An Educational Philosophy Guides the Pedagogical Process

By Petress, Kenneth C. | College Student Journal, March 2003 | Go to article overview

An Educational Philosophy Guides the Pedagogical Process


Petress, Kenneth C., College Student Journal


The author's conception of a philosophy is that it constitutes a moral and social compass, behavioral, attitudinal, and value guideposts, essential professional and personal prescriptions, and a consistent but alterable assessment means for professional evaluation. The author offers his teaching philosophy not as a model of virtue, but as a call to fellow teachers to personally--and perhaps collectively--think about how they view the goals, ends, and means employed to carry out their teaching strategies.

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The term "philosophy" frequently conjures visions of abstraction, theory, and/or impracticality. (1) Many classroom teachers at all educational levels claim they really have no "philosophy of education" or that their philosophy is very abstract and not consciously thought about very frequently. (2) This essay argues that a teaching philosophy can and does affect the teaching-learning process; that is contextualizes, frames, and focuses pedagogical activity. Following is an explication of the author's teaching philosophy that has been constructed, refined, adjusted, and repaired over a 37 year time span. The author's conception of a philosophy is that it constitutes a moral and social compass, behavioral, attitudinal, and value guide-posts, essential personal and professional prescriptions, and a consistent but alterable assessment means for professional evaluation. (3) The author offers his teaching philosophy not as a model of virtue, but as a call to fellow teachers to personally--and perhaps collectively--think about how they view the goals, ends, and means employed to carry out their teaching strategies.

A teaching philosophy is not a mere sound bite or tag line that announces either a profound statement or a glitzy attention getter; rather, it is a composite of assumptions, goals, choices, attitudes, and values that coalesce to form a way of seeing one's task and offers guidance in performing the teaching duty. Following are several components of a philosophy of teaching with choice making examples. Each feature of this personal philosophical corpus has numerous variants available to readers to adopt for themselves. Convincing readers into adopting these particular options is not the author's goal; thinking about and formulating reasoned, articulatable, and defendable options for the reader is the intent of this sharing. A mature philosophy is complex; it encompasses many of the following philosophical dimensions: realism, relativism, rationalism, idealism, materialism, and existentialism. (4) Throughout history, humankind has sought to understand what we really know and how we come to know what we do. Epistemology is that branch of philosophy; it is part of the fabric of teaching and learning. (5)

The author believes that most students know more than they think they do. "Knowledge," for many students, is initially interpreted as the accumulation of information and the ability to reproduce recalled information and/or to perform prescribed skills/tasks. While these actions are valuable and do constitute a portion of what is termed "knowledge," they often miss the point of what the author sees as the most vital portion of what constitutes knowledge. To merely regurgitate information or to perform learned behaviors like trained seals is not knowledge; knowledge includes the ability to recognize and use observed and experienced relationships between phenomena. Knowledge includes the ability to weigh alternatives, to make wise and meaningful choices; to adapt to new and changing situations; to know how and when to ask questions of specification, clarification, amplification, reinforcement, or interest; and to be able to clearly, directly, relevantly, and cogently articulate what we do know to others through oral, written, and behavioral means. Too often, students tend to misconstrue what knowledge is and to judge themselves unnecessarily harshly; students thus sometimes form destructive self-fulfilling prophesies for themselves; label themselves as "not smart;" surrender to apathy or an inferiority complex as a result; or resign themselves to sub par effort. …

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