Idealism holds that ideas are the only true reality. This
philosophy goes back to ancient Greece and claims greats such as Socrates and Plato. This
school seeks to discover true knowledge rather than create it. The aims of the philosophy
are to search for truth and further the character development of learners. The role of the
teacher is to serve as a guide for immature learners, judge important material, and model
appropriate behavior. The instructional process is holistic, seeks to develop critical
thinkers, and deals with broad concepts rather than specific skills. This is a
content-centered approach to education with a heavy emphasis on seeking universal truths
and values and with a strong and defined role for the teacher.
Realism holds that reality exists independent of the human mind; matter in the
universe is real and independent of man's ideas. This philosophy grew out of the
Age of Enlightenment and strongly supports the use of the scientific method. Its aims are
to understand the world through inquiry, verify ideas in the world of experience, teach
things that are essential and practical, and develop the learner's rational powers. The
instructional process seeks to teach fundamentals, encourage specialization, and teach the
scientific method. The role of teacher is to present material systematically, encourage
the use of objective criteria, and be effective and accountable. Behaviorism is
congruent with this broader teacher-centered philosophy.
Pragmatism or Progressivism is associated strongly with the works of John
Dewey. It seeks to inquire and to then do what works best; that is, it seeks to be pragmatic.
However, everything centers on the human experience. It seeks to promote democracy by
developing strong individuals to serve in a good society. It supports diversity because
education is the necessity of life. Its aims are to seek understanding, coordinate all
environments into a whole, teach a process of inquiry, and promote personal growth and
democracy. The instructional process is flexible with a concern for individual differences
and for problem solving and discovery. In this learner-centered approach, the role of
teacher is to identify the needs of the learner and to serve as a resource person.
Reconstructionism strongly believes that education can be used in reconstructing
society. In order to achieve social justice and true democracy, change rather than
adjustment is needed. This philosophy is futuristic and takes a holistic view of problems.
Its aims are to encourage social activism and the development of change agents. It seeks
to empower people to think critically about their world, develop decision-making
abilities, get involved in social issues, and to take action. The role of the teacher in
this learner-centered philosophy is help learners develop problem-posing skills and
lifelong-learning skills. This school of thought has been greatly influenced by the work
of Paulo Freire and Myles Horton.