Philosophy means "love of wisdom." It is made up of two
Greek words, philo, meaning love, and sophos, meaning
wisdom. Philosophy helps teachers to reflect on key issues
and concepts in education, usually through such questions
as: What is being educated? What is the good life? What is
knowledge? What is the nature of learning? And What is
teaching? Philosophers think about the meaning of things
and interpretation of that meaning. Even simple
statements, such as "What should be learned? Or What is
adolescence?" set up raging debates that can have major
implications. For example, what happens if an adolescent
commits a serious crime? One interpretation may hide
another. If such a young person is treated as an adult
criminal, what does it say about justice, childhood, and the
like? Or if the adolescent is treated as a child, what does it
say about society's views on crime?
Your educational philosophy is your beliefs about
why, what and how you teach, whom you teach,
and about the nature of learning. It is a set of
principles that guides professional action through
the events and issues teachers face daily. Sources
for your educational philosophy are your life
experiences, your values, the environment in
which you live, interactions with others and
awareness of philosophical approaches. Learning
about the branches of philosophy, philosophical
world views, and different educational
philosophies and theories will help you to
determine and shape your own educational
philosophy, combined with these other aspects.
When you examine a philosophy different from your own, it helps
you to "wrestle" with your own thinking. Sometimes this means you
may change your mind. Other times, it may strengthen your
viewpoint; or, you may be eclectic, selecting what seems best from
different philosophies. But in eclecticism, there is a danger of sloppy
and inconsistent thinking, especially if you borrow a bit of one
philosophy and stir in some of another. If serious thought has gone
into selection of strategies, theories, or philosophies, this is less
problematic. For example, you may determine that you have to
vary your approach depending on the particular learning needs
and styles of a given student. At various time periods, one
philosophical framework may become favored over another. For
example, the Progressive movement led to quite different
approaches in education in the 1930s. But there is always danger in
one "best or only" philosophy. In a pluralistic society, a variety of
views are needed.
Branch Metaphysics: What is the
nature of reality?
Epistemology: What is the
nature of knowledge? How do
we come to know?
Axiology: What values should
one live by?
Educational Examples –Do you think human beings
are basically good or evil?
–What are conservative or
–How would an anthropologist
look at this classroom? A
political scientist? A biologist?
–How do we know what a
–Is morality defined by our
actions, or by what is in our
–What values should be taught
in character education?
What issues are related to
nature, existence, or being? Is
a child inherently evil or good?
How might your view
determine your classroom
What is the nature and origin of
the cosmos or universe? Is the
world and universe orderly or is
it marked by chaos? What
would one or the other mean
for a classroom?
Knowing based on:
–Senses and Feelings
–From authority or divinity
–Reasoning or Logic
What reasoning processes
yield valid conclusions?
from the general to the
particularAll children can learn.
Bret is a fifth grader. He has a
learning disability. Can Bret
–Inductive: reasoning from
the specific to the
with plant growth under varied
conditions, stu-dents conclude
plants need water and light
What is good and evil, right
Is it ever right to take
something that does not
belong to you?
What is beautiful?
How do we recognize a
great piece of music? Art?
Can there be beauty in
Branches of Philosophy
There are three major branches of philosophy. Each branch focuses on a different
aspect and is central to your teaching. The three branches and their sub-branches are:
Why might the study of philosophy be particularly
important to educators?
Which branch or branches of philosophy would you
want to emphasize in your classroom? Why?
Do you learn better deductively or inductively? Why
do you think?
Can you think of other school-based examples for
each of the branches and sub branches?
Four General or World
The term metaphysics literally means "beyond the physical." This area of philosophy focuses
on the nature of reality. Metaphysics attempts to find unity across the domains of
experience and thought. At the metaphysical level, there are four* broad philosophical
schools of thought that apply to education today. They are idealism, realism, pragmatism
(sometimes called experientialism), and existentialism. Each will be explained shortly. These
four general frameworks provide the root or base from which the various educational
philosophies are derived.
* A fifth metaphysical school of thought, called Scholasticism, is largely applied in Roman
Catholic schools in the educational philosophy called "Thomism." It combines idealist and
realist philosophies in a framework that harmonized the ideas of Aristotle, the realist, with
idealist notions of truth. Thomas Aquinas, 1255-127, was the theologian who wrote "Summa
Theologica," formalizing church doctrine. The Scholasticism movement encouraged the
logical and philosophical study of the beliefs of the church, legitimizing scientific inquiry
within a religious framework.
Two of these general or world philosophies, idealism and realism, are derived from the
ancient Greek philosophers, Plato and Aristotle. Two are more
contemporary, pragmatism and existentialism. However, educators who share one of these
distinct sets of beliefs about the nature of reality presently apply each of these world
philosophies in successful classrooms. Let us explore each of these metaphysical schools of
Idealism is a philosophical approach that has as its central tenet that ideas
are the only true reality, the only thing worth knowing. In a search for truth,
beauty, and justice that is enduring and everlasting, the focus is on conscious
reasoning in the mind. Plato, father of Idealism, espoused this view about 400
years BC, in his famous book, The Republic. Plato believed that there are two
worlds. The first is the spiritual or mental world, which is eternal, permanent,
orderly, regular, and universal. There is also the world of appearance, the
world experienced through sight, touch, smell, taste, and sound, that is
changing, imperfect, and disorderly. This division is often referred to as the
duality of mind and body. Reacting against what he perceived as too much
of a focus on the immediacy of the physical and sensory world, Plato
described a utopian society in which "education to body and soul all the
beauty and perfection of which they are capable" as an ideal. In his allegory
of the cave, the shadows of the sensory world must be overcome with the
light of reason or universal truth. To understand truth, one must pursue
knowledge and identify with the Absolute Mind. Plato also believed that the
soul is fully formed prior to birth and is perfect and at one with the Universal
Being. The birth process checks this perfection, so education requires bringing
latent ideas (fully formed concepts) to consciousness.
In idealism, the aim of education is to discover
and develop each individual's abilities and full
moral excellence in order to better serve society.
The curricular emphasis is subject matter of mind:
literature, history, philosophy, and religion.
Teaching methods focus on handling ideas
through lecture, discussion, and Socratic dialogue
(a method of teaching that uses questioning to
help students discover and clarify knowledge).
Introspection, intuition, insight, and whole-part
logic are used to bring to consciousness the forms
or concepts which are latent in the mind.
Character is developed through imitating
examples and heroes.
Realists believe that reality exists independent of the human mind. The
ultimate reality is the world of physical objects. The focus is on the
body/objects. Truth is objective-what can be observed. Aristotle, a student of
Plato who broke with his mentor's idealist philosophy, is called the father of
both Realism and the scientific method. In this metaphysical view, the aim is
to understand objective reality through "the diligent and unsparing scrutiny of
all observable data." Aristotle believed that to understand an object, its
ultimate form had to be understood, which does not change. For example, a
rose exists whether or not a person is aware of it. A rose can exist in the mind
without being physically present, but ultimately, the rose shares properties with
all other roses and flowers (its form), although one rose may be red and
another peach colored. Aristotle also was the first to teach logic as a formal
discipline in order to be able to reason about physical events and aspects.
The exercise of rational thought is viewed as the ultimate purpose for
humankind. The Realist curriculum emphasizes the subject matter of the
physical world, particularly science and mathematics. The teacher organizes
and presents content systematically within a discipline, demonstrating use of
criteria in making decisions. Teaching methods focus on mastery of facts and
basic skills through demonstration and recitation. Students must also
demonstrate the ability to think critically and scientifically, using observation
and experimentation. Curriculum should be scientifically approached,
standardized, and distinct-discipline based. Character is developed through
training in the rules of conduct.
For pragmatists, only those things that are
experienced or observed are real. In this late 19th
century American philosophy, the focus is on the
reality of experience. Unlike the Realists and
Rationalists, Pragmatists believe that reality is
constantly changing and that we learn best through
applying our experiences and thoughts to problems,
as they arise. The universe is dynamic and evolving, a
"becoming" view of the world. There is no absolute
and unchanging truth, but rather, truth is what works.
Pragmatism is derived from the teaching of Charles
Sanders Peirce (1839-1914), who believed that
thought must produce action, rather than linger in
the mind and lead to indecisiveness.
John Dewey (1859-1952) applied pragmatist
philosophy in his progressive approaches. He
believed that learners must adapt to each other
and to their environment. Schools should
emphasize the subject matter of social
experience. All learning is dependent on the
context of place, time, and circumstance.
Different cultural and ethnic groups learn to work
cooperatively and contribute to a democratic
society. The ultimate purpose is the creation of a
new social order. Character development is
based on making group decisions in light of
For Pragmatists, teaching methods focus on
hands-on problem solving, experimenting,
and projects, often having students work in
groups. Curriculum should bring the disciplines
together to focus on solving problems in an
interdisciplinary way. Rather than passing
down organized bodies of knowledge to new
learners, Pragmatists believe that learners
should apply their knowledge to real situations
through experimental inquiry. This prepares
students for citizenship, daily living, and future
The nature of reality for Existentialists is subjective,
and lies within the individual. The physical world
has no inherent meaning outside of human
existence. Individual choice and individual
standards rather than external standards are
central. Existence comes before any definition of
what we are. We define ourselves in relationship to
that existence by the choices we make. We
should not accept anyone else's predetermined
philosophical system; rather, we must take
responsibility for deciding who we are. The focus is
on freedom, the development of authentic
individuals, as we make meaning of our lives.
There are several different orientations within the existentialist
philosophy. Soren Kierkegaard (1813-1855), a Danish minister and
philosopher, is considered to be the founder of existentialism. His
was a Christian orientation. Another group of existentialists, largely
European, believes that we must recognize the finiteness of our lives
on this small and fragile planet, rather than believing in salvation
through God. Our existence is not guaranteed in an after life, so
there is tension about life and the certainty of death, of hope or
despair. Unlike the more austere European approaches where the
universe is seen as meaningless when faced with the certainty of
the end of existence, American existentialists have focused more
on human potential and the quest for personal meaning. Values
clarification is an outgrowth of this movement. Following the bleak
period of World War II, the French philosopher, Jean Paul Sartre,
suggested that for youth, the existential moment arises when young
persons realize for the first time that choice is theirs, that they are
responsible for themselves. Their question becomes "Who am I and
what should I do?
Related to education, the subject matter of existentialist
classrooms should be a matter of personal choice.
Teachers view the individual as an entity within a social
context in which the learner must confront others' views to
clarify his or her own. Character development emphasizes
individual responsibility for decisions. Real answers come
from within the individual, not from outside authority.
Examining life through authentic thinking involves students
in genuine learning experiences. Existentialists are opposed
to thinking about students as objects to be measured,
tracked, or standardized. Such educators want the
educational experience to focus on creating opportunities
for self-direction and self actualization. They start with the
student, rather than on curriculum content.
Which general or world view philosophy best
fits with your own views of reality? Why?
What have you learned from the history of
education that is related to these
It is said that an image is worth a thousand
words. What might be your image metaphor
for each of these world or metaphysical
Within the epistemological frame that focuses
on the nature of knowledge and how we
come to know, there are four major
educational philosophies, each related to
one or more of the general or world
philosophies just discussed. These educational
philosophical approaches are currently used
in classrooms the world over. They are
Perennialism, Essentialism, Progressivism, and
Reconstructionism. These educational
philosophies focus heavily on WHAT we should
teach, the curriculum aspect.
Robert Maynard Hutchins and Mortimer Adler
For Perennialists, the aim of education is to ensure that students
acquire understandings about the great ideas of Western
civilization. These ideas have the potential for solving problems in
any era. The focus is to teach ideas that are everlasting, to seek
enduring truths which are constant, not changing, as the natural
and human worlds at their most essential level, do not change.
Teaching these unchanging principles is critical. Humans are
rational beings, and their minds need to be developed. Thus,
cultivation of the intellect is the highest priority in a worthwhile
education. The demanding curriculum focuses on attaining cultural
literacy, stressing students' growth in enduring disciplines. The loftiest
accomplishments of humankind are emphasized– the great works
of literature and art, the laws or principles of science. Advocates of
this educational philosophy are Robert Maynard Hutchins who
developed a Great Books program in 1963 and Mortimer Adler,
who further developed this curriculum based on 100 great books of
William Bagley, James D. Koerner, H. G. Rickover, Paul
Copperman , Theodore Sizer
Essentialists believe that there is a common core of knowledge that
needs to be transmitted to students in a systematic, disciplined way. The
emphasis in this conservative perspective is on intellectual and moral
standards that schools should teach. The core of the curriculum is
essential knowledge and skills and academic rigor. Although this
educational philosophy is similar in some ways to Perennialism,
Essentialists accept the idea that this core curriculum may change.
Schooling should be practical, preparing students to become valuable
members of society. It should focus on facts-the objective reality out
there--and "the basics," training students to read, write, speak, and
compute clearly and logically. Schools should not try to set or influence
policies. Students should be taught hard work, respect for authority, and
discipline. Teachers are to help students keep their non-productive
instincts in check, such as aggression or mindlessness. This approach was
in reaction to progressivist approaches prevalent in the 1920s and 30s.
William Bagley, took progressivist approaches to task in the journal he
formed in 1934. Other proponents of Essentialism are: James D. Koerner
(1959), H. G. Rickover (1959), Paul Copperman (1978), and Theodore
Progressivists believe that education should focus on the whole child,
rather than on the content or the teacher. This educational philosophy
stresses that students should test ideas by active experimentation.
Learning is rooted in the questions of learners that arise through
experiencing the world. It is active, not passive. The learner is a problem
solver and thinker who makes meaning through his or her individual
experience in the physical and cultural context. Effective teachers
provide experiences so that students can learn by doing. Curriculum
content is derived from student interests and questions. The scientific
method is used by progressivist educators so that students can study
matter and events systematically and first hand. The emphasis is on
process-how one comes to know. The Progressive education philosophy
was established in America from the mid 1920s through the mid 1950s.
John Dewey was its foremost proponent. One of his tenets was that the
school should improve the way of life of our citizens through
experiencing freedom and democracy in schools. Shared decision
making, planning of teachers with students, student-selected topics are
all aspects. Books are tools, rather than authority.
Social reconstructionism is a philosophy that
emphasizes the addressing of social questions and a
quest to create a better society and worldwide
democracy. Reconstructionist educators focus on a
curriculum that highlights social reform as the aim of
education. Theodore Brameld (1904-1987) was the
founder of social reconstructionism, in reaction
against the realities of World War II. He recognized
the potential for either human annihilation through
technology and human cruelty or the capacity to
create a beneficent society using technology and
human compassion. George Counts (1889-1974)
recognized that education was the means of
preparing people for creating this new social order
Critical theorists, like social reconstructionists, believe that
systems must be changed to overcome oppression and
improve human conditions. Paulo Freire (1921-1997) was a
Brazilian whose experiences living in poverty led him to
champion education and literacy as the vehicle for social
change. In his view, humans must learn to resist oppression
and not become its victims, nor oppress others. To do so
requires dialog and critical consciousness, the
development of awareness to overcome domination and
oppression. Rather than "teaching as banking," in which the
educator deposits information into students' heads, Freire
saw teaching and learning as a process of inquiry in which
the child must invent and reinvent the world.
For social reconstructionists and critical
theorists, curriculum focuses on student
experience and taking social action on real
problems, such as violence, hunger,
international terrorism, inflation, and
inequality. Strategies for dealing with
controversial issues (particularly in social
studies and literature), inquiry, dialogue, and
multiple perspectives are the focus.
Community-based learning and bringing the
world into the classroom are also strategies.
Which of these educational philosophies
would you describe as authoritarian?
Which as non-authoritarian? Why?
Each of the educational philosophies
relates to one or more of the
metaphysical world view philosophies.
What connections do you see?
Which educational philosophy is most
compatible with your beliefs? Why?
Related Theories of Learning
Related to both the metaphysical worldview philosophies
and the educational philosophies are theories of learning
that focus on how learning occurs, the psychological
orientations. They provide structures for the instructional
aspects of teaching, suggesting methods that are related
to their perspective on learning. These theoretical beliefs
about learning are also at the epistemic level of
philosophy, as they are concerned with the nature of
learning. Each psychological orientation is most directly
related to a particular educational philosophy, but may
have other influences as well. The first two theoretical
approaches can be thought of as transmissive, in that
information is given to learners. The second two
approaches are constructivist, in that the learner has to
make meaning from experiences in the world.
Information Processing theorists focus on the mind
and how it works to explain how learning occurs.
The focus is on the processing of a relatively fixed
body of knowledge and how it is attended to,
received in the mind, processed, stored, and
retrieved from memory. This model is derived from
analogies between how the brain works and
computer processing. Information processing
theorists focus on the individual rather than the
social aspects of thinking and learning. The mind is
a symbolic processor that stores information in
schemas or hierarchically arranged structures.
Knowledge may be general, applicable to many situations;
for example, knowing how to type or spell. Other
knowledge is domain specific, applicable to a specific
subject or task, such as vowel sounds in Spanish.
Knowledge is also declarative (content, or knowing that; for
example, schools have students, teachers, and
administrators), procedural (knowing how to do things—the
steps or strategies; for example, to multiply mixed number,
change both sides to improper fractions, then multiply
numerators and denominators),
or conditional (knowing when and why to apply the other
two types of knowledge; for example, when taking a
standardized multiple choice test, keep track of time, be
strategic, and don't get bogged down on hard problems).
The intake and representation of information is called
encoding. It is sent to the short term or working memory,
acted upon, and those pieces determined as important
are sent to long term memory storage, where they must be
retrieved and sent back to the working or short-term
memory for use. Short term memory has very limited
capacity, so it must be kept active to be retained. Long
term memory is organized in structures, called schemas,
scripts, or propositional or hierarchical networks. Something
learned can be retrieved by relating it to other aspects,
procedures, or episodes. There are many strategies that
can help in both getting information into long term memory
and retrieving it from memory. The teacher's job is to help
students to develop strategies for thinking and
Behaviorist theorists believe that behavior is
shaped deliberately by forces in the environment
and that the type of person and actions desired
can be the product of design. In other words,
behavior is determined by others, rather than by
our own free will. By carefully shaping desirable
behavior, morality and information is learned.
Learners will acquire and remember responses
that lead to satisfying aftereffects. Repetition of a
meaningful connection results in learning. If the
student is ready for the connection, learning is
enhanced; if not, learning is inhibited. Motivation
to learn is the satisfying aftereffect, or
Behaviorism is linked with empiricism,
which stresses scientific information and
observation, rather than subjective or
metaphysical realities. Behaviorists search
for laws that govern human behavior, like
scientists who look for pattern sin empirical
events. Change in behavior must be
observable; internal thought processes
are not considered.
Ivan Pavlov's research on using the reinforcement of a bell sound
when food was presented to a dog and finding the sound alone
would make a dog salivate after several presentations of the
conditioned stimulus, was the beginning of behaviorist approaches.
Learning occurs as a result of responses to stimuli in the
environment that are reinforced by adults and others, as well as
from feedback from actions on objects. The teacher can help
students learn by conditioning them through identifying the desired
behaviors in measurable, observable terms, recording these
behaviors and their frequencies, identifying appropriate reinforcers
for each desired behavior, and providing the reinforcer as soon as
the student displays the behavior. For example, if children are
supposed to raise hands to get called on, we might reinforce a
child who raises his hand by using praise, "Thank you for raising your
hand." Other influential behaviorists include B.F. Skinner (1904-1990)
and James B. Watson (1878-1958).
Cognitivists or Constructivists believe that the
learner actively constructs his or her own
understandings of reality through interaction
with objects, events, and people in the
environment, and reflecting on these
interactions. Early perceptual psychologists
(Gestalt psychology) focused on the making
of wholes from bits and pieces of objects and
events in the world, believing that meaning
was the construction in the brain of patterns
from these pieces.
For learning to occur, an event, object, or experience must
conflict with what the learner already knows. Therefore, the
learner's previous experiences determine what can be
learned. Motivation to learn is experiencing conflict with
what one knows, which causes an imbalance, which
triggers a quest to restore the equilibrium. Piaget described
intelligent behavior as adaptation. The learner organizes his
or her understanding in organized structures. At the simplest
level, these are called schemes. When something new is
presented, the learner must modify these structures in order
to deal with the new information. This process, called
equilibration, is the balancing between what is assimilated
(the new) and accommodation, the change in structure.
The child goes through four distinct stages or levels in his or
her understandings of the world.
Some constructivists (particularly Vygotsky)
emphasize the shared, social construction of
knowledge, believing that the particular
social and cultural context and the
interactions of novices with more expert
thinkers (usually adult) facilitate or scaffold
the learning process. The teacher mediates
between the new material to be learned and
the learner's level of readiness, supporting the
child's growth through his or her "zone of
The roots of humanism are found in the thinking of Erasmus (1466-
1536), who attacked the religious teaching and thought prevalent
in his time to focus on free inquiry and rediscovery of the classical
roots from Greece and Rome. Erasmus believed in the essential
goodness of children, that humans have free will, moral
conscience, the ability to reason, aesthetic sensibility, and religious
instinct. He advocated that the young should be treated kindly and
that learning should not be forced or rushed, as it proceeds in
stages. Humanism was developed as an educational philosophy by
Rousseau (1712-1778) and Pestalozzi, who emphasized nature and
the basic goodness of humans, understanding through the senses,
and education as a gradual and unhurried process in which the
development of human character follows the unfolding of nature.
Humanists believe that the learner should be in control of his or her
own destiny. Since the learner should become a fully autonomous
person, personal freedom, choice, and responsibility are the focus.
The learner is self-motivated to achieve towards the highest level
possible. Motivation to learn is intrinsic in humanism.
Recent applications of humanist philosophy
focus on the social and emotional well-being
of the child, as well as the cognitive.
Development of a healthy self-concept,
awareness of the psychological needs,
helping students to strive to be all that they
can are important concepts, espoused in
theories of Abraham Maslow, Carl Rogers,
and Alfred Adler that are found in classrooms
today. Teachers emphasize freedom from
threat, emotional well-being, learning
processes, and self-fulfillment.
*Some theorists call Rousseau's
philosophy naturalism and consider this to
be a world or metaphysical level
philosophy (e.g. Gutek)
Which psychological orientations are most
compatible with which educational philosophies?
Explain the differences in focus of the educational
philosophies and psychological orientations. Are
there also similarities?
Non-western philosophies have also influenced
American education, such as Buddhism, Hinduism,
Islam, and Native American and African American
philosophies. Find out about these and think about
their current influences in education and where
they might possibly be of value.
Philosophy and Education
Modernity <------------------------------------------------------------------------> Post Modernity
Traditional and Conservative <---------------------------------> Contemporary and Liberal
Authoritarian (convergent) <--------------------------------> (divergent) Non-Authoritarian
General or World
Ideas are the only true reality, the only thing
Reality exists independent of human mind.
World of physical objects ultimate reality.
Universe is dynamic, evolving. Purpose of
thought is action. Truth is relative.
Reality is subjective, within the individual.
Individual rather than external standards.
Originator(s) Plato, Socrates Aristotle Pierce, Dewey Sartre, Kierkegaard
Curricular Emphasis Subject matter of mind: literature, history,
Subject matter of physical world: science,
Subject matter of social experience. Creation
of new social order
Subject matter of personal choice
Teaching Method Teach for handling ideas: lecture, discussion Teach for mastery of facts and basic skills:
Problem solving: Project method Individual as entity within social context
Imitating examples, heroes Training in rules of conduct Making group decisions in light of
Individual responsibility for decisions and
Focus: Teach ideas that are everlasting. Seek
enduring truths which are constant, not
changing, through great literature, art,
Focus: Teach the common core, "the basics" of
information and skills (cultural heritage)
needed for citizenship. (Curriculum can
Focus: Ideas should be tested by active
experimentation. Learning rooted in questions
of learners in interaction with others.
Experience and student centered.
Focus: Critical pedagogy: Analysis of world
events, controversial issues and diversity to
provide vision for better world and social
Key Proponents Robert Hutchins,
E. D. Hirsch,
Related Theories of
The mind makes meaning through symbol-
processing structures of a fixed body of
knowledge. Describes how information is
received, processed, stored, and retrieved
from the mind.
Behavior shaped by design and determined
by forces in environment. Learning occurs as
result of reinforcing responses to stimuli.
Learning by observing and imitating others.
Learner actively constructs own
understandings of reality through interaction
with environment and reflection on actions.
Student-centered learning around conflicts to
present knowing structures.
Personal freedom, choice, responsibility.
Achievement motivation towards highest
levels. Control of own destiny. Child centered.
Interaction with others.
Key proponents R. M. Gagne,
Educational Philosophies Self-Assessment
Task 4: What is My Philosophy of Education?
Read the content section on Philosophy of Education. Look at links to help you dig deeper. Think
about your own beliefs about teaching and learning. In writing, discuss which of the philosophies of
education and the learning orientations are closest to you? Why? Which do not fit with your
philosophy of education and learning? Why?
Examine the chart Philosophy and Education Continuum. In one or two paragraphs, discuss how the
branches of philosophy (metaphysics, epistemology, and/or axiology) are related to the world view
philosophies, philosophies of education, and learning theories.
Take the Educational Philosophies Self-Assessment. Score yourself using the Educational Philosophies
Self-Assessment Scoring Guide.
Discuss what you learned about yourself in taking this assessment and thinking about your educational
philosophy. Were there any discrepancies between your original ideas about which educational
philosophy fit you (part B above) and results on the Self-Assessment? Could the instrument be
inaccurate in picking up your true philosophy of education? What does your philosophical orientation
imply for how you will teach? Discuss. Then submit Parts A through D to the instructor.
Select any three persons from three different time periods. Create a comparison chart
considering the following, then write some additional paragraphs discussing educational
change in historical perspective. It will be easiest to complete the history chart (click on
"Save File") as a Microsoft Word document and return it via email. If you don't have MS
Word, email a response with an entry for each label. In your discussion, be sure to include
the concept of "the power of one," that is, how one individual was able to effect change.
What conclusions do you draw about these people and time periods related to education
Person 2 Person 3
Name A1 A2 A3
Time/place B1 B2 B3
Characteristics of the time period C1 C2 C3
Cultural beliefs about education D1 D2 D3
Who received an education? E1 E2 E3
What were the prevailing attitudes
F1 F2 F3
What was the person's contribution to
the field of education?
G1 G2 G3
How was the person a reflection of
his or her times?
H1 H2 H3
How did the person change
education for future generations?
I1 I2 I3
Some educational historians believe that the
primary aim of education is to perpetuate the
existing power structure. Others believe that
the aims of education change according to
the context and needs of the time period.
Using the web text, supporting links, and/or
other resources, defend EACH of these
positions (Please include your references).
Make sure you give examples connected to
(a) time period(s). Then describe your own
position relative to power or change.
Capstone Project: Writing a Philosophy Statement
Read the suggestions for writing a philosophy of education and the sample philosophies written
by former education students.
Write your philosophy of education. This is a one page (no more, no less!) statement of your
personal beliefs about teaching and learning. Typically, it is single-spaced with a space
between paragraphs. It requires a great deal of soul searching, wrestling with the essences of
what is important to you. It should NOT be a treatise on good educational practice as if written
by a textbook author. Hint: Use "I believe" statements to help you get started. This is not what
others believe, but your own beliefs. This personal philosophy statement will be important to you
as you create your educational portfolio, present yourself in job interviews, select a setting that
fits you, or complete your Continuing Licensure.
On separate pages, discuss your educational philosophy statement relative to the philosophical
and theoretical orientations described in Task 4.
Historical Perspective: Analyze your philosophical orientation in historical perspective (you can
add to part C, but please label as Historical Perspective. Discuss your beliefs related to the issue
of power. What influences, threads, and themes from the past have shaped your educational
Suggestions for Writing an Educational Philosophy Statement
After a great deal of thought and discussion, here is what we came up with as a framework for thinking about and writing your
philosophy statement. There was a part of us that rebelled against giving you this document. You need to realize that we have
never done this before, as we believe this philosophy statement must come from the "heart." Our preference still is to let you
come up with a statement based on your own self-reflection and soul-searching. We hope this framework does not counter
your creativity and we hope you only use it as a means of thinking more deeply about your teaching and the philosophy with
which you base your teaching decisions. It is not a hierarchy.
Why You Teach
What is the purpose of education?
What is your role as an educator?
Whom You Teach
How will you reach the diverse children in your classroom?
How do you define your community of learners?
How and What You Teach
What are your beliefs about how children learn?
How will your beliefs affect your teaching?
How do you balance the needs of the individual learner with the needs of the classroom community?
What are your goals for students?
Where You Teach
How will you bring a global awareness into your classroom?
What will be your relationship with the community, parents, teaching colleagues, administration?
I believe that each child is a unique individual who needs a secure, caring, and stimulating atmosphere in which to grow and
mature emotionally, intellectually, physically, and socially. It is my desire as a educator to help students meet their fullest
potential in these areas by providing an environment that is safe, supports risk-taking, and invites a sharing of ideas. There are
three elements that I believe are conducive to establishing such an environment, (1) the teacher acting as a guide, (2)
allowing the child's natural curiosity to direct his/her learning, and (3) promoting respect for all things and all people.
When the teacher's role is to guide, providing access to information rather than acting as the primary source of information,
the students' search for knowledge is met as they learn to find answers to their questions. For students to construct knowledge,
they need the opportunity to discover for themselves and practice skills in authentic situations. Providing students access to
hands-on activities and allowing adequate time and space to use materials that reinforce the lesson being studied creates an
opportunity for individual discovery and construction of knowledge to occur.
Equally important to self-discovery is having the opportunity to study things that are meaningful and relevant to one's life and
interests. Developing a curriculum around student interests fosters intrinsic motivation and stimulates the passion to learn. One
way to take learning in a direction relevant to student interest is to invite student dialogue about the lessons and units of study.
Given the opportunity for input, students generate ideas and set goals that make for much richer activities than I could have
created or imagined myself. When students have ownership in the curriculum, they are motivated to work hard and master
the skills necessary to reach their goals.
Helping students to develop a deep love and respect for themselves, others, and their environment occurs through an open
sharing of ideas and a judicious approach to discipline. When the voice of each student is heard, and environment evolves
where students feel free to express themselves. Class meetings are one way to encourage such dialogue. I believe children
have greater respect for their teachers, their peers, and the lessons presented when they feel safe and sure of what is
expected of them. In setting fair and consistent rules initially and stating the importance of every activity, students are shown
respect for their presence and time. In turn they learn to respect themselves, others, and their environment.
For myself, teaching provides an opportunity for continual learning and growth. One of my hopes as an educator is to instill a
love of learning in my students, as I share my own passion for learning with them. I feel there is a need for compassionate,
strong, and dedicated individuals who are excited about working with children. In our competitive society it is important for
students to not only receive a solid education, but to work with someone who is aware of and sensitive to their individual
needs. I am such a person and will always strive to be the best educator that I can be.
I believe the children are our future...
I believe each and every child has the potential to bring something unique and special to the world. I
will help children to develop their potential by believing in them as capable individuals. I will assist
children in discovering who they are, so they can express their own opinions and nurture their own
ideas. I have a vision of a world where people learn to respect, accept, and embrace the
differences between us, as the core of what makes life so fascinating.
Teach them well and let them lead the way...
Every classroom presents a unique community of learners that varies not only in abilities, but also in
learning styles. My role as a teacher is to give children the tools with which to cultivate their own
gardens of knowledge. To accomplish this goal, I will teach to the needs of each child so that all
learners can feel capable and successful. I will present curriculum that involves the interests of the
children and makes learning relevant to life. I will incorporate themes, integrated units, projects,
group work, individual work, and hands-on learning in order to make children active learners. Finally, I
will tie learning into the world community to help children become caring and active members of
Show them all the beauty they possess inside. Give them a sense of pride...
My classroom will be a caring, safe, and equitable environment where each child can blossom and
grow. I will allow children to become responsible members of our classroom community by using
strategies such as class meetings, positive discipline, and democratic principles. In showing children
how to become responsible for themselves as well as their own learning, I am giving them the tools to
become successful in life, to believe in themselves, and to love themselves.
Let the children's laughter remind us how we used to be...
Teaching is a lifelong learning process of learning about new philosophies and new strategies,
learning from the parents and community, learning from colleagues, and especially learning from the
children. Children have taught me to open my mind and my heart to the joys, the innocence, and
the diversity of ideas in the world. Because of this, I will never forget how to smile with the new, cherish
the old, and laugh with the children.