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John Dewey and Curriculum Studies  

Craig A. Cunningham

John Dewey (1859–1952) has been (and remains) the most influential person in the United States—and possibly in the entire world—on the development of the field of curriculum studies. His theoretical works on education, spanning more than 50 years, have been widely read by theorists and practitioners, who have used Dewey’s ideas as a kind of North Star for American educational theory. Of particular importance for the study of curriculum, Dewey strove to overcome traditional dualistic conceptions of the relation of the child to the curriculum, seeing them as two points on the same line, to be connected through the child’s experiences. Dewey offered general guidance for determining whether particular experiences are likely to lead to growth. Contemporary curriculum scholars who look at the many rich resources that Dewey offers in his works that are not explicitly about education may be richly rewarded. Books and articles about the arts and aesthetics, politics and democracy, ethics, logic, metaphysics, and psychology have yet to be fully incorporated into curriculum studies. In addition to his theoretical work, Dewey was the founder (in 1896) and director of the Laboratory School at the University of Chicago, where he and his wife Alice Chipman Dewey conducted pedagogical experiments with elementary schoolchildren, demonstrating how a set of well-framed social activities could lead students to face and solve problems, thus gaining knowledge and skills from the subject-matter disciplines. Dewey also spent a lifetime demonstrating commitments to democracy and the public good. While Dewey offers many opportunities for criticism, overall, his expansive influence has resulted in better theory across educational fields including curriculum studies.

Article

Aristotelian and Kantian Virtues and Education  

Guðmundur Heiðar Frímannsson

Virtues are conditions for education, a part of education, and a result of it. Virtues are stable, desirable traits of persons. For a person to be virtuous, these traits of character must be regularly expressed in action. Choosing rationally to perform good actions is not sufficient for virtue; even though it may be a necessary condition for an action to be good, performing is necessary as well to exercise virtue. It is sometimes claimed that moral theory along utilitarian and deontological lines neglected or forgot the virtues in its theoretical work in the 20th century. This is true about much of 20th-century moral theory. Aristotelian moral theory has grown in influence since the early 1970s and it can be reasonably said that it is now just as influential as deontology and utilitarianism if not more so. Naturalism is a part of Aristotelian moral theory and has proved a much stronger base for moral action and moral argument than 20th-century moral theory was willing to accept with its fundamental distinction between facts and values. Values are just as fundamental to our understanding of the world as facts. Arguments in moral theory move easily from facts to values and values to facts. The relation between facts and values is more complicated than much of 20th-century moral theory allowed for. Immanuel Kant is often taken as an example of a philosopher who neglected the virtues. Yet Kant wrote a work, The Metaphysics of Morals, half of which was devoted to virtues. Education is a normative endeavor aiming at well-rounded individuals capable of fulfilling those functions that modern society requires from them, such as being a citizen, entering working life with valuable complex skills, or governing one’s own life. It is not possible to fulfill these functions without mastering the moral and intellectual virtues.

Article

Bildung-Centered General Didactics  

Ilmi Willbergh

Bildung-centered general didactics is a tradition of schooling and teacher education in Germany and the Nordic countries. It originated from the late 18th century during the development of nation-states, when the professions had designated areas of responsibility. The teacher’s duty was to interpret the curriculum, transforming it into meaningful teaching for the students in the classroom. Teaching comprises the totality of the three aspects of any teaching situation; the teacher, the student, and content, and their relations in specific practices. Bildung-centered general didactics puts content to the fore. It is a hermeneutical discipline centered on the topics of the culture as a whole. Bildung, in German and Nordic general didactics, is a concept grasping the normative ideals behind any educational phenomenon. Hence, the meaning of Bildung will vary from culture to culture and across time. However, the idea of Bildung is mostly associated with the ideals of modernity in Western history; the core question being how to educate autonomous and responsible democratic citizens. Since then, pedagogy has implied a paradox: how to cultivate the freedom of individuals through the exercise of power. Bildung-centered general didactics centers on this paradox in theory and practice, and at the macro and micro levels of the educational system. The most influential Bildung-centered general didactic approach is that of Wolfgang Klafki (1927–2016). Klafki’s primary term is categorical Bildung, a dialectic of the content and the student, and a didactic analysis as the means for teachers to contribute to the empowerment of students.

Article

Bringing a Humanistic Approach to Special Education Curriculum  

Michelle Parker-Katz and Joseph Passi

Special education curriculum is often viewed as an effort to provide ways for students with disabilities to meet specific academic and socio-/behavioral goals and is also heavily influenced by compliance with multiple legislative policies. Critical paths forward are needed to reshape a special education curriculum by using a humanizing approach in which students’ lived experiences and relatedness to self and others is at the core of study. Intentional study of how students and their families draw upon, develop, and help shape local supports and services that are provided through schools, along with community and governmental agencies and organizations, would become a major part of the new curricular narrative. However, the field of special education has been in large part derived from an epistemology rooted in science, positivism, and the medical model. The dominance of these coalescing epistemologies in educational systems has produced a myriad of structures and processes that implicitly dictate the ways special educators instruct, gather data, and practice. Core among those is a view that disability is synonymous with deficit and abnormality. What emerges is an entrenched and often implicit view that the person with disabilities must be fixed. In adopting a humanistic approach in which we value relationships, the funds of knowledge families have helped develop in their children and the identities individuals shape, and the linkages of persons with multiple community networks, the groundwork could be laid for a new curricular narrative to form. In so doing, the field could get closer to the grounding principle of helping all students with disabilities to thrive. For it is in communities that people can thrive and choose to participate in numerous life opportunities. In such a way curriculum is integral to lived experience, to the fullness and richness of lived experiences—lived experiences that include the study of academic subject matter along with the development of social and emotional learning.

Article

Ecopedagogy and Education  

Ruyu Hung

The neologism ecopedagogy was coined in the late 20th century to represent the joining of ecology and pedagogy. However, ecopedagogy is not an education about ecology but an education through ecology, meaning that it is an education based on an ecological worldview. A worldview is the fundamental understanding of life and the world. Ecological worldview means the ecological approach to the understanding of life and the world. The basic ideas of the ecological worldview come from the science of ecology, of which there are two interpretations: ecology of stability and ecology of instability. Both provide a general, shared outline of the world and how it works but each offers distinctive values of philosophy, ethics, culture, and society with regard to the ecosystem. Ecopedagogy, which encompasses both ecological worldview and education, develops into two broad movements: philosophical ecopedagogy and critical ecopedagogy. For the former, referred to as ecosophy, focuses on the metaphysical investigation of the human-nature relationship and related issues in education. For the latter, ecojustice, the mission is to critique the injustice and oppression involved in environmental issues and to construct a utopian society of planetary civilization.

Article

Imagination and Education  

Moira von Wright

The concept of imagination, with its potential to contribute to education, is attracting increasing interest as humanity faces major challenges such as migration and climate change. Imagination is expected to enlarge the mentality of human beings and help to find new solutions to global problems. However, educational thinkers have different understandings of what imagination and imaginative thought can actually contribute to. Imagination is the mental ability to visualize what may lie beyond the immediate situation and to “see” things that are not present. It is a central element of meaning creation in education—in the relationship between mental pictures and reality, between humans and the outside world, and between the past and the future. Imagination is a way of seeing, a happening in the here and now. No single specific definition of imagination exists, and this term is used in a variety of ways. Because it is so evasive, the idea of imagination has been contested and questioned, so its meaning depends on the theory and context with which it is associated. Many educational theories simply neglect the concept of imagination, or limit its meaning to common fantasizing and playfulness, whereas others give imagination a central role in the processes of understanding and learning. The socially and politically emancipating dimension of imagination has been emphasized, as has its moral significance and relation to self-formation and education. Some thinkers argue that education should not be satisfied with developing students’ ability to think imaginatively, create a narrative and develop social imagination; rather, it needs to intentionally raise young people to “live imaginatively”—that is, to live a rich life with an open mind, being ready to think in new ways and change their habits when former ways of thinking prove untenable for moral and ethical reasons. Despite these differences of opinion, the value of imagination in education is undeniable. Yet questions remain: How does “bad fantasy” differ from “good imagination,” and what are the educational consequences of such a distinction? How can imagination be a common ground in education, and how can it be a liminal space or topos for the different perspectives of children and adults in that area? How can imagination be part of a greater social responsibility and a way of life?

Article

Islamic Pedagogy for Islamic Schools  

Nadeem A. Memon

Since the early 1980s, the number of Islamic schools in Western contexts such as the United States, Canada, Australia, and the United Kingdom has increased steadily. What began in the 1980s as a handful of schools aspiring to preserve the religious identities of Muslim learners has grown into substantial schooling segments within the private and/or independent schooling sectors in their respective contexts. These schools are full-time day schools that adhere to national or state educational policy and practice while aspiring to foster religiosity. Empirical research on Western Islamic schools, however, commonly critiques these schools for superficially appending Islam onto an existing public school model. Aside from Islamic dress codes, prayers, and religious studies classes, Islamic schools commonly adopt wholesale standardized curricula, testing regimes, methods of teaching, school policies, and measures of success that reflect global education trends with the hope of attaining internal community legitimacy and external public validation. An overemphasis on academic competitiveness has cultivated a culture of performativity at the expense of a distinct educational model and approach. Despite a rich heritage of educational thought in the Islamic tradition, a significant disconnect between Islamic educational theory and Islamic schooling practice remains. As schools continue to strive toward distinction, bridging this theory–practice divide is critical. Moving toward Islamic pedagogy, not in the sense of a method of instruction but pedagogy as a human science that addresses the big questions about what makes education that is “Islamic” distinct, will ground Islamic schools in a nuanced educational theory they can call their own.

Article

Open-Mindedness and Education  

Susan Verducci

Open-mindedness disposes us to value and seek truth, knowledge, and understanding by taking a particular stance toward ourselves, what we know, new information, and experience. It aims to improve our epistemic standing, both individually and socially. Widely accepted as a valuable educational aim, scholarship on the nature and extent of open-mindedness’ epistemological and civic value is growing. Epistemological conceptions range from its role in rational inquiry to thinking of it as an attitude toward one’s self as a knower, or as an attitude toward individual beliefs. Conversations on its status as an intellectual virtue, its associations with personal transformation, and its role in aesthetic experiences are also on the rise. Of particular note for schooling are its connections to democratic citizenship. Theorists argue that open-mindedness operates in respecting others, tolerating differences in pluralistic contexts, and exercising autonomy. Central challenges to its value, however, abound. They include the difficulty of pinpointing the line between open-mindedness and gullibility, and the ways that human cognitive limitations make open-mindedness more aspirational than possible. Its incompatibility with holding strong commitments serve as some of the most relevant challenges to its value. Are there any ideas or beliefs that we ought not be open-minded about? And if (and when) there are, can open-mindedness support structures of power and/or oppressive forces? Additional challenges come from those who explore how open-mindedness fares in posttruth and postfact conditions. The educational discourse on open-mindedness shows that its objects, occasions, and processes have expanded over time and in response to new understandings of historical, social, and cultural conditions. In this light, educational philosophers may no longer be theorizing about a singular phenomenon with a set of agreed upon characteristics. Instead, open-mindedness may have become a constellation of related and overlapping epistemological phenomena with similar features, much like what Ludwig Wittgenstein calls family resemblances. If so, this constellation requires a conceptual framework, such as the one Jürgen Habermas laid out in Knowledge and Human Interests, to provide open-mindedness with theoretical and educational coherence. Despite the growing incoherence of thinking about open-mindedness as a singular phenomenon, most educational theorists maintain a fundamental commitment to open-mindedness as an educational aim. Regardless of whether one considers open-mindedness to have essential characteristics, to be a constellation of epistemic phenomena with Wittgensteinian family resemblances, and/or a concept in search of a singular framework (such as Habermas’s), much of the educational discourse on open-mindedness will likely continue to be maintained as it improves our epistemic, moral, and civic standing. This line of thinking assumes and suggests that we simply need to educate for the right orientation, the right attitude, the right sort of openness, and the right skills to attain these goods. However, increasing exploration of the political nature of open-mindedness and emerging perspectives from critical theory seem to be coalescing into a second strand of counterdialogue. Examination of “the goodness” of open-mindedness in contexts of oppression, intolerance, closed-mindedness, and posttruth/postfact conditions provide increasingly serious challenges to open-mindedness’ secure status as an educational aim.

Article

Hospitality and Higher Education  

Amanda Fulford

In the 21st-century landscape of higher education, there is increasing consideration given to documenting, managing, and regulating practices of teaching and learning in the university. In particular, there has been an emphasis on what students can expect of their experience of studying at university, and of the expectations around contact time with academic staff. This has led to the development of metrics that assess teaching intensity and value-for-money. Such developments anticipate certain modes of being with students, ones that tend to give scant attention to what it is to be in a relationship of mutual hospitality with another person. While we can think of hospitality more broadly in different educational contexts, especially in terms of moves toward an ethics of hospitality, there is also a space for thinking about a pedagogy of hospitality, especially as it may be realized in contemporary higher education. Here, hospitality is experienced in the pedagogical moment—through conversation with others in which we are invited to welcome alterity. This reading of hospitality is richly illustrated in the American philosopher and essayist Henry David Thoreau’s celebrated work, Walden. Examples from Thoreau’s work show how the concept of hospitality may open up other ways of thinking about what it means to be with students in the contemporary university, and what possibilities for mutual education this concept may help realize.

Article

Literature and the Arts as a Basis for Curriculum in the Work of Maxine Greene  

Janet L. Miller

Maxine Greene, internationally renowned educator, never regarded her work as situated within the field of curriculum studies per se. Rather, she consistently spoke of herself as an existential phenomenological philosopher of education working across multidisciplinary perspectives. Simultaneously, however, Greene persistently and passionately argued for all conceptions and enactments of curriculum as necessarily engaging with literature and the arts. She regarded these as vital in addressing the complexities of “curriculum” conceptualized as lived experience. Specifically, Greene regarded the arts and imaginative literature as able to enliven curriculum as lived experience, as aspects of persons’ expansive and inclusive learnings. Such learnings, for Greene, included the taking of necessary actions toward the creating of just and humane living and learning contexts for all. In particular, Greene supported her contentions via her theorizing of “social imagination” and its accompanying requisite, “wide-awakeness.” Specifically, Greene refused curriculum conceived as totally “external” to persons who daily attempt to make sense of their life worlds. In rejecting any notion of curriculum as predetermined, decontextualized subject-matter content that could be simply and easily delivered by teachers and ingested by students, she consistently threaded examples from imaginative literature as well as from all manner of the visual and performing arts throughout her voluminous scholarship. She did so in support of her pleas for versions of curriculum that involve conscious acts of choosing to work in order not only to grasp “what is,” but also to envision persons, situations, and contexts as if they could be otherwise. Greene thus unfailingly contended that literature and the arts offer multiplicities of perspectives and contexts that could invite and even move individuals to engage in these active interpretations and constructions of meanings. Greene firmly believed that these interpretations and constructions not only involve persons’ lived experiences, but also can serve to prompt questions and the taking of actions to rectify contexts, circumstances, and conditions of those whose lived lives are constrained, muted, debased, or refused. In support of such contentions, Greene pointed out that persons’ necessarily dynamic engagements with interpreting works of art involved constant questionings. Such interrogations, she argued, could enable breaking with habitual assumptions and biases that dull willingness to imagine differently, to look at the world and its deleterious circumstances as able to be enacted otherwise. Greene’s ultimate rationale for such commitments hinged on her conviction that literature and the arts can serve to not only represent what “is” but also what “might be.” As such, then, literature and the arts as lived experiences of curriculum, writ large, too can impel desires to take action to repair myriad insufficiencies and injustices that saturate too many persons’ daily lives. To augment those chosen positionings, Greene drew extensively from both her personal and academic background and interests in philosophy, history, the arts, literature, and literary criticism. Indeed, Greene’s overarching challenge to educators, throughout her prolonged and eminent career, was to think of curriculum as requiring that persons “do philosophy,” to think philosophically about what they are doing. Greene’s challenges to “do philosophy” in ways that acknowledge contingencies, complexities, and differences—especially as these multiplicities are proliferated via sustained participation with myriad versions of literature and the arts—have influenced generations of educators, students, teaching artists, curriculum theorists, teacher educators, and artists around the world.