Judith Lashley, Ph.D.
Life should be about the “big picture” and the “big questions.” One aspect of the big picture is living a life that strives to make our world a better place through commitment, passion, and caring for others. During 28 years of teaching – in public and private, rural and urban, secular and faith-based – schools and universities, my philosophy of education has come to focus on my “big picture”: how best to establish the conditions and relationships that encourage that commitment, passion, and caring in my students.
My teaching philosophy centers on three basic objectives, whether I am teaching first graders who are struggling with their first attempts at literacy or university seniors about to embark on their own teaching adventure. I strive to help prepare my students for active participation as committed, caring, serving citizens. I am devoted to encouraging their success, curiosity, and life-long intellectual passion. Finally, I do my best to model the respect and compassion that I hope to inspire in my students.
First, I strive to help prepare my students to function as effective, thoughtful, problem-solving citizens of their communities, our country, and our world. One of the defining aims of education, according to John Dewey (1964) is the development of democratic citizens – citizens who care for others, contributing “to a common and shared life [in] services rendered to others” (1964, p. 11). If one of the desired results of education is to provoke the development of caring, committed citizens, it follows that this outcome – as with any educational objective – can and should be the result of an organized effort, of practice. Nel Noddings (1992) argues that the experiences in which we immerse ourselves develop attitudes and philosophies: “If we want to produce people who will care for one another, then it makes sense to give students practice in caring...” (p. 191). To provide that practice in making informed decisions to solve real social problems, I regularly and intentionally provide opportunities for my students to participate in critical social discourse as well as various community service-leadership opportunities. In my university education methods courses, students are required to develop a strategic plan for incorporating service experiences into their curriculum.
Second, I am devoted to encouraging my students’ success, curiosity, and passion for knowledge by demonstrating that passion. I strive to make discussion stimulating and content intriguing by providing an issues-centered, collaborative learning environment. Since one of the joys of teaching is also the joy of learning, I hope my students are as excited and engaged in what we are learning as I am!
Also, since students of all ages often best construct knowledge when it is relevant to their lives, I make every effort to offer a wide variety of experiences that address individual learning styles, abilities, and interests. For example, while direct instruction is often helpful in establishing a foundation of knowledge, other learning strategies and resources that I employ include large and small group discussion, field trips, guided discovery, and critical discourse. Cooperative learning, literature, project-based learning, guest speakers, service-learning, films, games, music, reflective journaling, technology, and stories are other methods that I use not only to enrich and reinforce learning, but as a model for my college level pre-service teachers in their own instructional practices.
My assessments also reflect a commitment to dynamic, participatory learning. While I use exams to measure foundational knowledge and understanding of concepts, I more commonly use ability or performance based assessment, such as projects, journal reflections, portfolios, teacher work samples, presentations, and self and peer evaluations.
Third, I do my best to model the respect, kindness, and caring that I hope to inspire in my students. Because I want them to understand that caring is largely based on relationships, I intentionally nurture an inclusive classroom community that encourages relational caring. To promote that relationship and community with and among my students of all ages, I encourage collaboration on projects and activities, incorporate community-building exercises into instructional periods, provide opportunities for socializing informally outside of the classroom, and regularly schedule individual conferences. If, as Noddings suggests, our most basic need is to be cared for, then offering my students kindness, respect, and tolerance through a sustained, consistent relationship makes it much more likely that they will treat others the same way.
In conclusion, if we indeed teach who we are, as Parker Palmer (1998) says, then my philosophy of education is an outgrowth of what I have increasingly come to see as my “big picture.” Yes, I am accountable in helping prepare my students to function as effective, democratic, problem-solving citizens. Yes, I am devoted to encouraging their success, curiosity, and zeal for learning. Yes, I do my best to model the respect and caring that I hope to arouse in them. But ultimately, my teaching philosophy centers around the resolve to let Christ inspire my teaching by encouraging my students, whatever their role in life, to realize that they can be the ones to take action and make some kind of positive difference in how all people are understood, respected, and served.
Dewey, J. (1964). The need for a philosophy of education. In R.D. Archambault (Ed.), “John Dewey on education: Selected writings.” Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Noddings, N. (1992). The challenge to care in school: an alternative approach to education. New York: Teachers College Press.
Palmer, P. (1998). The Courage to Teach. Hoboken, NJ: Jossey-Bass.
Education and Certifications
Bachelor of Science in Education, l976, from Oklahoma Christian College
Master of Education in Gifted Education, 1990, from Oklahoma City University
Doctor of Philosophy in Instructional Leadership and Curriculum, 2013, from University of Oklahoma
Standard Certifications in:
- Elementary Education
- Language Arts
- Social Studies
- Gifted Education Specialist
- University of Central Oklahoma (2007 – present) –
- Assistant Professor, College of Education and Professional Services (2018-present)
- Visiting Assistant Professor, College of Education and Professional Services (2017-18)
- Adjunct Instructor, College of Education and Professional Services (2007-17)
- Oakdale School, Edmond, Oklahoma (1987 – 2017) –
- Instructor: Chapter One Developmental Reading Program (Grades 1-3)
- Instructor: Language Arts/Reading (Grades 5, 6);
- Instructor: Social Studies (Grades 4-8);
- Coordinator/Instructor: Gifted and Talented Program (Grades K-8);
- Oklahoma Christian University, Oklahoma City (2016-18; l993-94) –
- Adjunct Instructor, College of Bible
- Adjunct Instructor, College of Education
- Oklahoma City University, Oklahoma City (1999, 1990, 1989) –
- Instructor: Summer Enrichment Program (Gifted, Talented, and Exceptional, Grades 2-8)
- Oklahoma Christian Academy, Edmond, Oklahoma (2015-18; 1988-91) –
- Vice President of Education and Concurrent College Advisement (2015-18)
- Coordinator/Instructor: Gifted and Talented Program (1988-91)
Professional and Community Involvement
- Heartbeat for Hope (nonprofit service organization that facilitates educational opportunities for former victims of child trafficking in Ghana, west Africa); Board member (2008 – present)
- National Council of the Social Studies member (2007 – present)
- National Geographic Alliance member (1992 – present)
- “Journey Land” Elementary Education (Grades 1-5) Curriculum Coordinator (2000 – 2017) – Memorial Road Church of Christ, Oklahoma City
- Primary Education (Grades 1-3) Coordinator (1982-1989; 1993-1997) – Memorial Road Church of Christ, Oklahoma City
- Oklahoma Christian University Women’s Association (Life Member)
- Oklahoma Association of Gifted, Creative, Talented (Executive Board, l990-92)
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