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An evolving philosophy: Pragmexistentialprogrehumanist

My personal philosophy of education continues to adapt and change as I uncover new evidence and insights. This evolving personal philosophy is influenced by experiences, discussions and exploring the myriad of historical and philosophical perspectives of education. There is not a one-size-fits-all philosophical approach that I feel strongly affiliated with, but rather my own interpretation which incorporates ideas from several different philosophies.


I strongly believe that knowledge building is a process, and that learning happens through active participation and experiences. Teaching should be interdisciplinary and is more exploratory than explanatory. (Ornstein, 2013 p 2) These pragmatic beliefs along with a focus on a curriculum based on the learner's experiences and interests and an emphasis on problem-solving and critical thinking are foundational to my philosophy of education.


Advocating for student voice and choice is central to my beliefs about learning. The importance of this was highlighted when I worked as an elementary student success teacher with intermediate students identified as "at-risk". Many of these students did not "fit" in the traditional school model, but thrived when they were given an opportunity to reflect on their strengths and to have choice in how and what they were learning. The existentialist values of individualism and personal self-fulfillment are also closely related to how I feel about my own journey as a learner. Having the autonomy to choose is an exercise in self-regulation and requires a great deal more than simply being told what to do, or to regurgitate information.


 Does education look different?
Ultimately, I hope that my students are inspired to be life-long creative and inquisitive learners. We know that our world is changing rapidly and students will be faced with unknown problems and experiences. John Dewey would agree that there is little need to focus on a fixed body of knowledge.(Ornstein, 2013 p39) but rather to focus on how to think and collaborate. I am also drawn to the progressive research and ideas of John Holt, A.S. Neill and other radical school reformers who push the boundaries of traditional schooling methods. I feel that many of the structures in our public education system (e.g. grades, marks, standardized testing) which are used for efficiency, may not be supporting they types of learners we hope to inspire. This is an area of research that I hope to explore further.


My personal philosophy also finds roots in a humanistic approach, where the personal and social aspects of the curriculum are considered paramount (Ornstein, 2013 p7). In an earlier blog post Teacher: A person who teaches? I talked about the importance of relationships in education, and this is something I hold to be incredibly important to the core of my educational philosophy. 

These are just a few of the historical and philosophical perspectives which correspond with my current philosophy of education. As I am continuing the read and engage in rich conversations, my philosophy is challenged and ultimately evolving and changing.


Ornstein, A., & Hunkins, F. (2013). Curriculum: Foundations, Principles, and Issues, 6th Edition. London: Pearson

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