A course philosophy can be understood as the fundamental principles and beliefs that shape a course. It is helpful if the philosophy of a course is determined before the course is written, as it can make the programme of learning much more coherent. However, not all courses are initially developed around a course philosophy.
Articulating your course philosophy is an effective way to enable all tutors to develop a shared understanding of how they fit into the course. If ‘philosophy’ is interpreted as a ‘worldview’ or a ‘way of understanding the world’, a course represents a journey undertaken by students during which they will hopefully develop their own view of the world.
If everyone is clear as to their role in delivering aspects of the course philosophy, it can lead to a better experience for both tutors and students as there is a clear sense of progression and coherence through each stage.
If you have not had a discussion around course philosophy it can be useful to begin by asking the following questions:
- Why does your course exist?
- What are the guiding principles that shape your course?
- What are the core beliefs that underpin your course?
- What attributes and qualities do you want graduates from your course to possess?
Once you have some answers to the above questions, it is then possible to ask further questions such as:
- How do these guiding principles shape the teaching and learning activities on your course?
- Where are these core beliefs evident in the design of your course?
- What will your students do to acquire the attributes and qualities you have identified as key to your course?
Having a clear course philosophy can also prevent you from falling in to the trap of designing a course primarily around ‘content’. Instead, it will help you design a course that enables students to develop their own worldview – or way of understanding the world – by providing them with opportunities to critically examine and question their own purpose and motivation.