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A Series of Reflective Exercises based on Philosophy of Education

A Series of Reflective Exercises based on Philosophy of Education

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An essay for the 2011 Undergraduate Awards (Ireland) Competition by Niamh O'Brien.
An essay for the 2011 Undergraduate Awards (Ireland) Competition by Niamh O'Brien.

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Published by: Undergraduate Awards on Aug 31, 2012
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12/17/2014

 
Tit le:
A Series of Reflective Exercises based on Philosophy ofEducation
Reflective Exercise 1 for Philosophy of Education:
There are many ways in which Kieran Egan’stheory of imaginative education can be mobilised into primary education. The main focus of his theory is on “positiveorality” which focuses on what children can rather than cannot do which provides an overall positive experience,therefore I think that it is a very important aspect of education. Firstly, according to Egan (1989:24) intelligence ismeasured very largely in terms of a limited range of logical skills. Parents usually seem to be informed of the child’s performance at subjects such as mathematics and English, while skills of communication and imagination in subjectssuch as art and drama often seem to be neglected. A more open and positive approach to all subjects is vital toincorporate Egan’s theory of imaginative education. A second way to apply Egan’s theory is to incorporate the effectiveuse of story across the curriculum as much as possible, as the image of the teacher as storyteller is a very prominentfeature of Egan’s theory. Egan (1989:12) suggests that ‘perhaps the most important of all the techniques developed inoral cultures is the story”, as it “can attach emotional orientations’. Children can learn complicated concepts throughstory e.g. the binary opposites good and evil, which means that story is similar to drama as it provides a safeenvironment to explore different themes. Without story and imagination, how could concepts such as good and evil beexplored in a child-friendly way?An idea for an imaginative storytelling approach to anS.P.H.E. lesson based on the food pyramid to a 1
st
/2
nd
class is: I would use healthy foods and not so healthy foods as binary opposites. I would begin the lesson by giving the pupils paper and a pencil to draw different foods that they canthink of. A brief discussion of the diversity of foods would follow this activity. I would then begin to tell a story aboutdifferent creatures that lived in Egypt many years ago to allow them to understand the different nutrients that foodscontain. Conor the Carbohydrate wanted a lot of energy to play football so he lived at the very bottom of a big pyramidwith Brad and Pad- the Bread and Potatoes. On the next step of the pyramid lived Vit and Mit, the Vitamins andMinerals who lived with Fred+Ved- the Fruit and Vegetables…… and so on, until each of the food group of the food pyramid and their corresponding nutrients have been mentioned. The pupils would then draw their own food pyramid based their interpretation of the story. The conclusion of the lesson would involve classifying the foods that the pupilsdrew at the lesson introduction into the binary opposite groups, healthy and not so healthy.Having studied Kieran Egan’s views on imaginativeeducation and having agreed with certain aspects of his theory, I find it difficult to understand the idea of what Egan(1989:17) describes as, going from the abstract to the concrete, as this contradicts what I have learned about teachingand learning. According to Egan (2008:64) an idea that has ‘…infected teacher education programs is that students are best or only able to deal with their immediate environments and experience’. I think that the teaching training course inMary Immaculate College encourages the student teachers to begin with concrete materials and the immediateenvironment. I have done so regularly during my teaching experiences and I feel that this seems to work effectively as Ithink that the pupils can engage more closely with the lesson content, while Egan (2008:64) however, thinks that thishas usually had the opposite effect from that intended.
 
This provokes the following question; which theory of educationshould be put into practice? The conclusion I have come to is that by combining different theories of education by
 
applying a variety of teaching approaches, different learning styles can be catered for. Imaginative education mayappeal to a certain percentage of pupils, however, I think that to truly differentiate learning, rational thinkers should also be catered for in the classroom and the focus should not solely be on imaginative education.
Reflective Exercise 2 for Philosophy of Education:
According to the Article 26.3 of the UniversalDeclaration of Human Rights, "Parents have a prior right to choose the kind of education that shall be given to their children", which is important to consider when discussing the role of religious authorities in Irish Primary Education.Unfortunately in Ireland, parents, due to practical reasons involving geographic location, cannot fully exercise this parental right and therefore many send their children to the local primary school, which is generally a Catholic primaryschool, as most multi-denominational schools are located cities, mainly Dublin. Is this giving parents a free choiceabout the kind of education their children receive? Diversity of primary schools is lacking in Ireland. According toWilliams (2001:330) 3200 out of 3415 primary schools in Ireland are Catholic primary schools , which is excessive, incomparison with the statistics of the 2006 Census, as over half a million people in Ireland are not of the Catholic faith.Religious authorities, particularly the CatholicChurch, still have a phenomenal amount of control in Irish Primary Education. The O’Keefe case affected me as itshowed the huge power of the Catholic Church yet they denied responsibility for the abuse caused by a staff member whom they had appointed, and the O’Toole article about agents of foreign state further highlighted the stronggovernance of the Catholic Church which involves decision making based on appointment and dismissal of teachers, aswell as on the appointment of special needs assistants. Spicer, D, Sides, E., (1996:55), states that multi-denominationalschools give access on a first come first serve basis which I feel implies that Catholic school enroll pupils on adiscriminatory basis based on their faith. Does this also mean that religious authorities would also discriminate againstteachers who are not deemed religiously suitable for the job? Would a pupil be denied a special needs assistant simply because he/she was not of the Catholic faith? The Catholic Church could do both of these discriminating acts, as it hasthe power to do so.The Primary School Curriculum, 1999 states thatthe curriculum ‘reflects the educational, cultural, social and economic aspirations and concerns of Irish society’. Since parents have responsibility regarding the religious education of their children as outlined by, ‘Nurturing the growth of faith in the child is primarily the right and responsibility of the parents’ (CPSMA Handbook, 2004: 4), I doubt the needfor such Church involvement in the Irish Primary School system, particularly in modern society. The declining Massattendance and decrease in the number of Church marriages shows that religion is no longer as strong a feature insociety as it was. The revelations regarding child abuse by clergy members may have contributed to this decline.According to the Catholic Position on Education (2005:16), educators at every level in the Church are expected to bemodels for their students. Following the recent reports based on the child abuse scandal, I no longer see the CatholicChurch as a suitable “model” for children.The
Primary School Curriculum 1999states that ‘alternative organisational arrangements’ can be made for ‘
those who do not wish to availof the particular religious education it offers’. From my own experience in primary schools, I observed pupils of Jehovah Witness faith being excluded from the religion class and sent to the back of the classroom to completeworksheets as their classmates engaged in a Catholic religion lesson. How is this fulfilling the Primary School
 
Curriculum 1999, which states that ‘It is equally important that the beliefs and sensibilities of every child arerespected?’ Considering the fact that our population consists of 1 in 10 non-nationals, I strongly agree with (Spicer, D,Sides, E., 1996: 55) ‘Friendship and mutual respect between children of different backgrounds, and an ethos thatencourages co-operation and responsibility, lays the best foundation for individual and social morality and democracy’,and I think that a multi-denominational approach to education is an appropriate way to accept the changing Irish society.
Reflective Exercise 3 for Philosophy of Education:
 
Having read chapter 2 of the book “Pedagogy of theOppressed”, I believe that Freire’s writing can encourage teachers to reflect on their own philosophy of teaching andlearning. It is a well written text which includes strong arguments, contrasts between two different philosophies of teaching, and it uses the imperative tone, including language such as ‘They must’, (Freire, P., 1993:2) which has the power to inspire people. The philosophy of teaching that Freire favours is the problem-posing method, and I agree withhim, as it seems to have more benefits for the teacher and the pupil because both learn from the process. This contrastswith the banking method of teaching, which implies that the role of the teacher is, as Freire (1993:2) states ‘to fill thestudents with the contents of his narration’. I object to this type of an education system, as it is an absolute contradictionof the meaning of the word ‘educare’, which I learned last year in Philosophy of Education, to mean ‘to draw out’.The banking system involves a huge level of oppression,which Freire clearly shows in a list of the ‘teacher-student contradiction’, which causes me to oppose this system. Thecontradiction which affected me the most was ‘the teacher disciplines and the students are disciplined’. This is one of ten examples which show the powerlessness of the oppressed students. This comment is similar to saying “the driver drives and the car is driven”. The car is an object and is merely “driven” by the driver, yet this example is so similar tothe discipline example Freire uses, which refers to real people with feelings i.e. the students. I therefore agree with thestatement ‘banking education begins with a false understanding of men and women as objects’ (Freire, P., 1993:2) andthe system ‘rejects consciousness’ (Freire, P., 1993:2). The close link between people and objects implies the unjustlack of consciousness in the banking system. Since the text was written in 1993, the Irish Primary School Curriculum1999 has been introduced and it is far more child-centred. The previous 1971 curriculum in Ireland followed the banking method. Some teachers still resort to aspects of the banking method, however, any teacher who reads Freire’stext will be convinced to avoid this.The problem posing system is far more positiveand co-operative, as all parties involved gain a lot from it and according to Freire (1993:2), they become jointlyresponsible for a process in which all grow. The four principles of Freire’s problem posing theory, which are, accordingto Freire (1993:2); love, dialogue, reflection, action and transformation, at first seemed slightly difficult to understand inthe context of education, however having listened to Ann Higgins discuss how she applied Freire’s principles to her lifeas an educationalist, I now have a clearer understanding of them. The comment by Ann that “sometimes you need to bedisturbed to notice a silent cry”, affected me as it allowed me to understand that Freire’s reference to love means a senseof care and awareness of others. Dialogue involves co-operation and communication in the education system. I realisehow important it is to discuss their children with parents, who know their child best. Some teachers seem to think thatthey are a level above the parents, and many teachers seem unapproachable, in the parents’ eyes. Hearing Ann Higginsspeak with such pride has inspired me to follow Freire’s pedagogy even more. What I hope to implement having readFreire’s principles of education are: 1) communicating openly with pupils and their parents, 2) to have a sense of careand dedication to teaching which will give a greater awareness of the pupils needs and wants in education, 3) to identify

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