Educational Philosophies Videoconference

I recently took part in a videoconference concerning different educational philosophies including essentialism, perennialism, progressivism, social reconstruction, and existentialist education.  I came into the discussion with a few questions, but one burning question: How can educators tasked with teaching a state-mandated curriculum subvert the traditional, essentialist nature of most public schools using progressive methods while still teaching to state standards?    This question first led us to outline the differences in traditional vs. progressive education, and we identified their main differences: traditional education is teacher-centered, whereas progressive is student-centered. Students primarily learn through passive means such as lectures or books (though sometimes Socratic method) in traditional education, but in progressive education, students are active learners who learn by doing.   In a traditional education, the end product of learning is a predetermined truth or set of objectives, while in progressive education, the end product of learning is not clearly defined, and not the most important part of education.  The process of learning itself is the point of a progressive education.  After delineating these differences, it became clear that even though the students in most public schools today have little to no say in the curriculum, they can still be given power over the methods of learning, the structure of the classroom, and can take part in their own evaluations as well.

Another issue that intrigued me prior to the videoconference was the existentialist philosophy of education.  We touched upon how feasible an existentialist education would be for most students and how some students may abuse and misuse the power they have been given if put in the situation of freely directing their own learning with little or no limitations or structure.  Dr. Dan Krutka made the point that students who have been conditioned to learn in a teacher-driven classroom may have a very difficult time adjusting to the amount of power afforded them by an existentialist learning situation.  It seems that this rare form of education is most effective when started while the students are very young or when used as a component of a more structured learning environment.

I think studying and knowing the different educational philosophies is not only really interesting, but very important.  As educators, we need our own educational philosophies to guide us in what we do, how we do it, and why.  Being familiar with these general philosophies gives us a foundation on which to build our own.




One thought on “Educational Philosophies Videoconference

  1. Hi Dana!
    Wow, I love the main question you asked in your video conference! I have been wondering the exact same thing. I am determined to create a classroom that encourages students to take initiative, get invested in their own learning, connect the material to their own lives and learn how to better their own communities with the skills we learn together. However, the reality is that we live in Texas, and the public school system here, like most places in the United States, is run on a largely Essentialist and Perennialist model that doesn’t afford us much wiggle room regarding the curriculum. I’m really glad you asked that because the answers y’all came up with are ideas I had not fully formed for myself yet and they make me hopeful for my future as a teacher in the public school system. I think I wouldn’t be able to stay focused long enough on one particular topic to really learn it were I to try to get an education through an Existentialist model of teaching. I also wondered, as I was reading and watching videos for this module, what is done when a student wants to devote their time learning about a topic that may not give them skills they can use as an adult to get a job they can actually earn a living from? I am interested in a huge variety of topics and was as a kid as well: paleontology, marine biology, comparative religion, etc. Those are all very interesting and very intellectually stimulating topics, and any academic topic, if pursued with integrity can make a person a better citizen, but unless I decided to pursue say paleontology all the way through a doctorate program, it is unlikely knowing about dinosaurs would help me get any job which is not specialized to that topic. Of course, one need not employ the Existentialist model in order to teach in a more progressive way. I really love the idea that you touched on that progressive philosophies of education view the goal of education as learning how to learn and learning why to learn, rather than simply learning skills so they can be checked off of a list and forgotten sooner rather than later.


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