Monday, August 27, 2012

Theories of Education and the Function of School

     Philosophies and theories of education influence teaching and learning in schools in various ways. However, a potential pitfall to avoid when attempting to implement any educational philosophy or theory is to focus too much on the "-ism". As Dewey (1938) noted, "any movement that thinks and acts in terms of 'isms becomes so involved in reaction against other 'isms that it is unwittingly controlled by them" (p. 6). Regardless, educational philosophies and theories have developed over time and often have evolved based on research, trends, and cultural attitudes of the day. As an example of how educational theory correlates to our current society, there is a needed emphasis being placed on digital literacy within the classroom. This includes both teacher training and appropriate use policies for students. We live in a digital age in which students have grown up with computers, hand-held devices, the Internet, Google, social networking, etc., and it is the responsibility of modern educators and administrators to guide students through this maze of technology and digital information. In addition, changes or advancements in educational philosophies and theories often dictate how teachers manage their classrooms and deal with individual students. Today's schools are more concerned with educating the "whole child" and focus more on student involvement, rather than lecture-based classroom dynamics. Current research promotes "'learning centres' and...teachers as 'reflective practioners'....[However, this leads to] a paradox between freedom of choice and regulation" (Smeyers, 2006, p. 17). With this statement, Smeyers recognized that the development of educational philosophies and theories often introduces new questions or concerns.

     The function of school is to educate the constituents to the best of each site's and district's abilities, so that students are prepared to be effective and positive contributors in today's and future societies. To this end, schools must not only offer quality instruction of core academic essentials, but institutions must also educate the "whole child" via multicultural and diverse methodologies and curriculum. This includes emphasizing the arts, fitness, and other non-traditional offerings, while enriching students' education through "real world" application and group-activity type problems. Families reasonably desire that "academic institutions have an expectation that teaching will be done well; [and that] teaching is a critical function of the institution and the societal mandate" (Emerson & Records, 2008, p. 363). Schools have a responsibility to foster and produce "individuals who are knowledgeable and appreciative of diverse cultures with skills to function effectively within the different cultural groups...[and to offer] an equitable education for everyone regardless of ethnicity, race, sex, or age" (University of Phoenix, 2012, "Week Five Lecture Notes," p. 3). To accomplish this, schools must support teachers and expect them to act professionally and with integrity as adult role models for students. The quality of education is in direct correlation with the quality and enthusiasm of instruction. Teachers need to be excited about what they teach. In turn, the hiring/re-hiring and retention of quality educators must be a top priority for School Boards and administrators. Enthusiastic and forward-thinking teachers will only inspire students to think "outside the box", while hopefully igniting a spark in each child to want to learn and be solid citizens.


Dewey, J. (1938). Experience & education. New York, NY: Simon & Schuster.

Emerson, R. J., & Records, K. (2008). Today's challenge, tomorrow's excellence: The practice of evidence-based education. Journal of Nursing Education, 47(8), 359-370. doi:10.3928/01484834-20080801-04
Smeyers, P. (2006). What philosophy can and cannot do for education. Studies in Philosophy & Education, 25(1/2), 1-18. doi:10.1007/s11217-006-6427-x

University of Phoenix. (2012). Week Five Lecture Notes. Retrieved from

1 comment:

Judith Harmon said...

Thank your for providing this information, Rick! I am doing research for a friend of mine, and find what you wrote to be most helpful. &:)

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