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A school philosophy on education or any of its constituent parts will, because of the nature of the people in it, be a complex and fluid thing. However there are some key concepts around which the philosophy will be built and sometimes rebuilt. Teaching and learning are two of those. In recent times staff have considered the writing of several leading academics and educators as they have tried to come to grips with a school philosophy on education. Statements written here illustrate our current thinking.
The philosophy of education that underpins the actions of the people in our school who are concerned with curriculum implementation derive from five basic philosophies of education:
- Perennialism is a very conservative and inflexible philosophy of education. It is based on the view that reality comes from fundamental fixed truths-especially related to God. It believes that people find truth through reasoning and revelation and that goodness is found in rational thinking. As a result, schools exist to teach reason and God's will. Students are taught to reason through structured lessons and drills.
- Idealism believes in refined wisdom. It is based on the view that reality is a world within a person's mind. It believes that truth is in the consistency of ideas and that goodness is an ideal state to strive to attain. As a result, schools exist to sharpen the mind and intellectual processes. Students are taught the wisdom of past heroes.
- Realism believes in the world as it is. It is based on the view that reality is what we observe. It believes that truth is what we sense and observe and that goodness is found in the order of the laws of nature. As a result, schools exist to reveal the order of the world and universe. Students are taught factual information.
- Experimentalism believes that things are constantly changing. It is based on the view that reality is what you experience. It believes that truth is what works right now and that goodness comes from group decisions. As a result, schools exist to discover and expand the society we live in. Students study social experiences and solve problems.
- Existentialism believes in the personal interpretation of the world. It is based on the view that the individual defines reality, truth and goodness. As a result, schools exist to aid children in knowing themselves and their place in society. Students learn what they want and discuss subjects freely.
A danger associated with adopting a particular philosophy is that the view of the world through that philosophy and the ability to change it are restricted. A combination of several of these philosophies or approaches may better serve the interests of a wider range of views and possibilities.
Teaching by Jere Brophy http://www.iaoed.org/files/prac01e.pdf is one of many starting points for staff discussion. This publication considers the following topics:
Introduction, page 6
1. A supportive classroom climate, page 8
2. Opportunity to learn, page 10
3. Curricular alignment, page 13
4. Establishing learning orientations, page 15
5. Coherent content, page 17
6. Thoughtful discourse, page 19
7. Practice and application activities, page 21
8. Scaffolding students’ task engagement, page 23
9. Strategy teaching, page 25
10. Co-operative learning, page 27
11. Goal-oriented assessment, page 29
12. Achievement expectations, page 31