Wednesday, October 10, 2007

09.18.07 Chapter 2 outline of philosophy of education - Noddings

Philosophy of Education

by Nel Noddings

Westview press (1998)

Chapter 2 – outline


The Philosophical and Educational Thought of John Dewey


Several aspects of Dewey's philosphy will be dealt with in this text. Since Dewey is a tough writer, and many have different opinions on his ideas, the text will present ideas and objections to it.



  • How influential has dewey been?


Very influential on philosophical and educational thought.

No clear records of how influential on practice.

Hailed as the savior of American education for those adapted of greater involvement.

Some say he is worse than Hitler, and brought epistemological and moral relativism to schools


  • Dewey's philosophical orientation

    • Influenced by Darwin

    • Naturalistic

      • seeks explanation based on natural phenomena.

      • Uses many biological metaphors.

    • Influenced by Hegel

      • only mind is real

      • human thought progresses toward preordained ideal through dialectical process of resolving opposites through synthesis.

    • Dewey kept the dialectical method and quite often poses 2 extremes.

      • Goal – to clarify his thoughts

      • to move on to a next level that did not have to be the final answer.

    • Considered Philosophy of Education the Philosophy of life

      • he wrote about almost every branch of philosophy : logic, metaphysics, epistemology, philosophy of science, ontology, aesthetics, political and social philosophy, ethics, even religion and psychology.

    • Rejected the transcendent.

      • Concepts such as Piaget's cognitive structures. He has many similarities to Piaget, but rejected unobservable mechanisms of mind.

      • Often called a behaviorist but rejected many behaviorists thinking.

    • Often called a pragmatist – but Dewey had a problem with pejorative use of the word.

    • Pragmatic naturalism

      • Term that authors recommend to be used for Dewey.

      • ... “has he merit of conveying both the emphasis on naturalistic explanation and the focus on effects through a method of inquiry that involves hypothesis testing.”

  • The Meaning and Aim of Education

    • Education as synonimous with growth one of his most important bilogical metaphors

      • growth is its own end, just as according to Darwin the purpose of life is more life.

      • Education is not supposed to be aimed at some future good

      • An experience is educative if it produces growth – student more capable or interested in engaging in more experience.

      • Growth was sometimes explained by Dewey as opening doors and developing connections.

      • It doesn't mean that growth should serve as a fully operational definition of education. Just as disordered life proliferation is not good, and each society should ask itself questions about the optimal production of life, so should we ask questions concerning the pursuit of growth in areas of knowledge.

      • Oposition – we're not happy with the simple Darwin definition of the purpose of life, as we're not happy with the simple deweyan definition of the purpose of growth, we expect growth to be toward something, not an end in itself.

    • The goal of education is more education – means and ends – but educative activities must have aims.

      • When experiencing an educative experience we're trying to accomplish something, but our aims are not fixed.

      • Aims function in means-ends planning.

      • If our current aim fails to give us guidance we move on to another one.

      • Philosopher R.S.Peters argues that Dewey failed to make a difference between “Aim” and “purpose”.

        • Purpose – associated with reasons for action

        • Aim – a target, something one must concetrate efforts to hit.

      • Peter and Dewey agree that – aims are built into the concept of education itself. And Dewey was not interested in linguistic or conceptual analysis.

      • Not only teachers must have aims for their activities, students must also be able to set objectives for their own learning.

  • Dewey's Psychology

    • Dewey sounded like a behaviorist when he rejected transcendental and supernatural explanations, but he was also opposed to the behaviorist stimulus-response psychology.

      • Desmonstrated that the human organism dos not merely respond to stimuli, but it can select them and respond to the in a way that is consonant with its aims/purposes.

        • Children do not just immitate. They select. Their copyed actions are serving them a purpose. Theyr are truly working.

    • Dewey was an astute observer of children

      • His observations are surprisingly accurate.

      • He describes the fourfold interests of children

        • making things

        • finding out

        • expressing themselves artistically

        • communicating

      • many believe that by creating a curriculum based on these interests children can learn about traditional disciplines without the artificial daily division between them.

      • Objection – children can't learn everything they need to know based only on their interests. If that happens, their knowledge of arithmethics for instance will be very limited.

    • Dewey developed a model of thinking or problem solving still influencial today.

      • A sense that something is problematic is where it all starts. Then thinker formulates a hypothesis, then he formulates a plan to test his hypothesis. Thinker undergoes consequences of his actions and then evaluates results.

      • In each of these stages there are alternatives to be considered

      • two crucial points to keep in mind

        • he never claimed one should follow those steps in that exact order. It's possible to go back and rearrange.

        • Some educational theorists truncated that model and eliminated the undergoing consequences step. For experienced scientists, this might not be a problem. But it will be for students who need the practice of assessing if their problem-solving techinique was correct.

    • Dewey is know for his analysis of experience and its centrality in education as one of his greatest contributions to philosophy.

      • An experience has to mean something for the one undergoing it – emphasizes personal meaning.

      • An epxerience is social and cultural – emphasizes social interaction

      • To be educative an experience has to be built/connected to prior experience.

        • Teachers must start where students are and take them somewhere.

        • Teachers must know something of their students prior experience. (CCAA's teachers would know for instance the previous books a student has passed. Also for new students – their previous expeiriences with english, with language in general and with life)

        • teachers must ask where an experience may lead, that's how future experiences are planned.

      • Experience must be meaningful to stuendts here and now

        • tehre must be engagement. Otherwise students give up the idea that education has to do with the construction of personal meaning.

      • Dewey is called a child-centered educator, but that is not completely correct

      • he was an interactionist who insisted on appropriate attention to internal and external aspects of learning.

      • He was not satisfied with the education that merely pleased or entertained the children.

  • Dewey's Theory of Knowledge

    • The aspects emphazied here are the ones that are relevant for current educators' interests

    • What does it mean, to Dewey, to know something?

    • Knowledge is bigger than truth.

      • Knowledge is a body of information and skillsthat we construct and apply over something to inquiry.

      • The testing of our hypothesis might prove some of our informations or skills wrong or inadequate, so we either abandon them or revise them.

      • The end peroduct of the inquiry will be something like the tradiotnal notion of truth.

      • Warranted propostitions – propositions that resulted form careful inquiry and for which convincing evidence can be produced.

      • All propostions, not only warranted propositions can be labeld knowledge until we discard them.

      • He rejected capital T truth bc it falls in the categoruy of unobservable things.

      • When a propostion is rejected, it is not longer called knowledge.

      • Two central points to this theory

        • human beings at evry stage of matury use material from previous experience to guide present inquiry

          • pragmatice sense of knowledge – explains what the inquirer is doing (???)

        • genuine problem solving involves undergoing the consequences of making and testing hypothesis.

          • To interrupt a student's inquiry might assure that he/she will never understand how his/her way is wrong, or learn how to inwuiry, test procedures

    • Objections to this theory

      • leads students to practice their errors if they are using faulty rules. teacher's idea – if a bad habits produces the good results, than it's not a bad habit. On the other hand – a mistake is a mistake

      • Makes learning the correct way mor edifficult because practice reinforces the mistake.

  • Democracy and Education

    • To Dewey Democracy is a form of “associated living” consonant with the methods of science.

    • He was interested in the connections between democracy and education.

    • Dewey starts by describing human beings as social animals.

      • Does not being with values that have been pre-established in a prior world.

      • People, as social animals, need to communicate, and that need provides the impetus for contructing common values.

      • Values and knowledge come from social interaction. We do not begin with common vvalues, we construct them.

    • This start leads his position on education to differ greatly from traditional views.

    • Schools should now pour into the students the culture's values, but encourage them to communicate, inquire and construct values and knowledge.

    • Every culture has values it wishes to transmit

      • transmission – it goes beyong telling and testing. It is providing their young with the experiences that makes their values real.

      • Learning to participate in democratic life involves living democractically.

    • To Dewey democracy was meant to be lived in a way that all individuals share the process of inquiry to make decisions. (Greek democracy – doesn't really work in our days)

    • Dewey doesn't think democracy should be an imposition of the majority over all. (??? dictatorship of the majority)

    • Democracy is a process, its rules must be under continuous scrutiny, revision and creation.

    • Dewey's description of democracy is a two part criterion

      • there are many interests conciously communicated and shared

      • there are varied and free points of contact with other modes of association

    • there's a fear that too much pluralism will cause society to break down into disconnected sects, but this criterion of Dewey doesn't worry about the number of groups, but with the quality of their association.

      • Does a group have healthy interaction with other groups? If it does it passes both tests.

        • Healthy – if it leads to more and not fewer connections.

      • Ecumenical movements; race clubs in a college

    • objection

      • paid little attention to forms of systematical oppresion and cultural hegemony

    • he saw no inherent conflict between the individual and the state – mutual support.

      • Dewey's political philosophy anticipated many of the current arguments between liberal individualism and and communitarianism – rejected both extremes

    • translation it into democratic classroom:

      • schools are not to promote fair competition among individuals

      • schools are not to treat all students like faceless members

      • schools should be places to practice the best forms of associated living.

      • Children learn through practicing “to promote their own growth, that of others and that of society”.

Classmate's question – the groups students form at school – are they getting that from the adults? - i think that they get it from older kids and even from tv.

  • The Place of Subject Matter

    • subject matter – material used in resolving a problematic situation.

    • Shold be presented so that students can use them with purpose, wo solve a problematic situation

    • the curriculum should be generated not before intruction, but during it – it is the material gathered, used and cosntructed during intruction and inquiry.

    • The lines between disciplines should be less rigid.

    • Students could experience a more unified curriculum.


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