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My Educational Philosophy

I was recently asked to write down my philosophy of education. I’ve always had my own philosophy of education, but putting it into words was a unique and creative challenge that I relished the opportunity to ponder. I knew that if just sat down and started writing that it would come out, so I did just that. Erika coined me the king of the sentegraph – check out this first one Here’s what I came up with:

Todd Howard’s Philosophy of Education 1.0

I believe that when people have convenient access to engaging material delivered by a dynamic tutor who respects and values them as individuals and essential to the teaching and learning process, their minds and hearts become open and they stand in anticipation as willing and enthusiastic learners, capable of processing and understanding even the most detailed and challenging subject matter.

I believe a key to effective instruction lies in discovering where the student is “coming from.” When a trainer can know his audience—can see the subject matter through his student’s eyes—then he can articulate concepts using ripe analogy and descriptive language which will appeal to both the practical sensibilities and private imagination of the learner. Stimulating the innate creative imagination of the student is a proven way to gain access to the student’s mind, memory and behaviors. When people can imagine themselves in a particular situation or solving a specific problem in their own world, they are empowered to rise to the occasion and ask good questions, take clear notes and assimilate the information. This type of stimulation of the mind allows the student to make genuine use of new knowledge, rather than just memorize and regurgitate data.

I try to not only teach my students pertinent facts, steps and processes, but what I call the“mental criteria” for drawing on a specific technique or set of steps. Instructing a student on how to do something is only half of the equation; they need to understand when to call on that process. Iʼve found that explaining real world scenarios and analogies depicting a person (who astudent can project into and view as himself), in a situation where they have a desire to accomplish a particular goal, and then decide which set of techniques to use to reach this goal, is a particularly effective way to train them to react in the moment, with the essential piece of knowledge that will allow them to succeed and move forward. This method is a bit like acting out the “moment of OH!” that the student may one day be right in the middle of, instinctively knowing exactly how to address the problem. When I detail the mental criteria for employing a particular process leading to a desired end goal, I often see the “lightbulb” switch on in a studentʼs eyes and I can see, by way of their knowing smile, that they got it.

The best teachers are the ones who deeply believe that they have as much to learn from their students—and the teaching process itself—as their students have to learn from them.

(photograph by Erika Norton Stone)

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