8 Educational Philosophy, Concepts, Methods, and Skills in Teaching key principles, concepts, and skills. In practice courses that cooccur with the practicum, we encourage instructors to draw upon students’ experiences. Students often assume their practice instructor is the “expert” and turn to them for the “right” answer. When we introduce the course at the start of the semester, we clarify for students that we will be helping them share their work with and learn from one another. We resist our students’ efforts to get us to tell them what to do, encouraging them instead to tell their classmates and us what they would do and how they would do it. We continually remind our students that our job is to present to them the theories, methods, and skills of the social work profession, and theirs is to make the knowledge their own, using it in ways that reflect who they are as people. Teaching Methods Teachers must attend to students’ various cognitive styles and ways of learning. Some students primarily learn by abstracting and conceptualizing (symbolic learners). Others learn primarily by summarizing, visualizing, and organiz- ing perceptions into patterns and images (iconic learners). Still others learn primarily by doing and taking action (active learners) (Bruner, 1966). Some teaching methods are more responsive to specific learning styles than others. To be responsive to diverse learning styles, instructors must draw on various teaching methods and continually search for ways to enhance their teaching competence. Discussion Method Most social work practice instructors understandably prefer discussion over lectures in the teaching:learning process. Discussion actively engages students in thinking and communicating with one another. By contrast, lectures engage the teacher alone, making it less certain how attentive the students may be. Yet each serves different functions, and each has its place in the social work educator’s repertoire of methods and skills. Helping students wrestle with abstractions to discover for themselves their meaning and relevance, is a primary teaching task. Personalized learning requires active engagement with the subject matter. A structured discussion method provides students an opportunity to learn via their exchanges with one another and with their instructor. In this dynamic process, students respond to their peers’ and the instructor’s ideas, ask questions, and answer questions posed by the instructor. When students are involved in an active, cooperative educational process, they are able “to help each other ‘catch the point’ and expe- rience an ‘aha moment’ ” (Gitterman, 1992, p. 68). As a result of the discussion
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