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Putting the AI into Your EducAtIonal Philosophy

I want to be very clear – you need an educational philosophy.

Both you, as an educator and/or leader of an educational organization, and your organization need to be able to clearly and articulately express what you believe to be the purpose of education, the role of education in the world, and your approach to education. Your educational philosophy should clarify the beliefs, values, and understandings of what you do and why you do it.

An educational philosophy serves as a guiding framework that acts as a lens when making decisions – both small choices (such as how to craft a lesson for next period) and larger (such as the strategic priorities for the next five years) should be guided by an educational philosophy. In fact, all of the educational practices and policies in place in your organization (or your classroom) should be aligned with your educational philosophy, including:

  • Curriculum and schedule

  • Pedagogy and methods of assessment

  • Classroom structure and roles

  • Mindsets and culture

  • Hiring and supervision

While an educational philosophy has always been important, in today’s world it’s a necessity, grounding you in your core beliefs and values while also guiding towards the future while making space for key skills and mindsets and preparing for the future (including the use of AI).

So what does that look like, and how can it serve as the basis for a guiding document regarding AI usage at your institution?

If you don’t have an educational philosophy – write one.

If you’re writing a personal educational philosophy, it doesn’t have to be a formal, structured process. Just find a few moments for reflection, and consider the following questions:

  • What is education?

  • Why is education important?

  • What is the role of education in today’s world?

  • How and where should education happen?

  • What makes “good” education?

This is, by no means, an exhaustive list, and you should feel free to answer in a stream-of-conscious way, integrating any and all additional questions that pop into your head. After you’ve written for a while, review your writing and look for themes. Try to put together a more succinct educational philosophy in a few sentences (and if you can’t do that, no worries…I know some people whose personal educational philosophy is multiple pages).

If you’re crafting an educational philosophy for an organization, it should be more structured and include the voices of various stakeholders. Consider holding facilitated focus groups to discuss some of the questions above, and try to come to a consensus on key points in order to gain support for a collective educational philosophy.

If you do have an educational philosophy – review it.

Again, if this is your personal educational philosophy, it’s all about you and what moves you, so pick a time and place and delve in. If this is your organization’s educational philosophy, any revision should follow a process.

Regardless of the situation, here are some pieces to keep in mind as you write and/or review:

  • Your educational philosophy should resonate with you. Try going deeper – Does this speak to you on an authentic level? Does it align with your core values and beliefs? Does it accurately speak to what you believe?

  • Just listing buzz words and tools (project based learning, inquiry education, authentic) is not an educational philosophy. Go deeper – Why are you including these terms? What, ultimately, are you trying to accomplish? What is, actually, important?

  • Stating that you use artificial intelligence is not an educational philosophy. Again, this is just a tool to help reach your goal, not the actual goal Again, go deeper – What might AI help you accomplish? What skills and dispositions can AI cultivate? How does AI connect to your core values?

  • Make sure that your educational philosophy is future-focused and relevant for today. While “artificial intelligence,” in and of itself, is not an educational philosophy, if there isn’t space in your educational philosophy for the use of AI, it is outdated. If it doesn’t make space for future-ready skills and mindsets, it’s irrelevant. If it doesn’t speak to what students and our world need, there’s really no point. Going deeper – How does your educational philosophy reflect today’s world and the world of the future? How does your educational philosophy speak to preparing students and what they’ll need? How does your educational philosophy balance holding strong to your core values while also making room for ambiguity and the need to be flexible?

Once you have your educational philosophy, either newly drafted or newly revised, put it somewhere visible. Consult it often. Use it as the guiding force it is meant to be. If it’s not working, revise (but thoughtfully and intentionally, and not because the new initiative your donor wants to fund doesn’t fit). By creating an educational philosophy that is both based in core values and also looking toward the future AND using it the way it is intended, you can ensure that your use of AI (or the new curriculum or a new program or teacher orientation) stays true to your “why,” allowing for a more authentic, effective, and purposeful environment for all.

Note: I LOVE talking educational philosophy and love facilitating workshops and stakeholder gatherings related to your educational philosophy. If you’re looking for additional tips and/or would like to learn more about how I might be able to support you, reach out.

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