Our Educational Philosophy Statement (EPS)
We believe that each child is a unique individual who needs a secure, caring, and stimulating atmosphere in which to grow and mature emotionally, intellectually, physically, and socially, and develop self-esteem and core values. It is our desire as educators to help students meet their fullest potential in these areas by providing an environment that is safe, supports risk-taking, and invites a sharing of ideas. There are three elements that we believe are conducive to establishing such an environment, (1) the educator acting as a guide, (2) allowing the child's natural curiosity to direct his or her learning, and (3) promoting respect for all things and all people.
When the educator's role is to guide, providing access to information rather than acting as the primary source of information, the students' search for knowledge is met as they learn to find answers to their questions. For students to construct knowledge, they need the opportunity to discover for themselves and practice skills in authentic situations. Providing student access to hands-on activities and allowing adequate time and space to use materials that reinforce the lesson being studied creates an opportunity for individual discovery and construction of knowledge to occur.
Equally important to self-discovery is having the opportunity to study things that are meaningful and relevant to one's life and interests. Developing a content around student interests fosters intrinsic motivation and stimulates the passion to learn. One way to take learning in a direction relevant to student interest is to invite student dialogue about the lessons and units of study. Given the opportunity for input, students generate ideas and set goals that make for much richer activities than we could have created or imagined ourselves. When students have ownership of content, they are motivated to work hard and master the skills necessary to reach their goals.
Helping students to develop a deep love and respect for themselves, others, and their environment occurs through an open sharing of ideas and a judicious approach to discipline. When the voice of each student is heard, an environment evolves where students feel free to express themselves. Class meetings are one way to encourage such dialogue. We believe children have greater respect for their teachers, their peers, and the lessons presented when they feel safe and sure of what is expected of them. In setting fair and consistent rules initially and stating the importance of every activity, students are shown respect for their presence and time. In turn they learn to respect themselves, others, and their environment.
We call our pedagogical platform ‘explore-achieve-education’. Our pedagogical platform is based on the general theoretical learning concepts that form the basis of our educational philosophy discussed earlier.
Our learning platform is based on constructivism and situated learning. In a constructivist learning theory, students actively participate in problem-solving and critical thinking regarding a learning activity which they find relevant and engaging. They are "constructing" their own knowledge by testing ideas and approaches based on their prior knowledge and experience, applying these to a new situation, and integrating the new knowledge gained with pre-existing intellectual constructs.
This is very much based on the situated learning concept, which states that learning will better take place if it is embedded in the social and physical context within which it will be used.
One could therefore argue that the fusion of these two philosophies looks a lot like a socio-constructivist approach to teaching. Socio-constructivism is a pedagogical platform that uses a set of teaching methods that are described below, like project-based learning, problem-based learning, inquiry-based learning, case-based learning and action learning. These pedagogies are often referred to as “activity-based”, since the students learn with interactive technology (instead of from) and since the teacher has to design, to facilitate, and to monitor student activities.
We strongly believe learning methods that are embedded in authentic situations are not merely useful; they are essential, as learning is situated in the activity in which it takes place. Situated learning as such occurs when students work on authentic tasks that take place in real-world setting.
In other words, the focus is on learning by doing, and on addressing real problems. IT is a powerful aid to "doing" and to "addressing real problems." Thus, Situated Learning and IT work well together. In our opinion, Situated Learning and Constructivism are compatible and to be mutually supportive.
Learning thus is doing, and it will improve logical thinking processes, including search for information, concept learning, hypothesis formulation and testing, and creative thinking. There is therefore a lot of truth in what the Chinese philosopher Confucius once said: “I hear and I forget. I see and I remember. I do and I understand.”
This also means that social interaction with other learners and practitioners is of vital importance. The interaction of a learning group is a key to learning. The role of the educator is therefore more that of a coach than a traditional transmitter of knowledge.
Having said that, we also recognize the need to sometimes combine this with more traditional teaching methods, to create a minimum knowledge-basis and/or skills, also to enable students to work effectively with the tasks they are given.
This educator-directed instruction is mainly to be used for transferring the minimum factual knowledge required for students to handle their more complex learning activities described above, as a minimum mastery level is required in order to benefit from these activities. We believe that the mutual relationships of context and content, of the individual and the environment, and of knowing and doing are understood through the belief that learning is situated and continuously advances through activity in a community of practice. However, this is not a necessity, as the students can also acquire this knowledge themselves.
To summarize this, we can say that our pedagogical platform concept of ‘explore-achieve- education’, is ‘a philosophy that allows students to develop their academic capacities through actively and creatively solving real problems by testing ideas and approaches based on their prior knowledge and experience, applying these to a new situation, and integrating the new knowledge gained as part of their intellectual development’.