I am most drawn to “ Pragmatism/Experimentalism” for my educational philosophy since it seems so conducive for high school biology. This philosophy stresses importance on teaching students to think for themselves by developing critical reasoning skills, problem-solving skills, and analytical skills. My overall goal for students is be able to think more critically in real-world situations, not just in the classroom. I want to teach students how the scientific method applies to more than just biology. The scientific method (observation, hypothesis, test by experimentation, more tests, theory, law) can be used in real-life situations to help students develop problem-solving skills through logic and reason. Pragmatism is a natural educational philosophy for me to adopt in the classroom.
I could implement the Pragmatism philosophy in the classroom very easily by focusing on hands-on projects, labs, and experiments. The Pragmatism philosophy stresses “learn(ing) by doing” (p324), which is exactly how I want to teach biology. When I was in college, I opted to do a senior research project in a research lab that studied how RNA is degraded. Suddenly, the material I was learning in my classes made much more sense. It was no longer abstract and on a chalkboard. I was seeing it with my own eyes under a microscope, and manipulating it with my own hands. I want my students to experience really “getting it” by learning with all their senses.
The curriculum will be selected by focusing on the core standards for high school biology and then lots of enrichment activities and projects, which will depend on the students’ particular interest(s). For instance, students may vote as a class whether they want to a) dissect a cat to learn more about the human body or b) breed fruit flies to learn about Mendelian genetics for their final project. Class discussions, projects, activities, and labs (both group and individual) will be the emphasized. Assessments will be based heavily on how well the projects, presentations, and reports meet the specified goals I have outlined in the rubric. For instance, after each lab, each group will have to turn in a worksheet, and each individual student will have to also turn in a well-thought out report, outlining their conclusions in a standardized format.
The classroom will be set up to facilitate class discussions and group projects. Ideally, there would be a section where we could all gather for discussion, and a separate section where groups could assemble in groups of 4-5 at lab workstations. The classroom would be managed partly through democratic principles (Pragmatism philosophy) and partly through my expectations, which are clearly laid out in the syllabus and explained on the first day of class.
Finally, the overall role of the student in the classroom is to learn through self-discovery. My role, as a teacher, is to be their guide to lead them down the right path, particularly when doing experiments. I want the students to see themselves as scientists and begin to ask themselves, “Why is that? Is that really true?” both inside the classroom and out .
Grant, M., & Gillette, C. (2006). Pursuing an education philosophy. In Learning to Teach Everyone's Children: Equity, Empowerment, and Education that is Multicultural (1 ed., pp. 299-331). Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.