Knowledge of self begins with knowing what my own realities are. In my opinion, self-knowledge, knowing myself, knowing my adult learners to be, and knowing my subject that I will be teaching are all intertwined. Knowing myself is the foundation to build upon as my subject carries a passion of mine followed by the understanding of my students. There is a cliché, “You can’t love anyone without first loving yourself.” The sentiment is the same. In knowing myself I am able to reflect and understand my personal beliefs, culture, visions of teaching, values, and to remember as Baptiste (2003) commented, “As teachers, we are not the same persons in every situation” (Galbraith, 2004, p. 10). As an educator I will be in evolving and expanding with new information and knowledge. My values become the basis for who I am as a teacher and how I teach adult students because of my experiences, culture, and background as they come together to form my teaching identity.
If I taught without knowledge of self, I would not know my adult learners. I relate this to a metaphor, a main ship at night in complete darkness, moon covered by clouds. Other ships are close as each ship cast dark shadows on the water as they look for guidance. It is difficult to see, communicate, or teach them therefore they cannot be guided. In other words, the ship first needs to make meaning of the context which is not clear enough to be seen. In not knowing myself, how can I know my subject? I don’t believe I could and would feel distant from the students as the ships are in the night. According to Cranton, (2001), “…if we don’t know who we are as human beings, it is very difficult to know who we are as teachers” (Galbraith, 2004, p. 11).
This leads to authenticity and its importance to teaching. Authenticity stems from understanding me. This means that I must bring my real self into the classroom. I need to know who I am as a teacher and my personal qualities. It is my enthusiasm and passion for the subject, my honesty that will lead to credibility and integrity that will keep the interest of my students and empower them (Galbraith, 2004, para. p.5). I will be an open book to my students as I share my beliefs and perspectives on the subject in hopes that they question and reflect on their own. It is here that an adult learner will begin to find certain similarities and connections which will open the door to an inclusive and honest learning environment resulting in dialogue.
I can recall a class I had taken last year and one of my fellow students was extremely religious. As I opened up about my studies and my future goals I was put down and inundated with a barrage of questions and comments that were negative. My professor graded one of my papers and as a side note asked me to reflect on the negativity that some hold and how I would deal with it in a classroom setting coming from a student. It wasn’t that I was uncomfortable with the material I presented in class, but I seemed to make someone else feel uneasy. As I develop and learn more about me it is my inner teacher that will have a stronger connection with my students. I know that I have to be cautious regarding the subject, yet firm regarding my teaching. At that point she opened the door to dialogue and I was able to pose questions to her in which she could reflect upon and respond. I believe it is a fear of the unknown in an adult learner that I am confronting. She held misconceptions within her beliefs that I wanted to change or at least open her mind to reflect upon the new and different while teaching inclusion and acceptance.
In my opinion, my beliefs will affect my teaching of adult learners within the learning environment. It is my values that will echo my personal philosophical views regarding learning, my subject, and how I teach. For instance, one of my beliefs is that as a teacher I am relearning my subject each time I will be teaching it. Apps (1996) commented, “A belief is what we accept as truth” (Galbraith, 2004, p. 11) whether it’s true or not. It is through my beliefs that I develop my views, biases, perceptions of my environment, individuals and the world around me. Are we as teachers prepared for our beliefs to be tested so that the doors open to new knowledge as we are corrected? The constant learning helps develop a good teacher.
My beliefs are also a reflection of the learning students do. My beliefs will influence my teaching practices for example, how I structure learning activities. I will use my passion and narratives in order for students to challenge and develop their own belief systems. I believe the basis for the context for the students to learn will be shaped by my own beliefs, academic, and cultural input. My beliefs as they relate to adult learners are simple, yet complex. As a teacher I will be a bridge that brings knowledge and refection to help empower and allow students to make meaning and construct meaning for themselves in the subject I teach. Some of my beliefs are consistent with Malcolm Knowles:
1. Adult learners can learn if given the right tools
2. Adult students have their personal motivations to continue on with their education
3. Adult students have the right to learn
4. Adult students bring diversity and cultures to the class
5. Adult students learn differently
6. Adult students need to know why they need to learn something
7. Adult Learners move from being a dependent personality toward being more
Galbraith, M. W. (2004). Adult Learning Methods: A guide for effective instruction. Malabar: Krieger Publishing Company.
Knowles fact sheet. (2013, December) Andragogy-Adult Learning Theory. Retrieved from, http://teachinglearningresources.pbworks.com/w/page/30310516/Andragogy– Adult%20Learning%20Theory