7 Foundational Practice 3: Explore Global Educational Philosophies

While internationalization has brought many benefits to universities, faculty and students, one of the more negative impacts is the overvaluing of North American content and ways of knowing, which comes at the expense of benefitting from the wider knowledges that can be gained from global dialogue (Beck & Ilieva, 2019). The Association of Canadian Deans of Education (2016) calls for the inclusion of non-Western knowledges and ways of knowing as one step in facilitating ethical internationalization.

One step in broadening the ways of knowing that are available to us is learning about and from educational philosophies and ways of doing education outside of Western dominant norms. The articles below provide a starting place exploration.


Recommended Reading 


Kirkness and Bardnardt (2001) address the problem of Indigenous underrepresentation in postsecondary education across North America by highlighting the ways in which the dominant system fails to meet students’ educational needs. They call for shifts that respect students cultural integrity and ways of knowing, and that offer relevance to students’ learning needs and goals. They name the need for reciprocity, where students are not expected to engage in one-way consumption of dominant-culture knowledge, but are allowed to reciprocally share their knowledges in learning spaces. Lastly, they call for responsibility, where Indigenous communities have self-determination in the educational process. The perspectives offered by Kirkness and Barndhardt challenge educators to consider the ways in which students and communities might articulate their own educational goals; for example, for some students, achieving a career for personal ends may be less important than achieving in order to strengthen their community.

LaFever (2016) encourages educators to move beyond the three domains of knowledge, skills, and affect that are traditionally represented in learning outcomes through the framework of Bloom’s Taxonomy. Using the medicine wheel as a guiding framework, LaFever encourages the addition of a fourth domain, spirituality. LaFever writes that the separation of spiritual aspects of life from the material reflects a style of compartmentalization that is characteristic of Western thought, and encourages educators to learn from Indigenous ways of knowing in reintegrating all aspects of human knowing within the curriculum. LaFever proposes that attention be given to four areas within the spiritual domain: “honouring, attention to relationships, developing a sense of belonging, feeling empowered to pursue unique path, [and] developing self-knowledge of purpose” (p. 416).

Sigurðsson (2017) writes to challenge the common misconception that Confucian educational philosophy focuses on rote learning rather than criticality. Sigurðsson argues that the forms of critical thinking that are valued in Western education are also present in Confucian understandings of learning. Additionally, they explore a dimension of critical thinking, transformative critique, that Confucian philosophy offers as a positive addition to the range of critical thinking strategies offered to students.

Waghid (2020) offers a distinctly African philosophy of higher education, using ubuntu as a central guiding point. Waghid outlines three components of ubuntu: sharing, belonging, and participation. The philosophy of higher education that derives from this starting point includes the capacity to speak against injustice, to facilitate co-belonging in community, and to engage in meaningful deliberation with others. While Waghid’s aim is to create a philosophy of higher education that meets the needs of universities on the African continent, his exploration nonetheless has wider implications for considering the purposes for which we aim in our own programs, course design, and teaching.

By considering the four perspectives described above, as well as engaging in an ongoing commitment to read and learn from educational philosophies outside of the Western tradition, we have the opportunity to more broadly understand students’ possible values and purposes for their own education, and can more effectively relationally respond to these concerns. A broader understanding of other traditions also offers the opportunity to de-centre Westernized teaching and learning values, and to enrich learning by adding previously neglected practices.


For Reflection:  From the articles above, and your other reading on global education, consider the following questions: (1) How do global educational philosophies shift your perspective on the purpose of education? (2) How does understanding other educational philosophies increase your understanding of your students and their needs? (3) What inspires you from other perspectives? How do you want to incorporate these new ideas into your work?


Learning Preferences

Educational philosophies, learning experiences, and individual preferences interact to shape the way that students prefer to learn. Gay (2010) notes that socialization within the context of a specific educational system influences the processes students favour in their learning. Like all other categories, it is important to avoid using the preferences below to essentialize students by grouping them into cultural categories, thereby negating individual differences. However, an awareness of different learning preferences that may arise from the philosophies and experiences to which students have been exposed can help to support students in the classroom by linking their current learning experiences to past experiences and ongoing preferences. Gay describes eight dimensions that shape learning preferences, which she considers to be culturally-influenced.


Procedural Ways of approaching learning tasks (e.g. structured lecture vs. group learning tasks; use of time; novel tasks vs. predictable patterns)
Communicative Ways of organizing thoughts in spoken and written forms; focus on facts vs. a focus on persuasion
Substantive Preferred learning content (preferred subjects, preferred ways of processing intellectual content — memorizing, analyzing, evaluating, criticizing)
Environmental Preferred physical and social situations for learning (learning alone vs. learning in a group, learning in a quiet space vs. learning in an active environment)
Organizational Preferred structural arrangements for learning (classrooms in rows vs. learning pods; fixed classrooms vs. flexible space)
Perceptual Preferred means of accessing information with the senses (auditory, visual, tactile, kinetic, multimodal)
Relational Preferred interpersonal arrangement of learning (competition vs. cooperation, individual vs. groups, hierarchical or egalitarian classroom structure)
Motivational Preferred incentives for learning (e.g. grades, group success, internal vs. external motivators).[1]
For Reflection: (1) How would you identify your learning preferences in the categories above? How are they linked to your own philosophy of teaching and learning?  (2) What learning preferences have you observed in your students? What might be the possible links to their beliefs about learning?



Association of Canadian Deans of Education. (2014). Accord on the internationalization of education. https://csse-scee.ca/acde/wp-content/uploads/sites/7/2017/08/Accord-on-the-Internationalization-of-Education.pdf

Beck, K., & Ilieva, R. (2019). “Doing” internationalization. SFU Educational Review, 12(3), 18–39. https://doi.org/10.21810/sfuer.v12i3.1031

Gay, G. (2010). Culturally responsive teaching: theory, research, and practice (2nd ed).  Teachers College

Kirkness, V. J. & Barnhardt, R. (2001). First Nations and higher education: The four Rs – respect, relevance, reciprocity, responsibility. In R. Hayoe & J. Pan. Hong Kong, Knowledge across cultures: A contribution to dialogue among civilizations, Comparative Education Research Centre, The University of Hong Kong. Retrieved from http://www.ankn.uaf.edu/IEW/winhec/FourRs2ndEd.html.

LaFever, M. (2016). Switching from Bloom to the Medicine Wheel: Creating learning outcomes that support Indigenous ways of knowing in post-secondary education. Intercultural Education27(5), 409–424. https://doi.org/10.1080/14675986.2016.1240496

Sigurðsson, G. (2017). Transformative critique: What Confucianism can contribute to contemporary education. Studies in Philosophy and Education36(2), 131–146. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11217-015-9502-3

Waghid, Y. (2020). Towards an Ubuntu philosophy of higher education in Africa. Studies in Philosophy and Education39(3), 299–308. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11217-020-09709-w

  1. Chart adapted from: Gay, G. (2010). Culturally responsive teaching: theory, research, and practice (2nd ed). New York: Teachers College, pp. 179-180)


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