Philosophy of Education

This  8-week course began January 7, 2014. The instructor for PHL/713 was Renee S. Hall, Ph.D.

Course Description

Why a course in the philosophy of higher education? This course will commence with basic questions that underlie the philosophical foundations in the context of a global society that impact on the evolving nature of higher education in the 21st century. Philosophical perspectives on cultural values, beliefs (both secular and non-secular), and goals of education will be examined from classical times through current philosophers and theorists. The course will culminate with the students developing a personal philosophy of higher education that emerges from the study of various world philosophies, ethical theories, and purposes of learning.

Course Competencies

  • Explore the development of philosophical and ethical theories of Eastern, Middle Eastern, Western, and indigenous thought, with an emphasis on their effects on higher education.
  • Evaluate the effect of major events from a global perspective as they relate to the conditions of society, the academy, gender issues, and ethnic and racial groups.
  • Examine global concepts and theories pertaining to the philosophy of education, including but not limited to philosophical theoretical terms—such as constructivism, essentialism, postmodernism, and pragmatism—and the debates that surround them.
  • Recognize the importance and practical application of philosophical and educational theories, which helps provide a working foundation to higher education researchers in quantitative, qualitative, and mixed-method studies.
  • Develop an in-depth personal philosophy of higher education for the 21st century, utilizing global philosophical theories and cultural beliefs of education.
  • Relate the contributions to higher education of the major philosophical and ethical thinkers throughout Eastern, Middle Eastern, Western, and indigenous history.

The first two weeks of most doctoral programs are devoted to reading. After that, each week has a topic and the assignments reflect the topic as well as relate to parts of the reading. The reading list for this course is listed at the bottom under references. Note that in addition to the required texts, there were a number of journal articles that were also required reading for each week.

  1. Reading Week
  2. Reading Week
  3. Overview of Eastern, Indigenous, and Middle Eastern Philosophies and Cultures
  4. Comparing World Philosophies
  5. Effect of Western Philosophies on Higher Education
  6. Tracing Philosophical Cultural Roots
  7. Philosophy’s Contribution to Research Methods
  8. Personal Philosophy of Higher Education and Current Higher Educational Status: 20th and 21st Centuries


There were a number of assignments that required time and effort. However, I am just focusing on the papers. They  were as follows:

  • Week 3: Write a 1,400 to 1,750 word paper analyzing the similarities and differences between Hindu, Buddhist, and Confucian educational philosophies. The idea was to show ways in which these philosophies have shaped higher education. I earned 8/8 on this paper.
  • Week 4: Write a 1,400 to 1,750 word analysis paper. This paper involved selecting one Western and one non-Western philosophy and comparing each cultures’ philosophical and ethical perspectives. We were asked to include the following: a) What might be some factors that contributed to differences and similarities between these philosophies or cultures? and b) What effect does each philosophy or culture have on higher education in a global context? I wrote on the educational philosophies of Buddhism and Dewey’s Experimentalism. I earned 8/8 on this paper.
  • Week 5: Write a 1,400 to 1,750 word analysis paper in which we describe a theory and its application to higher education. Then discuss how the selected theory is relevant to 21st century global higher education and justify our response. I did my paper on The Educational Philosophy of Postmodernism in the 21st Century. I earned 8/8 on this paper.
  • Week 6: Write a 1,400 to 1,750 word paper using one philosophy from a matrix we were working on through week 5. The idea was to trace a single philosophy from its conception to current times. There were certain questions that had to be responded to in the paper. These include: a) How did the philosophy originate?, b) Which major theorist helped shape this philosophy?, c) What effect does the philosophy have on the current practice of higher education?, and d) How do the theorists and theories of this philosophy affect my personal philosophy of higher education. The matrix did not have individual philosophies but groupings of philosophies. I selected the Chinese Philosophies and traced the history of Buddhism, Taoism, and Confucianism and then discussed their relevance to higher education in the 21st century. I earned 8/8 on this paper.
  • Week 7: In week 7 we had two papers. The first was a 750 to 1,050 word analysis paper where we selected one philosophical theory and described how it is applicable to a quantitative, qualitative research, or mixed method. I wrote on Liberalism in Higher Education and related it to a mixed methods. I earned 8/8 on this paper. The second “paper” was a detailed outline to be used as a framework for our personal philosophy of higher education. I earned 3/3 on this outline.
  • Week 8: The paper in week 8 was a very good cumulative paper. It was a 2,450 to 3,150 word paper on our personal philosophy of higher education. Included in the paper were: a) An abstract of my personal philosophy of higher education and how I arrived at my position, b) A statement as to my philosophy and its effect on global higher education in the 21st century, c) An explanation of what global higher education means to me, d) The purpose of global higher education, e) An explanation of the importance of having a personal philosophy of education, and f) An identification of the Eastern, Indigenous, Middle Eastern, and Western theories and philosophies that helped define my philosophy and rationale. I began this paper with a discussion of the three major components of philosophy: metaphysics, epistemology, and axiology. In my discussion I compared Idealism and Realism to my chosen philosophy of Pragmatism. Other philosophies that are included in the paper and in my personal philosophy of higher education include Liberalism (specifically Utilitarianism), Native American and other Indigenous philosophies, and Chinese philosophies. I earned 14/14 on this final paper and will continue to mold and shape it for future job applications.


The biggest challenges for me came up with the very topic of the course. I felt very ignorant of philosophies. I study sociological theoretical perspectives but had not seen a connection between a theory and a philosophy. I learned much in this area.

A second challenge came in reading the text on Eastern philosophies. I would not recommend that particular textbook for any course. I am sure it is thorough, but I felt there were a lot of oddities that would challenge any reader. For example when in the section on Chinese or Japanese philosophies, the editors felt it necessary to show the reader what the words looked like in their native language. I was already feeling challenged with reading something new, but having to deal with another language was even more problematic. I eventually learned to skip over these characters and other extraneous information so that I could retain the “meat” of the topic I was reading.

A final challenge, and likely one that will continue with me throughout the program is the challenge of time. I reaffirmed the fact that I am a good writer and that I can write pretty damn good under pressure.


The biggest success I experienced this course came in what was a challenge in the last course. You may recall that I had determined that the discussions were not worth enough points for me to worry about so I put more emphasis on the papers. Well, I did not do that in this course. I suspect part of the reason has to do with meeting my peers during the residency in December. I now have faces to put to names. The real success came in my learning. I realize now how important discussions are in an online course. It is in the discussion where you have an opportunity to test your beliefs and hypotheses. We all seemed to either confirm one another or someone would have a different perspective and share that. It was very helpful. I cannot believe I did not take advantage of this in the first class. I will put in the effort from now on.

I successfully completed the course with 99.67 out of 100. I earned an A and 3 credits. So I have now completed 10 units and have 55 more to go.

Required Reading

Garfield, J. L. & Edelglass, W. (Eds.). (2011). The Oxford handbook of world philosophy. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.

Gutek, G. L. (2009). New perspectives on philosophy and education. Chicago, IL: Loyola University.


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