The Actual Need for a Philosophy of Education
Posted: Thursday, September 15th, 2016
by Joseph Calmer, Ed.D
As the year begins, it is time for science teachers to think about their approach to this coming year. This year is an important one too, because of the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). The NGSS is in various stages of implementation across the state and among districts. The idea of NGSS is easy, but the actual practice of NGSS is difficult. Hopefully you’ve read the original framework ((NGSS Lead States, 2013). Maybe you’ve been able to read the California Draft Framework. When reading these tomes, you’ll probably find yourself agreeing with the authors. The teaching philosophy and pedagogy that frames the new standards are sound and are commensurate with current thoughts about teaching and learning (Bransford, Brown, Cocking, & ebrary, 1999; Hattie & Yates, 2013). The next step required for teachers is to turn theory into practice.
Transferring theory into practice is the hardest and most important step. Theorizing is fine, but the reality is that theory isn’t ‘taking attendance,’ ‘ordering supplies,’ ‘organizing classrooms,’ or any other of the myriad of things that go into classroom teaching. The reality is that something tangible has to be present for students to do. Creating the environment for learning is more about managing resources than theorizing. The notion of being a ‘reflective practitioner’ may seem more like an optional activity than a required one (Zeichner & Liston, 2013). Where does philosophy actually fit into a teachers’ daily list of tasks?
I enjoyed my credential program and talking about teaching. It seems like credential programs are where ‘educational philosophies’ are exclusively talked about. On the job, the discussions are more about copies, materials, desks, students, etc. The dialogues of philosophy are absent from teacher lounges. I am writing this to say that we need to revisit these talking points and bring them back to the forefront of our dialogues. I have been reading The Stone Reader and have been reminded of the interesting and importance of philosophy, especially for notions of teaching (Catapano & Critchley, 2015). The topics covered are succinct and allows for thought provoking inner dialogues. As a teacher, everything I do seems to ultimately relate back to my class. As I read the entries, I thought to myself “Man, I am really thinking here. How could I get my students to think this much?”
For example, here is a sample philosophical statement from W.V. Quine: “scientists (are) in search of an organized conception of reality”. As science teachers, we often talk about science theories, science facts, and the need for accurate data. Philosophy talks about perception and truth, things we take for granted, but really do affect the former. The objectivity of science is really dependent on the subjectivity of our senses and our frame of thought. N.R. Hanson talked about this in his paper about “Observation” (N. R. Hanson & Paul F. Schmidt, 1959). In “Observation”, Hanson explains how Tycho Brahe and Kepler both saw an orange disk in the sky. Kepler saw the Earth moving around the sun, but Tycho Brahe saw the sun move around the Earth. Hanson showed what one already “knows” and learns affects what they see. (It is a great article, and I was only exposed to it in a philosophy course.) To me, it is no wonder that “Natural Philosophy” became “Science”. As science teachers, I think it will serve us well to not forget our philosophical roots. This will allow us to think about our classes and act in accordance to our intended vision; ensuring students learn science.
Philosophy is often over looked as a practical subject and therefore not useful to the practical person. I would vehemently disagree. I think that if one takes the time to use the tools and canons of philosophy, they will be able to find their purposes and meanings of what they do (in the classroom). So, as we get the new year started, with a new set of standards, it’s the perfect time to approach our teaching practices differently. Philosophy is a tool to analyze our thinking. As one works, the “cow paths” of thought and practice are entrenched deeper and deeper (Norman, 2013). One rarely tends to stray from their comfortability of habit. By reading philosophy, one gets exposed to the obvious questions that we can’t see or think to ask ourselves. Philosophy really helps us find purpose, definitions, and meaning to the things we do and the thoughts we think. So, it may seem like a diversion to the litany of tasks that need to be done, but if you sit back and reflect on the purpose and meaning of what you are doing first, you may save time in the long run (and emerge better in the end for it).
- Bransford, J., Brown, A. L., Cocking, R. R., & ebrary, I. (1999). How people learn: brain, mind, experience, and school. Washington, D.C: National Academy Press.
- Catapano, P., & Critchley, S. (2015). The Stone Reader: Modern Philosophy in 133 Arguments: Liveright.
- Hattie, J., & Yates, G. C. R. (2013). Visible Learning and the Science of How we Learn (pp. 368).
- N.R. Hanson, A., & Paul F. Schmidt, R. (1959). Patterns of Discovery. American Journal of Physics, 27(4), 285. doi:10.1119/1.1934835
- NGSS Lead States. (2013). Next Generation Science Standards: For States, By States. Washington, D.C.: Achieve, Inc. on behalf of the twenty-six states and partners that collaborated on the NGSS Retrieved from http://www.nextgenscience.org/next-generation-science-standards.
- Norman, D. A. (2013). The Design of Everyday Things: Basic Books.
- Zeichner, K. M., & Liston, D. P. (2013). Reflective Teaching: An Introduction: Taylor & Francis.
Posted: Tuesday, March 14th, 2017
The pre-publication version of the new California Science Curriculum Framework is now available for download. This publication incorporates all the edits that were approved by the State Board of Education in November 2016 and was many months in the making. Our sincere thanks to the dozens of CSTA members were involved in its development. Our appreciation is also extended to the California Department of Education, the State Board of Education, the Instructional Quality Commission, and the Science Curriculum Framework and Evaluation Criteria Committee and their staff for their hard work and dedication to produce this document and for their commitment to the public input process. To the many writers and contributors to the Framework CSTA thanks you for your many hours of work to produce a world-class document.
For tips on how to approach this document see our article from December 2016: California Has Adopted a New Science Curriculum Framework – Now What …? If you would like to learn more about the Framework, consider participating in one of the Framework Launch events (a.k.a. Rollout #4) scheduled throughout 2017.
The final publication version (formatted for printing) will be available in July 2017. This document will not be available in printed format, only electronically.
Posted: Monday, March 13th, 2017
The 2017 Award Season is now open! One of the benefits of being a CSTA member is your eligibility for awards as well as your eligibility to nominate someone for an award. CSTA offers several awards and members may nominate individuals and organizations for the Future Science Teacher Award, the prestigious Margaret Nicholson Distinguished Service Award, and the CSTA Distinguished Contributions Award (organizational award). May 9, 2017 is the deadline for nominations for these awards. CSTA believes that the importance of science education cannot be overstated. Given the essential presence of the sciences in understanding the past and planning for the future, science education remains, and will increasingly be one of the most important disciplines in education. CSTA is committed to recognizing and encouraging excellence in science teaching through the presentation of awards to science educators and organizations who have made outstanding contributions in science education in the state and who are poised to continue the momentum of providing high quality, relevant science education into the future. Learn More…
Posted: Monday, March 13th, 2017
CSTA is now accepting applications from regular, preservice, and retired members to serve on our volunteer committees! CSTA’s all-volunteer board of directors invites you to consider maximizing your member experience by volunteering for CSTA. CSTA committee service offers you the opportunity to share your expertise, learn a new skill, or do something you love to do but never have the opportunity to do in your regular day. CSTA committee volunteers do some pretty amazing things: Learn More…
Posted: Monday, March 13th, 2017
by Marian Murphy-Shaw
If you attended an NGSS Rollout phase 1-3 or CDE workshops at CSTA’s annual conference you may recall hearing from Chris Breazeale when he was working with the CDE. Chris has relocated professionally, with his passion for science education, and is now the Executive Director at the Explorit Science Center, a hands-on exploration museum featuring interactive STEM exhibits located at the beautiful Mace Ranch, 3141 5th St. in Davis, CA. Visitors can “think it, try it, and explorit” with a variety of displays that allow visitors to “do science.” To preview the museum, or schedule a classroom visit, see www.explorit.org. Learn More…
Posted: Monday, March 13th, 2017
by Joseph Calmer
Probably like you, NGSS has been at the forefront of many department meetings, lunch conversations, and solitary lesson planning sessions. Despite reading the original NRC Framework, the Ca Draft Frameworks, and many CSTA writings, I am still left with the question: “what does it actually mean for my classroom?”
I had an eye-opening experience that helped me with that question. It came out of a conversation that I had with a student teacher. It turns out that I’ve found the secret to learning how to teach with NGSS: I need to engage in dialogue about teaching with novice teachers. I’ve had the pleasure of teaching science in some capacity for 12 years. During that time pedagogy and student learning become sort of a “hidden curriculum.” It is difficult to plan a lesson for the hidden curriculum; the best way is to just have two or more professionals talk and see what emerges. I was surprised it took me so long to realize this epiphany. Learn More…