The philosophical doctrines have always had a significant impact on educators’ views of their mission and the methods for achieving their goals. The debates concerning the primary purpose and content of education programs resulted in emergence of diverse educational philosophies.
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The blend of various historical educational philosophies and the compromise between the teacher-centered and student-centered approaches to classroom activities is useful for creating a theoretical framework for the teacher’s personal philosophy of education.
The issue of deciding between various philosophies of education is related to the problem of choosing between teacher-centered and student-centered approaches to classroom activities as the most effective method for reaching the education targets.
Essentialism, perennialism, progressivism, social reconstructionism, existentialism and constructivism are regarded as the most popular philosophies of education. Though the first two of them, essentialism and perennialism, are often criticized for their obsolete teacher-centered authoritarian approach to education, these systems have their advantages. Thus, the teacher-centered approach to the organization of the classroom activities is said to be helpful for developing a tough and demanding curriculum, for example.
On the other hand, the proponents of progressivism, social reconstructionism, existentialism and constructivism emphasize the importance of active involvement of learners in the teaching-learning process for the purpose of enhancing its effectiveness and improving the outcome. The educators who decide on the student-centered model of curriculum are certain that learners would find the lessons which were imposed from above irrelevant and will forget them soon.
Considering the variety of philosophical approaches to the primary goals, content, structure and methods of the educational programs, a young teacher is not obliged to decide on only one of them and can blend the features of several or even all of the approaches for developing an individual teaching style and educational philosophy within the paradigm of the most popular contemporary theories.
Creating a theoretical framework for the teacher’s philosophy of education, an individual should overcome the misconceptions concerning the obsoleteness of the teacher-centered approaches to the organization of the classroom activities. The elements of essentialist and perennialist theories can be beneficial on the condition of adapting them to the realities of the contemporary education systems and needs of contemporary learners.
Though overemphasizing the importance of learning the traditional academic disciplines without modifying them in accordance to the needs of contemporary learners is the weak point of educational essentialism, the principle of proceeding from less to more complex materials and assignments is beneficial for all types of curricula.
It is important to ensure the acquisition of the basics before proceeding to more complicated tasks. A learner needs some basic knowledge for realizing the creative potential and expressing personal views on the problem. In other words, it is essential to lay the foundation for further acquisition of knowledge because students need some skeleton for constructing their system of knowledge.
The same goes for the principles of educational perennialism which are not always applicable to the educational programs but can be advantageous in the context of particular lessons. Learning from primary sources as it is suggested by the proponents of perennialism philosophy should not become an end in itself but still can be helpful for creating learners’ awareness of particular issues. It is essential to consider the students’ level of preparation for selecting appropriate materials and methods for processing them.
The analysis of primary sources can be helpful for developing students’ skills of critical thinking and expressing their personal opinions. Disregarding the obsoleteness of particular aspects of educational essentialism and perennialism, some elements and principles of these theories can be integrated into the philosophy of a contemporary teacher on the condition of adapting them to the realities of educational process and real needs of learners.
Developing an individual educational philosophy, teachers need to strike the right balance between teacher-centered and student-centered approaches, not going from one extreme to another. A teacher should not go too far, implementing the innovative educational techniques and methodologies.
Thus, allotting class time to modeling democratic values, exploring social inequities and discussing human tragedies, as it is requested by the principles of social reconstructionism, teachers should not underestimate the importance of creating the learners’ awareness of the existing views on the problem and the current debates.
The primary goal of a contemporary program should not be limited to shedding light upon the problem of social inequity only. It is essential to provide learners with an opportunity to view issues in their complexity and to consider the context of the debates and various perspectives on the problem. On the other hand, an educator should pay proper attention to preparing learners to live in the community and implementing the knowledge acquired at school in their daily practice.
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At the same time, choosing only themes which learners consider as relevant and exciting for the curriculum, a teacher undergoes risk of reducing the efficiency of the program. Students are often reluctant to study some theoretical and complicated topics, for this reason, teachers should not only decide on the topics which would generate learners’ interest but also develop the lesson plans which would make the less exciting themes interesting for learners, selecting appropriate assignments and techniques.
It is vital to integrate the elements of teacher-centered and student-centered approaches to the development of the educational philosophy for enhancing the effectiveness of educational programs and improving the learning outcome.
The proper level of involvement of both students and educators into the teaching-learning process is significant for reaching the final goals. I share the views of the proponents of constructivism who consider the process of knowledge acquisition possible only on the condition of interpretation and reinterpretation of materials by learners.
Knowledge is not a substance which can be transmitted from one individual to another one as it is. Mere understanding and memorizing of materials is insufficient for the acquisition of knowledge, and learners’ active participation in the process of processing the information is important for developing their skills of applying it in practice.
On the other hand, despite the recent shifts in defining the role of educators in the teaching-learning process, their involvement is required for modifying the curriculum to the actual needs of community and a particular class. Along with students’ involvement in the process of knowledge acquisition, teacher’s flexibility is a crucial element of teacher’s philosophy required for developing effective lesson plans and curricula.
Creating a theoretical framework of teacher’s philosophy of education presupposes considering the context of the existing educational philosophies and blending their particular elements after adapting them to the demands of the contemporary teaching-learning process. Developing an individual teaching style requires striking the balance between the teacher-centered and student-centered approaches to curriculum.
Sadker, D.M. & Zittleman, K.R. (2007). Teachers, schools, and society: A brief introduction to education. (2nd ed.). New York, NY: McGraw Hill.