According to my results from the “Teaching Perspectives Inventory,” the second most-dominant perspective in my teaching philosophy is “developmental”:
Effective teaching must be planned and conducted “from the learner’s point of view”.
Good teachers must understand how their learners think and reason about the content. The primary goal is to help learners develop increasingly complex and sophisticated cognitive structures for comprehending the content. The key to changing those structures lies in a combination of two skills: (1) effective questioning that challenges learners to move from relatively simple to more complex forms of thinking, and (2) ‘bridging knowledge’ which provides examples that are meaningful to the learner. Questions, problems, cases, and examples form these bridges that teachers use to transport learners from simpler ways of thinking and reasoning to new, more complex and sophisticated forms of reasoning. Good teachers adapt their knowledge to learners’ levels of understanding and ways of thinking.(from Pratt, Collins, and Selinger 2001)
In anthropology, we read ethnographic studies of peoples and cultures very different from our own. Anthropologists argue that seeing different cultural practices and ways of organizing society help destabilize our own worldview, thereby helping us to see our own society and culture in a different light. This is often referred to in the literature as “anthropology as cultural critique,” where the culture that is being critiqued is our own (and not necessarily another culture). Such exposure to different cultures should make us thing more deeply about the reasons why we do things a certain way in our own culture.
Practically speaking, as you read ethnographic articles or full-length books, think about your own reaction to what you read about – comparison with your own culture(s) is inevitable, and your reaction should be the first clue as to the significance of the reading. Try not to get lost in the ethnographic details about a particular culture (although they are important in understanding cultural differences), but instead try to see it from the perspective of people living in that culture (what we call the emic perspective). But keep in mind that “cultural relativity” is not “moral relativity” – I am not asking you to abandon your own moral grounding, but I am asking you to think more deeply about it and try to see others’ perspectives within their own context.