We are not only “the last…of an epoch,” we are more than that, or we are that in a different way to what is most often asserted. We are the first…of a Future that has not materialized.-Wyndham Lewis
“I believe that education is a process of…living and not a preparation for future living.” I believe “to prepare him for…future life means to give him command of himself; it means so to train him that he will have the full and ready use of all his capacities.” “I believe finally, that education must be conceived as a continuing reconstruction of experience; that the process and the goal of education are one and the same thing.” In 1897 John Dewey penned these and other beliefs about education in his work My Pedagogical Creed. At this moment in history, society was beginning to undergo a monumental technological transformation; thus, Dewey believed it prudent that education change alongside society, dubbing this idea “New Education.” Now more than 100 years on from these publications, our world is in the midst of another massive technological transformation, and we must once again expect education to evolve. What do we believe education is in the 21st century? What is our “New Education?”
In a recent workshop, I propositioned participants with just this idea. Participants were asked to share a moment of teaching that they considered to be a “peak experience,” (a moment of teaching where they were in a state of flow alongside their students) to help reveal their beliefs about education. While anecdotes echoed around the room, the affective imprint the experiences left could easily be identified from the smiling faces and jovial gestures common to each group. As group members then identified beliefs embedded in the stories, words like creative, independent, and collaborative marked common threads between perfect strangers. Apparently, we do know what we believe about education, and many of our beliefs are shared. How then do these beliefs play a part in our day to day lives as teachers, and more importantly how do these shared beliefs become the basis for the creation of our new educational foundations?
Within any environment there are a variety of factors that influence the degree to which one is able to maintain the integrity of her beliefs. Schools are no different. There are factors that support and enable efforts to uphold beliefs while there are other factors that challenge or sabotage these efforts. There are internal factors within our control as educators and external factors we have no control over whatsoever. In order to define the core beliefs of our “New Education,” we must first consider two specific factors that are within our control and enable us to adhere to our beliefs: pedagogical philosophy and individual voice.
1. Pedagogical Philosophy
· What are your beliefs about how learning should be designed?
· What is the role of the teacher?
· What is the role of the student?
· What is the role of the parent?
· Who is asking the questions?
· Who is designing the process?
· Who is in control of the learning, and how is this demonstrated?
2. Individual Voice
· How is individual voice recognized?
· What opportunities do individuals have to influence the environment?
· What opportunities do individuals have to influence the learning?
· How does the balance of power feel to the individual?
· What is the story the individual will tell about her educational experience?
By exploring our shared beliefs related to these two ideas, we can begin to lay cornerstones for our own pedagogical creed and initiate the construction of 21st century education.
I believe education should be understood as a series of experiences and that each experience uniquely impacts an individual’s understanding and perception of self. I believe each student has the capacity to be an agent of her own learning and the role of the teacher is to foster the understanding of this potential. I believe society needs to redefine its beliefs and values related to education and recognize that this starts with the individual. How about you, what do you believe?
 Dewey, John. The School and Society: Being Three Lectures. 1899. Print.