Contemporary Educational Philosophy

Contemporary educational philosophy takes on a view that is uniquely different from traditional educational philosophy. One of the most interesting contemporary philosophical perspectives is that of Paul Freire. His pedagogical approach centers on student “Dialog”. His belief was that by engaging students in a co-operative dialog process they have the potential to develop a myriad of skills which include academic and social advancement.

The [dialog] process is important and can be seen as enhancing community and building social capital and to lead us to act in ways that make for justice and human flourishing. (Bentley, L., 1999). In Pedagogy of the Oppressed, Freire calls for educational pedagogy that would raise peoples’ consciousness about the reality of their economic and social condition and encourage them to take the necessary steps for their own empowerment. Paul Freire also has a unique view of the teacher student relationship. “Through dialogue, the teacher-of-students and the students-of-teacher cease to exist and recepical role emerges; teacher-student with student-teacher.

This concept is further supported by cooperation and collaborative learning strategies. Stephan Yelon points out those cooperative and collaborative learning strategies promote three key elements of student learning: reflection, support system and preparation for life. Preparation for life involves learning to work together (1996). By engaging students in meaningful dialog they are naturally interested in the material that is discussed. In additional this allows students to actively construct knowledge in a manor that is meaningful to them.

If students view information as relevant then there is a higher probability that they will apply the information to real world situations. (Yelon, p. 141) Overall this philosophical view can be categorized as contemporary. My philosophy incorporates many elements of Paul Freire dialog process. I define my classroom as a place where students can transform themselves and transform each other through the learning process. The term “transform” implies renewing and awakening oneself intellectually, professionally, and personally. I propose situations for students to think about and then I observe what they do. Students tell me what they make of a situation rather than my telling them what to make of it.

This approach values the students’ point of view and attempts to encourage students in the directions they have charted for themselves. A common definition of “critical” theory distinguishs it from “traditional” theory according to a specific practical purpose: a theory is critical to the extent that it seeks human emancipation, “to liberate human beings from the circumstances that enslave them” (Horkheimer, p. 244). Therefore, this definition views the driving premise behind Critical Theory as something that transforms situtions that have the potental to repress individuals. After individuals are freed from restriction then they can explore new possablities. Gutek defines Critical Theory as a complex set of working assumptions about society, education, and schooling that question and analyze educational aims, institutions, curriculum, instruction, and relationships in order to raise consciousness and bring about transformation change in society and education. (Gutek, p. 309)


Bentley, L. (1999). A brief biography: Paulo Freire. Retrieved March 1, 2005 from Gutek, G. (2004). Philosophical and ideological voices in education. 1st ed. New York, NY: Pearson A & B.

Horkheimer, M and T.W. Adorno. 1972. Dialectic of Enlightenment. New York: Seabury.

Yelon. S.L. (1996). Powerful Principles of Instruction. White Plains NY: Longman

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