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My education philosophy is based on the ideas of pragmatism that had given birth to the learning theory of progressivism and the concepts of social and emotional intelligence (SEI). The key point of progressivism lies in the importance of preparing students for their future lives by teaching them critical skills, including problem-solving. SEI system is an extremely important set of skills that have been traditionally ignored by school education.
Consequently, I consider my educational philosophy to be appropriate for a public school: it enhances the ability of the latter to prepare its students for their future lives. The student-teacher relationship in progressivism is regarded as that of the learner and facilitator, which is why I believe that the teacher does not teach SEI skills but helps students learn them by providing suitable opportunities (environments and problems). As a result, I insist on the usage of group learning and projects as well as similar instructional strategies to foster effective SEI behavior in students. The skills that are being fostered are directly connected to diversity and help students to develop cultural intelligence as well.
It is a scientifically proved fact that social and emotional intelligence (SEI) is important for a person’s psychological well-being and problem-solving abilities. A high level of SEI results in improved learning abilities, self-esteem, and lower chances of depression; underdeveloped SEI skills have an opposite effect (Chow, Chui, & Wong, 2011; Rocha & Santos, 2014). Therefore, developing these skills is necessary for any person: they are required for the normal functioning of a human being.
However, it is well-known and even proved by scientific studies that SEI skills are more often underdeveloped than not in modern people (Chow et al., 2011). The reason for this fact appears to be obvious: we are not taught these skills.
Learning is a vital part of human existence, and it is not limited to school experiences, but the role of the school in shaping the future of students is immense. Despite the importance of SEI skills, up until recently, they were mostly neglected by school education (Rocha & Santos, 2014). Nowadays, we realize that human intelligence is not limited to academic knowledge, and it is necessary to foster change and promote SEI through education, which is explained by the significance of these skills for the students’ future lives.
Worldview & Philosophy of Life
I am inclined to name pragmatism as the main type of philosophy that my worldview aligns with. I also admit that I empathize with existentialism (with the concept of the study of the self) and postmodernism (the focus on social aspects) to an extent, but the cornerstone of my philosophy is pragmatism (Ornstein, Levine, & Gutek, 2011, pp. 181, 184). In particular, my reasons for focusing on SEI are pragmatic: I believe that the school is supposed to prepare the children for their future, provide them with the essential skills, many of which are of the SEI group (Ornstein et al., 2011). Besides, I agree with the pragmatic idea of rejecting the attempts at answering metaphysical questions.
One needs beliefs to find the purpose of life, but I acknowledge the right of others to answer the metaphysical questions in their way. I have to admit that this is a rather existentialist view, but it is reasoned by pragmatic ideas (Ornstein et al., 2011, p. 181). Similarly, the idea of the relativity of values appeals to me. In the pragmatic view, whatever contributes to the development is of value; naturally, there are limits, but the very idea of relativity means that every case is specific but similarly important. In other words, I will not let my personal views interfere with my work with the student and produce bias.
One of the primary values I promote is that of identity and individuality as well as self-understanding and self-development (once again, close to existentialism). The individual approach is also of consequence for my educational philosophy despite the criticism it receives together with warnings of social chaos (Hargreaves, 2002). This stance is rational: individual people have their own needs, and their development is going to be unique, so insisting that one size fits all is not pragmatic.
Finally, I agree with the epistemological stance of pragmatists. We are capable of knowing what we had experienced; our knowledge is tentative and often needs to be flexible to suit the changing environment (Ornstein et al., 2011, p. 177). It does not presuppose rejecting all the knowledge that had been gathered by the centuries of human experience: what we know is in many ways what “our fathers have told us” (Psalm 78:3-8).
Still, I like the fact that pragmatic stance promotes reviewing and adjusting knowledge: I believe that it is of primary importance for human development. Thus, our knowledge stems from problem-solving and ongoing human experience; the key aim of this knowledge is, in turn, problem-solving. All these aspects of my worldview are interconnected with the knowledge base underpinning my educational philosophy.
Philosophy of Schools & Learning
The knowledge base that guides me in my educational philosophy is primarily concerned with John Dewey, and he is the figure I would like to discuss. He is one of the main theorists of pragmatism, and he has greatly influenced the development of the educational theory (Ornstein et al., 2011, p. 176; Gutek, 1995, p. 482). He developed the concepts of experience and environment in education and emphasized the importance of problem-solving. Apart from that, Dewey also promoted the idea of social intelligence as an asset for solving social problems and considered group activity to be the primary tool for its development (Ornstein et al., 2011, p. 112).
The correspondent educational theory is progressivism, and it aligns with my educational philosophy. Progressivism is based on experiential theory and emphasizes the importance of experience in learning; it also promotes the individual approach that is aimed at the development of crucial skills (Ornstein et al., 2011, p. 180). Technically, progressivism is the foundation of my educational philosophy.
Other ideas of Dewey are also applicable to my worldview. The concept of the tentativeness of knowledge corresponds to the current trend of reflective teaching: the changing environment requires continuous reviewing of the teaching methods (Ornstein et al., 2011, p. 15). Also, Dewey’s ideas included the democratization of schools and opposed segregation (Ornstein et al., 2011). This stance corresponds to the changes in modern society and the idea of the inclusiveness of teaching.
Another important aspect of the professional knowledge employed in my educational philosophy is the SEI itself. The idea of “other” intelligence was developed by Gardner (2011), and although neither social nor emotional intelligence was named by him, his intrapersonal and interpersonal types of intelligence seem to be related to SEI. The contribution of Gardner (2011) to the understanding of multiple intelligences and the development of educational theories has been acknowledged by the academic society as stated by UNESCO (2010). Since then, the concepts of social and emotional intelligence have been developed and united in a single system of skills that help a person to understand oneself and other people to develop an “effective social and emotional behavior” (Rocha & Santos, 2014, p. 136).
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Based on pragmatism, progressivism, and the theory of SEI, my philosophy suggests that the purpose of schools consists of providing tools for problem-solving in the future life. Given the fact that SEI skills are essential for problem-solving in the modern environment, the educational practice that is discussed here incorporates them.
The need for social skills development is obvious for anyone who has ever been involved in teaching activities. Emotional intelligence more subtle, but once you realize that conventional knowledge is not the only determinant of a person’s success, you begin to wonder how to help people develop other its elements, and the obvious conclusion is that this is the function of schools. The next step lies in defining how to develop these elements: linking the theory to practice.
Progressivism is an educational theory has its specific tools that I find suitable. Primarily, it is aimed at developing crucial skills through various activities and projects aimed at problem-solving with particular attention paid to group activities (Ornstein et al., 2011, p. 180).
Therefore, group learning with the emphasis on critical thinking is of the primary importance of the instructional strategies. Also, I would like to point out the significance of computerized instruction: it reflects the need for modernization and is pragmatic (Ornstein et al., 2011, p. 443). As for the skills that are supposed to be developed this way, they include group work, leadership, critical thinking, problem-solving skills, and others, such as, for example, cultural intelligence skills (Rocha & Santos, 2014, p. 136). Finally, to ensure that I am taking into account the needs of my students, I will employ the reflective teaching practice that is in line with the ideas of Dewey: I will continuously review our progress with the students and modify my strategies whenever needed.
In progressivism, the teacher is regarded as a facilitator of the natural process of students’ development, which I agree with (Ornstein et al., 2011, p. 180). Students learn about themselves and the environment, students share the knowledge and teach each other, and the teacher helps them to do so, uses strategies and tools that allow students to discover and produce knowledge themselves. The methods of teaching described above are aligned with this view: they encourage students to interact with the environment, solve problems and receive experience. However, I also believe that discipline is an important part of teaching that facilitates the process of studying; therefore, the teacher as a facilitator needs to keep students in line. After all, in the Bible, it is clearly stated that the student cannot be “above” the teacher (Matt. 10:24). Still, the line, in my opinion, is a modifiable concept: it depends on the needs of the students.
As it was mentioned, Dewey insisted on inclusive education. Student diversity is a fact of life: every learner possesses a unique personality, but there is also gender-based, cultural, and racial-cultural diversity, which poses both challenges and opportunities. There exists scientific evidence to the idea that students who attend multi-cultural school environments have a better level of communication skills (Gurin & Lopez, 2004).
Similarly, it has been suggested that the diversity of a class promotes the academic and creative growth of the students due to the increased amount of varied experience (Banks, 2015). On the other hand, diversity has also always been a source of conflict, so the management of diversity can be regarded as a vital teacher skill. Apart from that, a specific diversity issue concerns students with disabilities: they have particular needs that the teacher must realize (Ornstein et al., 2011, p. 15). In general, respect towards the individuals and their diversity is a core feature of my educational philosophy. After all, as stated in the Bible, we are all the parts of one body: we are all different, but equally important (Cor. 12:12-30).
To sum up, my educational philosophy is based on progressivism, SEI theory, and experiential learning that are combined and occasionally complemented by other theories and individual ideas (for example, reflective teaching). I believe that school education is supposed to be pragmatic and prepare the students for their future life; given the importance of SEI skills, I think that we need to help students develop them. I purposefully avoid the word “teach” as, in this stance, the teacher is a facilitator and students are the learners. The teacher creates an environment, the interaction with which grants students a particular experience.
The teacher encourages the interaction of students with each other and seeks to manage the diversity of the class to meet challenges, avoid dangers, and use the advantages of it; the latter aspect is directly connected to SEI skills. The teacher also seeks to find individual approaches to help the students depending on their needs. As a result, the education of students will be improved since this approach acknowledges the importance of various types of intelligence.
Banks, J. (2015). Cultural diversity and education. London: Routledge. Web.
Chow, B. W., Chui, M. M., & Wong, S. W. (2011). Emotional Intelligence, Social Problem-Solving Skills, and Psychological Distress: A Study of Chinese Undergraduate Students. Journal Of Applied Social Psychology, 41(8), 1958-1980. Web.
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