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Educator voices: Laura on her educational philosophy

Listen to veteran educators talk about their respective philosophies and how a critically reflective practice impacts their teaching.
Thank you. It’s nice to be here. I think the purpose of education, I always like to think it’s not to tell people what to think. It’s to help them learn how to think. And so, and I think from an adult education perspective,
education serves at least three purposes: It helps people be contributing members of their community, it helps them to support their family and contribute to their community or I’m sorry, their workplace. So community, family and work life, so that people can be contributing members of society. And then the second part of that question is, why do I teach? And certainly I think teaching is one of the highest privileges as a professional. And I can think of nothing better than to be able to help other people pursue their dreams and to also pursue a creative and scholarly stream of research and teaching.
And so I think personally, I love that creativity and constant learning that I have to do to do this work, but more importantly it’s to help others fulfill their goals for again, contributing to their family, their community, and their workplaces. I am in a graduate program at the University of Georgia and our topics are adult learning, leadership and organization development. And I like to think of the work we do as facilitating learning and change in multiple contexts and at multiple levels. So sometimes it’s individual learning, sometimes it’s helping a group or a team learn, and other times it’s an organization or a larger system such as a community or a government.
And the curriculum at the University of Georgia is designed to support adult learning, leadership, and organization development. We do have a required set of curriculum for each of our degrees. But I think it’s a collaborative decision that we make with our faculty about who teaches what. I’m also very excited to be the founding director of our organizational coaching certificate. And we are developing a really innovative pedagogy around learning to coach, such as executive coaching or team coaching. And that program has been really an exciting thing for me. So I’m teaching all of the coaching courses right now as well.
Kind of the old adage in adult education is that you do not want to be the sage on the stage, the all-knowing professor who tells you what they know and tells you how to think, but rather the guide on the side. So the role of an educator working with adults is to facilitate learning and to be a guide and help remove obstacles so that learners can have a lot of control and autonomy in their learning. And I try to create assignments that provide a lot of leeway for students to, for example, focus on the topics they want to focus on or determine the parameters, of assignments.
But I think it’s definitely got to be something that is– supports the learner and actively engages them in co-creating meaning and knowledge. So that it’s not just teacher-centered, it’s learner-centered.
You know, learning is challenging to evaluate, and certainly I use traditional methods when I teach in a formal classroom setting such as assignments and rubrics, you know that the students meet the expectations laid out, or are they able to synthesize the information we’ve covered in class? Are they able to participate meaningfully in class activities? I also though think that the ultimate evaluator of the learning is the learner themselves, whether they met the goal that they intended to achieve, are they able to do the behavior they wanted to learn or have they been able to shift their thinking about a topic? Again, those are the true measures of learning.
And so I always think it’s important for the learner to be as involved in creating the learning, as they are in evaluating the learning.
In society, who gets to determine what is knowledge and validate knowledge and what knowledge gets privileged? And I’m very mindful of that. And yet I also recognize that every learner constructs their own meaning and knowledge and helping every learner view themselves as a knower is very important. And I think that is definitely a process of development as a learner. Learners who are immature, for instance, may look to external sources of authority to have valid knowledge.
And so I do think that part of a good education is helping learners develop the skill and ability to critique information so that they can decide, do I want to believe this and how adults take in information and make meaning about it is really crucial, so that they can make good decisions to be, again, functional in their workplaces, their families and their communities –which is really to me the ultimate goal of education. So my, my, uh, at the end of the day, I hope the learner is going to be in control of both creating knowledge and validating the knowledge that they’re going to follow.
And I’m thinking of the Merriam and Ellis’s or Elias, excuse me, Merriam and Elias’s philosophical perspectives on adult education. And of those perspectives, I’d probably most often embrace pragmatism that because I do believe that learning should be practical and applied to solving the problems we face in everyday life. But I also come from a very humanistic tradition so that the value of the learner as a knower and creator of knowledge and full of potential to actualize is primary. And then finally, I draw on radical or critical traditions.
So I do believe that learning and knowledge should be used for the improvement of society to promote justice, inclusion, eradicate, again, erroneous information, false information, but to foster social change, to make society more equitable and humanly sustainable, I think is really important global quest of the pursuit of knowledge and learning.

Now that you understand the importance of having an educational philosophy that connects belief to action (and vice versa), it’s time to listen to veteran educators talk about their respective philosophies and how a critically reflective practice impacts their teaching.

This step will initiate a series of short videos featuring professors representing different university departments, who use diverse teaching styles and have varied years of teaching experience.

We will start with Laura Bierema, one of the lead educators of this course.

She teaches at the University of Georgia in the Department of Lifelong Education, Administration, and Policy, and is also the Associate Dean for Academic Programs for the Dean’s office.

Take note of what resonates most with you, as later on, you will be creating your own educational philosophy. Feel free to point out any poignant statements by writing in the Comments section below.

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