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My Teaching Philosophies

For the last ten years I have worked to develop and grow a mass communications program at Highlands High School in Fort Thomas Kentucky in which we advance student agency and inspire student voice through project based learning. Fort Thomas is an independent school district located in Campbell County Kentucky and Highlands, with an enrollment of 933 students, is a top performing school in the state. My educational philosophy has developed along with the program. I believe student engagement, and even more importantly, ownership, is key to a lasting educational impact. Because of this, I have worked hard to create an environment in my classroom in which students feel empowered and in control of their learning. Not only do students have a legitimate voice in my program, but that voice often determines the direction in which the teaching and learning will go.

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As a filmmaking and broadcasting teacher, I’m constantly trying to find new ways to engage the students in my program. In doing this I find myself, at times, reflecting about my own experiences as a young man in school. I’m not necessarily focusing, in these nostalgic moments, on my successes or failures as much as thinking back about what made an impression on me. A lasting impression. The things that remain seem to invariably be the times in which I was asked to do something important, something that had consequences beyond myself, something that affected other people. This is what I try to create each day in my program, an environment in which students are responsible for things beyond themselves. Things that effect the people around them. So, my teaching philosophy has developed to center on a project based learning environment, which activates student agency and inspires student voice, while providing the students real world learning opportunities, and responsibilities over things that matter.

When I began teaching at Highlands in 2008 our communications program had yet to be fully realized. The school had done the work of building a television studio and computer editing lab, but that was basically the extent of it. That first year I taught two sections of high school filmmaking and broadcasting (along with some middle school classes). I had a total of 35 high school students in the program. This current school year we have 166 high school students in the program. We now offer three sections of our Intro to Filmmaking and Broadcasting class, a section each of Advanced Filmmaking, News Broadcasting and Video Productions, as well as many independent study options. I have had to give up my planning period in order to accommodate the influx of students into the program. We also have begun construction on an audio engineering lab that will be ready for students next school year. While growth alone is not necessarily proof of success, our student involvement has provided our community with many amazing opportunities.

We now have high school students broadcasting football, basketball, and volleyball games. They are producing PSAs for our local fire department for fire safety campaigns. They are producing and broadcasting the daily video announcements live to the school each day. They film and broadcast the school board meetings as well as our Fort Thomas city council meetings. The list goes on and on. These productions all work to bring our community closer together by providing an opportunity to celebrate, be informed, etc. But the thing that excites me the most about all of them is the impact that the students who are involved with them are experiencing. The students are directly involved in not only the planning of the projects, but also determining which projects will be produced. Jonathan Damiani, from Nagoya University of Commerce and Business, and Douglas Wieczorek, from Iowa State University, wrote about the importance of this philosophy in education in their article, “Managing the Ebb and Flow: A Case for Calling Forth Student Voice.” In it the stated, “When adults listen to what students have to say about their learning and meaningfully use student voice and participation to shape their experiences of school, they can empower students as learners and transcend traditional school frameworks in the process” (Damiani and Wieczorek). Allowing students a voice in their education is essential to educational success.

I remember a time in third grade when I was assigned a significant role in a class performance. I don’t even remember what play it was, or what grade I received, but the responsibility I had, in that very poorly performed production, will always stick with me. I knew, as I struggled to memorize my many lines, how important it was that I said the words correctly so that the next student would know when to begin and what they were supposed to say. In this situation, as well as many others, my level of engagement was raised because my actions affected others. Ahmad M. Mahasneh and Ahmed F. Alwan, from the Department of Educational Psychology at Hashemite University, reflected upon this in their article, “The Effect of Project-Based Learning on Student Teacher Self-efficacy and Achievement.” According to the article, “… project-based learning engenders collaboration between the students and the recognition that as a member of a team, each has responsibilities towards the other members” (Mahasneh and Alwan). Once I got to college, and I started taking production classes, these experiences became more frequent. I was grouped together with my peers on many hands-on projects. These projects not only gave me a chance to work through problems using skills introduced in the classroom, but also helped me to learn to work within a team. My actions within the group affected the other students. For those of us teaching project-based classes that scenario is very familiar.

Today, in my program, group project-based learning is a cornerstone for what we do. However, it doesn’t and shouldn’t end there. We attempt to provide the students with opportunities to be responsible for things that have consequences beyond even themselves and their peers. This can be where true learning takes place. For example, recently a teacher here at Highlands was nominated by her peers for a prestigious regional award. As part of the nomination process we chose to produce a video to highlight the teacher. We assigned a specific group of students to the project. We established goals, parameters and guidelines. The students were given responsibility over something that affected someone else in a real way. Janis Warner, Michael Glissmeyer, and Qiannong Gu, from Sam Houston State University, wrote an article called “Are Real World Projects Worth the Risk? Evidence from Service Learning Projects”, in which they discussed the effects of different types of learning on student engagement. In the article, they quoted an article discussing the responsibility of educating citizens, stating, “‘Lecture courses often do not support deep and enduring understanding of ideas and are even less well suited to developing the range of problem-solving, communication, and interpersonal skills’” (qtd. by Warner et al). In the case of the nomination video, as well as many others, the students involved could have failed. That is to say, they could have failed to achieve the hopes we had for the projects. It can be difficult at times to allow a student to take on responsibilities that reflect on us as a community knowing that it could turn out badly. However, there is little doubt that the students who were involved with these projects, and given these responsibilities, have been uniquely impacted by their experience.

As I continue to teach production classes and reflect on my own experiences, I’m learning that group projects that use real world skills and allow the students themselves to have ownership over their learning can be an amazing way to challenge and encourage students to think critically. However, they can be made even more powerful by allowing students the opportunity to have responsibilities over things that affect not only themselves and their peers, but also their leaders at school and their community. In these situations, the students’ level of engagement is raised even higher and they begin to think less about only themselves and more about their part in the larger community. And possibly something even more significant can happen—a lasting impression.

Works Cited

  1. Damiani, Jonathan, and Douglas Wieczorek. “Managing the Ebb and Flow: A Case for Calling Forth Student Voice.” Journal of School Administration Research and Development, vol. 2, no. 1, Jan. 2017, pp. 8–17. EBSCOhost, search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&AuthType=ip,uid,cpid,url&custid=s1176192&db=eric&AN=EJ1158075.
  2. Mahasneh, Ahmad M., and Ahmed F. Alwan. “The Effect of Project-Based Learning on Student Teacher Self-Efficacy and Achievement.” International Journal of Instruction, vol. 11, no. 3, July 2018, pp. 511–524. EBSCOhost, search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&AuthType=ip,uid,cpid,url&custid=s11761 92&db=eric&AN=EJ1183424.
  3. Warner, Janis, et al. “Are Real World Projects Worth the Risk? Evidence from Service Learning Projects.” Journal of Instructional Pedagogies, vol. 7, Feb. 2012. EBSCOhost, search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&AuthType=ip,uid,cpid,url&custid=s11761 92&db=eric&AN=EJ1097071.

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My Teaching Philosophies
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For the last ten years I have worked to develop and grow a mass communications program at Highlands High School in Fort Thomas Kentucky in which we advance student agency and inspire student voice through project based learning. Fort Thomas is an independent school district located in Campbell County Kentucky and Highlands, with an enrollment of 933 students, is a top performing school in the state. My educational philosophy has developed along with the program. I believe student engagement, and
2021-11-16 11:18:03
My Teaching Philosophies
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