My personal epistemology worked out over the course of this semester:
No matter what the current practice of standardized testing seems to promote, remembering information is not the same as knowing. The basis for epistemology must be founded in ontology; in order to know, one must have some place to begin. And as Rodgers and Hammerstein speculated, the beginning is a very good place to start. Beginning does not require a timeline, but rather an ontological space of being where knowing moves beyond information recall into a place where objective reality intersects with abstract concepts and suppositions in order for the thinker to discover meaning.
My epistemological position is situated in ontological realism. What is conceivable is greater than what can be imagined of the world; the quest of this life is to know what is real, what is true, what is justifiable, and what can be logically believed. Dewey’s transactional realism affords a way for individuals to meaningfully interact with the reality of what exists both with and without human thought or invention, and in doing so, make meaning of it. Discovery of meaningful reality requires a willingness to consider the evidence from all logical points of view, even if that evidence contradicts what is previously known. It also requires a desire to question existing paradigms, such as structuralism or strict constructivism, in order to discover their logical validity and to seek out new processes where the evidence requires it. This Peircean fallibilism makes up a second strand of my personal epistemology.
Fallibilism instructs that it is possible to know, but never conclusively without any shred of doubt. In fact, it is doubt that takes the objective and examines it from all sides, merging it with transactional experience to construct meaning. Ontology joins epistemology for interpreting and understanding reality of new knowledge. It is not a binary system because ontology flows into, through, and around the objective nature of the world.
Applying new epistemologies to US education requires that one first identify the existing model and its weaknesses. That a standardized test compiled by entities outside the classroom is quickly becoming the sole measure of student achievement and teacher effectiveness provides the most visible evidence of the current problematic positivist paradigm writ large. Current research reveals other critical issues facing schools: teachers frustrated by a lack of voice in education policy along with feeling powerless to control their own classrooms, inconsistent support from parents and administrators, and students who have been taught that only their standardized test scores matter. The current education system is well-equipped and perfectly happy to reject creative problem solvers for the sake of maintaining an illusion of equity and standardization. Ultimately, this produces non-thinkers who know how to capture information long enough to repeat it, but not to retain it or make meaning of it. This is where a paradigm shift is necessary iff the United States wants to produce thinkers and creators and intellectuals through the school system.
Because I believe strongly in finding solutions to known problems, I intend to research how to reinstate professional respect with and for educators, along with finding ways for them to work within a challenging system to open the world to their students in thoughtful and perhaps unorthodox ways. By considering evidence from various perspectives and through a variety of modalities, including working with analog, digital, and artistic texts, students have the opportunity to develop, question, and revise their own points of view. Individual critical thinking cannot be assessed by a standardized test. Returning creative curriculum decisions to classroom teachers may have a dual benefit: students learn critical thinking and problem solving while teachers regain professional status. Teachers often leave the field citing lack of respect as a key factor in their decisions. Changing public perception of the teaching profession may be a place to begin reaffirming education as a noble career.. I am a cockeyed optimist, to invoke another Rodgers and Hammerstein reference.
There is no quick and easy solution to what has been called an education crisis. Nor is there an instant fix to the current exodus of teaching professionals, more than 40% of whom exit the profession in under five years. However, making Deweyan and Peircean paths for students to transact with the realities of the humanities, science, and mathematics may begin to allow school classrooms to become what Dewey thought they should be: places where students are participants in the purposes of learning activities rather than recipients of someone else’s idea of worthwhile knowledge and where teachers are respected for their professionalism.