In the paper Beyond philosophical identification: Examining core values in adult education, the authors claim that adhering to a teaching philosophy limits both the teacher and her pupils (Day & Amstutz, 2003). As a philosophy is rigid, teaching from an educational point-of-view such as behaviorism, progressivism, or existentialism limits multiple ways of teaching, and as a result, learning. As stated by education researcher Rohfeld, “A philosophical classification…seems to suggest that adult educators are already reflections of particular adult education philosophies” (1989. p. 2). This is a problem because a major step in becoming a better educator is identifying and addressing one’s educational biases. According to the authors of this paper, a popular criticism in adult education is that the instruction lacks a clear set of overriding values, this often leaves the student confused and struggling with moral decisions (Brookfield, 2005). Values then are what need to be the foundation of the instructional methods of an educator. This idea is backed up by prominent educational theorists such as Everett, who believed that education “was not the mere possession of knowledge, but the ability to reflect upon it and grow in wisdom” (1926, p. 53). Thus, the focus should be on student understanding as opposed to teacher-held philosophies of education.
I agree with the authors for several reasons. First, an educational theory should not be too rigid because the best educational environment simply facilitates a student’s learning rather than dictating how or even why the student should learn something. Next, as is the case with many colleges today, adult learners are not given something to hold on to, such as a guiding set of principals or values that give the work a sense of purpose. This can be important when the student becomes caught up in short-term stress or feels his/her educational experience is lacking meaning. Because values guide a philosophy or philosophies, such a vision can offer a greater focus on including more meaningful learning experiences. Also, the individual teacher’s learning philosophies can be integrated with a school’s overall educational and learning values, offering more structure to a student’s education.
Brookfield, S. (2005). The power of critical theory for adult learning and teaching. Maidenhead: Open University Press.
Day, M., & Amstutz, D. D. (2003). Beyond philosophical identification: Examining core values in adult education. Paper presented at the 2003 Adult Education Research Conference, San Francisco, CA: San Francisco State University.
Everett, D. M. (1926). The meaning of a liberal education. New York: W. W. Norton & Co.
Rohfeld, R. W. (1989). A Primary Source for Everett Dean Martin's Agenda for Adult Education. Breaking new ground the development of adult and workers' education in North America: proceedings from the Syracuse University Kellogg Project's First Visiting Scholar Conference in the History of Adult Education, March 1989 (pp. 32-48). Syracuse, N.Y.: Syracuse University Kellogg Project.