EDDL 5141             Philosophy of Teaching & Learning                MichaelNauth

An educational philosophy refers to a comprehensive and consistent set of beliefs about the teaching-learning transaction (Conti, 2007, p.20).  Several different educational philosophies have been categorized into five major schools of Adult Education (AE):- Classical (Idealism) that has expert instructors teaching ideas, Behaviourist (Realism) that focuses on knowledge and practice with continual feedback, Progressive (Pragmatism) that encourages learners to seek out processes that work best, Humanist (Existentialism)  that favours learner autonomy and self-direction, and Reconstructivism that promotes education as a force for societal change (Elias & Merriam, 1980, p.10). The first two are Teacher-centred and the last three are Learner-centred. The various strategies and methods that are used in the actual or virtual classroom, be they didactic, or socratic, or facilitative, are chosen based on the teacher’s philosophy of education.

The other philosophy of education that impacts our society is based on the Judea-Christian proverb “Train children in the right way, and when old, they will not stray” (Proverbs 22:6, NRSV). There are several ways to look at this proverb and to interpret the meaning of the words ‘train’, ‘children’, and the ‘right way’. The traditional way interprets this to mean that we are to indoctrinate little children in the ways of the religion or church and they will adhere to them for life. Another way is to teach children according to their temperament or disposition and to tailor the learning activities to suit their natural talent or individual character, and this will prepare them for lifelong learning. And yet another interpretation has the family, immediate and extended, chose the vocation for the young adolescent, and the proverb becomes ‘initiate the young man (or woman) in the ways of his future responsibility and he will stay married to that calling. All three agree that teaching the young will reap rewards for life (Ted Hildebrandt, 1988, p.18).


Teaching apprentice carpenters at the college level, I am working with young people who have chosen their vocation and who want to excel in it.  The teaching strategy that I use in my courses borrows heavily from the Maria Montessori who valued the whole child – the physical, social, emotional, and cognitive.  Her method is based on the two principles of ‘Freedom within Limits’ and ‘A Carefully Prepared Environment’ (MontessorriMom).  The sense of order is captured by “A Place for Everything and Everything in its Place”.  As explorers by nature, children from birth to six are sensorial, from six to twelve conceptual, from twelve to eighteen humanistic, and from eighteen to twenty four they become specialized explorers seeking their niche from which to contribute to the universal dialogue (MontessorriAmi).

The shop facility is prepared for the apprentices so that, when they get there, the structure and order is evident. Tool cribs are colour-matched to the tools, and each tool has a specific home. Construction materials are organized by type and size and stored in set locations.  Their work is ‘limited’ by time, space, safety requirements, and the project parameters, but they are allowed to proceed in their own way, at their own pace.  The learning space is “open, bounded, and hospitable” (Palmer, 1993).  I circulate, manage safety matters, and assist when called upon to do so.  They learn from each other and from me, and I learn from them.  When we debrief, we discuss the different approach that each one took, the use of materials, and the impact on time, energy, and the environment.

Online Learning offers the same opportunity as the shop.  Students are in a network and it is not a passive medium but a computational environment (Downes, 2005).  The learning takes place through communication and interaction.  Each individual’s personal beliefs affect his or her own take on what is heard and seen and internalized.  I feel that the online ‘space’ must also be fashioned in a way that is open (room for growth), bounded (channelled), and hospitable (accepting, not judging).  In this way we can all become more fully who we really are.



Conti, G. J. (2007). Identifying Your Educational Philosophy.  Journal of Adult Education Volume XXXVI, No. 1.  Retrieved from https://www.mpaea.org/docs/pdf/Vol36No12007.pdf

Denning S. (2011), Is Montessori the Origin of Google & Amazon?, Forbes Magazine, http://www.forbes.com/sites/stevedenning/2011/08/02/is-montessori-the-origin-of-google-amazon/

Downes, S. (2005),  Are the Basics of Instructional Design Changing? http://www.downes.ca/cgi-bin/page.cgi?post=6

Elias, J. L., & Merriam, S. (1980). Philosophical Foundations of Adult Education.

Huntington, NY: Robert E. Krieger Publishing Co. http://eric.ed.gov/?id=ED380552

Hildebrandt, T. (1988) Grace Theological Journal 9.1 (1988) 3-19.  Retrieved from http://faculty.gordon.edu/hu/bi/ted_hildebrandt/otesources/20-proverbs/text/articles/hildebrandt-prov22-6train-gtj.htm

MontessorriMom, http://www.montessorimom.com/what-montessori-method/

Montessorri-Ami, http://www.montessori-ami.org/montessori/approach.htm

Jones, J. (2002) Recapturing the Courage to Teach: An Interview with Parker J. Palmer, Teaching With Joy December 2002, http://www.teacherview.com/joyjones/dec2002.htm



5 Comments on Philosophy of Teaching & Learning

  1. emoir says:

    Hi Michael,
    Thank you for sharing your philosophy! The more that I look at other people’s philosophies in the group and hear about their journey in education, the more inspired I become. I really liked how you tied in two parts of the educational journey- the spiritual path and the Montessori approach, but there was still an emphasis on the teaching practice with communication and context sensitive materials. Your philosophy seems to align with an educational philosopher I greatly admire, John Dewey, in that the hands-on learning and experiential learning is valued. I also like how you celebrate students choosing their vocation. Your dedication to teaching is obvious and admirable. I look forward to your facilitation because I think I’d like to take one of your classes!

    • Michael says:

      Thanks Emily. What makes me nervous is getting the technology to work every time and all the time.

      • emoir says:

        I am by no means an expert in online learning and technology, but I think, just like in our face-to-face practice, even with the best preparations and goals, sometimes things do go quite as planned. I call teaching a practice, and my motto is “teach to learn”. It seems like you would have the patience and flexibility to keep trying, even when technology doesn’t quite live up to what you thought it would!

  2. Khaula says:

    Hello Michael,
    Impressive philosophy. I really liked the incorporation and interpretation of proverbs in your philosophy. Also, the way your application of Montessori approach in alignment with the present day context and interaction based learning is amazing. Great work.

  3. Michael says:

    Thanks Khaula. I think that adults also like structure.

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