Philosophy of Education

The title sounds daunting, doesn't it? After all, "philosophy" has a lot of connotations, many of them negative. The denotations have even become somewhat overwhelming, but the word itself is a combination of two Greek words: "philos" meaning "love of" and "sophia" meaning "knowledge." Unfortunately, that can sometimes mean "loving to show that I know more than you, so I'm going to use jargon to impress and confuse you to think that I'm smarter than you."


That's not what this page is meant to do. It's meant to explain briefly the principles and ideas about education I believe and use in teaching. There are many web sites and books, some of which I have listed on the resource page, that explain in greater detail the concepts I will mention. I can go further with explanations and experiences too, but those are best saved for a discussion.


I believe learning is a lifelong process which, in many ways, is analogous to building a house. Therefore, I'll use the analogy in some of my explanation. The more I teach, the more I learn, and I believe, when I stop learning, I'll stop living.


Generally, I follow the Classical Model of Education, the model most used for education since ancient times (see links for history and further explanation). The cornerstone of this method is the Trivium, which is the basic process for all learning at any age.


The Trivium is often illustrated as a triangle or a pyramid.

"Grammar" (not restricted only to the use of language) is the first stage of learning, the foundation upon which all learning is built. In the study of language (any language), it's the words, the way the words are used, and yes, the rules for using them to communicate clearly with a majority of readers and listeners.


The stronger the foundation, the better prepared the student is to build upon it. The broader the foundation, the greater is the span of usable knowledge in any subject.


"Logic," the second stage, is concerned with application and analysis of the subject. Does it make sense? Can it be used? What makes it different or special? Logic can be compared with the walls of a house. For a secure structure, walls are built after the foundation is laid. Various types of material can be used, from bricks and mortar to pre-fabricated. (Think of The Three Little Pigs.)


In the logic stage, the student begins to employ learning in specialized ways. For example, basic math operations must be learned prior to algebra and geometry.


"Rhetoric," in the classical sense of the word, is the development of what one has learned and processed into a form that can be shared with and understood by others. Classical educators see this stage as the goal to be reached, and the result is to benefit mankind.


This stage can be compared to the finishing work inside and outside the house, or as the roof of a simple structure. One does not set a roof and then try to lay a foundation under it. However, that often is the way many attempt the learning process, especially for reading and writing.


In 1956, Dr. Harold Bloom published his Taxonomy of Cognitive Development, which complements the Trivium and also is illustrated by a pyramid.

In brief, the elements of Bloom's model can be described as follows:


Knowledge - Learn the information

Comprehension - Understand the information

Application - Use the information

Analysis - Examine specific parts of the information

Evaluation - Judge the information

Synthesis (or Creating) - Do something new with the information


The arrows at the top level indicate that once synthesis takes place, the producer evaluates and continues to improve the product (editing and revising in language arts terms) before its final presentation, or as the need arises.


Other analogies for the Trivium can be borrowed from manufacturing and technology.






To summarize, I believe that learning is strongest when built from the bottom up, according to the classical model and the complementary model published by Dr. Bloom. Within these models there are modes of construction, just as there are various modes of building a house. The modes used are related to other factors such as learning styles*, but the final goal is that students successfully climb from the lower levels to the upper levels while continuing to broaden, expand, and test their base of learning.


*On the resource page, I have listed just a few of the myriad of resources available for further investigation.