Progressive Education

Progressive education holds it’s roots in the belief that students learn best though real-life activities. The educators that subscribe to this form of education say they go off of the most recent and best scientific theories of education and learning. These educators believe that students learn best by a process like John Dewey’s model of learning which includes:

  1. Realize the problem
  2. Define the problem
  3. Give ideas on how to solve the problem
  4. Come up with the consequences that may occur based on one’s own experience in the past
  5. Put the most likely solution to the test

Basically you could say that progressive education is “learning by doing”. That is a slogan often used by educators in this philosophy.

This method began in the late 19th century. The No Child Left Behind funding act has viewed this philosophy and alternative educational method compared to the test-oriented instruction.

Some of the things that progressive education programs may have in common are:

  • Learning by doing or hands on learning (experiential learning)
  • The curriculum is based on units with themes
  • Focus is on problem solving and critical thinking
  • Promotes teen work and social skills
  • Prefers real understanding and ability to apply skills rather than rote knowledge
  • Provides collaborative learning and cooperative learning projects
  • Teaches social responsibility and democracy
  • Uses the community in everyday curriculum
  • May use text books but prefers a wide variety of learning resources
  • Teaches that learning is a life long journey
  • Focuses on the social skills of students
  • Assessments consist of looking at a student’s projects and actions

Between 1919 and 1955 the Progressive Education Association was founded by Stanwood Cobb and others. The founders did a lot of research during the years of the Great Depression that compared students of this method to those of conventional schools. What was found was that at the college level the students from the progressive method did just as well if not better than their peers from conventional education. The study also found that the more conventional schools strayed from the traditional education methods the better the students did overall.