A personal autobiography of education as a lens for teaching...

I have so many small traumas from my public education. The time the teacher threw chalk at me and hit me in the head or earlier when a teacher’s punishment was making me stand in the front corner of the room with my nose to the corner.  Both times the punishable behaviour was talking – same when I got the strap at six years old.  Should this be an indication that I was insensitive to my teachers and fellow students? Perhaps I was a naturally social student?  My teachers could have created chaotic, engrossing classrooms where collaboration and discussion were encouraged?  I don’t remember many of those in my education.

One of Brookfield’s (2015) four complementary lenses for checking the accuracy of our actions and assumptions as educators is our personal autobiography of learning.


Southam, T. (2017)

Southam, T. (2017)

Along with adopting a student’s point of view, learning from peers and referring to educational literature, Brookfield feels that uncovering one’s own beliefs about education is crucial to being a skilful teacher.  Pajares (1992) looked deeply into the nature of educators’ beliefs and concluded that they may be the single most important construct in educational research (p. 329).

Here are a few selected findings on teachers and their beliefs from Pajares (1992, p. 325):

  • the earlier a belief is incorporated the more difficult it is to alter;
  • beliefs are instrumental in defining tasks and selecting tools with which to interpret, plan, and make decisions regarding tasks;
  • and changing beliefs in adulthood is a relatively rare phenomenon, the most common conversion being from one authority to another or a gestalt shift.

I also have uplifting and encouraging memories from education. A grade six teacher took two classes from our suburban school in Canada to Mexico on a school bus, staying in school gymnasiums and homestays along the way.  A college teacher applied the entire first year chemistry course to a recent chemical explosion in Bhopal, India that had killed innocent people. A teacher told me I exceled in writing.

A more complete autobiography of critical incidents in my own education and how those might have shaped my attitudes, values and eventually belief systems about education will take some time.

Teacher’s constructing personal autobiographies of their own educational journeys might be a worthwhile activity for teaching and learning centres to support.  These autobiographical meaning making activities might lead to greater acceptance of more recent proposals for teaching and learning which have or have not resonated with teachers existing belief systems and of which they might be wholly unaware.


Brookfield, S. D. (2015). The skillful teacher: On technique, trust, and responsiveness in the classroom. John Wiley & Sons.

Pajares, M.F. (1992). Teachers' beliefs and educational research: Cleaning up a messy construct. Review of Educational Research, 62(3), 307. Retrieved from https://fgul.idm.oclc.org/login?url=http://search.proquest.com.fgul.idm.oclc.org/docview/214115050?accountid=10868