Saturday, August 8, 2009

Personal Learning Process

The purpose of this post is to share the background of how grateful I am for the “learning opportunities” I’ve had lately. Since I got in connection with UO back in March, 2008, for the “Shaping” course, the way I view teaching has tremendously changed. I have to admit that a big part of my excitement back then was that I had access to the library, and I did my best to benefit. However, in the process, the benefit extended to “re-shape” an attitude I had kept for years.

I am a literature student, and I like to view myself as a “reader”. When people around me advised me to major in education or linguistics instead of literature, my response was that being an educator would be a natural result. I started teaching in 1997, and for many years after, I viewed teaching methodology as an innate gift that is shaped by personal effort – by the gift I meant how a teacher interacts with and relates to the students and by the effort I meant the time and commitment put in helping them. I got involved in many workshops and a couple of teacher training courses, one of them in Oxford, UK, but I always valued what is practical, and I assessed everything I would learn in relation to my classroom experience. Much of that experience was the result of intuition and commitment. I had never read an article on any educational issue, never thought theory was worth looking into. It wasn’t until the “Shaping” course that I realized that theory is not a separate component, that I am not on my own, and that many of the problems and challenges I face in my classes are in fact shared by educators around the world. Many experts have written about the same challenges and suggested valid and practical solutions. It sounds matter of fact, but to me at that time it was a major discovery. That discovery had an immediate impact on my teaching style and put most of my earlier methods in their right framework. Not only could I tell which method is better, but at this point I could explain why, and I could more accurately anticipate the results. I also realized how accessible information is, and I haven’t stopped reading since then. I realized I could find online a helpful article on whatever difficulty I could face in class or in the department: lesson planning, assessment, cooperative learning, coordination, learner-centered approaches, etc. Education has turned into a science for me. It’s never too late!

The “Technology” course came right on time to confirm the shift in my attitude. It was no longer just an attitude; it has become an ongoing learning process by itself, and its pillars are self-development and classroom application – that is where it all becomes meaningful for me. Despite the many limitations to the use of technology in the classroom – one of them being the hesitation of fellow teachers to venture in that dimension – I am determined to try and to prove the validity by showing.

I am still a “reader”, no doubt about that, but I have also a “narrative” in the making, and I’d like to believe that there would be other “constructive shifts” that would ensure that the process remains ongoing.

1 comment:

  1. Dear Abdelnour,

    I really appreciate your sharing your thoughts about the changes you have been experiencing in how you look at teaching. It sounds like you have always been someone who tries to do better, no matter how good a course seems to be. Having theory to give a framework to practice is a very good thing. As you point out, many teachers seem themselves as alone in their struggles, but we all do share many of the same issues. Theory and other teachers' thoughts about practice are very valuable for me, and it sounds like it's helpful to you as well.