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Philosophy of Teaching

Bonnie Isham Willis
Educational Leadership I
October 23, 2004

My childhood education left a strong impression and persists as an influencing factor in the development of my personal philosophy of learning and teaching. My ideals and methods for teaching include a shared community environment, organized activities, and group discussion. Social Learning theory adheres to the perspective that “learning is a function of the interaction of the person, the environment, and the behavior.” (Merriam & Caffarella, p.264)

In my personal experience, children need much more structure and order, whereas adults can be more autonomous. However, given that we are conditioned to expect a class to be structured in a certain way, even adults need planned and guided activities. I use task-oriented projects with small or large groups to promote creativity and independence. This teaching technique is supported by Bandura and other social learning theorists, who believe that learning occurs through observation of others, and by social constructivists, who maintain that people learn when they “engage socially in talk or activity, especially when they can share a mutual problem or task.” (Merriam & Caffarella, p.259, 262)

It is also important to encourage and guide learning and motivation. Humanist theories support the idea that “learning involves more than cognitive processes and overt behavior. It is a function of motivation and involves choice and responsibility.” (Merriam & Caffarella, p.264) Every individual has a different personality, life experiences, and learning style. Not all adults learned good study habits as children, and we can not assume everyone is motivated the same way. But we can capitalize on their experience by encouraging an atmosphere of community and learning from each other. “Andragogy and other models of adult learning see life experience as both a resource and a stimulus for learning.” (Merriam & Caffarella, p.263)Using different techniques and activities that appeal to many individuals and styles helps to create an environment where each individual can participate and learn.

I share the theory that each individual will enjoy learning and remember more of the experience if it relates to them personally – if they can apply the information to their own life. Thorndike’s Law of Effect states that, “learners will acquire and remember responses that lead to satisfying after-effects.” (Merriam & Caffarella, p.251) It is also important to understand and be patient if the student has a hard time making a connection. The Law of Readiness “notes that if the organism is ready for the connection, learning is enhanced; otherwise learning is inhibited.” (Merriam & Caffarella, p.251)

Whether teaching children or adults, my goal is to create a comfortable environment and find the balance between self-directed learning, and structured interaction. Guided discussion and organized activities give everyone a chance to share and take something from the experience. My philosophy of learning and teaching is always expanding. But, I hope to be able to make a difference in a few lives along the way.


Merriam, S.B. and Caffarella, R.S. (1999) Learning in Adulthood, A Comprehensive Guide, Second Edition. Jossey-Bass. San Francisco, CA. pages 251 - 264.

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