Philosophy Project

Teaching Philosophy: A Web-based exploration in the development of online texts related to teaching philosophy.
The Why

Developing a meaningful teaching philosophy has always been important to me. I have attended workshops and taken inventories to aid in this process. The rub is that, like thousands of other teachers, I have gotten so heavily involved in teaching and researching educational issues that I haven’t had time to stop and articulate a full, personal teaching philosophy. Thus, I initially approached this project thinking that I would get out on the web, read a few good teaching philosophies, reflect on my teaching experiences over the past few years, and craft my own statement. As such, I fired up Google and searched for “teaching philosophy”.

This is where I got sidetracked. I began thinking about the online texts that popped up at the top of my Google search and what it said about the larger educational community. I’m not privy to the “500 million variables and 2 billion terms” that go into Google’s PageRank technology, but I do know that it means something that some pages rise to the top while others don’t. Does is reflect the collective theoretical and psychological zeitgeist in the educational world? I’m not sure, but I think it’s worth investigating more if I am to situate my voice in this digital milieu.

As such, I set out to explore more deeply the pages that formed at the top of my Google search for “teaching philosophy”. More specifically, I wondered if the rise of online learning and Computer Supported Collaborative Learning (CSCL) changed how “we” approach teaching and develop teaching philosophies. In reference to “we” I am speaking of those who are creating web content related to what Google returns for the query “teaching philosophy”. Behind this inquiry is my sense or hypothesis that the rise of CSCL, and perhaps more importantly the cheap, free, and open Web 2.0 technologies that have formed to support it, have subtly moved the educational community more toward (or back to) constructivist thinking and away from direct instruction with regard to teaching philosophy. I understand that this is quite an assertion. I see this as a somewhat latent, implicit influence that may only be captured by a broad, meta-search. With that said, I will briefly outline the search below (the full presentation is at the bottom of this page). It is at this point a proof-of-concept with regard to these methods and approaches. I understand that it is somewhat scientifically “soft”, but is an expression of one person’s attempt to gain a better lay of the land by using the very tools I believe are changing us.

The How
  • Google search for “teaching philosophy” for pages first crawled from 1/1/1999 to 12/31/2004
  • Google search for “teaching philosophy” for pages first crawled from 1/1/2005 to 4/28/2010
  • Gather the following descriptive data on the top 15 hits from each search: # words in the code, # characters in the code, # words on the page, # of characters on the page, # links on the page.
  • Do a rudimentary word search of the documents for constructivist words (guide, explore, collaborate) and direct instruction words (educate, disseminate, knowledge).
  • Use MS Word and TextWrangler to glean the descriptive stats and do the word searches (see the presentation below for more info on this).
The Results


  • Mean # characters in page code:
    • 1999-2004: 20,451
    • 2005-2010: 30,305
  • Mean # characters in page text:
    • 1999-2004: 7,819
    • 2005-2010: 8,277
  • Mean # of words in the page code:
    • 1999-2004: 2,730
    • 2005-2010: 2,371
  • Mean # of words in page text:
    • 1999-2004: 1,494
    • 2005-2010: 1,501
  • Mean # of links on the front page:
    • 1999-2004: 46
    • 2005-2010: 107

Word Search (see graphic below):

The Conclusion

The post-Web 2.0 pages (2005-2010) had almost twice as many links on them and had more constructivist words and less direct instruction words — just as I had hypothesized. Now, none of the mean differences detected were statistically significant, but with a greater N, I think that at least the difference in the number of links would have been significant. None of this points to a direct causal relationship between the rise of CSCL and Web 2.0 and constructivist thinking with regard to teaching philosophy. It would take a much more sophisticated research design to even begin to make a claim at this relationship. It does give pause for thought. What do these new forms of information and tools mean for teaching and learning? It’s a huge question that we are far, far from answering. The pace of change far surpasses the research and theory development in education. I do feel like we need to harness the affordances of these same rapidly developing tools to try and catch up.

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