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Is it "a" philosophical approach? Or, is it an approach informed by philosophical inquiry?

Posted By: Ross Mitchell on September 6, 2013
For most of this review, I was pretty satisfied with what was being communicated. Based upon the review, it seems as though the book is well grounded and, for the most part, offers sound advice and guidance. Additionally, I would agree that using philosophy as a starting point is more foundational than, say, science as a starting point, because philosophy rather than science embraces, purpose, teleology, and ideology.

However, when the extended summative quotation was offered near the end, I began to question whether the title phrase "a philosophical approach" should have been more narrowly stated as, say, "an existentialist approach" (or some other specific philosophical perspective that I cannot state with certainty since I haven't read the book).

Here are the reasons for my concern.

1) The passage engages in hyperbole (or is logically inconsistent).
"Good education . . . cannot be measured.... [The] emphasis on measurable outcomes is that less tangible qualities like depth of understanding, ethical awareness and creativity come to be taken less seriously than things that seem easier to measure."
If good education cannot be measured then it is pointless to debate whether anything is "easier to measure."

2) The passage does not reveal precisely why measurement is difficult for such things "like depth of understanding, ethical awareness and creativity."
I believe the emphasis on the "less tangible" implies that the author wants us to be looking for something that is either:
a) experiential or, more precisely, ineffable and, therefore, not amenable to written examination and difficult to capture for comparative assessment regardless; or
b) procedural (or expressive), which requires the exercise of typically non-standard judgment (assessment) when confronting creative variability too hard to anticipate; moreover, I wonder whether the author questions such common attempts to standardize through the use of rubrics, anchor papers, and calibration conferencing, which are intended to provide comparable scores, fail in practice.
That is, I don't think the problem, for the author, is that the outcomes of interest cannot be assessed, but that facile, large-scale instruments are not designed to assess such things and, possibly, cannot do so in a manner legitimately tied to the context of learning and performance.

3) The passage implicitly denigrates a particular philosophical tradition as being responsible for our current assessment predicament:
"But such is the influence of the utilitarian approach that, instead of this fact being used to put outcome measures into context, we end up allowing the system of measurement to determine the way in which we teach."
I would like to know whether all philosophical inconsistencies and superficial applications get their comeuppance. Which other philosophical traditions do not constitute an appropriate philosophical approach to teaching?

If philosophy is the core of everything, but certain philosophies are inadequate, then perhaps what is being advocated is not a generically philosophical approach, but an approach informed by a particular set of philosophical principles. That is, this is the approach of a philosopher who embraces a specific set of principles, not an approach that tells you how philosophy might inform your decisions about what, how, when, why, and for whom to teach.
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 Is it "a" philosophical approach? Or, is it an approach informed by philosophical inquiry? by Ross Mitchell on September 6, 2013
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