Teaching in Mind

Helping Teachers Mindfully Transform Education

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The Teaching in Mind website has been refocused on how the unconscious beliefs and values of teachers influence the education of our children. Since the 2nd edition of Teaching in Mind: How Teacher Thinking Shapes Education was published in 2010, the lives of teachers and students have undergone major changes. To this end, our goal is to publish an updated edition of Teaching in Mind by the end of 2017. Meanwhile, the key ideas about the effects of teacher beliefs can still be found here. New articles on the topic will be added as they are completed.

Other Articles

Articles about learning and assessment, historic foundations of education, current issues in education, and transforming education that previously appeared on this site can now be found at our sister site, Learning in Mind.

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Teaching in Mind

Preface

W

hen I imagine young children engaged in the process of learning, the scene is dynamic. The faces of those children are alight with wonder, with puzzlement, with interest, and yes, with joy. When I imagine students in many of today's classrooms, that image is often static. Locked into a system of learning that too often becomes habitual, the faces of many young people in our schools register boredom, disinterest, or resignation to their fate.

Early in my teaching career, I recognized my need to guide the educational development of young people in ways that didn't, at the same time, take the joy out of their lives. I reasoned that my classroom environment must effectively support the natural ways in which children learn.

In the mid-80s, after taking numerous postgraduate courses in the neurosciences, I worked to bridge the gap between emerging knowledge of the brain and the practices of education. Eventually, I shared the ideas with other teachers in workshops entitled Learning from the Inside Out. At the close of each workshop, I asked participants to comment on the ideas they had found the most valuable. To my surprise, rather than choosing what they had learned about students, most of the teachers commented on how much they had learned about themselves!

Their comments made me realize the extent to which teachers are ignored in educational planning, except as purveyors of content chosen by others. Yet the beliefs and values that provide the unconscious foundation for teacher behavior, the metaphors that set the stages of their classrooms, and the mental models of the world through which they conceptualize their work, are highly individualistic. Rather than the constants they are often assumed to be, numerous studies suggest that the teacher may well be the most influential variable in the educational equation!

Substantive change in education is unlikely to occur until educators understand how each teacher's beliefs about the nature of teaching and learning, and the metaphors they use to describe their teaching, influence everything that occurs in the classroom. Teaching in Mind: How Teacher Thinking Shapes Education examines those issues and more. In its pages, I will encourage you to probe the realms of subjective experience—the beliefs, values, presuppositions, and metaphors that shape your personal world.

The very word subjective makes some researchers in the social sciences cringe. Research is supposed to be based on objectivity. Education has prided itself on applying the scientific approach. Any recommendations for change must be supported by hard data—by research studies scrupulously conducted using the scientific method. Messy subjective concepts such as beliefs and values don't lend themselves to measurement or statistical manipulation.

In the past several decades, theorists have finally begun to recognize the importance of what goes on in the mind of an individual teacher. Research studies have explored the effects of teacher beliefs, the metaphors a teacher uses to describe his or her work, and the values a teacher assigns to a particular practice or concept. The studies have found that these thought processes have a profound influence on educational choices. But the results of those studies have been largely limited to academia. It is time for practicing teachers to have access to these ideas. It is the minds of those teachers that must be explored. It is the actions of those teachers that make education what it is today.

Although my conclusions are my own, I've attempted to include support from as many different disciplines as possible. The references are there for those who want or need them. However, many teachers are less interested in theory than in how they can improve their teaching experience and the experience of their students. The main thrust, therefore, is immediate applicability. It's about what you can do today to be the teacher who matters to students.

You may be astounded at how differently teachers think—even about the meanings of the words teach, learn, or understand. I invite you to let your own experiences verify the validity of these ideas, rather than some distant study or some theorist's perceptions. Take the ideas you can use and leave the rest for others who may hold different perceptions and have different experiences.

Despite the wishes of theorists, visionaries, and those deemed experts, there are no simple answers to problems as complex as those educators presently face. If you agree with the adage, "If what you're doing doesn't work, do something else," you will find many ideas to enlarge your repertoire of "something else."

I sense that many teachers have reached the same level of frustration as people living under Communism when the Berlin Wall fell. In that case, a handful of people who'd had enough rebelled, creating the first breach in the Communist wall—both literally and figuratively. When a relatively small percentage of people create stress in a social system, the entire system shifts to relieve that stress. I invite you to imagine as I do what our schools might be like if they became places where students and teachers alike shared the joyous and innate love of learning with which infants comes into the world.

A handful of reflective teachers have it within their power to literally "change the face of education." Let us begin.

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New!

The Teaching in Mind website has been refocused on how the unconscious beliefs and values of teachers influence the education of our children. Since the 2nd edition of Teaching in Mind: How Teacher Thinking Shapes Education was published in 2010, the lives of teachers and students have undergone major changes. To this end, our goal is to publish an updated edition of Teaching in Mind by the end of 2017. Meanwhile, the key ideas about the effects of teacher beliefs can still be found here. New articles on the topic will be added as they are completed.


Other Articles

Articles about learning and assessment, historic foundations of education, current issues in education, and transforming education that previously appeared on this site can now be found at our sister site, Learning in Mind.

Email Updates

Want to be notified when the latest articles and/or information is added?

Sign up for Email Updates