Aristotelian Teaching Style

In considering the philosophies of Confucius, Plato, and Aristotle, I can see influences of each on my own personal learning style. However, I most significantly relate to Aristotle and his views of a liberal arts education. Aristotle focused on ‘reason’ – as an English teacher, I am always stressing to my students the importance of providing justification for their answers and conclusions, of elaborating on their arguments, and on sequentially attempting to solve problems and challenges. As a teacher, I scaffold my instruction and facilitate student progression through each level of Bloom’s Taxonomy, in much the same way I believe Aristotle outlined a path to knowledge through the exploration of reason. Aristotle also believed in a well-rounded education. I believe the best way to teach vocabulary and reading skills is through a cross-disciplinary approach, and I am consistently trying to incorporate non-fiction, history, and create real-world relevancy to the things that we explore and discuss within the classroom. Finally, Aristotle focused on guiding students to form correct habits (Gutek, 2011). Not only does this address conduct and ethics – respect for others in a conducive learning environment, being good citizens within the school and community – but it can relate to the habits students obtain as they read and think about a text, which further allows them to reason through complex interactions and interesting viewpoints.

In regards to Plato, the major takeaway is the focus on critical thinking that stems from his mentor’s Socratic Method. In my high school courses, it is sometimes a struggle for students to dig deeper into a text and question figurative meaning, make inferences, and relate situations to their modern lives. Plato and Socrates believed that ‘the teacher’s task is to draw ideas out of students’ minds by asking them probing and challenging questions that cause them to think critically, deeply, and reflectively about their beliefs.’ (Gutek, 2011, pp. 35) Within the classroom, we should be tapping into our students’ ‘prior knowledge’ and using that social and cultural context to help them formulate ideas that extend beyond the obvious to engage in a deeper level of meaning and instructional acquisition.

Confucius believed that a good teacher was knowledgeable in their subject, and personally invested in the learning of each student. This idea is echoed in the philosophy of my school district: “Every child, every day”. As a teacher, we should follow this example and bring a passion for learning to the classroom, a positive attitude, and the willingness to help our students persevere until they succeed. Confucius’ beliefs also call for the need to differentiate our instruction based upon individual students’ strengths and weaknesses. It can sometimes be a challenge to elicit maximum engagement from every student, but Confucius would argue that a teacher’s tireless efforts are in the best interest of the individuals. Confucius also ‘set goals for his students’; as modern educators, mutual goal-setting helps create student buy-in and clear expectations for the classroom and pacing of curriculum (Gutek, 2011, pp. 20) .

There are powerful connections and takeaways between each philosopher’s teaching style.  Together, they form the foundation of a thoughtful approach to education:  ethics and respect, critical thinking and inquiry-based approaches to learning, and collaboration between all members of the learning team.  These aspects all work together to create an atmosphere of support and respect for both students and teachers.

 

Gutek, G. L. (2011). Historical and philosophical foundations of education: A biographical introduction (5th ed.). Boston, MA: Pearson.

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