Realism: Everything You Need to Know

Realism is based on the belief that reality exists outside of ideas and ideologies conjured up by humans. It attempts to teach students ways to unearth absolute reality via logical processes. Realism was popularized by Aristotle, who was Plato’s student. Aristotle adapted his philosophies from that of Plato. He believed that there was an absolute reality out there, irrespective of whether humans recognized it or not. Similar to idealism, realism has three branches: classical, religious, and modern.

In the field of education, realism refers to the belief that teachers should study critical thinking, logic, and scientific methods to teach students ways to identify and understand reality. Thus, educational realism lays heavy emphasis on science and mathematics, though the humanities too can be influenced by it.

Realist educators persuade students to draw their observations and derive conclusions from their surrounding environment, rather than confining themselves to examine their own ideas. But what does educational realism in a classroom involve? Say, a teacher, Dave, is trying to formulate his curriculum for the forthcoming school year. Since Dave is a realist, he’ll tend to include many opportunities to encourage his students to study the natural world. Realists consider that the job of schools is to teach students about their surrounding world. This means Dave is likely to teach his students ways to use logical processes to find truth in the natural world. For instance, instead of using a textbook to teach his students about gravity, Dave might take them out in the open and climb a tree to drop objects of varying masses to reconstruct Newton’s moment of clarity. This will let students understand how gravity and mass work together. To help his students learn math, Dave can again use nature. He can share a hill’s photo and have his students find out its slope. Thus, irrespective of what Dave is teaching, educational realism will focus on using logical processes in the natural world to help students perceive and understand reality to find the truth.

The role of today’s teachers, which is a blend of a systematizer, organizer, and promoter of critical thinking, is mainly based on realist principles. Realist educators believe in a methodical approach to gaining classified knowledge while building on the information learned earlier. They are less inclined to encourage their students to seek the truth in ideas and literature. Instead, they encourage them to seek it by analyzing learned principles in their surroundings.  

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