A Transformative Educator Reflects

Presented: AARE International Research in Education Conference in Hobart, 27 November – 1 December, 2011

I started my journey as a teacher without any passion in teaching. In my country, you need to pass the national test to be able to study in the public university. I had to study in public university due to my family’s not being able to afford the expense of a private university. I did the test with two public universities. My first choice was the best university in the country and the second was the pedagogy university which was not my passion. I had a dream to study in the first university, unfortunately my test results did not fulfil the standard requirements. Rather than not have a university degree, I decided to study in the pedagogy university to become a chemistry teacher. I finished my study in 2003 and still did not have passion for being a teacher, even though both of my parents are teachers. My destiny as a teacher involved another opportunity – to become a chemistry lecturer in pedagogical university in 2004. During 2-years teaching experience, I struggled with all the challenges and dilemmas of being a teacher. Standardised assessments, overloaded curricula, large classes, and other factors were challenges that shaped my character as a teacher.

I controlled my classroom to fulfil the requirement of a standardised education system. In the overloaded curricula, I focused on finishing the content within the allocated time. I was more focused on transferring knowledge than on generating meaningful understanding amongst the students. I realised my teaching had restricted my students’ thinking development, restrained their creativity, and separated their lived experiences from the learning process. I also came to understand that education becomes a meaningless process when it only lists the content of knowledge to be taught to the students so they can pass the examination.
After two years teaching experience at university, I had the opportunity to pursue postgraduate diploma and master degree in science education in 2007 in SMEC, Curtin University, Australia. I finished the program in 2008, and received another opportunity to start my PhD at the same institution in 2009. During my study in Australia, I become more aware that teachers have great moral responsibility for their society and for humanity. Becoming a teacher means educating people to be the holistic individuals who will play their roles in the society. The “good” holistic individual, the great people and leaders, are shaped through education. I believe that education plays an important role in building communities. Thus, I am now committed to become a transformative science educator who not simply has good pedagogy skills, but also has passion to empower students to actively participate in their society within their different roles. Students as lifelong learners will always learn to develop knowledge for their whole lives.

I intend to embrace transformative learning theory, such as applying transformative learning, constructivism as a pedagogical referent, envisioning and dialectical thinking. It will be a challenge for me to apply these teaching views in my home country and I understand the difficulty in remaining empowered.I am very aware that the values and beliefs associated with teacher control have significant power in my own teaching identity. The language of “transferring knowledge” and “controlling the classroom” has strongly influenced my teaching approach. I am aware also that these perspectives can restrict students’ thinking development, restrain their creativity, and separate their experiences from the learning process. During co-teaching, it was important for both teacher and students to focus on students’ achievements and development instead of just focusing on “transferring knowledge” and staying in control.

I embraced dialectical thinking as a bridge to understanding different views within my professional practices. The competition between different views during teaching encourages me to think about how it influences my pedagogical practices. I can imagine that if I act only in accordance with the “objectivism” metaphor how this will limit my creative and critical thinking. I also cannot align myself only with the “constructivism” metaphor which could divorce me from social reality, especially in my country which focuses strongly on subject matter and measurement. I learnt to apply dialectical thinking to engage with competing social and cultural realities.

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