I believe that many aspects of my first semester as an undergraduate student in the University of Limerick have contributed to my emerging philosophy of education. From attending lectures, participating in educational tutorials and reflecting upon the designated readings. I have developed a substantial understanding towards the thought process of what it takes to be a successful educator. It was clear to me from the outset of this semester that I will have to forge my own personalised philosophy of education. I have gained knowledge and reflected on the thoughts and ideologies of key philosophers that I feel I now have a deeper understanding of what education is and have begun the journey of realising what kind of educator I believe would lead to me having the ability to teach students in the most effective way possible.
Firstly I would describe education itself as “the passing on of knowledge and skills to people in different ways, while also maintaining the path of a learner as there is always new knowledge to be gained” (O Connor, 2018, LL05). This description came as a result of my reflections during week 05 of this module as I resonated deeply with the ideologies that Dewey expresses in Experience and Education (Dewey, 1938). I strongly agree with Dewey’s progressive style of teaching, I believe it is important for teachers to engage with their students by questioning them and challenging them in their class. I am of the mindset that if teachers engage with their students more, it will inevitably result in a better learning environment for all individuals. Although there are many benefits to this style of teaching I do believe that some traditional methods such as the focus on the material being distributed to the class and that the teacher maintains control over the class are vital when trying to develop a successful learning environment. This is particularly important in the Irish education system as it is heavily based upon the Leaving Certificate. It is important that teachers do not get sidetracked and allows the students to dictate what is being thought in the class, this I believe, is the most commanding and difficult element of the progressive method of education.
I also believe that education through experience plays a pivotal role in the learning capabilities of a student. I formulate this belief through the expression of Dewey; he suggests that if an educator builds up a rapport with their students and creates a sense of common ground through shared experience then “their active union with each other provide the measure of the educative significance and value of an experience” (Dewey, 1938). I agree with Dewey in the regard as a student can feel more engaged in the class if they can see that the teacher is being respectful towards them and their experience. I refer to my desire to be this type of teacher in week 06 of my Learning Log: “i would strive to be an active teacher who asks questions, as this would indicate to the students that I truly care about what they have to say” (O Connor, 2018, LL06). Asking questions and getting to know ones students is pivotal in terms of determining the academic ability of the students. As a future teacher of mathematics I would ensure that I get to know my students well in order to create a significant educational environment. I would then follow the process of Dewey’s “experiential learning” (Dewey 1938), by challenging the students, allowing them the freedom to discover what needs to be learned. While doing this it would be important as the teacher to ensure that the work being done is still on-task as there is still a course to be completed at the end of the year and the reality is that the particular course needs to be finished to give the students the best possible resources to achieve well in the state exams.
Education should be available to each and every person possible. This ideology formed as a result of my reading the thoughts of Paulo Friere’s Pedagogy of the Oppressed Chapter 2(Friere, 1972). My reflection of friere’s thoughts of an alternative to traditional teaching is captured in week 09 of my Learning Log: “Friere’s Problem posing education is centred around critical thinking and making students aware of their own social reality” (O Connor, 2018, LL09). I agree with this philosophy as it is an ideology that strives to make education available for everyone. This is important for me in terms of my philosophy of education as I will be teaching students of different nationalities, ethnicities and it will be my duty as a teacher to challenge these students in order to allow them to be aware of their social realities and help them understand further through challenging them in various ways. It is effectively summarised as friere states education should be known as: “the practice of freedom- as opposed to the practice of dominance” (Friere, 1972). This entails that education should be enjoyed and expressed openly, rather than focussed on success and fear of failure. I intend to be an educator that makes school enjoyable for students and try my best to make students feel comfortable as it will aid the main goal of creating the best learning environment possible.
It is also important for an educator to acknowledge that there will always be new information and new knowledge in their particular subject area. This was highlighted to me when Postman and Weingartner announce a particular notion in Teaching as a Subversive Activity: “The Vaccination theory of education” (Postman and Weingartner, 1969). He suggests that some people and particularly some educators believe that once they have studied their desired subject that they feel as if they do not need to continue learning and instead focus on teaching the particular area. When in reality it is incredibly advisable for a teacher to be investing their time to be frequently expanding their knowledge and to be open to new ideas, this commitment to their own learning will inevitably benefit the learning of their students by being able to answer any question posed to them. They also depict an educator that is described as an inquiring teacher (Postman and Weingartner, 1969), I intend on being somewhat like this as I feel through reading their descriptions that this style of teaching would allow me to have a long lasting positive effect on the learning environment of the students I teach. To revert back to the progressive style of teaching mentioned previously, this inquiry based teaching would lead to a heightened level of student engagement, encourage student- student interactions and allow lessons to develop from the responses of students. Therefore it will be an ambition of mine to carry out this method of teaching to the fullest in my future as an educator of both Physical Education and Mathematics.
The theory versus practice debate is a central topic when first forging a philosophy of education. It is now clear to me that they are both important in successful education. It is important not to focus too much on one particular aspect. A guest speaker in one of my lectures describes: “theory should be taken as a prescription of practice” (Adenusi, 2018). This effectively summarises my thoughts of this debate as I believe to be an effective educator, one must be aware of the theory behind their own subject and the theory behind how to transfer information. However, to come back to my own description of what education itself is, an educator must be adaptable and know when a particular theory of passing information is not working. People learn things and absorb information in different ways; it is up to the teacher to practically come up with a way of transferring knowledge to the student in the most effective way possible rather than sticking to a rigid theory. I reflected upon this topic in week 02 of my Learning Log, it is more beneficial for students that are willing to learn when they have a teacher that is practically adaptable along with being theoretically up to date with teaching methods and overall knowledge (O Connor, 2018, LL02). I believe that setting up a good foundation of how I will utilise both theory and practice will contribute towards my ambition of being the best educator I can possibly be. As an aspiring Physical Education and Mathematics teacher it will be vital for me to balance both theory and practice in my profession as both subject areas are quite demanding in both respects. It is my responsibility to develop an understanding of both aspects and perform to my highest ability to allow the students I teach to gain the experience needed to succeed in their future lives
To revert back to my own emerging philosophy, I hope that I can be a teacher that focuses on the wellbeing of the students through a progressive method of engaging with my students and challenging them by allowing them to have freedom over how they approach learning. However, I would also hope to maintain a sense of direction in the overall process of teaching the class a desired subject as the education system relies on good performance in examinations.
• Adenusi, T. (2018)’Philosophy of Education’, EN4041: Contemporary Understandings and Thinking of Education, 2 Oct, University of Limerick, Unpublished.
• Dewey, J. (1938). Experience & education. New York: Macmillan, pp.17-23.
• Dewey, J. (1938). Experience & education. New York: Macmillan, pp. 42-45
• Freire, P., Ramos, M., Macedo, D. and Shor, I. (1996). Pedagogy of the oppressed. New York: Continuum, pp.60-63.
• Postman, N. and Weingartner, C. (1969). TEACHING AS A SUBVERSIVE ACTIVITY. NEW YORK: DELACORTE, pp.8-14.
• O Connor, J. 2018. Learning Log Week 02, University of Limerick, EN4041: Contemporary Understandings of and Thinking on Education.
• O Connor, J. 2018. Learning Log Week 05, University of Limerick, EN4041: Contemporary Understandings of and Thinking on Education.
• O Connor, J. 2018. Learning Log Week 06, University of Limerick, EN4041: Contemporary Understandings of and Thinking on Education.
• O Connor, J. 2018. Learning Log Week 09, University of Limerick, EN4041: Contemporary Understandings of and Thinking on Education.
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