The Impact of Philosophy and Psychology in Curriculum

In a recent article published in the Journal of Management Education, American Professors Joy Beatty, Jennifer Leigh and Kathy Dean formulated the article “Philosophy Rediscovered: Exploring the Connections between Teaching Philosophy, Educational Philosophy and Philosophy”. These interacting disciplines are argued to be frequently ignored, which should not happen since teaching philosophy statements are important not just for the teacher’s personal lives, but more importantly, for the schools they practice the profession. For one, these statements mirror the personal values of the teachers. Also, they often link the teacher’s values to those of people within the academe in the hope of finding common grounds. Finally, they are the theoretical basis of the teacher’s practice of their profession inside the classroom.

In the class discussion regarding the three elements of pure philosophy and five seminal educational philosophies, namely: metaphysics, epistemology and axiology; and idealism, realism, pragmatism, existentialism and critical theory, it assisted me, as a future educator/teacher in basing my personal philosophies within a theoretical and historical framework. Through this grounding, I will be able to determine how philosophy figures as a factor in the formulation of course prospectus as well as activities and programs that need to be undertaken within the classroom setting. Ultimately, this grounding paves the way for me to have a deeper understanding of philosophical notions which impact the teaching process with a remarkable magnitude. The five educational philosophies offer distinct approaches to teaching and learning. In which case, it will not do for any self-reflecting teacher to formulate a teaching philosophy statement unthinkingly because the variety of such approaches imply that his/her philosophy must be manifested through the distinguished way she/he teaches.

There is a presence of belief system wherein the philosophical statement is parallel to classroom application. To analyze a teacher’s belief system on teaching more rigorously is integral to the study of any discipline, since philosophizing about teaching elevates the activity into a truly scholarly status. This can only be possible if the analysis is founded on philosophy. The manner of managing the classroom, the manner of evaluating learning, the types of teaching methods incorporated in the teaching process must reflect the teacher’s belief system as expressed in his/her philosophy statement. This statement must justify the way one teaches inside the classroom.

We discussed philosophy and psychology as separate entities, but for the purpose of this reflection paper I would like to combine them as one. The psycho-philosophical foundations in developing curriculum embodies the following concepts: the ultimate aim or end of education, the correct sequence of importance of all these ideas in philosophy, excellences that need to be cultivated in effective education, the most important content of the curriculum, best method of instruction and how to teach those instruction in order to develop these excellences, the role of teacher in education and the nature of the student.

My teaching philosophy statement reflects what I think and believe. I believe that there is no single philosophy, old or new, should serve as the exclusive guide for making decisions about education or the curriculum. The integration of the strengths of each philosophy to come up with a philosophy statement produces a very intact approach in student-centered, holistic learning. It is good to be idealistic, but I keep my mind open after all, I live not in a dream land. It is not always the ideal world after all. There are things that exist and perennial in nature that must be taken into consideration.

They say that an image is worth a thousand words, and I would like to think that the philosophy in becoming a teacher is best illustrated in Phoenix which is a symbol of Immortality, Resurrection, Healing and Peace. The Phoenix and the teacher are parallel in so many ways. Our teachers become immortal in our hearts. We have our own stories to tell about them, whether be good or bad. Not only that their memories live with us, but our experiences with them can be considered everlasting as well. At some point, we even tell our stories to our children and to other people. Every interaction we have with our teachers affects our thoughts, our lives, our learning process one way or another. We learn from our teachers, saving us from the bliss of ignorance. When we have the knowledge, we have the shield. It keeps us protected from stagnation and from living an unworthy life. We learn by doing things, by discussion, by experiences, and always, part of this education is attributed to our teachers who painstakingly impart us the knowledge. Learning is always a lifelong process. The journey is not always smooth and dandy; it could be a bumpy road out there and too many avenues to choose from. But we know now how to reflect to become better individuals capable of achievement. Therefore, when we have the knowledge, we know how to weigh the contingencies, we know what to say when and how to say it, and last but not the least, we know how to make decisions for ourselves. For me, that is an ultimate freedom and peace. In one way or another, our teachers play an important part to what we are trying to be.

Martin Luther King, Jr. once said, “Intelligence plus character – that is the goal of true education.” I believe that change is permanent yet the human nature and moral principles remain essentially the same. These concepts should be the basis of education, an education for the long haul, not just for contemporary solutions. Education must aim to provide graduates who are initiator and capable of social reform, political action and better change. Education must provide the students intellect to direct their lives, develop and maintain discipline, control their instincts and they must be held responsible for their actions so that they will become future Progressivists and Reconstructivists. Mortimer Adler, Professor of Philosophy at Columbia University. He wrote the Paidea Proposal. His basic tenant is that an individual learns best by studying the classics. The Paideia program seeks to establish a course of study that is general, not specialized; liberal, not vocational; humanistic, not technical. Only in this way can it fulfill the meaning of the words “paideia” and “humanities,” which signify the general learning that should be in the possession of every human being.”

I believe that learning and learning experience should be fun; even there are expectations in trainings that will provide the learning experience. Jean-Jacques Rousseau wrote, ‘Make the citizen good by training, and everything else will follow’. This training must consist of activities, exposures and variety of approaches thoughtfully geared to both the content to be learned and individual students that will help them develop their analytical, creative, practical and emotional intelligences. These match Howard Gardner’s Theory of Multiple Intelligence, Daniel Goleman’s Emotional Intelligence and Robert Sternberg’s Triarchic Theory of Intelligence.

The nature and the environment of the learners provide clues to their development, with the combination of limited control, scaffolding and assisted learning of the authorities/teachers. It is important to recognize the pursuit of natural interest of the learners, and other stimulation that will prepare them to be men or women someday. Skills and trade expertise are indeed admirable qualities in becoming self-sufficient. While learning science, math and practical applications that will prepare them to be adults, the learners should also be exposed to opportunities/situations where they can create good problems, offer good solutions and make this solutions work.

With regard to the learner’s individual differences, the principles and theories of Piaget’s and Vygotsky when it comes to planning curriculum and teaching philosophy must come into play. According to Piaget’s, there are several stages in the development of a child that would help us determine the course of action necessary in educating them. He described that at the age of 0-2 yrs old, the child’s mind can only process information through repetition, imitation, and relying on their senses and movement. Egocentrism and overall idea of time, space and causability are the central of their understanding. The idea is that for parents having a child of this age, can make necessary alterations in the environment so that the development of the child can be facilitate, for example, placing toy producing sounds in the crib, etc. At the age of 2-7, the child’s thinking relies more on their intuition than logic. He starts to learn language and non verbal symbolism, centration and transductive logic. I believe that this is the best time where we need to allow the child to be exposed in social interactions and assimilate in culture. I agree with Montessori in one of her guiding principles that all children, by nature, have an innate drive, sensitivity and intellectual capacity for absorbing information and for learning from the environment. At this stage they are already for unconscious learning, therefore we must keep a watchful eye on what the child hears and see. The intellectual growth of the child involves three fundamental processes: assimilation, accommodation, and equilibration.

I have a friend who has a 5 year old son. One day, she thought she heard her son said “Shit!”, so she asked the boy. The boy then admitted that he said “sex” not “shit”. My friend, who has been very careful in teaching her son, was surprised. She even asked her if he knows what it meant and the boy even demonstrated it using signs. His first 4 years was spent living in California and he didn’t know any of this before living here. Reflecting on this scenario, it is saddening that the active minds of children can easily pick up lines like this because of social and media influences. It makes me wonder too if the best thing to educate a child is help him distinguish right and wrong even in sex education at the age of 7… or 5.

In this time when children are eager to become adults, Piaget’s stages provide valuable insights in laying the foundations of the learners’ education and defining the role of the teacher. We are made aware that child’s development is orderly, gradual and rates of maturation differ with each individual. According to Vygotsky, humans use tools that develop from a culture, such as speech and writing, to mediate their social environments. Initially children develop these tools to serve solely as social functions, ways to communicate needs. Vygotsky believed that the internalization of these tools led to higher thinking skills. Therefore, if we will create an environment where we can cultivate the perspective and cognition of the learners by the combination of internalization and social interaction, I think it will create a balance in the learning environment of the students.

Upon learning cognitive constructivist view and Piaget’s principles, I understand that as a teacher, I am the facilitator of knowledge, the guide and the stimulator/motivator of the students. I must be able to assess my student’s present cognitive level; their strengths and weaknesses. Instruction should be individualized as much as possible and children should have opportunities to communicate with one another, to argue and debate issues. I understand that appreciating children when they make mistakes; help them to learn from those mistakes and allow them to learn on their own by presenting students with materials and situations and occasions rather than spoonfeed are important to develop and advance each developmental step. There should maintain a proper balance between actively guiding the child and allowing opportunities for them to explore things by themselves and learn by discovery. Children should be encouraged to engage in cooperative learning, hear other’s views to breakdown egocentrism. It is therefore important for me to provide lots of opportunities for paired work and small group when conducting activities in the classroom.

As a teacher educator, I am the most important mediators of the culture, co-transmitter and co-collaborator of the knowledge. My attempt to strategically scaffold, support, instruct and socialize students should reflect at its best. There must be understanding of the foreground importance of socially-derived knowledge, of collaborative interaction, and of the complex structuring of expert knowledge.

There is another concept that I would like to discuss: Daniel Goleman’s emotional intelligence. According to him, there are five hallmarks of EQ: namely, self-awareness of emotion, self-management of emotions, self-motivation, empathy and social skills. Learners should also be trained to express their own feelings in words. Language is the only medium that students can learn rapidly together with the development of their emotions and cognitions. These two are connected, thus, by providing the learners with the ability of recognizing and expressing emotions help them to activate, modulate, and utilize their emotions. These adaptive skills, combined with the learner’s social engagements create an opportunity to develop healthy social transactions and meaningful relationships. The learners’ ability to recognize emotion and feelings and to respond appropriately to the call of the situation must be developed as early as infancy. They must be provided an environment where they can share their feelings and communicate openly, so that they will not grow emotionally immature and neurotic. This concept reminded me of Robinson Crusoe when he showed no emotion when he left his family nor when his wife died. He lacks sincerity in dealing with other people, incapable of expressing sympathy yet very quick to take pride in his possessions. He was exposed to trade and crafts, that’s what he does best. But when it comes to facing emotions, he finds it rocket science. Therefore, a child who grew up in an environment where he never experience acceptance and peer relationship will have difficulty in regulating emotions and achieving acceptable social behavior. Child psychologists Wittmer, Doll, & Strain, (1996) concluded on their research that the child’s inability to regulate emotion is inexpressive, prone to depression, cries excessively, finds it difficult to cope up with peers, anxious, or engages in inappropriate behaviors in response to intense emotions. A child internalizing behavior problems exhibits social withdrawal, isolation, fearfulness, depression, dependence, and anxiety, whereas externalizing behavior problems shows outbursts of emotional expression including anger, aggression, selfishness, and oppositional behaviors (Fox, 1994). Positive behavior must be promoted as well to widen the learners’ emotional repertoire. They should experience pride in accomplishment, joy in being accepted, assertiveness, guilt and even embarrassment in social situations because if they will not be trained to relate with others, they are often disassociated and their personal development is delayed. Self-expression will prove to be a very difficult task and interpersonal relationship is a deadly sword. Researchers (Arsenio, Cooperman, & Lover, 2000; Denham, McKinley, Couchoud, & Holt, 1990; Izard, Fine, Schultz, Mostow, & Ackerman, 2001) suggests that emotional literacy makes the child less aggressive, more accepted by peers, and generally more socially competent whereas child with disabilities and child from low income families have difficulty in expressing their emotion due to limited knowledge about emotions (Feldman, McGee, Mann, & Strain, 1993; Hart & Risley, 1995; Lewis & Michalson, 1993).

Applying this psycho-philosophical statement sparks personal development with external repercussions. To formulate one with all the necessary preparations lets a teacher use an instrument by which to engage in classroom practice more purposefully, revising this instrument over time or as deemed required. In addition, teachers can grow when they share with one another their teaching philosophy statements, not to impress but to strike at the opportunity of understanding one’s and other’s beliefs on teaching more thoroughly. Apart from the personal, and perhaps more significantly, the applied teaching philosophy’s transformation of the teacher goes beyond by creating a lingering impact in both the course content and the students that undergo pedagogical process.

One comment on “The Impact of Philosophy and Psychology in Curriculum

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