“Continuing Education”: My Philosophy of Learning
The crux of the philosophy of education and learning that I bring with me into class can be phrased best in the words of John Dewey–a philosopher inspired by Emerson and Whitman. In Democracy and Education (1916), the great American pragmatist and philosopher of progressive education, argues, “that the aim of education is to enable individuals to continue their education” and “that the object and reward of learning is continued capacity for growth.” Dewey concludes: “In our search for aims in education, we are not concerned, therefore, with finding an end outside of the educative process to which education is subordinate” (117).
I value very strongly this understanding of education as a process unto itself: the end of learning is learning itself. This philosophy of learning and process will translate into all aspects of my course and my teaching. Here are some ideas to consider and some principles to expect:
The end is learning. The ultimate objective of the course will be education itself; you will be learning how to learn within the given topic and field, and how you can build upon that learning in your continuing career (in school and in life) as a learner. This means that my course in American literature or composition will focus on ways that you can learn about American literature or composition—and ways that such learning can be applied to your growth as a student in literature and writing as well as a student overall in college and in your living beyond these walls. Another way to put this: your experience learning in the course is the course itself.
I am a student of learning. I am a teacher, foremost, because I love learning and love being a student. My learning is a work in progress—that is what keeps me going as a learner and a teacher. Think of me then not as an expert teacher so much as an expert learner. I have much to say and “profess,” but it is not about what I know (about American literature or education or writing) so much as how I have come to understand these fields of inquiry to which I have given my attention and time for the last twenty years. In other words, my teaching autobiography is a work in progress, quite literally; I am still writing to find out where it takes me.
The course is a work in progress. The “educative process” I emphasize applies to the course itself. There will be a syllabus and clear guidelines. But there will also be much room to develop and revise, with input from students. To use a relevant metonym: any course is a text, developed through stages of drafting and revising; I will be calling on you to help me write this text.
You are a work in progress. The process, of course, applies to your own learning. This means that I will emphasize assignments and assessments that focus on process and growth: extensive use of journal and other kinds of informal writing; intensive focus on writing process; portfolio assessment; thorough student participation and student-centered discussion; assessments that measure growth and learning, that require you to apply your learning to new and authentic contexts for the field. These and other features of the course will be discussed in detail.
I look forward to working with you in this process of learning and in the continuing of your education.