Sunday, October 24, 2010

Student-Centered and Teacher-Centered Philosophies

Teachers are bound to have different ideas in the areas of classroom management, teaching styles, motivation, etc. The eight education philosophies are broken down into two categories: teacher-centered and student-centered. The eight philosophies are perennialism, essentialism, behaviorism, positivism, progressivism, humanism, reconstructionism, and constructivism.

Teacher-Centered Educational Philosophies

Perennialism is a theory focused on humans and ideas. Ideas are relevant and meaningful throughout time. Little importance is placed on what students are interested in. They believe in the importance of ideas that are universal to everyone. There is a strong focus on scientific reasoning and mathematics because they never change.

Essentialism is a theory that wants to achieve a common core of information and skills for all individuals in a given culture. Essentialists believe in working hard and mental discipline. They put more focus on basic core information that will help students survive today, and therefore spend less time on ideas of the past. They accept that the core information will change as time goes on. Subject matters include literature, history, foreign languages, and religion. Teachers use a variety of methods: required reading, lectures, memorization, repetition and exams.

Behaviorism is a “psychological theory and educational philosophy that holds that one’s behavior is determined by environment, not heredity” (Johnson et al., 110). One argument of this theory is that the classroom environment can have a large effect on how students will behave. The most effective environment is one that is organized. Reinforcement plays another important role in behaviorism. This includes both positive (praise, privileges, good grades) and negative (reprimands, extra homework, low grades) reinforcers. The way a teacher reacts to the action of a student determines whether or not that student will repeat the action.

Positivism rejects any information that cannot be formally measured. It “limits knowledge to statements of observable fact based on sense perceptions and the investigation of objective reality” (111-12). It is the teachers job to make sure directions are clear and students understand what and how they will be learning. Through repetition and practice with different media, students are expected to have a clear understanding of the topic studied. Heavy focus is placed on testing students to ensure that all criteria have been met.

Student-Centered Educational Philosophies

Progressivism is a more developed version of pragmatism, emphasizing that “ideas should be tested by experimentation and that learning is rooted in questions developed by learners” (114). They believe that human experience is far more important than authority when it comes to learning. Like pragmatists, progressivists believe that change is occurring and should be embraced rather than ignored. Progressivism is all about organized freedom that allows students to take responsibility for their actions in the classroom.

Humanism is “concerned with enhancing the innate goodness of the individual” (115). Its focus is on individual development through a process of developing a free, self-actualizing person. Education should start with the individual and the choices made by the individual. The humanistic classroom is welcoming and caring. Students feel comfortable to share their thoughts, feelings, beliefs, fears, and aspirations with each other.

Reconstructionism is a philosophy that centers on the idea of constant change. The world is always changing and we need to change in order to adapt to the changes that are occurring. Reconstructionists like to focus on “reconstructing” one area of society. Curriculum is focused on student experience and taking social action on real issues such as violence, hunger, inequality, etc. Students are taught how to deal and ultimately fix these issues.

Constructivism “emphasizes developing personal meaning through hands-on, activity-based teaching and learning” (117). Teachers are responsible for creating effective learning situations rather than constantly lecturing students. Personal meaning is the best way for students to connect to the material being taught. Constructivist theorists “encourage the development of critical thinking and the understanding of big ideas rather than the mastery of factual information” (117). They believe that students will be more prepared for the ever-changing world if they learn how to develop critical thinking skills. Unlike traditional ways of learning, the constructivist classroom focuses on the way a learner internalizes, shapes, or transforms information.

Although I see a small piece of most of these philosophies within myself, I think the one I can connect to the most is constructivism. I strongly believe in hands-on, activity based learning that is focused on the students as individuals. It is important for students to learn in a way that is interesting to them. I also like the idea of creating learning situations instead of lecturing students. This gives students the chance to learn the same material in a much more personal and interactive way. Another philosophy I find myself relating to is progressivism. It is very similar to pragmatism (which is another theory I connect to) in the sense that theorists in this philosophy are always moving forward. I agree that it is important for students to take part of the responsibility in the classroom.


  1. Very helpful...Thanks a lot :)

  2. Constructivism is garbage and meant for stupid worker drones.

  3. Constructivism is garbage and meant for stupid worker drones.