Teaching Excellence Awards

 Year Awarded: 2007

Faculty Award winner

Trae Stewart

 College of Education

 Educational Studies

My teaching philosophy is based on the recognition that education is a primary social institution. Educational achievement and attainment, more specifically, are often necessary for individuals to meet their basic needs. Through this process, accepted knowledge, skills, and dispositions are transmitted from the teacher to the learner thereby perpetuating expectations of a particular discipline or field of study. In contrast, and more importantly in my opinion, education has the potential to transform through more progressive and critical approaches to learning. After all, maintenance of the status quo is not acceptable when injustice and inequity pervade our society.

To address the latter goal, I subscribe to a critical, social constructionist philosophy of education. I am influenced foremost by Russian scholar Lev Vygostky's process for culturally relevant instruction and Brazilian revolutionary pedagogue Paulo Freire's framework for critical pedagogy. At the heart of these theorists' works are the notions that educators must be learner-centered, encourage active construction of new knowledge, appreciate the social, cultural, and historical insights of students, and challenge learners to become social change agents. My approach to teaching is therefore transformative in nature, fostering reflection and inquiry so that students become more critical, effective, and sensitize citizens of the world. To do so, an effective educator must be responsive to the needs of all students and to the challenges of our postmodern society.

Lastly, I maintain that an ethic of caring is essential to education's potential to transform. I attempt therefore to treat my students with respect. No student is viewed as a blank slate, but as experts of their own experiences and accompanying cognitive schema. They are my teachers, and I remain the enduring learner. Through such reflexive partnerships, I believe that education can construct a more equitable and just society.