The research field of the philosophy of higher education is young, having emerged within the last half-century. However, at this stage four strands, or pillars, of thought may be detected in the core literature, around which the discussions and theorizing efforts cluster. The four pillars are (a) knowledge, (b) truth, (c) critical thinking, and (d) culture. The first pillar, “knowledge,” is concerned with the meaning of academic knowledge as forming a link between the knower and the surrounding world, thus not separating but connecting them. Under the second pillar, “truth,” are inquiries into the epistemic obligations and possibilities to seek and tell the truth universities and academics have in a “post-truth” world. The third pillar, “critical thinking,” addresses the matter as to what understandings of being critical are appropriate to higher education, not least against a background of heightening state interventions and self-interest on the part of students, especially in marketized systems of higher education. The fourth pillar, that of “culture,” is interested in the possibility and ability for academics and universities to intersect and contribute to public debates, events, and initiatives on mediating and solving conflicts between value and belief systems in culturally complex societies. When seen together, the four pillars of the research field constitute the philosophy of higher education resting on four foundational strands of an epistemic, communal, ethical, and cultural heritage and future.
Søren S.E. Bengtsen and Ronald Barnett
Phonics is a method of teaching people to read and spell (and therefore write) in an alphabetic writing system by associating symbols (letters/graphemes) with sounds (phonemes). The place of phonics in teaching children to read and spell is vigorously debated among researchers, often spilling over into the popular press. Advocates of principally comprehension-based (e.g., whole language) teaching have maintained that little or no phonics instruction is needed; others are of the view that it is essential and must be systematic. Analysis of the most rigorous evidence from research reviews and meta-analyses suggests that systematic phonics teaching is effective for teaching children to read and spell in English, and that the combination of systematic phonics teaching and comprehension-based approaches is probably more effective than either alone. Research has therefore begun on integrated teaching of literacy that incorporates both code and meaning emphases, but currently the requisite professional knowledge and teacher capacity are challenges for many school systems. The principal forms of phonics teaching are synthetic, where children are taught to sound out the letters of a word and to blend (synthesize) the sounds together to form a word; and analytic, in which sounding-out is not taught to start with, but children identify the phonic element from a set of words in which each word contains the element under study, for example, pat, park, push, and pen. There is not yet sufficient convincing research evidence to decide which of these is more effective. Systematic phonics teaching in general is effective across the primary age range, for normally developing and most at-risk children, and probably for children whose first language is not English; and its effects last, at least in the crucial early years. Nonetheless, government policy and reform interventions in this area are sometimes heavy-handed, frequently influenced by political and community pressure, and may face difficulties of scale, resources, and implementation that hamper their effectiveness and generalizability across school systems. A new, large systematic review may be needed to clarify various outstanding issues.
The philosophy of Islamic education covers a wide range of ideas and practices drawn from Islamic scripture, metaphysics, philosophy, and common piety, all of which accumulate to inform discourses of learning, pedagogy, and ethics. This provides a definition of Islamic education and yet also of Islam more generally. In other words, since metaphysics and ontology are related to questions of learning and pedagogy, a compendious and indigenous definition of “education” offers an insight into a wider spectrum of Islamic thought, culture, and weltanschauung. As such, there is no singular historical or contemporary philosophy of Islamic education which avails all of this complexity but rather there exists a number of ideas and practices which inform how education plays a role in the embodiment of knowledge and the self-actualization of the individual self to ultimately come to know God. Such an exposition may come to stand as a superordinate vision of learning framing Islamic educational ideals. Questions of how these ideas are made manifest and practiced are partly answered through scripture as well as the historical, and continuing, importance of Muhammad, the Prophet of Islam; as paragon and moral exemplar in Islamic thought. Having said “I was sent as a teacher,” his life and manner (sunnah) offer a wide-ranging source of pedagogic and intellectual value for his community (ummah) who have regarded the emulation of his character as among the highest of human virtues. In this theocentric cosmology a tripart conception of education emerges, beginning with the sacred nature of knowledge (ʿilm), the imperative for its coupling with action (ʿamal), in reference to the Prophet, and finally, these foundations supporting the flourishing of an etiquette and comportment (adab) defined by an equanimous state of being and wisdom (ḥikma). In this sense, the reason for there being not one identifiable philosophy of Islamic education, whether premodern or in the modern context, is due to the concatenations of thoughts and practices gravitating around superordinate, metaphysical ideals. The absence of a historical discipline, named “philosophy of education” in Islamic history, infers that education, learning, and the nurturing of young minds is an enterprise anchored by a cosmology which serves the common dominators of divine laudation and piety. Education, therefore, whether evolving from within formal institutional arenas (madrasas) or the setting of the craft guilds (futuwwa), help to enunciate a communality and consilience of how human beings may come to know themselves, their world, and ultimately God.
Artists who teach or teachers who make art? To explore the identity of the artist-teacher in contemporary educational contexts, the ethical differences between the two fields of art and learning need to be considered. Equity is sought between the needs of the learner and the demands of an artist’s practice; a tension exists here because the nurture of the learner and the challenge of art can be in conflict. The dual role of artist and of teacher have to be continually navigated in order to maintain the composite and ever-changing identity of the artist-teacher. The answer to the question of how to teach art comes through investigating attitudes to knowledge in terms of the hermeneutical discourses of “reproduction” and “production” as a means to understand developments in pedagogy for art education since the Renaissance. An understanding of the specific epistemological discourses that must be navigated by artist-teachers when they develop strategies for learning explicate the role of art practices in considering the question: What to teach? The answer lies in debates around technical skills and the capacity for critical thought.
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.
Kristin Elaine Reimer and Crystena Parker-Shandal
Restorative justice in education (RJE) is a philosophical framework that centers relationships in schools, calls attention to issues of justice and equity, and provides processes to heal harm and transform conflict. The use of restorative justice (RJ) in schools gained large-scale attention from teachers and school boards since the 2010s. In the 1990s and early 2000s many school boards around the world took up what was generally known as “zero tolerance” approaches. It meant that punitive responses, such as suspension, expulsion, and exclusionary practices, were used by administrators and teachers more readily and frequently. Research continues to show that exclusionary punishments are harmful—especially to Indigenous students, students of color, and other marginalized students—in many ways, for example, increasing dropout rates, decreasing overall student achievement, and strengthening the school-to-prison pipeline. Gaining more momentum in the 2010s (although practiced by many teachers and communities before this), RJ approaches became a way to challenge a system that was simply not working and further harming students. Many educators and school boards saw RJE as a means to reduce suspensions and expulsions and to increase their graduation rates. Others have seen RJE as a critical process for facilitating school equity and racial justice. This continuum of approaches to RJE impacts how research is conducted, what research questions are asked, who is included in the research process, and how it is disseminated. While some researchers still position RJE as solely an alternative to punitive disciplinary models, an increasing number of researchers view RJE as a paradigm shift for how people relate to one another in the context of schools, including through relational approaches to pedagogy. This relational way of being centers people’s humanity and promotes shared accountability within learning communities.