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What Is Your Educational Philosophy?

Ben Johnson

Administrator, author and educator
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Girl sitting at a table next to stairs working on her laptop

Over the summer, teachers reflect on the year and often redesign and perfect their teaching strategies and plans. In essence, they get back to the basics of what they believe is the best way to inspire learning in their students -- in other words, they revisit and refine their philosophy of education.

A school district might ask a teacher or principal applying for a job about her or his philosophy of education. In this post, I've decide to share mine, and I am curious to see if any of my beliefs resonate with you. So here they are:

1. Students need to learn.

Students want and need to learn as much as they need food, clothing, and shelter. An educator's primary job is to fill that primal need for learning by creating engaging and relevant learning experiences every day. The greatest gift a teacher can give students is motivating them to experience repeated learning success.

2. Students need to be active participants in learning.

Students learn best by doing, and active teaching encourages active learning. Teachers should treat students as active participants in the learning process, providing them with skills, such as:

  • How to study
  • How to take notes
  • How to memorize
  • How to express themselves effectively

These skills will help them be part of a high-performance learning team. Also, students need to be encouraged to explore and research information beyond the confines of the classroom and textbook.

3. Learning is a physiological activity involving the whole body.

The best way to engage a student is to have a solid classroom management plan and a well-planned lesson that is grounded in relevant, purposeful activities designed to enhance that student's knowledge and skills and leave her or him wanting to learn more. Teachers should be strongly aligned with student-centered and student-directed learning that embraces exploration, discovery, experiential learning, and the production of academically rigorous products.

4. Students need timely feedback to improve.

Teachers gather data on student performance to adjust the learning environment and instruction so that they can target students' learning needs. Teachers administer pretests to find a starting point for learning and post-tests to determine the students' increase in performance level as well as the teachers' effectiveness.

5. Students need structure and repetition to learn.

A teacher should be able to organize a standards-based lesson sequence, successfully implement the plan, and then evaluate student learning. A teacher should be able to create an exciting learning environment that makes it difficult for students to not learn. A teacher should know how to include all students in learning at their own level, and a teacher should be able to inspire the students to push themselves to the next level.

6. Students need information, knowledge, and skills.

Having access to knowledge resources is as important to a child's education as the actual curriculum content. Relevant and current information must be at the teachers' and students' fingertips to provide answers when the questions are still fresh. Information "on demand" is more valuable than information "just in case."

7. Students need tools and resources.

Students should know how their taxon and locale memory systems work. Students should have skills and strategies to be able to work effectively in the different levels of the cognitive domain as defined by Benjamin Bloom. Students should be aware of their own learning preferences, and teachers should assist with creating a plan to develop other learning skills. Educational tools are a means to an end. For example, technology used appropriately can greatly magnify the students' capacity to learn and the teachers' capacity to teach, inspire, and motivate.

Please share your philosophy in the comment section below. Also, if you wish to analyze mine and give me feedback, I would appreciate that, too.

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Ben Johnson

Administrator, author and educator

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Susan Rodinsky's picture

Interesting post, I would offer for your consideration the importance of social-emotional learning and non-cognitive skill development...

ladybug6800's picture

Good thoughts here. So many students come to college without knowledge of how to learn or how to actively be part of learning. They need to learn how to connect current learning to past learning and finding relevance in learning. Learning is better when students are engaged and curious...the learning is more likely to stick!

Tom_IHBCN's picture

Agree with all but I think learning to collaborate and co-operate with peers is also vital, not just for learning, but also for life.

Donald Beagle's picture

Interesting post, with implications for Learning Commons development. Purdue University's Digital Scholarship Repository has archived ATG's 2007 interview with me where we discussed peer-learning and "conversational ergonomics" in museums; further connections to group process learning in LC's with interactive displaywalls where students can call up "virtual museum exhibits" & related media from learning object databases. My own LC research has focused on higher ed, but a PhD candidate in Manhattan recently contacted me about a new LC variant he's exploring for inner-city K-12. For anyone interested, the ATG interview should be reachable in Purdue's repository at:

Neil Dembeck's picture

Here are my thoughts on teaching and all-things education....

The Most Important Qualities of an Outstanding Educator
by Neil Dembeck

How profound a thought! How important a topic! What qualities separate a mediocre educator from a good one? Or, moreover, what qualities separate a good one from a great one? And how do the truly outstanding educators distinguish themselves?

Well, speaking as one I can tell you how I have separated myself from the rest of the pack over the last 13 years educating young people. Whether it is with youngsters at the age of 2 (with whom I've worked) or with high school seniors (also with whom I've worked) command of a classroom - particularly in my subject area of Physical Education - is the foundation of paramount importance.

With classroom management as the foundation, an educator can do everything else they need to do to effectively teach. But what lies at the foundation of classroom management? In my opinion, a good, solid, thorough lesson plan is at the heart of a well-managed classroom. If the students are engaged in the lesson's topic (i.e. are truly interested and invested) then they are far more likely to behave and remain on-task. The rules and expectations are clear and fairly enforced. Additionally, I believe the students should take ownership of the rules and expectations of the class so as to lessen the "punitive mentality" and augment the guided correction mentality. This creates an environment of mutual respect where schoolwork is the chief focus.

I also believe that outstanding educators are outstanding because they are in the line of work for the right reasons. They care. They want to help. They have their students best interests at heart. They want to see their students succeed in class and, more importantly, in life. As someone wise once said about teaching, "it's not about the income - it's about the outcome."
From a different standpoint, many teachers elevate themselves to the upper-tier by creatively utilizing relevant data. The use of beginning-of-the-year data can serve as a springboard for the curriculum and instruction the rest of the year. Personally I always use fitness data from the beginning of the year to customize my instruction the rest of the year. I have found that an assessment of needs based on data can revolutionize my instructional approach not only for individual students but for a class on the whole.

Finally, an outstanding teacher is realistic. They have flaws and understand that students have flaws. We all make mistakes. It's about how we respond to the mistakes that matter. They understand that sometimes, no matter what, some students will misbehave and/or fail to do their best no matter how interesting they make the curriculum. In response, an outstanding teacher presses on and searches for other ways to get through to a student. They don't let a bad day create a bad week. And, at all costs, they look for the good in any situation.

This, in my opinion, is what makes an outstanding educator.

Vitou Pok's picture

Here is my thought, learning is the best way to find solutions that we can Learn from everywhere for example learn in school and practice outside

M.Croisant's picture

I absolutely love your first point. I feel that the conversation often centers around how to motivate students to learn rather than tapping into their innate desire for learning.

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