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There are many different educational philosophies that have been developed

over the years. Some of these philosophies are teacher-centered and some are

student-centered, but they all have the same goal, and the goal is to provide students

with the best education possible. One of which is the progressivism. John Dewey, a

principal figure in this movement from the 1880s to 1904, set the tone for educational

philosophy as well as concrete school reforms (Reed, 2012).

When I was just in my elementary years, one of my teachers would sometimes

just stand in the front of the classroom and told us what we needed to learn. For our

homework, we would just read our textbooks, and that was that.

How do students learn best? And how can teachers help students grow?

When I was a new teacher, I have heard a lot about different types of teaching

philosophies. As years go by, some of my co-teachers say that I should focus more

on progressivism, or the idea that education comes from the experience of the child.

This theory originated in America in the late 19th century and continued to develop

through the first half of the 20th century.

American educator John Dewey was a key figure in progressivism. He

believed that children should experience democracy in school to make them better

citizens (Diehl, 2008). Instead of having an all-knowing teacher standing up front and

talking, the students themselves should be an active part of their education,

according to Dewey.

At first, I was intrigued by these ideas, but I was not sure how to apply them in

my classroom. Now since I have an idea of this philosophy, let me describe you what
a progressive curriculum is and show you how I can put together a progressive

classroom for my students.


Progressivism believes that education comes from the experience of the child.

As such, children are the focus of a progressive classroom (Miller, 2010). In my

example above when I was in my elementary years, the teacher was the focus of the

classroom. Out teacher stood in the front of the class and told us what she wanted us

to know. The center of gravity of the classroom was with the teacher; everything

revolved around her.

But in a progressive classroom, the center of gravity is within each child. That

is, progressive education revolves around the child's needs, not around the teacher

or a prescribed curriculum. If I want to teach fractions, but one of my students is still

struggling with basic division, then I will have to work with that student on division

until he or she is ready to move on to fractions.

The Whole Child

Another major part of progressivism is teaching the whole child. That is,

teaching students to be good citizens and not just good learners (Ganly, 2013). For

example, I could design a lesson that explores issues like human rights or why voting

is important. I could choose literature that teaches students values, like honesty and

justice. In this way, I would be teaching the children how to be good citizens and not

just teaching them facts and figures.

Children as part of the community

Another concept of progressivism that focuses on children is the idea that

children live and learn in a community. That is, children are not isolated from others in

the real world, and they should not be isolated from others in their learning

community. In progressive education, children often collaborate on projects and learn

from one another (Brown, 2014). It has often been said that it takes a whole village to

educate a child. Children learn from watching others, working with others, and

experiencing first- hand the whole realm of learning.

How can I use the learning community to help my students? I could design

assignments so that the students are working in pairs or groups so that they can

learn together. I would use cooperative learning strategy that would aid children in

developing leadership, cooperation, creativity, and teamwork – all essential elements

in the real world. Using community resources and volunteers will provide variety in

the daily routine of school and strengthen the “want to” attitude of children to get

actively involved in. I can also encourage a community that values learning and

encourages students to talk about what they are doing in class, even when they are

in the classroom or in the playground.

Strong emphasis on problem solving and critical thinking

Critical thinking is important for situations where logic needs to be used to

solve a problem. Critical thinking is a form of problem solving that is much more than

just gaining knowledge. Someone who has good critical thinking skills will look at

both sides of an argument, and they will also look at evidence to support the two

arguments (Solomon, 2017). For the progressivist, “teaching is...exploratory rather

than explanatory”. This lets the learner be capable of establishing rules for the

classroom and finding ideas on how to develop problem-solving and decision-making

skills. An important goal of education is helping students learn how to think more

productively while solving problems, by combining creative thinking (to generate

ideas) and critical thinking (to evaluate ideas).

One way to foster critical thinking skills in my classroom is by allowing my

students to be creative and to inquire about topics that are of interest to them.

Another way to forge critical thinking is letting them develop their questioning skills.

Questioning plays a critical role in cultivating critical thinking skills and deep learning.

Questioning models for students how they should think (Hereford, 2011). Next is

developing their problem solving skills. Problem solving extends their inquiry work. It

is important that my students think for themselves. In problem solving they apply the

critical thinking strategies they have learned. Last is, collaboration. Integrating

meaningful learning experiences that promote critical thinking skills is essential in

cultivating a classroom of 21st century learners. One way to do this is by actively

involving the students in their learning through collaborative work. This helps the

students take ownership of the learning and think critically about issues.

Assessment by evaluation of child's projects and productions

Performance-based learning and assessment represent a set of strategies for

the acquisition and application of knowledge, skills, and work habits through the

performance of tasks that are meaningful and engaging to students (Hibbard, 2015).

It gives students open-ended objectives and the freedom to meet these goals in the

manner they see fit. They are useful for identifying a student’s confidence, strengths,

weaknesses and creative ability outside the simple world of memorization.

In my classroom, I would:

a. Give open-ended or extended response questions or other prompts that

require students to explore a topic orally or in writing. Students might be asked

to describe their observations from a science experiment, or present

arguments an historic character would make concerning a particular


b. Give extended tasks that require sustained attention in a single work area and

are carried out over several hours or longer. Such tasks could include drafting,

reviewing, and revising a poem; and

c. Have them make portfolio of their "best pieces" and their evaluation of the

strengths and weaknesses of several pieces. The portfolio may also contain

some "works in progress" that illustrate the improvements the student has

made over time (Kauchak and Eggen, 2014).

In conclusion, I can be that kind of teacher that serves more as a guide and

facilitates learning by assisting students to sample direct experience. I should work

beyond the individual in the classroom. I should be good with making group decisions

and keeping in their mind the consequences for the students and how it may or may

not benefit them. My role is to help my students acquire the values of the democratic