John Dewey & Progressive Education Term Paper

Excerpt from Term Paper :

Dewey's theory of education was the essential forerunner to "experiential learning" currently proposed by humanistic psychologists as ideal. Students are not "empty vessels" waiting to be filled by a teacher who knows whatever is worth knowing. They bring to school knowledge of language and culture as well as a set of individualized experiences. The need for students to be involved and to participate actively in their own learning is greater today than it was in Dewey's time. In Dewey's time there was no television. Students today watch electronic images on a glass screen for several hours a day, during which they are entirely passive, not expected to think, form arguments, or respond articulately to what they are watching. They often come to school expecting that the teacher will entertain them. The teacher's task, therefore, is to wake them up, get them to think, help them learn to express their thoughts and feelings articulately, and provide activities and discussions that will lead to learning. Students may sit quietly and seem to be listening to a teacher who lectures, but often remember very little afterwards. The best and most permanent learning is from experience. It is therefore up to the teacher to provide experiences that students can actively participate in and learn from. Experiential learning meets the student at his own level of academic readiness and allows him/her to add to his/her body of knowledge and experience.

Our great-grandparents memorized long passages of Shakespeare in high school and recited them in class. In today's more progressive climate, the task might be for students to act out a scene or two from the play, discuss the characters and their motivations, and write a poem in the character's voice, revealing something about the character which was not previously revealed. A student might then read the poem while remaining in character. If the class produced a class book, their poems could appear in it. Progressive education assumes that memorization is not the same as learning. Activities that provide experiences result in learning.

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