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Teaching is enactment

Posted By: Ross Mitchell on June 28, 2002
I agree. The craft of teaching is highly dependent on the ability to build and sustain relationships with other people, especially when they do not initially share your vision or goals. It is VERY IMPORTANT for teachers to know how their, or any, philosophy of teaching becomes enacted. What models of teaching are consistent with any given philosophical stance about teaching? What would they look like in practice?

I am certain that the answers to these questions will start with, "it depends," but that should not stop us from trying to figure just how large the envelope is that encloses the range of coherent possibilities for a given philosophical stance. Maybe we should try to get videotaped mini-documentaries of classroom teachers who seem to (fairly) coherently enact their philosophy of teaching as an aid to the university classroom instructor? A well-developed individual case is quite valuable as a model as well as for comparison and contrast, but multiple cases allow for considering the possibilities across philosophies and classrooms.

It would be unjust to build a false sense of confidence because teachers do not have an understanding of the interaction between their teaching context and the enactment of their teaching philosophy. Multiple case studies would inform the teacher candidate much more fully than a perfectly enacted model in the higher education classroom. Of course, a fully generalizable account is not likely to be obtained, but I think we owe it to teachers to enrich their knowledge base by giving them a window on actual practice across a range of contexts and philosophies.

From day to day, the act of teaching is predominantly enactment. Reflection and revision depend upon the quiet moments not often available while in the presence of the students. As such, I do think it is important to remind teachers that for their philosophy to be enacted, they do need to be able to set aside quiet moments for reflection lest their practice go astray of their intentions.

However, I think we also have to remember that institutional constraints may prevent teachers from enacting certain tenets of their teaching philosophy. Principals may not support them, parents may battle against them, students may rebel, etc. As such, I think it is essential to get some sort of field documentaries to study as well as the modeling by the university professor since the institutional constraints in K-12 education are often not the same as those in post-secondary education. Who is watching, listening, and otherwise interacting while the professor is walking her/his walk and talking her/his talk is a very different constituency than that encountered by the K-12 classroom teacher.
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