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Philosophy of Education

Education is the matrix of processes involved in growing in the mental, physical, emotional and spiritual dimensions of life for the ontological vocation of becoming human (Freire, 1970; Vanier, 1998). Knowing should involve the head, heart and hand - we know something by understanding it, having a connection and care for it, and by doing it.


When teaching, we must consider the relevancy of material to the student, transferability of knowledge gained, and connections within the student and to world around them (Chapman, 1995). An educator is meant to be a facilitator, rather than a keeper of the knowledge. I believe strongly that the learner must have an active, participatory role in learning.


In my doctoral dissertation, I developed the Classroom CARE (Community, Action, Reflection, and Environment) model for the purposes of fostering quality educative encounters in the higher education classroom. Encounter is the relational aspect of experience, a meeting taking place between one and another, both between subject and object as well as between subject and subject. Educative encounter is a particular type of meeting resulting in learning, as indicated by growth. The Classroom CARE model grounds all classroom learning in care as conceptualized by Noddings (2003).


From this foundation of care, it is important to develop the classroom community as well as connections between the classroom and the students’ own communities and between the classroom and the community within which the school is located. Who the student is matters to the classroom community and to learning. A classroom formed for educative encounter will go beyond the four walls of the classroom to connect with, and potentially influence, others in students’ communities.  


Regarding action, it is essential that educators rely on conceptual, imaginal, emotional and physical modes of learning. I want students to have primary experience with subject material, using the senses to experience. The importance of primary experience is that when learners start using all their senses, what they are learning will stick (Dewey in McDermott, 1973). Primary experience is the best illuminator, helping to take learners new places in a meaningful way (Dr. S. Wurdinger, personal communication, Sept. 21, 2003, Dewey in McDermott, 1973).


Dewey states, in My Pedagogic Creed, that the experience of education must be the experience of living now, not mere preparation for the future. In order to ensure this, learning must not be compartmentalized, the active must precede the passive, and to prevent a separation of intellect from emotion, subject matter must come from the learner’s interest (Dewey in Archambault, 1964). This means creating opportunities for students to live what they are learning through service. For instance, in my adventure programming class, students identified programming needs in the community and created and ran programs to meet these needs, so that what they were learning had direct, as well as future, application.


When it comes to reflection, we should aim to take the learner through “(1) reorganizing perceptions, (2) forming new relationships, and (3) influencing future thoughts and actions” (Sugarman, et. al., 2000, p.1). Simply put, this is leading the learner through the questions of what, so what and now what. Important parts of this process are: questioning (Knapp, 1992); narratives (Hopkins, 1994); and self (Palmer, 1998).


Focusing on environment, as a component of the Classroom CARE model, means taking responsibility to create a welcoming environment that is conducive to learning in the classroom and connecting students with external environments. A welcoming space is where students can be at ease and learn through educative encounters. The external environment can carry weight in learning by taking students to new places, which may serve to excite students, be a healthier place for learning, promote a sense of wonder and perhaps serve as a conduit for educative encounters with the world.


Beliefs shape teaching (Nespor, 1987) and teaching shapes belief (Clark & Peterson, 1986). Most teaching centers on who the teacher is, rather than what the teacher knows (Mitchell & Weber, 1999; Kottler & Zehm, 2000). Self and community-identity must be a part how a teacher approaches the classroom (Palmer, 1998). For instance, as a paddler and adventurer, I value risk and, therefore, value asking and expecting students to take risks in the classroom. Part of this expectation is creating a classroom that is an adventurous learning environment, the indicators of which, according to Horwood (1999), are the sequence of instruction (do, see, reflect), diversity in locale and method, distribution of decision-making, degree of public exposure and various modes of evaluation.


We must aim to ask these questions that, according to Gillete (1990), an educator must ask:

  • How do we educate for growth?

  • How do we nurture maturity?

  • How do we reveal blessing?

  • How do we offer love?

  • How do we stimulate awe and wonder and miracle and jubilation and ecstasy?

  • How do we reveal self-respect and honesty?

  • How do we share the mystery of the ordinary? (p.18)

There is such joy to be had in the experience of leading others in learning. We should hold our responsibilities as educators in sacred trust, fully committing to our learners and their learning.




Beard, C., & Wilson, J.P. (2002). The power of experiential learning. London, UK: Kogan Page Limited.

Chapman. S. (1995). What is the question? as part of What is experiential education? by Chapman, S., McPhee, P. & Proudman, B. (1995) in  The Theory of Experiential Education. Warren, K. Sakofs, M., & Hunt, J.S. Jr. (eds.). (1995). Dubuque, IA: Kendall/Hunt Publishing Co.

Clark, C., & Peterson, P. (1986). Teachers' thought processes. In Merlin C. Wittrock (Ed.), Handbook of research on teaching  (3rd ed. pp. 255-314). New York: Macmillan.

Dewey, J. (1897). My pedagogic creed. in Archambault, R.D. (ed.). (1964). John Dewey on education. Chicago, IL: The University of Chicago Press.

Dewey, J. (1930). Individualism old and new.  in McDermott, J.J. (ed.). (1973). The philosophy of John Dewey. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.

Freire, P. (1970). Pedagogy of the oppressed. New York: The Continuum Publishing Corporation.

Gillete. (1990) in Adventure Education. Miles & Priest (eds.). State College, PA: Venture Publishing.

Hopkins, R.L. (1994). Narrative schooling: Experiential learning and the transformation of American education. New York: Teachers College Press.

Horwood. B. (1999). Educational adventure and schooling. in Miles, J. & Priest, S. (eds). (1999). Adventure programming. State College, PA: Venture Publishing.

Johnson, D.W., & Johnson, F.P. (1991). Joining together: Group therapy & group skills. Englewood, NJ: Prentice Hall.

Knapp, C.E. (1992). Lasting lessons: A teacher’s guide to reflecting on experience. Charleston, WV: ERIC Clearinghouse on  Rural Education and Small Schools.

Kottler, J.A., & Zehm, S.J. (1993). On being a teacher: The human dimension (2nd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.

McKinney, K. (1996) in Women in experiential education speak out by Roberts, N.S. & Winiarczyk, E.J., Chap. 25 in Women’s voices in experiential education, Warren, K. (ed.). (1996). Dubuque, IA: Kendall/Hunt Publishing Co.

Mitchell, C. & Weber, S. (1999). Reinventing ourselves as teachers: Beyond nostalgia. Philadelphia, PA: Falmer Press

Nespor, J. “The Role of Beliefs in the Practice of Teaching.” Journal of Curriculum Studies 19 (1987): 317-28.

Noddings, N. (2003). Caring: A feminine approach to ethics and moral education (2 ed.). Berkeley: University of California Press.

Orr, D.W. (1994). Earth in mind: On education, environment, and the human prospect. Washington DC: The Island Press.

Palmer, P.J. (1998). The courage to teach: Exploring the inner landscape of a teacher’s life. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass Inc., Publishers.

Sugarman, D.A., Doherty, K.L., Garvey, D.E., & Gass, M.A. (2000). Reflective learning: Theory and practice. Dubuque, IA: Kendall/Hunt Publishing Co.

Vanier, J. (1998). Becoming human. Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press.


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