Academic journal article Journal of Adult Education

Identifying Your Educational Philosophy: Development of the Philosophies Held by Instructors of Lifelong-Learners (PHIL)

Academic journal article Journal of Adult Education

Identifying Your Educational Philosophy: Development of the Philosophies Held by Instructors of Lifelong-Learners (PHIL)

Article excerpt


The Philosophies Held by Instructors of Lifelong-learners (PHIL) was developed to identify a respondent's preference for one of the major schools of philosophical thought: Idealism, Realism, Pragmatism, Existentialism, or Reconstructionism. Using the pool of items from an established instrument, its final form and content validity were determined by a series of discriminant analyses. Criterion-related validity was established through a three-part process, and reliability was established through the test-retest process. PHIL is a short, user-friendly tool that is designed for self-assessment for instrumented learning.


Many people are involved at various levels and in diverse settings in the education of adults. One of the characteristics of professional development activities among this diverse group of adult educators is an attempt to better understand the teaching-learning process. For teachers, this involves better understanding what we do in the classroom and why we do it. One way to accomplish this is for teachers to become aware of their educational philosophies because "true professionals know not only what they are to do, but also are aware of the principles and reasons for acting. Experience alone does not make a person a professional adult educator. The person must be also be able to reflect deeply upon the experience he or she has had" (Elias & Merriam, 1980, p. 9).

Educational philosophy can serve as the frame of reference for effectively analyzing this reflective thinking. Since "a philosophical orientation underlies most individual and institutional practices in adult education" (Darkenwald & Merriam, 1982, p. 37), this reflective process involves an understanding of educational philosophy and of one's relationship to the various philosophical schools. "Developing a philosophical perspective on education is not a simple or easy task. It is, however, a necessary one if a person wants to become an effective professional educator" (Ozmon & Graver, 1981, p. 268).

A first step in this professional development process can be the identification of one's educational philosophy. In the field of Adult Education, the major instrument that has been developed for this purpose is the Philosophy of Adult Education Inventory (PAEI) by Lorraine Zinn (2004). The PAEI was based on the descriptions of the schools of philosophical thought in Philosophical Foundations of Adult Education by Elias and Merriam (1980). This important book related the various educational philosophies to the field of adult education and challenged adult educators to think critically about their educational philosophy and how it relates to practice. While the PAEI is a very useful instrument for identifying detailed aspects of one's philosophy, it is time consuming for taking, scoring, and interpreting. Therefore, the purpose of this study was to develop a user-friendly instrument that could be completed rapidly for identifying one's preference for an educational philosophy (see Insert). This was accomplished by creating and establishing the validity and reliability for an instrument based upon the items in the PAEI. The process of establishing this validity and reliability are described in detail because these are crucial features of any instrument and without them the instrument "should not be used" (Gay & Airasian, 2000, p. 162).

What Is An Educational Philosophy?

An educational philosophy refers to a comprehensive and consistent set of beliefs about the teaching-learning transaction. The purpose of an educational philosophy is to help "educators recognize the need to think clearly about what they are doing and to see what they are doing in the larger context of individual and social development" (Ozmon & Graver, 1981, p. x). Thus, it is simply "to get people thinking about what they are doing" (p. x). By doing this, educators can see the interaction among the various elements in the teaching-learning transaction such as the students, curriculum, administration, and goals (p. …

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