12 Jul 2022


Similarities and Differences of Educational Theories

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As a philosophy of education, idealism is based on the notion that reality should only be inferred from ideas. People should strive to conceive ideas as the only source of world reality. They must apply conscious reasoning when seeking the truth, justice, learning opportunity, or beauty because this process will yield ideas that endure for long periods. From an educational perspective, idealism encourages educators to pursue the development of the mind among learners. 

Learners should endeavor to gain ideas that have lasting value. Idealist educators must regularly give importance to the development of the learners’ mind instead of focusing on the matter. Idealism prioritizes the inquisitive needs of the mind over the development of matter (Howard & Samuel, 2008). Idealist educators aim to empower their learners to achieve self-realization. They pursue this goal with full knowledge that individual self is a component of a whole and can only be empowered when developed in a large context. 

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Idealism in education also concerns aspects of character development for the learners. Their education approach sets character development as one of the primary goals. Idealist instructors will strive to nurture good moral values on their learners. They also feel obligated to act as appropriate role models for the learners. In most cases, an idealist educator will provide holistic education to his learners rather than give specialized learning (Howard & Samuel, 2008). Instead of teaching specific skills to their learners, the idealist educators tend to favor educational curriculum with a bias for liberal arts. Such education gives the learners an ability to think through different life issues and challenges. Holistic learning should be the ultimate guiding purpose in the education effort. 

Idealism is a concept that has persisted over the years, with early proposals being made by philosophers such as Plato, Aristotle, and Socrates. Subsequent philosophers adapted it to fit into the mainstream education philosophies (Howard & Samuel, 2008). Plato insists on the need to seek eternal truths to help in building a good society. A dedicated search for truth should characterize education. Idealist philosophy of education presumes that the person already holds all knowledge within him – he is only waiting for an opportunity to discover the knowledge in the learning process. 

According to James (2009), t he educator plays no role in adding knowledge to the learner. Instead, the educator causes the learner to remember the knowledge. From this perspective, idealist educators have to strive towards developing the minds of their learners. Even though idealists accept the material world, they prefer to focus on enduring ideas because material reality keeps changing due to uncertainties and instabilities. 

Realism as an Education Philosophy 

Realism is founded on the notion that the knowledge, reality, and value should be understood as aspects whose existence is independent and parallel to the human mind. Their existence is not intertwined with the human mind. When compared to the idealist perspective of education, realism contends that material facts are real and existing, just like ideas do. The material world has an independent reality because it exists in perpetuity even when the individual human mind fails to perceive them ( Gutek, 2000 ). This obvious fact underscores the independent existence of the human mind and material reality. This philosophy is the most representative of my philosophy about education. I see learners as people who lack knowledge. They gain this knowledge through clear knowledge transfer processes such as classroom instructions, test exams, and classroom discussions. 

According to James (2009 ), realist educators insist on the need for learners to demonstrate hard work, and discipline. Learner discipline concerns both classroom behavior and subject content. In the education perspective, realism applies in several diverse ways such as secular/scientific realism and religious realism. Thomists/religious realists value education as a process that enhances human understanding of material aspects and spiritual things in life. In comparison, secular realists focus on the need for scientific and material studies. Secular realism emphasizes the importance of studying the actual ideas in the material world to gain reliable knowledge about world reality. 

Scientific realists believe in scientific investigations on how the material world achieves balance, regularity, and order through the laws of nature. They understand that the laws of nature control the material world, and their education approaches focus on obtaining empirical theories to explain how the natural forces establish control of the material world ( James, 2009 ). According to Aristotle, the objects in the universe have a purpose and order. People have to rise to their purpose of reasoning to avoid suffering the consequences of ineptitude. They have to learn to moderate their lives between various extremes. The Golden Mean should guide them. 

Realist educators should use a curriculum that confers these values of rationality and thought to their learners ( Gutek, 2000 ). When people study the matter, they discover better ideas that are distinct and valuable. These ideas may then be used to explain complex issues of nature such as the possible existence of God. Material things have universal properties. They can also be defined in nonmaterial aspects such as ideas, universals, and essences to give them unique forms/identities. Educational truth should be established objectively through observation of existing reality. 

Gutek (2000 ) notes that realist education curriculums focus on studying the subject matter that defines the dynamics of the physical world. They include coursework on mathematics and science. When a realist educator delivers classroom instruction to learners, he has to present systematic content within his discipline. In every step, they have to give convincing explanations of the criteria (formulas, theories, or principles) they used to arrive at their decisions. 

Contrary to the teaching goals of idealist educators, realist educators encourage their learners to master facts, recite the established theories, practical experimentation and observation, and think scientifically. They also used a standardized curriculum that is based in distinct disciplines to pass knowledge to learners ( Gutek, 2000 ). 

Experientialism ( Pragmatism) as an Education Philosophy 

Experientialist educators think that reality should only be construed from observed or experienced things. The reality of experience should guide the education process. Contrary to the approach favored by realist educators, experientialist educators accept the constant change in reality. Students can only learn best when they solve emerging problems and challenges using their thoughts that are informed by their experiences in past challenges (Howard & Samuel, 2008). 

In a dynamic universe, according to Howard and Samuel (2008), the view of the world keeps changing, prompting learners to adapt their reality to match the changing aspects in their world. They keep trying different things to find out those that work. Truth then becomes evident through the things that have been proven to work. This perspective means that truth will keep on changing, depending on prevailing changes in the physical world. According to Charles Sanders Peirce (1839-1914), when an individual harbor some thought, he must take action informed by the thoughts rather than hold it for long due to a state of indecisiveness. 

John Dewey (1859-1952) also supported the experientialist philosophy of education when he described the need for learners to adapt to their learning environment as well learn to adapt to each other. Experientialist educators should insist on giving learners a profound social experience. The circumstantial context, place context and time context play a great role in influencing the learning process. Just like in a democratic society, learners from different cultural contexts have to learn in an environment where they embrace one another (Howard & Samuel, 2008). 

Existentialism as an Education Philosophy 

Existentialist educators use a subjective approach to construe reality. The individual learner construes truth about the physical world from his subjective perception; otherwise, all the objects in the physical world remain meaningless without subjective human interpretation. The key criteria for perceiving truth is built on individual standards and individual choice instead of explicit external standards. Different learners will deliberately choose to create their version of the truth from their existential perceptions ( Gutek, 2000 ). 

Further, Howard and Samuel (2008) opine that existential educators should insist on forming student groups and giving group assignments to test their learners' ability for solve problems in a hands-on approach. The pragmatic curriculum is organized in an interdisciplinary manner with an emphasis on teaching problem-solving skills to learners. The curriculum tests the experimental inquiry ability of the learners by presenting situations where they have to apply their knowledge to find solutions. 

Lastly, according to Howard and Samuel (2008), existentialist educators create subject matter that allows learners to choose what they desire to learn. They see their students as people who are members of a large social group, and their personal views are subject to be challenged by others who hold different perspectives. Existentialist educators insist that learners should bear individual responsibility when they make own learning choices. 


Gutek, G. L. (2000). Historical and philosophical foundations of education: A biographical introduction . Pearson. 

Howard A., & Samuel M. C., (2008). Philosophical Foundations of Education (8th ed.). Pearson Prentice Hall. 

James, K. (2009). “This is England”: Punk rock's realist/idealist dialectic and its implications for critical accounting education. Accounting Forum , 33(2), 127-145. 

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