by Nellie Deutsch
My love of education and learning never ends. My after school activities also deal with education but on a deeper level as I collaborate with other educators worldwide. In this article, I would like to reflect and discuss my personal educational philosophy of learning and instruction as a way to enhance my personal and professional developments.
There are many educational philosophies that determine which teaching instruction you use. These include: perennialism, idealism, realism, experimentalism, existentialism (UOP, 2002), essentialism, progressivism, and behaviorism (Shaw, n.d). Effective teaching may be classified as transmission, apprenticeship, developmental, nurturing, and social reform (Pratt, & Collins, 2001). Many of these schools of thought reflect my own personal educational philosophy (see Appendix 1) and my instructional practices and choice of classroom curriculum. This paper is a reflection of my personal educational philosophy and teaching ideas.
When I was in grade eight I took part in a public speaking essay contest at Humewood Public School in Toronto, Ontario. Each candidate had to go from class to class and speak. The students nominated and later voted for the best speech. I came in third. My topic was the value of education. I was petrified as I spoke in front of the whole school on parents' night but was determined to make my points heard. Two years later I started reading books by Jean Paul Sartre and other existentialist writers. I never intended to go into teaching but circumstances changed that. My move to Israel brought me into the classroom by chance. I volunteered to teach by substituting at a public school where I was needed. Once again my ideas of what education should be came back as I stood in front of my students. I have been teaching for over 30 years. My philosophy of education has remained existentialist with a combination of experimentalism and a great deal of nurturing.
Although I scored slightly higher for experimentalism (see Appendix, 1) on "Philosophy Preference Assessment" found in Section One of Foundations of Curriculum and Instruction (UOP, 2002, p. 48), I consider myself both an existentialist and an experimentalist. I think they complement each other. Experimentalism views "the world as an ever-changing place [where] reality is what is actually experienced and change is openly accepted" (UOP, 2002, p. 48). The curriculum focuses on social change and values. Teachers guide learners to solve problems as they discover and experience the world in which they live (48). I believe that personal growth and individual development will lead to "new ways to expand and improve society" (48). This is an existentialist idea of subjectivity with an experimentalist view of society. "The existentialist sees the world in terms of personal subjectivity; goodness, truth, and reality are individually defined ... goodness [being] a matter of freedom" (48). The individual precedes society.
I think we should concentrate both on personal growth and on society. I believe in learning about society and our place in it so that we can change what needs improvement for the sake of progress and the individual. The individual can help change society by first becoming good and learning about moral behavior. Respect and tolerance is the first step in that direction. A teacher's caring and nurturing attitude will aid students as they learn to respect and tolerate each other.
I respect my students and try to model my beliefs. I value learning and still get excited from teaching. Every single day is new. Nothing is repeated as I observe my students. They do not remain the same. I have them in mind as I enter the classroom. I view them as I contemplate on the lesson planned and the "outcome desires" (Wiggins & McTighe2004). I interact with my students as I assist them "in their personal learning" (UOP, 2002, p. 48). My students and I determine which way the lesson will go. I prepare a guideline, but I am flexible in my approach.
I view the curriculum as a process (Smith, 2000) and not as an end product. I teach a communicative subject: English as a second language which makes things much easier for me. I help my students grasp the idea that I cannot teach English but that they can learn it. I present myself as a facilitator and not as a teacher. There is no real material to cover but there are techniques and skills that need development such as reading and writing strategies. I help my students understand the importance of feelings within the process of learning. How they feel about their progress and learning is very important. Many learners feel frustrated about their grades and need to express these feelings so that they can overcome such obstacles and improve their grades. It is important to discuss these issues in class and share them with others. In most cases students are amazed that their peers feel the same.
Education is a value. I learn with and from my students. That's what makes teaching exciting for me. It is an ongoing process of learning. I do not consider myself the sole provider of information. I integrate technology into my classrooms. I teach my students how to use information as a means and not an end. They learn to solve both social and personal problems with facts. I teach by conversation as I encourage my students to participate and share their ideas with their peers. I think it is very important for learners to express themselves to others in order to grow and develop. I use many supportive and inviting words to facilitate my students as they struggle to open up and express their views. It is not easy for them to organize and share their ideas and feelings with their classmates. I believe in discussions. I think they help develop better understanding on how to cope with difficulties and discomfort. Learning about the self is what I strive for in my classes. I believe each of us has many selves that we need to learn about so we can utilize each to help us solve problems and cope with the day to day living. My experiences as a "Pairs" (Pairs Foundation, 2004) marriage facilitator have helped me understand the importance of personal development and have given me tools to use in my classes.
My past readings and teaching experiences have strengthened my personal philosophy of education. I have not swayed from my original grade eight ideas on the value of education. I am just as determined as I was then to make my views on education heard. I am very enthusiastic about teaching as I guide my students and myself on the journey to self development and growth.
Composite graph for philosophy preference assessment
Pairs Foundation. (2004). Pairs: The skills for successful relationships. Retrieved October 25, 2004, from http://www.pairs.com/about/index.html
Pratt, D. D. & Collins, J. B. (2001). Teaching perspectives inventory. Retrieved October 25, 2004, from http://www.teachingperspectives.com/html/tpi_frames.htm
Shaw, L. J. (n.d). Humanistic and social aspects of teaching. Retrieved October 25, from http://edweb.sdsu.edu/LShaw/f95syll/philos/phintro.html
Smith, M. K. (2000). Curriculum theory and practice. Retrieved October 25, 2004, from http://www.infed.org/biblio/b-curric.htm
University of Phoenix (Ed.). (2002). Foundations of Curriculum and Instruction [University of Phoenix Custom Edition e-text]. Boston: Pearson Custom Publishing
Wiggins, G. & McTighe, J. (2004). The Understanding by design professional development workbook. Association for Supervision and
Curriculum Development (ASCD). Retrieved October 23, 2004, from http://www.ascd.org/publications/books/2004mctighe/intro.html