Academic journal article Journal of Family and Consumer Sciences

Critical Questions for Teachers

Academic journal article Journal of Family and Consumer Sciences

Critical Questions for Teachers

Article excerpt

Good teachers of critical thinking ask hard questions of students; however, they must also ask hard questions of themselves to be the best possible teacher and provide the best learning environment. Two veteran educators present reflective questions that teachers might ask themselves as they prepare and implement courses. The questions are grouped into three categories: (a) knowing oneself as a teacher, (b) determining pedagogical content and process strategies, and (c) coaching students. The questions serve as a guide to help teachers think critically about their own classroom practices.

Good teachers of critical thinking have long been known to ask hard questions of students; however, they must also ask hard questions of themselves to be the best possible teacher and to provide the best teaching environment. Teachers who take time as they prepare their classes to contemplate their own critical thinking (Brookfield, 1987, 1995; Elder & Paul, 2001; Fasko, 2003), reflective thinking (Ostorga, 2002-2003; Yost, Sentner, & Forlenza-Bailey, 2000), and transformative learning (Allen, Floyd-Thomas, & Gillman, 2001; Baumgartner, 2001, Christopher, Dunnagan, Duncan, & Paul, 2001; Cranton, 2002; Fisher, 2001-2002; O'Sullivan, 2002) will ask themselves questions to improve the student learning environment.

Three categories of questions are proposed that teachers might ask themselves as they begin a course. No answers are given because there is no single answer that applies to all teachers. Answers selected by individual teachers will vary by subject matter, teacher personality, and student background as well as institutional and community educational philosophy. By asking difficult questions and answering them honestly as individuals, teachers move toward a search for truth. Noddings (1984, p. 25) presented an ethics of teaching that does not give particular answers, but rather one that enlightens us:

... as to the kind of questions we should raise (to ourselves and others) in various kinds of situations and the places we might look for appropriate answers. Such an ethic does not attempt to reduce the need for human judgment with a series of 'Thou shahs' and 'Thou shalt nots.'

The ethics of teaching calls for judgments over a wide range of questions.

A teacher's personal journey through the three categories of questions posed here can provide a clear and coherent guide for specific courses-a guide that is specific for a given teacher and a class. The three categories of questions include:

1. What do I know about myself as a teacher and how does that knowledge affect teaching decisions I make for this class?

2. What pedagogical content and process strategies will I use throughout the course?

3. How will I coach individual students or small groups of students to maximize their learning?

Personal Questions

To better understand the kinds of teachers they are or strive to be, individuals must focus first on themselves as teachers. What kind of person am I? What kind of feedback do I want? Do I often question myself and my actions? How would I personally describe myself as a teacher? When students return years later to talk with me about my classes, what do I want them to say?

The second category highlights how they feel about students: Do I view students as eager learners? Persons to be entertained? Or people who feel they have to be here and just want to get by with as little effort as possible? How responsible am I for their learning? How much credence do I give to their own individual learning agendas and styles? Can I allow them to question assignments? Assessments? Am I interested in them as individuals? How do I display my interest in students? How do I interpret their responses?

The third category concerns teachers view of the subject matter of a course: Am I enthusiastic about it? How do others view this area? How do I show students that subject and process are important? …

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