it takes place over the course of two years. Students are asked to specifically revisit their philosophy 2 years later and think about how it has changed and why. They are asked to write a formal reflection on that process. They are also asked to make connections outside of coursework and the program and to think about elementary classroom or life experiences that have impacted on their philosophy. They are also asked to think ahead to their future as teachers, reflective practitioners and life long learners.
Reflection as Social Pedagogy
Students use ePortfolio to share, peer review, discuss and connect around course work, reflections, plans, goals, stories, etc.
- Sharing their ePortfolios w/ & getting comments from faculty
- Sharing & engaging in interactive ePortfolio commentary w/ other students
The students are encouraged to submit work on their ePortfolio throughout the semester in order to receive feedback from the Professor. The Professor also provides a rubric and a final grade with comments on the reflection. The beginning philosophy and end philosophy are graded separately outside of the eP prior to submitting the ePortfolio. Students share their work with other students in a class session. The students are placed in small groups halfway through the semester and are asked to do a peer review. One student at a time in each small group presents their working ePortfolio to the other students in the small group. Students are asked to provide feedback, ask questions and provide constructive criticism to their peers. Each student is required to present to the small group. Students are also encouraged to download their ePortfolio and use it on job interviews.
Reflection as a process of guiding personal change
Students use ePortfolio for educational and career development, identity formation, by:
- Articulating their educational and career goals
- Considering their evolving personal relationship to learning and education
- Preparing ePortfolio to showcase to potential employers
Workshops were designed for faculty to share practices for reflecting on educational philosophies. Faculty shared ideas and prompts. The School of Education also hosted a 2 hour professional development workshop on rubrics which was led by the C2L team. Several members of the School presented rubrics associated with coursework and assignments. The sharing of ideas created stronger prompts and rubrics.
Student work/ePortfolio examples
Below are three examples from student ePortfolios of the reflection they wrote on how their educational philosophy changed over time during the program. These are very respresentative of all of the students and show how they reflect and think about their own learning and how they make connections across the courses in the program and experiences in the field.
Example of reflection on how Educational philosophy has changed:
I wrote my original Educational Philosophy in the fall of 2010. At that time, I had already been tutoring for four years, substitute teaching for a year and had two summers of experience as a camp counselor. I was not completely new to being an educator at that time, but I definitely had a lot to learn. My first draft was submitted for my graduate school program that semester, although I had already been writing it as part of my application for an Assistant Teacher position at a private school. I remember when I began to assemble the application and did not understand what should be included. I had trouble distinguishing between a cover letter, educational philosophy and personal statement. Luckily, two of my four older sisters are in the education field and I was able to obtain some advice from them. They helped me get some ideas on what to include and then I personalized it. I focused on core ideas, such as the importance of literacy in child development and the importance of a safe environment where children can take chances. I also mentioned some personal qualities that I could bring to my classroom, such as kindness, patience and enthusiasm.
When I needed to update my Educational Philosophy for Dr. Ross’ class in the fall of 2010, I made some additions. As I absorbed more ideas about education from my teachers and my peers, I began to develop new perspectives. For instance, I included a part about teachers having confidence in their students abilities: “Assuring students that the best is expected of them and truly believing that they have potential will increase their chance of success.” This was included after learning about the concept of a self-fulfilling prophecy. I also included a part about teachers being role models for their students and leading by example.
My latest version of my Educational Philosophy reflects my experiences since beginning at Lehman. The first paragraph includes my beliefs that learning happens every day, inside and outside of a classroom. This is reflective of my experiences as a teacher aide and student teacher this year. As a teacher aide, I worked one-on-one with a CSE student in third grade, assisting him inside of the classroom but mentoring him outside of the classroom. The first paragraph also consists of my belief that teachers need to be lifelong learners and constantly reflect on their craft. Since starting my program at Lehman, I’ve realized how important it is for teachers to be able to think about their own thinking and constantly improve.
In the second paragraph, I included my belief that students need to be able to take chances and learn from their mistakes. This addition was also inspired by my recent experiences in my third grade classroom where I encouraged my students to explore their ideas and try new approaches to solving certain problems. The Eby textbook that I read in the semester of Fall 2010 largely inspired my third and fourth paragraphs. From the book, I learned about encouraging diversity, avoiding labeling and developing a social responsibility. I must admit that that book significantly affected my updated Educational Philosophy. The book gave me strong insights into teaching and introduced me to concepts that I had not previously considered for my Educational Philosophy. When I started my position of a teacher aide last year, those concepts were already reinforced in my brain and had already become part of my teaching style. Paragraphs five, six and seven are from my original Educational Philosophy with a few minor edits and additions.
In the eighth paragraph I wrote, ” I view the classroom as a small community that should be built on trust and respect for one another. It needs to help prepare students for adolescence and adulthood by building solid foundations in social and emotional development.” This addition was inspired by my discoveries about social and emotional development throughout the program. No course emphasized socio-emotional learning more than Dr. Folsom’s course. Even though the course was difficult in ways, it also began to open my eyes about those critical factors in lesson planning. I also included the idea: “Students need chances to be active in the classroom and have hands-on learning experiences in order to get the most out of the lesson.” This was directly influenced by my work as a student teacher and my work as a student at Lehman.
Paragraph nine emphasizes my stance on clear-cut classroom procedures so that students know what is expected of them. That inclusion was inspired by my time as a substitute teacher, when I often found myself unaware of the procedures of each classroom I worked in: it made me appreciate classroom routines and rules.
Paragraphs ten and eleven are mostly from my original Educational Philosophy draft, with the inclusion of a final sentence: “Each day, I will expect the best from my students and I will expect the students to expect the best from me.” This last statement expresses my stance that I have a responsibility as an educator to put my best foot forward all the time, day in and day out. It also reflects in my belief that my students can achieve, and that my attitude towards them will have a positive effect on their futures.
When I consider my old Educational Philosophy and my newer one, I see changes that were influenced by my teachers, peers, students and studies. I am aware of these changes and am very aware that my ideas and philosophies will constantly evolve. As I begin my first few years as a head teacher, I am certain that some of the elements of my Educational Philosophy will be updated. As a life-long learner, I will strive to constantly improve, especially on my lesson planning and unit planning. I am also certain that I will be exposed to new issues that I had not anticipated in my first few years as a teacher, and that I will need to adapt. I am also aware of some of my strengths such as my rapport with my students and my classroom management skills. I think it’s good to develop one’s strengths as well as one’s weaknesses. Overall, my plan on being a life-long learner is to keep thinking. I will continue to do what I’ve always done: be curious.
Looking at my electronic portfolio and looking at my older work, I realized that I’ve come a long way. My earlier assignments have aspects that I would never include in something I worked on today. Also, my lesson plans were either the format I pulled from the Eby book or Dr. Folsom’s TIEL format, because they were the only formats I had ever been exposed to. Overall, my work reflected my inexperience and made me realize how much I’ve grown since then.
I’ve grown and developed as student and as a teacher because I realize how little I know. I look back at my work from Fall 2010 and wonder what I was thinking when writing some things. It makes me think that the Matt Guarino of 2014 will say the same thing about the [student name] of 2012. That’s because I have improved through the years and will continue to improve. I realize that being a life-long learner requires looking at the past, learning from it and being open-minded about the future. I’ve realized that there’s always going to be a lot to learn, and that I will always be a student as much as I will be a teacher.
Example of reflection on how educational philosophy has changed:
Not much has changed about my educational philosophy. I still believe in what I did when I wrote my first philosophy during my first semester at Lehman. The only thing that really has changed is now instead of my philosophy being an ideal of what I want to achieve, I have had the experiences to see this ideal in action in many different classrooms. I still stand behind my belief that students learn best from hands-on experiences. Through all of my experiences in classrooms over the course of this program, I have seen students get most excited about getting to actually do things and be active participants in their own learning. The people I have worked with as well as the students I have had in my class this year and the past two years, have contributed greatly to my teacher preparation program. Just like my philosophy states, there is no better way to learn than to actually do. Being in different classrooms and working with many different teachers has all been beneficial to me. It is what has helped me truly understand what being a teacher is really all about and what it consists of. I think that my philosophy will grow and expand to include more teaching strategies that I will learn throughout my career as an educator. Elements pertaining to progressivism philosophies will continue to change my own philosophy because that the type of thinking I associate with most. As the progressivism philosophy changes and develops more, my philosophy will grow as I learn about those new developments. Content is an area that will always need developing and there will always be more to learn. I plan on always keeping myself up to date on the newest teaching strategies and the ever growing areas of content knowledge that teacher have the responsibility to share with their students. I think that my time management skills can be strengthened more. I sometimes find myself going over time allotted for certain subjects because I am always trying to incorporate a hands on activity for each and every thing, when sometimes that is just unrealistic with the time given. By creating a cumulative showcase of my growth and development in this program, I have learned that I was exposed to amazing opportunities that allowed me to be so prepared to enter the field of education as a teacher. Looking over my past work, I have realized how great my course and professors have prepared me. I have become much more aware of the individual needs of students. After learning about multiple intelligences and different types of learning styles, I have been able to grow as an educator by learning how to plan and differentiate. Reflection has become a major part of my own learning and growth as a teacher. Reflecting after every lesson plan I teach, and every experience I have had in the classroom has helped me really develop and recognize my own strengths and weaknesses.
Example of reflection on how educational philosophy has changed:
My own philosophy on education has changed over the last few years. I began by thinking of how I could expand someone’s academic knowledge, while steering them in the direction of becoming a well-rounded individual. While I still believe that this is my overall goal in educating someone, I now understand how to do this in a more practical way. I realize that the tools and support I give them as their teacher will have a direct impact on how they view learning.
My earlier philosophy was very vague when it came to how I could affect change. Now, I can see a class of children as individuals, and I understand that they each need to be taught as individuals. I credit this to learning of Howard Gardner’s Theory of Multiple Intelligences. Growing up, I attended parochial schools, where a subject was taught one way, for years on end. So many students were looked upon, and verbally acknowledged, as failures by the teachers and administration for not being able to learn as the majority of student did. It was never seen as a teacher’s failure to teach, but rather a student’s failure to learn. So many talented and deserving students were pushed to the side simply because they did not respond to the teachers’ methods.While I still view logics and linguistics as key cornerstones in education, I have learned that there are equally important and effective ways to evaluate whether learning has taken place.
I also credit these changes to the experiences I had while student-teaching, and, to a lesser extent, classroom observations. By going from impractical, theoretical ideas to realistic, hands-on situations, I was forced to look at whether or not the students were learning. What I thought and expected before I stood in front of a class was nothing like I experienced. Looking at their facers and wondering whether they understood me was an eye-opener. Theories went out the window, and I needed to adapt my teaching to ensure looks of confusion went away. I was constantly re-assessing my ability and methods, and struggled at times. However, the support I received from one cooperating teacher, in particular, made me aware of the support I needed to show my students. Working with her, and watching as she helped her students to develop life-long skills, while they learned subject matter, helped me to develop lesson plans and assessments that went far beyond the formal ways I had been assessed as a child.
My philosophy has also changed due to the examples I have had here at Lehman. As I look through the numerous binders from all the classes I took, and then to the whittled down portfolio that I hope will showcase my most important pieces, I realize that I have a blueprint of what I need to do with my future students. From understanding the core standards to developing lessons that encompass different subjects, from developing skills through collaborative work to respecting and learning from a diverse population, I believe I can show students the importance of being a life-long learner, and I can point to myself as an example.
I still have a lot to learn and I am aware of my weaknesses. Specifically, I need to stop overanalyzing areas to the point that I miss the crux of the matter. I also need to set simple and realistic goals for myself, and remember that when I over-complicate matters I end up being less effective than I am capable of. I believe that in the future, I will be able to seek out constructive and respectful colleagues, who can help guide me. I believe that by keeping my weaknesses in mind, while using my strengths, I will develop into an effective, caring teacher who puts her students’ needs first.
Going forward, I can see many areas of my philosophy that can be more exact and less fuzzy. I believe the more practical experiences I go through, the more concrete examples I will have to help guide my thinking. I believe that my passion, though, will continue to push me forward, strengthen my weaknesses, and remind me that each child has the capacity for learning; my job is helping them find their best ways to learn.