For many years I thought that a great many of my teachers were ill equipped with content, intellect or otherwise. I have had many bad experiences as a student, too many if I’m being completely honest. My name is Ryan R. Fraser and before being formally trained my Philosophy of education was “Education should be fun, anything is possible”. After completing being awakened to the works of, Freire’s “Pedagogy of the Oppressed” and Tuitt’s “Inclusive Pedagogy” I’ve refined my original philosophy to “Education should be inclusively Pedagogistic; anything is possible.”
Why should education be inclusively Pedagogistic? Well the traditional education system is based on the banking concept of education according to Freir where “knowledge is a gift bestowed by those who consider themselves knowledgeable upon those whom they consider to know nothing” (p.72). It also “negates education and knowledge as processes of inquiry” (p.72) and “the scope of action allowed to the students extends only as far as receiving, filing, and storing the deposits” (p.72). As a child I always had issues with this form of education because I was always taught by my parents to ask questions and seek answers. In school however questions were frowned upon especially if you knew more than your teacher on a particular subject. As a result I underperformed in school because education was a boring mundane task meant to make me like everyone else and I would have none of it. While I refused to conform I was punished with stigmatization which further helped to teach others that conformity was for the best.
My philosophy falls in line with Freir’s view that “Education must begin with the solution of the teacher-student contradiction, by reconciling the poles of the contradiction so that both are simultaneously teachers and students” (p.72). As a teacher I could not agree more with Frier simply because as humans we all have limitations on what we can know or even recall in any given moment. Sometimes whether because of fatigue or otherwise you just don’t have an answer to some questions. When you present yourself to your students as having these human limitations it empowers them. This point also ties into one of the characteristics needed for inclusive pedagogy to take place according to Tuitt that of “Sharing Power” (P. 247).
Sharing power in a classroom is tricky. My method of sharing power essentially hands over the reins of class control to them. It doesn’t always work but when it does class has a natural ebb and flow. One of my issues with even thinking of being a teacher was facing the tsunami of a classroom. How does one person control forty plus students and keep them engaged and quite at the same time? Knowing that was going to be my problem area I decided to be honest with the class. I told them I get paid regardless of whether I teach what I planned to or not. Their parents, sponsors etc are spending money so they can learn, the only way I can teach is if I have silence, I will not be shouting back and forth for them to be quite. When they are quite I will teach if they are not I will take a seat and wait for them to settle themselves. The first time I said that it was completely random but worked. By making them “simultaneously teacher and student” (p.72) the class policed each other on noise levels and I was always able to teach what I planned.
Faculty-Student interaction (p. 247) is another major characteristic of Inclusive Pedagogy. This has great merit in classrooms, over the course of my teaching career the one thing that I can say unequivocally however is there is great power in Faculty-student interaction. The first class I taught I was mortified of being the ‘teacher’ the person who was supposed to know everything. As such I wasn’t as open with students as I should have been. I came to class put up the same barrier that I had experienced as a student which meant the students saw me as the “sage on the stage” who was always right and knew everything. Over the course of the September to December semester however I relaxed and interacted more with the class in essence humanizing myself in their eyes. The students with whom I did interact were more receptive in class, more eager to come to class and their grades saw a dramatic increase. On the other hand those who did not receive this type of interaction even if they started out on the high end of performance steadily declined. As a result of this experience I have always shown up to class early to engage in Faculty-Student interaction, given my phone number to every class despite my seniors lamenting I was setting myself up for “nagging” and ‘headache’. Further evidence that this method works for me is my almost 100% pass rate. In three years only two students have failed my courses and those at the top of each class are those with whom I have excellent Faculty-Student interaction.
Another two aspects needed for Inclusive pedagogy to take place are “Dialogical Professor-Student Interaction” (p. 248) and “Activation of Student Voice” (p. 249). Both of these are easier once you have good “Faculty-Student interaction” (p. 247). Once students are comfortable with their teacher it helps them to open up and talk in his or her presence which is exactly what is needed. Let’s take my first social studies class last September. When class began I had a student named Elicia who was my lowest performing student. She often did not speak in class. One day I decided to take her to my office and simply have a heart to heart about home, what she liked to do what she thought was hard about class etc. There was incredible depth to her thoughts just not in a social studies context. I encouraged her to share her thoughts in class and at first they were far off but as she found her student voice her confidence grew. That coupled with the dialogical interaction she got moved her from the bottom of the class to the top in a single semester.
The three other critical components of my Inclusive Pedagogistic Philosophy would be “Utilization of personal narratives” (p. 250), “awareness of different learning styles” (p. 252-253) and providing “Transparent Self actualized Professors” (p. 255). Personal narratives and transparent self actualized professors can be grouped together because the easiest way to have students put themselves in the lesson and reflect on how it can impact their lives is if the teacher is willing to do the same. Another class I had last year was an associate degree business class which everyone warned me was the “bad group”. My approach was to first present myself as a high school underachiever and pot smoker who left fifth form with two subjects but through hard work managed to forge myself into our campus’s most respected young lecturer. This transparency on my part was the catalyst which moved them from underachievers to overachievers. Everyone wanted to show me that they too were capable of making it, they competed in all activities and my subject became the first that everyone from their class passed. In crafting their businesses for class activity they used personal accounts of their lives which lead to said businesses and how they could impact lives the way I impacted there’s with my story. By being transparent I encouraged a whole class and that in itself had a ripple effect as I’ve also seen them take wayward students under their wings to show them how they can re-forge themselves the way I have.
Another important part of my philosophy is recognizing that there are different learning styles that must all be accounted for in the learning process. The verbal-linguistic, logical/mathematical, Visual spatial, bodily/kinesthetic, musical/rhythmic, intrapersonal, interpersonal, naturalist and existentialist exist in every class. Some may dominate over others but it is the teacher’s job to help them all to learn through Inclusive pedagogy and the essential components of that pedagogy as detailed above.
The last part of my philosophy is “anything is possible” and that is truly what I believe as a Philosophy major journeying through a world which is conformist in nature when what we truly need is individuality and self reflective thought . I truly believe that any student has the ability within them to become the next lawyer, the next teacher, the next Plato or Aristotle all they truly need is an inclusively pedagogistic teacher to recognize, motivate and nurture that part of them so that we can move past the limitations of conformity and move toward transforming students into intellectuals whose “goal is not simply to make sense of the world they live in, but to change it” (p. 257).
Freire, P. (2000). Pedagogy of the oppressed (30th anniversary ed.). New York: Continuum.
Howell, A., & Tuitt, F. (2003). Race and higher education: rethinking pedagogy in diverse
college classrooms. Cambridge, MA: Harvard Educational Review.