Personal Philosophy of Education

At the most integrated level, a philosophy of education melds theories developed at the epistemological or ethical level and relates them to concrete practices within the classroom. Ben-Peretz (2000) describes this as ‘serious reflections of practicing educators, curriculum theorists, and educational policy makers’. That is, it is a process through which to ‘develop thoughtful, and to varying degrees systematic or coherent, justifications for their educational practices and commitments.’ In examining various schools of educational thought, I most frequently associate with Dewey’s pragmatic approach that stems from Rousseau’s initial development of progressivism in education.

I believe that my role as an educator is to encourage multiple flows of support and learning: from myself to my students, from my students to their fellow students, and from my students to myself as I discover how to best serve each student and classroom. This support has three key components. First, to care: to form a relationship with my students and adapt to their genuine interests and needs. Second, to facilitate: to encourage inquiry and innovation in the learning process, acting as a guide on each student’s journey. And third, to instruct: each student crosses into the classroom to build upon the knowledge they already have and acquire valuable new skills – it is my purpose to ensure they achieve those objectives.

My own educational journey has taught me that school is most enjoyable when students view it as a caring, safe haven. I desire to create a community of respect within my classroom, where all participants are equal and encouraged to practice self-expression and active engagement. My goal is to facilitate group discussion, foster inquisitiveness, and never focus on the ‘how’ without also exploring the ‘why’. Collaboration is King, not only in coursework, but also in thoughts and ideas, in problem solving and solution-identifying.

Adaptation to students’ needs and abilities was at the forefront of Rousseau’s philosophy. Monteiro (2005) explains that this insight established that ‘teaching and training consist, not in inculcating ideas, but in furnishing the child with opportunities for the functioning of those activities that are natural for each stage.’ Dewey, building upon Rousseau’s views of psychology, felt that ‘lessons should start with the problems of the world – problems that brought interest and motivation for the children’ (Ghiraldelli, 2000). This encourages student engagement and active thought, creating a student-centered classroom instead of adhering to the traditional model where teachers were the primary imparters of knowledge. It is also imperative to include scaffolding of student tasks to build upon prior knowledge and experience.

Both Pestalozzi and Froebel influenced this approach to curriculum. This was coined ‘natural education – where the innate desire to learn is nourished and curiosity is unfettered’ (Shaffer, 2015). Activity is essential to student learning for both philosophers, and I believe this to hold true at all levels of education. ‘Play’ at the secondary English level might include role-playing to identify with characterization, word molding to create poetry that mirrors a particular style or format, or an in-class debate to structure persuasive arguments.

Discovery learning has changed since the time of these philosophers, and has been enhanced by the technological advances of our society. I believe in a 21st Century Classroom for the 21st Century Learner, and I understand the importance of building a foundation of technology for today’s scholars and tomorrow’s workforce. As such, an ideal classroom and curriculum design does not just incorporate computers and media, but is structured to allow for the innovative use of electronic resources. Each student should not merely become familiar with a keyboard, mouse, and basic software, but grasp how to utilize those tools to create: to formulate graphs in order to analyze; to design presentations in order to effectively communicate their ideas; to blend sight and sound and movement in order to conceptualize both the concrete and the abstract.

Thus, technology in education is not a diversion from a student-centered environment, but an extension that allows for students to actively partake in their journey in meaningful ways. This is an extension of Dewey’s philosophy of ‘learning by doing.’ The tasks that students can complete with the aid of technology – from research papers, to presentations, to a diversification of products such as videos or musical compositions – are authentic, goal-centered problems. Dewey found it problematic that ‘the subject matter of education consists of bodies of information and of skills that have been worked out in the past; therefore the chief business of the school is to transmit them to the new generation.’ Technology as a learning tool allows students to gather facts, build concepts, negotiate interpretations, invent representations, and critique shared products (Wilson, 1996).

Education is both ‘to impart’ and ‘to acquire’. I believe that as a teacher, I am on the same team as my students and that the success of individual students reflects the supportive learning environment that the entire classroom has created together. All students come into the classroom with varying levels of ability, and as an educator I believe in structuring lessons to meet those differing needs. My classroom is not one of preacher and parishioner or of doctor and patient. It is a classroom where every student has knowledge to acquire, and every student also has insights to impart about the subject matter and the learning process. Together, we all achieve.

This community-centered differentiation is naturally aligned with Dewey’s approach, but is further justified with roots in Confucianism. The scholar was humanistic in his approach, and believed in cultivating the ‘whole’ individual. Confucius ‘impart[ed] knowledge without reservation and never reject[ed] anyone who came for instruction, regardless of the readiness and ability level.’ He also employed various strategies in his teaching to consistently engage, support, and challenge his students. Formative assessment included conversations and observations, which enabled him to deliver ‘well thought-out instruction in line with the learner’s ability, temperament, mental state, interests, needs, and life goals.’ Similar to Socrates, Confucius was simultaneously the ‘facilitator, guide, helper, while the student is the main actor, and sometimes peers scaffold when appropriate’ (ProQuest, 2007).

Dissenters might argue that an educational approach incorporating these various aspects is well-devised, but impossible in a society that utilizes ‘high-stakes’ testing as a means of accountability and assessment. In fact, philosophers such as Du Bois are often cited as voices who would be opposed to testing because it might unfairly subjugate those belonging to particular demographics. However, I posit that these policies are in fact representing a child-centered, inquiry-based, hands-on approach that is integral to developing critical thinking and analytical skills as required by the modern workforce, and as assessed on skills-based tests such as Virginia’s Standards of Learning.

Common assessments do not deter from the needs of focusing on the social and emotional development of our students. Instead, they ensure equity in the classroom by providing a quality education for all students, regardless of educational track or societal labels. Through standardized testing, we recognize when particular individuals, or even particular groups, are struggling in their learning, and can better differentiate their needs and remediate weaknesses. Du Bois championed the ‘right to learn’ in order ‘to give our children the fairness of a start which will equip them with such an array of facts and such an attitude toward truth that they can have a real chance to judge what the world is and what its greater minds have thought it might be’ (Darling-Hammond, 1997). Policy makers and educational practitioners need to continue to work together to ensure there are measurements in place that champion every student’s right to challenge themselves academically.

My educational philosophy is grounded in these varying ideals, but just as each theory both drew upon and revolutionized education before it, so too is it the role of every educator to continue to adapt individual theory and practice to reflect both changing times and changing environments. It is this flexibility of thought that mirrors flexibility of approach and practice in regards to our students. In keeping a child-centric approach to education, one must always adapt in ways to best benefit the dispositions and lives of the upcoming generation.

 

References

Ben-Peretz, M., Brown, S. A., Moon, B., & Aker, K. (2000). Routledge International

Companion to Education. Routledge.

 

Darling-Hammond, L. (1997). The right to learn: A blueprint for creating schools that work. San

Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

 

Ghiraldelli, P., Jr. (2000). Educational Theory : Herbart, Dewey, Freire and Postmodernists.

Retrieved April 15, 2016, from http://eepat.net/doku.php?id=educational_theory

 

Monteiro, T. (2005). Rousseau’s Concept of Education. Retrieved April 15, 2016, from

http://snphilosophers2005.tripod.com/ternan.pdf

 

ProQuest. (2007). Exploring the Assessment Aspect of Differentiated Instruction: College EFL

Learners’ Perspectives on Tiered Performance Tasks. Retrieved April 15, 2016, from

https://books.google.com/books?id=ukL4FLcBF74C

 

Shaffer, S. E. (2015). Engaging young children in museums.

 

Wilson, B. G. (1996). Constructivist learning environments: Case studies in instructional design.

Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Educational Technology Publications.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: