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Present day philosophies of education.

Presently, there are competing philosophies of education which need comparison. Two philosophies will be compared which are at opposite ends of the continuum. They are distinctly different. And yet, both schools of thought have their disciples. Each of the two will be discussed in terms of its essential features and then there will be selected contrasts made.

Measurement Philosophy

Advocates of measurement philosophy believe strongly in the late E. L Thorndike's (1874-1949) beliefs, "Whatever exists, exists in some amount, and if it exists in some amount, it can be measured." The measurement movement has been very strong in ascertaining how much pupils learn with its annual testing in grades three through eight and an exit test (No child Left Behind, passed by Congress and signed by the President in 20020. Thus, state mandated objectives and testing are the law of the land, if each state wants to receive federal aid for their respective schools. Each state emphasizes that pupil progress may be monitored through testing. Teachers supposedly have objectives developed by the state to provide guidelines for teaching.

There are assumptions made in that what is tested represents the basics in reading and mathematics. These two curriculum areas only, comprise what is tested in to ascertain pupil progress. All pupils are to be "proficient" in reading and mathematics by the year 2014. These curriculum areas are necessary for all to reveal optimum achievement. The others appear to be peripheral.

Standardized tests have the same subject matter and the same time limits for their taking. All conditions are to be kept the same for all pupils regardless of ability levels, or handicaps possessed. Since objective test items only, are used in standardized tests, machine scoring is possible of mass numbers of tests. Answers are either right or wrong. Pupils fill in the bubble on the answer sheet for what is perceived to be the correct answer. Test results may indicate what percentile rank the child is on. They might also indicate achievement with a grade equivalent.

Measurement theory emphasizes:

* precision of test results with an exact numeral;

* pupils compared with each other in terms of percentile ranks or grade equivalents;

* schools and school districts being compared;

* failing schools being identifiable, using test results; and

* a single test providing proof of achievement or lack thereof.

Standardized tests indicate a form of behaviorism with its uniformity of conditions for test taking, numerical test results, and interpretation of achievement. The late B. F. Skinner with his advocacy of programmed learning developed tenets of behaviorism. Dr. Skinner believed that all subject matter could be broken up into component parts, no matter how complex the original content. Thus, the inherent ideas might be simplified in order to have a starting point for the learner. The pupil then reads a sentence or more from the programmed textbook or computer screen. In sequence, the pupil responds to a multiple choice test item. If correct, the pupil feels rewarded. If incorrect, the pupil sees the correct answer and is also ready to read the succeeding content followed again with a response to a multiple choice test item, and then evaluation to notice if the answer given was correct. The program emphasizes read, respond, and check sequentially and continually.

Dr. Skinner believed that pupils make few errors when pursuing a program. With good programs, a pupil should be successful ninety five percent of the time in responses given. Each program moves forward very slowly in complexity of ideas presented. Pupils make few errors in pursuing a program. The pupil knows immediately if he/she is correct in responding to a test item covering content read. If an incorrect answer was given, the pupil sees the correct answer on the monitor. Feedback to the learner is provided continuously after responding to a question, directly related to the subject matter read. A carefully, controlled sequence or order of items to be read, of responses to be made, and of feedback provided is in evidence. In each step along the way, programmed learning emphasizes measurable results. A pupil is either right or wrong when responding to a test item covering subject matter read or learned.

With behaviorism as a psychology and philosophy of learning, objectives are stated prior to instruction. Opportunities to learn are then provided be it to achieve state mandated ends or in programmed learning. From the learning opportunity, the pupil reveals achievement, which is measured, in precise terms. Behaviorism is quite formal and rigid as compared to humanism. Behaviorism then stresses a measurement school of thought in education, as compared to:

* objectives inclusive of ethical character;

* objectives stressing civic responsibility; and

* objectives indicating self realization.

The above named objectives in humanism indicate that education should reflect all of life's relevant endeavors. It should prepare and presently stress diverse objectives which fulfill the needs of the individual. Educating a part of the individual is not adequate, but should educate the total child. A very narrow curriculum pertains to reading and mathematics instruction, important as they are for all persons. Then too, objectives pertaining to good citizenship defy being measurements specifically in terms of learner achievement. In stressing the whole child, it is difficult to compartmentalize specific parts thereof, but he/she needs to be perceived holistically. Test scores measure a few specific behaviors, but this limits the possibility of educating the total child. Testing is one way of showing what has been learned, but there are many other approaches to reveal achievement. With state mandated tests, all pupils are held to the same standards to be promoted from one grade level to the next. Thus, the gifted, talented, and mentally retarded must achieve the same level of accomplishment to be promoted from one grade level to the next.

Pupils differ from each other in many ways. With the advent of multiple intelligences, there are numerous ways a child may show achievement and progress:

* verbal intelligences as in reading and writing;

* logical intelligence as in reasoning to secure information;

* musical/rhythmical as in writing lyrics and putting them to music;

* intrapersonal whereby a learner indicates intelligence through individual work and endeavors;

* interpersonal intelligence in which a pupil best reveals accomplishments through committee work or in small group settings;

* bodily/kinesthetic which stresses use of the muscles in physical prowess activities, as in hands on approaches; and

* scientific intelligences as in thinking objectively (See Howard Gardner, Multiple Intelligences: Theory Into Practice, 1991).

The above indicates the diverse abilities possessed by individual pupils. All pupils then cannot be held to the same standards in education. Pupils have diverse talents, skills, and abilities. These need to be recognized and provided for in the classroom. With state mandated testing, reading of test items alone is emphasized and yet there are many other ways of revealing what has been achieved.

Achievement may be indicated through:

* a well rounded portfolio containing a representative sampling of student schoolwork;

* an art project revealing learnings developed in ongoing units in social studies

* doing science experiments to demonstrate mastery of selected concepts and generalizations;

* dramatizing to indicate comprehension of subject matter;

* a written product on a self selected topic;

* samples of mathematics achievement on diverse topics; and

* physical skills developed in playing games or in athletic endeavors.

The integrated curriculum is strongly advocated by humanists. There are numerous examples, which may be given pertaining to the integrated curriculum. For example, in studying unit on Japan, pupils may study the art of that nation and do similar art projects. Also, the following might be stressed on the same unit title:

* studying their music and learning to sing songs based on Japanese lyrics and musical notation;

* emphasizing the dramatization of theatrical presentations of Japan;

* unifying the history, geography, and economics concepts of Japan in unit study;

* reading literature on Japanese life and living;

* learning a few words in Japanese which are commonly used in society;

* making a model Japanese map projection; and

* using learning centers diverse with activities.

Pupils need to be inwardly motivated. Lecture by the teacher and rigid rules do not meet pupil needs. Rules of conduct should be developed by pupils with teacher guidance. Rules affect children and they must be involved in their development. The school environment needs to be a joyous and a happy place in which pupils are busy in working and doing. Self motivated learners is an ideal to strive toward for any teacher. The teacher is a guide, a motivator, a supervisor, a helper, and one who encourages to bring the best out of learners.

In Summary

Two schools of thought were compared in this manuscript, namely behaviorism and humanism. Behaviorists believe in:

* stating objectives in very precise terms prior to instruction;

* learning activities aligned to achieve the desired ends. They need to match with what is stated in the desired objectives; and

* assessment to ascertain if each objective has been achieved. Either the objective is or is not achieved.

Humanism emphasizes integration of subject matter in teaching and learning situations. The arts receive much attention as general objectives are emphasized in the curriculum. Creative endeavors for pupils are important. There is considerable input from pupils into the classroom and school experiences.


Curriculum Advice; Center for Civic Education (1994), Calabasas, California: National Standards for Civics and Government.

Ediger, M. (2001). Maps, Globes and the Social Studies. Teaching Social Studies Successfully. New Delhi, India: Discovery Publishing House, pp 209-210.

Ediger, M. (1996). Activity Centered and Subject Centered Curricula. The Educational Review, 102(1), 17-20.

Ediger, M. (1998). The Holy Land. Kirksville, Missouri: Simpson Publishing Company, 52-59.

Ediger, M. (1997). Examining the Merits of Old Order Amish Education. Education, 117(3), 339-343.

National Council on Economic Education (1999). The Standards in Economics Survey. Washington, DC: NCEE.

National Council Geographic Education (1994). Geography for Life; National Geography Standards. Washington DC: NCGE.

Risinger, C. E (2001). Teaching Economics and the Globalization Debate on the World Wide Web. Social Education, 65(6), 363-365.

Parker, W. (2001). Social Studies in Elementary Education. Upper Saddle River, New Jersey: Prentice Hall, Inc, Chapter Four.

Marlow Ediger, Professor Emeritus, Truman State University.

Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Dr. Marlow Ediger, 201 W 22nd, North Newton, KS 67117.
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Author:Ediger, Marlow
Publication:Journal of Instructional Psychology
Date:Sep 1, 2006
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