To develop as an educator it is essential that I understand my personal developing philosophy of education. This philosophy is one that has been influenced by reflection on and learning from prior experiences, and will continue to develop throughout my career as an educator. At this point in time I believe that the purpose of education in this framework is to challenge children, equipping them with the knowledge and understandings required to be successful in modern society, by creating an environment in which they are able to learn in their own way. The aim of education is to develop a well-rounded person, providing them with the knowledge needed to ensure that they have a strong foundation for learning and evolving in all aspects of their life. I also believe through experiences and investigation that students will continue to move forward in their education and emotional development. It is my belief that the teacher is a guide in the class environment; facilitating the students learning and encouraging them to ascertain an understanding. When doing this the teacher must acknowledge that each student is an individual. The role of the learner is to understand and appreciate themselves and others, being active participants in the learning process. I believe that a dialogical teaching method is the best approach to accomplish these aims and roles. Justification of my personal philosophy will be provided, with references to five different theorists John Dewey, Parker J. Palmer, John Locke and Matthew Lipman, as well as demonstrating the contrast between my personal philosophy and that of both Burrhus Frederic Skinner and Plato.
Aims of Education
Education is about providing children with the skills and abilities to appreciate life. It is about developing children and establishing solid foundations; such as good virtues, morals, values and ethics in order to be well-rounded, healthy individuals in the future; individuals that will contribute significantly within their community and assist in the development of a functional society. The true purpose of education is the cultivation of the intellect rather than the accumulation of facts.
My philosophy of education is aligned closely to that of John Locke’s theory; when a person is born without innate ideas that their mind is a blank slate a ‘tabula rasa’ on which experience writes (Johnson, 2008a). On this view all the “materials of reason and knowledge” come from experience. According to Locke, the ideal education would instil a strong moral sense (Kim, Wong & Wong, 1999). Locke suggests that there are four parts of education ‘virtue’, ‘wisdom’, ‘breeding’ and ‘learning; ‘Virtue’ described by Locke as a right relationship with God and others. ‘Wisdom’ according to Locke, is the ability to manage one’s business ably with foresight. ‘Breeding’, defined as the manner a person presents themselves within society whether that is in an acceptable or unacceptable manner and finally ‘learning’ depicted by Locke as the development of cognitive qualities (Johnson, 2008a).
John Dewey strongly believed that education should be for the students. Dewey’s ‘Progressive Education’ emphasised the fact that students thrive in an environment in which they are allowed to experience and interact with the curriculum; and that all students have the right to an education (Johnson, 2008b). Dewey (1916) stated that ‘all which the school can or need do for pupils, so far as their minds are concerned is to develop their ability to think. It is a concept that I have incorporated into my own personal philosophy of education. Dewey proposed that “education is about learning from experiences, past and present, using these experiences to prepare children for different situations that they may encounter in the future” (Johnson, 2008b). It is my belief that as an educator (teacher) I will be a guide for my students, developing their ability to think critically by providing the support and assistance needed. Through experiences and investigation, it is my hope that the students in my classroom will continue to develop both emotionally and educationally.
Lipman believed that education should be centred on the development of a child’s capacity to reason, solve problems, think critically and reflect. He acknowledged that by directing children to a philosophical chain of thought, thinking would be conceived of as the possession of cognitive, emotional, intuitive, aesthetical, ethical and argumentative characteristics, to improve one’s thinking, was to deal with each of the qualities (Johnson, 2008h). Lipman’s model has influenced my personal philosophical view of education in respect to his ‘philosophy for children in the classroom’ where a large emphasis is placed on the use of talk to enhance thought, through student ideas and interests. It is important as an educator to understand and become familiar with an inquiry-based approach to the content that is to be taught to ensure critical thinking is promoted in students.
My personal philosophy correlates quite closely to Palmer’s theory; the concept of paradoxes. It is Palmers belief that individuals learn through complex concepts and processes; achieving the best results when they are actively engaged in the learning process. A good teacher is able to guide their students to their own discoveries of principles when starting from a concrete example (Johnson, 2008d). I believe that it is important for a student to have a natural, inherent propensity towards collecting excitement and gaining motivation from leaning
My personal philosophy is strongly contrasted by that of B. F. Skinner. He takes on a behaviourist approach that addresses the outcome on behaviour set by external forces; both neglecting and diminishing the needs and the importance of the individual. Skinner theorised that “education is to be seen as not simply providing people with information but as a governing influence over people’s lives” (Ozman & Craver, 2008). Skinner theorised that the teacher controls whilst the student are controlled, is yet another point of disagreement with regards to my personal philosophy. Bringing to light a recurring concern of who controls the controller” (Ozman & Craver, 2008). I believe that each individual’s needs are important and that they should be acknowledged and catered for; it is also my belief that education should be more than a controlling influence over people’s lives.
Plato theorised that the knowledge we learn in our present life is merely knowledge that we have acquired from a past life,that we learn by recollecting facts that the soul already knows, for the soul already has all knowledge (Gutek, 2011b). I disagree with this theory. As Locke, I believe that everyone is born a blank state and that one obtains knowledge through different life experiences, the use of one’s senses and rational.
Upon further investigation of Plato’s theories of education I found yet another point of difference to that of my personal philosophy. I found myself in strong disagreement with his belief that a child belongs to the state and its education is the responsibility of the state. “He believed that children should be removed from their family and raised in state-operated nursery schools from birth to age six. Plato abolishes the family as guardians in the hopes to avoid nepotism creating a situation in which children would learn the right predispositions” (Gutek, 2011, p45). I believe that an integral part of a child’s development is the influence of family and friends. A child begins to form ideas early on about the community they live in. Their family nucleus is the starting point for establishing these ideas for the child.
Role of the Teacher/Method of Education
As previously suggested in the research above in accordance with different theorists philosophies of education, the development of character, morals, ethics and values are vital aspects of good education. I believe that teachers share a significant responsibility in preparing young people to lead successful and productive lives. It is important as teachers to model behaviours that are reflective of these qualities. A teacher should consider it his duty to educate and train his students and should feel responsible for it. In today’s world a teacher’s role is a multifaceted profession; they are more accountable for students learning. As suggested by Palmer, ‘the goal of education is for each individual to develop his or her authentic self” (Johnson, 2008, p292). It is important for teachers to be authentic, to understand who they are as a person and be comfortable with that knowledge. “Good teachers join self and subject and students in the fabric of life. Weaving together complex connections among themselves, their subjects, and their students so that students may learn to do so this for themselves” (Johnson, 2008, p292).
Dewey believed that it was imperative that students were not mere receptacles of knowledge that their teachers’ deposit in, but rather that teachers facilitate a classroom environment that allows students to play a role in creating their own knowledge (Johnson, 2008e). Knowledge is constructed through one’s own personal experiences and interactions with the outside world; taking new information and giving it meaning using prior attitudes, beliefs, and experiences as references (Stavredes, 2011). Each student is a unique individual whose past experiences affects readiness to learn and understanding of the requirements involved whether it is culturally, emotionally, or cognitively. It can be a daunting thought individualising and teaching different programs to each student, however, understanding how different individuals learn assists in planning a learning experience that each student might in engage in. I believe that as a teacher my main objective is to create an environment where students feel comfortable to pursue inquiries and express themselves; facilitating the learning process but allowing the students to take responsibility for their own learning.
Through observation of student behaviours and personality traits, the teacher is able to build upon the knowledge, personal experiences, language, strategies, and culture that students bring to the learning situation, creating a situation in which they are able to learn about themselves and the community they live in. It is my goals as an educator to encourage students to think critically so that they may form their own opinions, make meaning of these opinions and encourage them to take responsibility of their own learning experience. As Dewey stated the teacher’s responsibility is simply to determine the basis of larger experience and riper wisdom, how the discipline of life shall come to the child to select the influences which shall affect the child and to assist him in properly responding to these influences and not to impose certain ideas or form certain habits in the child (Johnson, 2008e, p106).
Palmer and Lipman both believed that “the classroom should be thought of as a pluralistic community, centred on dialogue and collaborative activity, in which all of its members have an active and equitable share” (Cam, 2006, p. 8) Opposing the ‘banking’ system of education, recommending that a more creative and dialogical approach be taken toward teaching. The “banking” educational system excludes any opportunity for students to be creative. Instead of communicating, the teacher issues communiques and makes deposits which the students patiently receive, memorize, and repeat. This is the “banking” concept of education, in which the scope of action allowed to students extends only as far as receiving, filing, and storing the deposits; “the capability of banking education to minimise or annul the student’s creative power” (Johnson, 2008h). As a teacher I will strive to develop critical thinking and problem solving skills; utilizing inquiry-based techniques and guidance, challenging students to use their higher order thinking when investigating. Education is about encouraging children to pursue lifelong learning. Meaningful teaching is about providing the tools to do so. Guiding the student’s allowing them to ascertain their own answers, encouraging them to divulge deeper, discovering more significant questions or issues to explore, so that they may own and maintain their learning environment (Johnson, 2008h).
As Locke, I believe that it is important to consider others and reflect on how the learner would like to be treated so that foundation of fairness and diplomacy may be laid (Johnson, 2008a, p 66). Locke believed that if one was virtuous one treated people with respect, dignity and care (Johnson, 2008a). This is a strong reflection of my personal philosophy.
Palmer theorised that the ‘space’ in which students learn is as important as what the students learn. When Palmer spoke about space he was not only talking about the physical space that the students work in, but also of a number of other complex factors including; physical arrangement, conceptual framework and the feeling within the room (Johnson, 2008c, p 302). This concept of creating ‘space’ for the students closely relates to my personal philosophy. Palmer suggests we look at our “gifts” (our strengths and capacities) along with our “failings” and to “use paradox to transform a litany of failings into a deeper understanding of the identity from which teaching comes. Palmer further explains the principle of the six paradoxical tensions that he builds into the teaching and learning space. He states that these are “neither prescriptive nor exhaustive” clarifying that the principle of paradox offers no clear cut fix for teaching. But if it fits who you are, it offers guidance on any level of education and with any field of study (Johnsonc, 2008, p308). This is an important aspect of my personal philosophy in regards to the teaching methods. I believe that each student has a unique way of learning; some will work best independently in silence while others thrive in engaging interactive activities in group environments. As a beginning teacher my priority is to create a safe space where students feel that they are able to speak freely, illustrating to them that everyone has the right to an opinion, that it important to respect those opinions, challenging them to go beyond their comfort zone.
The aim of education is to provide young people with opportunity to develop as a ‘whole’; it should be about more than just the teaching or passing on of information, facts and figures. It is important as a future educator that I understand the value and consider the individual needs of the student’s; their strengths, weaknesses, interests and natural abilities, providing links between each of these elements and the learning experiences that the students encounter. Good teaching comes from identity, not technique, but if I allow my identity to guide me toward an integral technique that technique can help me express my identity more fully and education is about creating a positive impact on the student’s development.