I just got the results for my philosophy of education essay for my EDUC 200 class. This was a lot of fun to research and write, and I absolutely love discussing learning theories and educational practices. Let’s just hope all my ideas are not easier said that done! I received a 98% grade for this essay from my teacher, who said that I did an excellent job overall, but docked one point for my thesis statement and another point for my conclusion.
Progressivism in Education
“I hate school! Why do I have learn this stuff anyway?” The ten-year-old homeschooler slammed her textbook shut and burst into tears. That girl was me, and by far my least favorite subject was History. My homeschool curriculum was fairly classical, focused on plodding one’s way through a lecture-type textbook, answering questions based on the content, and taking frequent quizzes and tests. I acutely lacked the ability to see how the knowledge I was trying to retain had anything to do with me personally. For this reason, I am now an advocate of a progressive philosophy of education, or student-oriented learning. This type of learning actively involves students, makes knowledge applicable to everyday life, and combines factual information with personal interests.
First, my progressive philosophy of education would lead me to actively involve my students, mainly through asking them leading questions and organizing fun activities. If I were an American History teacher, I would try to refrain from spoon-feeding facts to my students in long lectures. Instead, I would begin with a concrete visual aid, and then use questions in such a way that my students would eventually relate the example to the abstract historical topic on their own. This type of guided discovery “increases [students’] motivation, which ultimately results in increased learning” (Kauchak & Eggen, 2014, p. 369). I would also have fun activities planned for the history lessons, such as reenactments of the stories, watching historical films and reading stories based on the topics, and doing lesson-related crafts. Involving my students through guided questioning and fun activities would help them make discoveries on their own and remember the facts longer.
Second, based on my progressive educational philosophy, I would strive to make knowledge applicable to my students. One way I could accomplish this in an American History classroom full of uninterested students is by modernizing the historical scenario. For example, if the lesson was about the American Revolution, I could ask the students how they would feel if I mandated that all my students needed to spend four after-school hours doing upkeep work around my home. This work would be part of their duty to me as their teacher, and not for school credit. I could then relate this to how the Americans, who had little to no representation in parliament, felt when Britain tried to control their lives in the colonies. Kauchak and Eggen (2014) list “Personalizing Content Through Real-World Applications” as one method for increasing students’ interest in learning (p. 342). When students can see how information relates to their everyday lives, they are more likely to get excited about learning it.
The third way my progressive philosophy of education would affect my teaching strategy is by leading me to incorporate students’ personal interests into the lessons. For instance, in the American History class example, if I knew that Mark wanted to be a fireman when he grew up, I could include a snippet in my history lesson about what the original volunteer firefighting service was like. I could also allow my students an extent of freedom when picking their essay and research topics, instead of assigning topics for them randomly. What prospective future firefighter would not remember the general events surrounding the Great Chicago Fire if he had been given the chance to research it through his interest of historic fire engines and firefighting methods? Dewey (1913), the patriarch of progressive education, advised that “new material be presented in such a way as to enable the child to appreciate… its value in connection with what already has significance for him” (p. 24). Students are more engaged in the learning process when their teachers connect their interests, which are already exciting to them, to the lesson content.
I would utilize my progressive philosophy of education in the classroom by involving the students through questions and fun activities, by helping them understand what the subjects have to do with them personally, and by integrating their personal interests into the lessons. Perhaps, then, they would come to realize, just as I did, that learning can be fun and exciting. That same school-hating homeschooler who cried her way through Elementary school came to understand in her high school years that the acquisition of knowledge could involve personal interests and be practically applied to everyday life. Today she is completing her Bachelor’s in Elementary Education and can hardly wait to pass on the joy of learning to her future students.
Dewey, J. (1913). Interest and effort in education. Retrieved from http://hdl.handle.net/2027/mdp.39015003488189
Kauchak, D., & Eggen, P. (2014). Introduction to teaching: Becoming a professional [5th ed.]. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education.