Philosophy of Education
The objective of this study is to articulate a personal philosophy of education noting specifics in belief in the areas of worldview foundations. The philosophic foundations will include metaphysical beliefs and epistemological beliefs. Relevant issues are inclusive of discipline, diversity, curriculum development, professional development and learning communities.
Education as growth involves the direction of the activities of young learners and is determinant in the young learner’s future. It is reported that “Since the young at a given time will at some later date compose the society of that period, the latter’s nature will largely turn upon the direction children’s activities were given at an earlier period. This cumulative movement of action toward a later result is what is meant by growth.” (Dewey, 2003, p. 1) It is reported that the “primary condition of growth is immaturity. This may seen to be mere truism — saying that a being can develop only in some point in which he says underdeveloped.” (p. 1) Education is noted to be preparation which is reported to be laid down as being a “continuous process of growth, having its aim at every stage an added capacity of growth.” (Dewey, nod03, p.1) In addition education is viewed as formation and stated specifically is that “formation here has a technical meaning dependent upon the idea of something operating from without. Herbart is the best historical representative of this type of theory. He denies absolutely the existence of innate faculties. The mind is simply endowed with the power of producing various qualities in reaction to the various realities which act upon it. These qualitatively different reactions are called presentations.. Every presentation once called into being persists; it may be driven below the “threshold” of consciousness by new and stronger presentations, produced by the reaction of the soul to new material, but its activity continues by its own inherent momentum, below the surface of consciousness. What are termed faculties — attention, memory, thinking, perception, even the sentiments, are arrangements, associations, and complications, formed by the interaction of these submerged presentations with one another and with new presentations. Perception, for example, is the complication of presentations which result from the rise of old presentations to greet and combine with new ones; memory is the evoking of an old presentation above the threshold of consciousness by getting entangled with another presentation, etc. Pleasure is the result of reinforcement among the independent activities of presentations; pain of their pulling different ways” and so forth.” (Dewey, 2003, p. 1)
It is reported that the mind’s concrete character is comprised therefore by the “various arrangements formed by the various presentations in their different qualities. The “furniture” of the mind is the mind. Mind is wholly a matter of “contents.” (Dewey, 2003, p. 1) Therefore it is held that there are three implications of this educational doctrine including:
(1) This or that kind of mind is formed by the use of objects which evoke this or that kind of reaction and which produce this or that arrangement among the reactions called out. The formation of mind is wholly a matter of the presentation of the proper educational materials.
(2) Since the earlier presentations constitute the “apperceiving organs” which control the assimilation of new presentations, their character is all important. The effect of new presentations is to reinforce groupings previously formed. The business of the educator is, first, to select the proper material in order to fix the nature of the original reactions, and, secondly, to arrange the sequence of subsequent presentations on the basis of the store of ideas secured by prior transactions. The control is from behind, from the past, instead of, as in the unfolding conception, in the ultimate goal. (Dewey, 2003, p. 1)
(3) Certain formal steps of all method in teaching may be laid down. Presentation of new subject matter is obviously the central thing, but since knowing consists in the way in which this interacts with the contents already submerged below consciousness, the first thing is the step of “preparation,” — that is, calling into special activity and getting above the floor of consciousness those older presentations which are to assimilate the new one. Then after the presentation, follow the processes of interaction of new and old; then comes the application of the newly formed content to the performance of some task. Everything must go through this course; consequently there is a perfectly uniform method in instruction in all subjects for all pupils of all ages. (Dewey, 2003,, p. 1)
II. Personal Philosophy of Education
The personal philosophy of education of the writer of this work is that the writer believes that all students have the capability of achieving, given appropriate and supportive environments. Learners need to feel safe, secure and included. Students bring diverse backgrounds requiring differentiated approaches to teaching and learning. Student growth and achievement takes place not only in the academic arena, but also in the social, physical, and emotional contexts. Classroom instruction must be engaging, challenging, purposeful, and relevant. Effective educators employ best practices and nurture a culture conducive to student learning and continuous professional growth. Everyone has worth and deserves to be treated with dignity and respect. A positive learning environment is necessary for learning to occur. Education is enhanced when there is coloration, open communication, and shared responsibility among everyone.
Experience is reported to be inclusive of “passive as well as active learning but is such that can be specifically combined. Expedience can be viewed actively as “trying — a meaning which is made explicit in the connected term experiment. On the passive, it is undergoing. When we experience something we act upon it, we do something with it; then we suffer or undergo the consequences. We do something to the thing and then it does something to us in return: such is the peculiar combination. The connection of these two phases of experience measures the fruitfulness or value of the experience. Mere activity does not constitute experience. It is dispersive, centrifugal, dissipating.” (Dewey, 2003, p. 1) In addition, experience is reported to be inclusive of “change, but change is meaningless transition unless it is consciously connected with the return wave of consequences which flow from it. When an activity is continued into the undergoing of consequences, when the change made by action is reflected back into a change made in us, the mere flux is loaded with significance. We learn something. It is not experience when a child merely sticks his finger into a flame; it is experience when the movement is connected with the pain which he undergoes in consequence.” (Dewey, 2003,, p. 1) From this point on the child understands that sticking its finger into the fire means that the finger will receive a burn.
Therefore it can be understood that the true purpose of school is to educate, to prepare to create lifelong learners who go forth into the world learning and the teacher’s role in learning is to assist and lead learning. It is reported that students learn through a cultural lens by interaction with other learners and following “the rules, skills and abilities” that are culturally shaped. (Dewey, 2003, p. 1)
Instruction that is supportive of social learning includes the following: (1) Students working in unison on a task; (2) development of students across the curriculum; (3) choice of meaning and challenging task for students by instructors; and (4) instructor’s management of dialogue that promotes learning. (Vygotsky, 1978, p. 1) Lev Vygotsky purported the social learning theory and what is known as scaffolding in learning and stated that “language is the main tool that promotes thinking, develops reasoning and supports cultural activities like reading and writing.” (Vygotsky, 1978, p. 1) The teacher is referred to by Vygotsky as the “local topic expert” and as such “plays the important role of facilitator, creating the environment where directed and guided interactions can occur.” (1978, p. 1) Therefore, it is noted by Vygotsky that learning occurs in the social context and in fact cannot be removed from this context which involves collaboration in research, result sharing and the result is a final end result being learning in what he referred to as a community of learners. In Vygotsky’s theory called the Zone of proximal development. Zone of Proximal Development
It is reported that the zone of proximal development (ZPD) has been defined as “the distance between the actual developmental level as determined by independent problem solving and the level of potential development as determined through problem solving under adult guidance, or in collaboration with more capable peers” (Vygotsky, 1978, p. 86). Vygotsky holds that the curriculum must be appropriately developed and then the activities are planned by the teacher according to what the children are capable of doing not only on their own but what they can learn to do with the assistance of others. This theory does not hold that just anything can be taught to any learner but holds that the instruction and activities that fall within the zone of proximal development serve to promote the developmental advancement of children. The way that the teacher can make use of information about the levels of Vygotsky’s zone of proximal development in organization of classroom activities include the following:
Instruction can be planned to provide practice in the zone of proximal development for individual children or for groups of children. For example, hints and prompts that helped children during the assessment could form the basis of instructional activities. (Pearson Education, 1999, p.1)
Cooperative learning activities can be planned with groups of children at different levels who can help each other learn. (Pearson Education, 1999, p. 1)
Scaffolding (Wood, Bruner, & Ross, 1976) is a tactic for helping the child in his or her zone of proximal development in which the adult provides hints and prompts at different levels. In scaffolding, the adult does not simplify the task, but the role of the learner is simplified “through the graduated intervention of the teacher” (Greenfield, 1984, p. 119 cited in Pearson Education, 1999, p. 1).
Therefore, the teacher or instructor can utilize their own expertise and the expertise of more capable students to assist those students less capable in maximizing their learning capability. This can be truly understood as a learning community that involves all learners assisting other learners in becoming more knowledgeable and more capable by combining the capacities and capabilities of all learners within that learning community.
Bielzcyzc and Collins (nd) in the work entitled “Learning Communities in Classrooms: A Reconceptualization of Educational Practice” states as following: ” Social-constructivist argument. The “social-constructivist” view of education, characteristic of Dewey and Vygotsky, holds that the theory of individual learning, which pervades schools, is flawed. The constructivist view is that people learn best, not by assimilating what they are told, but rather by a knowledge-construction process. In order for individuals to learn how to construct knowledge, it is necessary that the process be modeled and supported in the surrounding community. This is what occurs in a learning community.” (p. 2)
Summary and Conclusion
All children are capable of learning and when the learning occurs within a ‘learning community’ or ‘community of learners’ children are enabled to grow developmentally in a social environment that supports their learning and enhances their abilities.
As noted by Dewey, education determines the future of young learners. An appropriate and supportive environment for learning is critical and the environment must be one that is safe and secure and inclusive in nature. The diversity of student backgrounds makes a requirement of differentiation in the approaches to instruction and learning. The growth and development as well as achievement of students occurs both within and without the academic environment and occurs in the social, physical and emotional contexts of learning. Instruction must be such that engages students, challenges students and is focused and relevant. The learning environment must be positive, engaging, and inclusive and such that draws students within the learning context making them feel that they have a role in directing their own learning, supported by their instructor and their peers.
Dewey, J. (2003) Democracy and Education: An Introduction to the Philosophy of Education. The University of Virginia American Studies Program. Retrieved from: http://xroads.virginia.edu/~HYPER2/dewey/header.html
Bielaczyc, K. And Collins, A. (nd) Learning Communities in Classrooms: A Reconceptualization of Educational Practice. Harvard University. Retrieved from: http://isites.harvard.edu/fs/docs/icb.topic541040.files/Bielaczyc%20and%20Collins-Learning%20Communities%20in%20Classrooms.pdf
Vygotsky, L.S. (1978) Mind in Society: The Development of Higher Psychological Processes (M. Cole, V. John-Steiner, S. Scribner, & E. Souberman, Eds.) Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press
Classroom Applications of Vygotsky’s Theory (1999) Pearson Education. Retrieved from: http://jan.ucc.nau.edu/lsn/educator/edtech/learningtheorieswebsite/vygotsky.htm