As an educator (child centered approach)

The Brief:

Each of us, in some way, is an educator. Some of us are parents, some teachers, but whichever we are we must develop our own personal philosophy of education. A tremendous body of educational theory exists. However the immense breadth of knowledge makes it difficult to choose a specific school of thought. For example, some educators base their theories on different approaches to grouping students for instruction, various forms of curricula, methods of evaluating student progress, or the objectives of instruction. Phrases such as “cooperative learning,” “multiple intelligences ” and “whole learning experiences” abound in the literature. Instructional methods range from free exploration to direct instruction. Models of learning range from transactional to transmission.

Using the foundation theories that have stood the test of time would be a valid approach to a philosophy of education. If you were to base your personal philosophy on a child-centered philosopher who you would deem to have greatest influence on modern education… whom would you select? And why?

Interpretation: Select a theorist whose philosophy is child-centered and has a discernible influence on modern education, describe and synthesize

Instantly I think of Erikson, he had a huge impact on me during my clinical training. Early on, in the training clinic over a period of a few weeks, it just seemed that every second patient was a child. I would consult directly with the child, adapting my interview technique and developing a mutual vocabulary, with occasional confirmation and parental involvement (rather tan the other way around, which was more common). After a few of these consultations, I was seeing a pattern that there were huge tracts of medically relevant information that could only be gathered directly from the patient,some of this information was a surprise to the parents.I sought out the the opportunity to observe practitioners who worked primarily with children. It was truly an eye opener to the required difference to be effective.

My early days reminded me of a “story” I had read when I was younger, I thought of Erikson as the father of reverse psychology(perhaps incorrectly) because of this story. Erikson had been consulted regarding a young girl who falsely believed that her feet were huge and hideous, this debilitating dismorphia was preventing her from leaving the house and fulfilling her development through the the psychosocial stages (Erikson’s model).  Erikson made a home visit and “treated” another family member, during this treatment, he purposely stepped back onto her feet and in affect told her off – for not growing feet large enough to be seen and avoided. Apprently this seemingly inadvertent comment did the trick and convinced the girl her feet were fine afterall. Can you see why I thought of him as the father of reverse psychology?

When revisiting his theories and approaches during my own practice, I discovered many excellent techniques to use during consultation for both adult and children. What I also reflected on was my consultations were often only a half hour with children, and that teachers were faced full days of large groups of children, the dynamics of the teacher pupil relationship and the dynamic relationships existing in the class.

Until recently my largest children’s actual class size was 8. I had also done kids parties – often with lots and lots of kids. These both required different skills. Recently I have taught primary school maths to groups of 8 and 15. Again a different approach required. I believe that Erikson has a lot to offer in the understanding of children and the dynamics of their relationships and development. The tender age when a child compares their own abilities to that of their classmates and damaging their sense of self-worth. The role of feedback, praise and criticism can drastically affect this mechanism – that Erikson called Industry vs Inferior. This tenet has proved massively important to me as an art educator. Enthusiasm and self confidence are integrally linked to creativity and competence. Art Education has a unique set of requirements when it comes to assessment and critique, which can truly trigger this effect of perceived inferiority. Erikson believed it was the responsibility of the teacher to minimize inferiority issues in the class. The psychology of the classroom if fascinating especially as the children develop through the stages.

The psychology and dynamics of relationship are still of huge impact even at post graduate level, especially in the sphere of education for education where there is a huge emphasis on the type of training and experience the student had before entering post grad. A wee gem that I came across about Erickson is that he had no Bachelor degree, he trained as a psychologist at the Vienna Institute and later received analysis from Freud’s daughter. It was his work, writing and theories that enabled him to become a prestigious professor at a number of ivy league American Colleges. No inferiority there then, despite his lack of appropriate educational background. Kudos, Erik Erikson and Thank you.


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