Just as curriculum can be defined in a variety of ways, one can approach the evaluation and creation of curriculum through more than one foundational lens: philosophical, historical, psychological, and sociological. All four of these hold importance in influencing curriculum and instruction. However, it is the philosophical foundation which holds the greatest importance because it is through one’s philosophical perspectives that the historical, sociological, and psychological foundations are both perceived and applied.
The philosophical foundation of curriculum helps determine the driving purpose of education, as well as the roles of the various participants. While all foundations propose to set goals of curriculum, philosophy presents the manner of thinking from which those goals are created. One’s driving philosophy suggests if education should develop the individual or enforce group norms (Ornstein & Hunkins, pp. 34-36); if it is to enforce group norms, it further defines if that should be the norms of the current set or a move towards changing those norms. Philosophies vary in perception of truth, ranging from absolute to relative, and from moralistic to scientific (34-37). In all of this, one’s philosophy defines the role of the teacher, ranging from all-knowing authoritarian to that of a mentor, and the role of the student, ranging from an obedient vacant vessel to an individual worthy of actively engaging in one’s own educational process. As we look through the lens of history, we see how philosophies have gained and waned in popularity in society, and how even psychological research is embraced, ignored, or even rejected based on philosophical standings of the time.
Exploring the historical foundations of curriculum can promote a sense of freedom and encourage educational reform. Reviewing the history of education allows us to step outside of the here and now, gaining a bigger picture and seeing ourselves within it, realizing that the field of education must remain dynamic in order to be effective. Throughout history, curricular choices have been made out of necessity and to meet the specific needs of society at the time. Also, it is through history that we see how predominant philosophies have defined a society’s values, which in turn determined the current purposes of education. Through history, we learn that programs are considered pioneering due to the different philosophies to which others subscribe. In reviewing history, it becomes apparent that this has been the case throughout the centuries. Ideas can change, and a group can break free of faulty suppositions; history shows that what is now isn’t necessarily what needs to remain. In history, we see why and how things came to be, how the demographics of a particular committee can have longreaching impact (Ornstein & Hunkins, 82), and also that some traditions - such as grading (70) - are relatively new concepts after all.
Society is a reflection of the governing philosophies of the masses, requiring that studying the sociological foundation of curriculum to include consideration of philosophical foundations. Society is dynamic, with the changing popularity of a particular philosophy mirroring factors such as environmental and economical needs: war or peace time, recession or time of abundance, changing technology, and so on. For example, if a nation is at war, greater emphasis will be placed on sacrificing for the greater good, moralistic principles, and adhering to group norms. During such times, however, there will be dissention based on counter philosophical ideas; the strength of one’s philosophical convictions will determine one’s perception of the current events, including those impacting education.
The psychological foundation of curriculum and instruction has continued to expand, especially with exponential growth in neuroscience research. The 1990s had been titled the Decade of the Brain (Clemons, 2005), and great strides have been made in the psychology of learning. One might argue that it is the psychological foundations of curriculum which hold the greatest importance because it is here that we understand how students learn; how to increase student motivation and satisfaction; how to achieve educational “success” in its many definitions. However, curriculum decisions and current educational practices in many schools do not yet fully embrace the current research due to the prevailing philosophies held by those in administrative power in the field of education. Again, it is the philosophical foundation that holds the greatest importance because it holds the greatest power. To gain acceptance of research-based educational practices, we must not just show the success of those practices, but also work toward changing the prevailing philosophies that influence the attitudes of society. Also, reaching back to the historical foundation of curriculum study, we should caution ourselves that current research is just that: current. Future psychological research may yield new information. By adopting a guiding philosophy, one does not become married to a particular psychological or sociological foundation of thought, which history reminds us is ever-changing, and one can instead remain fluid in how one’s philosophically-based goals are met.
Personalized Education Philosophy
In considering all four foundational lenses noted above, SAS has adopted the Personalized Education Philosophy (see Appendix D: Personalized Education Philosophies and Goals). This philosophy serves as the primary foundation and guide for the development of curriculum and the program as a whole. Decisions ranging from curriculum adoption to implementation of instructional techniques are made in alignment with this philosophy.