Educational Thinkers’ Hall of Fame – Nel Noddings

Nel Noddings (1929 – ) has made significant contributions as an educator, philosopher, writer and academic and is probably best known for her ideas about the ethics of caring in education. She has been described as one of the premier philosophers of moral education in the English speaking world today.

nell nA prolific author, her most recent books include “Caring: A Relational Approach to Ethics and Moral Education ” (2013), “Education and Democracy in the 21st Century” (2012) and “Peace Education: How We come to Love and Hate War” (2011)

In “Education and Democracy in the 21st Century”, she builds on John Dewey‘s work to reinterpret education’s aims and curriculum for the 21st century. She sees education as having multiple aims contributing to three areas of life: home and family, occupational, and civic. The text includes critical examination of the liberal arts curriculum, vocational education, restructuring secondary school, extracurricular activities, national and global citizenship, critical thinking, and moral education.

The following extract from page 65 gives a flavour of her thinking:

Nell NoddingsIt’s difficult to do justice to the wide scope of Nodding’s work in a brief blog but there are more details about her work and philosophy at the following websites:

Click to access NElNoddings.pdf

Have you come across Noddings’ work? What do you think of her writing and ideas? Any other resources or links to recommend?

About Ann Walker
Adult education and lifelong learning specialist and campaigner. LinkedIn:

5 Responses to Educational Thinkers’ Hall of Fame – Nel Noddings

  1. Joe Baron says:

    Interesting extract. Indeed, it is so sad to witness ‘intellectually alive’ teachers become a thing of the past, or a once mundane phenomenon now confined to the private sector with, of course, the odd state school exception. As governments obsess over measuring progress and demand ever more teacher accountability, they create a driven approach that has no time for further intellectual exploration. As a depressing consequence, pupils are only stretched and challenged within the confines of the chosen specification. Boredom and inertia can, therefore, become an issue, especially for the more inquisitive pupils.

    This could be mitigated by demanding less prescription and more unpredictability when it comes to public examinations. As exams become less predictable, however, teaching will have to change. It will become less focused and more open and exploratory. The pupils will be forced to think on their feet and not, as is currently the case, simply regurgitate tired facts and formulae.

    Unpredictable exams will inevitably lead to unpredictable results. Good teaching will be redefined and greater emphasis placed on subject knowledge and intellectual curiosity. It’s a brave proposal that would, I suspect, lead to better teaching, more enlightened pupils and, ultimately, better outcomes.

    MY BLOG:

    • Ann Walker says:

      Delayed thanks for your comment Joe and your blog link.

      Having teachers who are ‘intellectually alive’ is an essential aspect of education that is anything other than mechanical. The most inspiring teachers that I have known have shared the characteristic of being perpetually curious about their subjects and committed to sharing their enthusiasm.

  2. Thank you Ann for sending me back to explore Nel Nodding’s writing on caring in teaching. I just love the idea of intellectually alive teachers and the free gifts they can give. This reminds me of Dewey’s lateral aspects of experience and Nodding’s latitudinal knowledge which includes literature, arts, history, politics, religion and philosophy (I’m not sure I’ve recalled all of them). As a consequence of your blog I have revisited a little personal reflective blog I wrote a while ago and am re-reading Nel Nodding’s writing and seeing new connections.

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