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Article

The concept of a liberal or general education as it emerged in the Western tradition is one of the most consequential and enduring in the history of education. From its origins in antiquity, the concept and the form of a liberal arts and sciences curriculum associated with it grew to become a shaping force in the formation of the universities of the Middle Ages. Largely unchanged, it remained influential for centuries to follow. With the spread of the Industrial Revolution in the 19th century, however, the concept and the curriculum associated with it ran into outspoken opposition. Yet once again today, the traditional concept and varying modifications of both that concept and of its curriculum content continue to be asserted all around the world. In response, discontent with liberal education and its curricular expressions is assuming new and increasingly challenging forms. One upshot of this is that opposition to the concept has a new vibrancy that is not readily quelled. This is especially evident among those arguing for innovative conceptualizations of this venerable if increasingly ambiguous idea. Yet, while such a conceptualization is at best emergent, one may detect in its evolution elements of a progressive theory of liberal education, even if there are few sustained attempts at articulating this emergent model. Before proceeding, it is necessary to acknowledge non-Western formative influences and forms of education that are sometimes viewed as counterparts of a liberal or general education as it has evolved in the Western tradition, and which is the focus of attention here. These include forms of higher education rooted in the Confucian tradition in China, Hindi and Buddhist traditions in India, and Islamic traditions.

Article

During the 1930–1940s, the Progressive Education Association’s Eight-Year Study ushered in an era of secondary school experimentation, establishing an organizational process (the cooperative study) and introducing a research methodology (implementative research) for educational renewal. Cooperative studies embraced a democratic ideal that participants would work together for a greater good and maintained a fundamental belief that a diversity of perspectives, coupled with open discourse, would serve to better develop educational practices. Although no unified theory was established for cooperative study, activities focused on problem-solving were intended to expand teachers’ abilities rather than to establish a single method for the dissemination of educational programs. Implementative research was grounded in a faith in experimentation as an “exploratory process” to include gathering, analyzing, interpreting, and discussing data, and sought to determine the validity (in contrast to reliability) of programmatic interventions. Drawing on 1930s progressive education high school practices, more than a hundred selected secondary and post-secondary schools throughout the United States—public and private, large and small, Black and White, rural and urban—participated in national and regional cooperative studies, funded primarily by the Rockefeller Foundation’s General Education Board. Experimental projects included the Progressive Education Association’s Eight-Year Study (1930–1942), consisting of 30 sites with 42 secondary schools (and 26 junior high schools) throughout the United States; the Association of Colleges and Secondary Schools of the Southern States’ Southern Study (1938–1945), consisting of 33 White secondary schools in the American Southeast; the American Council of Education’s Cooperative Study in General Education (1938–1947), consisting of 25 colleges throughout the United States; and the Association of Colleges and Secondary Schools for Negroes’ Secondary School Study (1940–1946), consisting of 17 Black secondary schools in the American Southeast. These cooperative studies served to explore and further develop progressive education practices at the secondary and post-secondary school level. The intent of the 1930s–1940s cooperative study projects was to develop school programs that would attend to the interests and needs of adolescents without diminishing students’ chances for further education. Guided by “Eight-Year Study progressivism,” cooperative study staff placed great trust in the ability of teachers to address complex issues, belief in democracy as a guiding social ideal, and faith in thoughtful inquiry to create educational settings that nourished both students and teachers. Based on these fundamental themes, many cooperative study schools adopted what became a distinctive view of progressive education with correlated and fused core curricula, teacher–pupil planning, cumulative student records, and summer professional development workshops. Notions of “success” for these projects prove difficult to ascertain; however, innovative forms of curriculum design, instructional methodology, student assessment instruments, and professional development activities arose from these programs that served to influence educational theory and practice throughout the mid- and late-20th century. Perhaps equally important, cooperative study, along with implementative research, displayed the importance of educational exploration and school experimentation, implicitly asserting that a healthy school was an experimental school.

Article

Margaret Schmidt and Randall Everett Allsup

John Dewey’s writings on schooling are extensive, and characteristically wide-ranging: teachers are expected to think deeply about knowledge construction, how we think and learn, the purpose of curriculum in the life of the child, and the role of school and societal reform. He worked throughout his life to develop and refine his philosophy of experience, describing all learning as defined by the quality of interactions between the learner and the social and physical environment. According to Dewey, teachers have a responsibility to structure educational environments in ways that promote educative learning experiences, those that change the learner in such a way as to promote continued learning and growth. The capacity to reflect on and make meaning from one’s experiences facilitates this growth, particularly in increasing one’s problem-solving abilities. While Dewey wrote little that specifically addressed the preparation of teachers, his 1904 essay, “The Relation of Theory to Practice in Education,” makes clear that he grounds his beliefs about teachers’ learning in this same philosophy of experiential learning. Dewey argued that thoughtful reflection on previous and current educational experiences is especially important in teacher preparation; teacher educators could then guide beginners to examine and test the usefulness of the beliefs formed from those experiences. Teacher educators, therefore, have a responsibility to arrange learning environments for beginning teachers to promote sequential experiences leading to increased understanding of how children learn, “how mind answers to mind.” These experiences can then help beginning teachers grow, not as classroom technicians, but as true “students of teaching.” Dewey’s ideas remain relevant, but must also be viewed in historical context, in light of his unfailing belief in education and the scientific method as ways to promote individual responsibility and eliminate social problems. His vision of a democratic society remains a fearless amalgam of human adaptation, continuity, change, and diversity: public schools are privileged locations in a democracy for the interplay and interrogation of old and new ideas. Teacher preparation and teacher wellbeing are crucial elements; they can provide experiences to educate all children for participation in their present lives in ways that facilitate their growth as citizens able to fully participate in a democracy. Despite criticism about limitations of his work, Dewey’s ideas continue to offer much food for thought, for both research and practice in teacher education.

Article

Craig A. Cunningham

John Dewey (1859–1952) has been (and remains) the most influential person in the United States—and possibly in the entire world—on the development of the field of curriculum studies. His theoretical works on education, spanning more than 50 years, have been widely read by theorists and practitioners, who have used Dewey’s ideas as a kind of North Star for American educational theory. Of particular importance for the study of curriculum, Dewey strove to overcome traditional dualistic conceptions of the relation of the child to the curriculum, seeing them as two points on the same line, to be connected through the child’s experiences. Dewey offered general guidance for determining whether particular experiences are likely to lead to growth. Contemporary curriculum scholars who look at the many rich resources that Dewey offers in his works that are not explicitly about education may be richly rewarded. Books and articles about the arts and aesthetics, politics and democracy, ethics, logic, metaphysics, and psychology have yet to be fully incorporated into curriculum studies. In addition to his theoretical work, Dewey was the founder (in 1896) and director of the Laboratory School at the University of Chicago, where he and his wife Alice Chipman Dewey conducted pedagogical experiments with elementary schoolchildren, demonstrating how a set of well-framed social activities could lead students to face and solve problems, thus gaining knowledge and skills from the subject-matter disciplines. Dewey also spent a lifetime demonstrating commitments to democracy and the public good. While Dewey offers many opportunities for criticism, overall, his expansive influence has resulted in better theory across educational fields including curriculum studies.

Article

Daniel Tröhler

“Progressivism” is a collective term used in historiography to characterize historical phases in which particular ways to think about progress are detectable. Hence, “progressivism” is more a historiographical label used by historians than a term used by those thinkers identified as being part of a progressive phase in history. Even though important scholars have argued that the idea of progress can be traced back to antiquity, others have argued that ideas of progress—as a more or less linear alternative to a cyclical way of thinking—are found for the first time in the transition from the early modern period to modernity (ca. 1700). These ideas of progress can be linked to the advancement of knowledge, to the perfecting of the soul or then of the social order, and they link the notion of “progress” with notions like “perfection” and “development.” As a rule, “progress” did not include notions of future chaos or imponderability but rather was understood as an ordered proceeding to the future that was interpreted either as the redemption or materializing of a more or less predetermined road (individually and/or socially), as a contribution to adjustment of social development understood as dangerous or wrong, or as resulting from a forecast and planned future. All of these attempts over the last three and a half centuries to conceptualize progress in one way or another were connected to research, and they affected ideas on education; most of them were even closely related to educational aspirations, methods, programs, and/or policy. The two great and independent motives of “progress” can be identified first around 1700 in France and England with regard to advancement in knowledge and the sciences (1), and in Germany with regard to the perfection of the soul. The idea of human perfection and the advancement of the knowledge based on modern sciences were merged in the Enlightenment prior to the French Revolution and its philosophical legitimation (2), leading in the German realm to a philosophy of history that subordinated all of human and natural history to a great narrative from the past to the future (3). The emergence of sociology gave the narrative a national frame that was supported by the erection of modern schooling, but by the end of the 19th century, the modern conditions of social and political life as actual expressions of progress were perceived as not redeeming the promises of the Enlightenment and the philosophy of history, which led to a schism in the interpretation of “true” progress. These critical perceptions triggered a reaction labeled the Progressive Era, which aimed to readjust the modern conditions of life to particular, often religious ideals of social order in which progress was more tightly connected to (idealized) visions of the past (4). The educational ideas and ideals of this Progressive Era proved to be sustainable, but they were attacked during the Cold War period, which saw an emphasis on technocratic aspects of governance and specific ideas of economic and social development. The ramifications of this focus, which called for planning the future and adjusting education to these plans, can be seen in the case of the OECD (5).

Article

Kathleen Gallagher, Rachel Rhoades, Sherry Bie, and Nancy Cardwell

The field of drama education and applied theater is best understood through a consideration of the major developments and aspirations that have shaped its trajectory over three historical periods: the latter years of the 19th century up until 1960, between 1960 and 1990, and the years encompassing the turn of the 21st century, 1990–2015, which was a decidedly more globalized epoch. The drama education/applied theater scholarship of the English-speaking world, including the United Kingdom, Europe, Australia and New Zealand, and North America, offers a fascinating distillation of the relationship between making drama and learning, including the history of alternative forms of education. Scholarship from Asia drawing on traditional forms of theater-making, as well as imported and adapted structures of Western drama education movements, speak to hybrid and ever-expanding practices across the globe. Although young as a discipline within the academy, drama education/applied theater has all but made up for its relative immaturity by spanning a wide domain of multidisciplinary thinking, embracing an eclectic theoretical field that covers an enormous breadth of social issues and a vast range of learning theories, while straddling a compelling spectrum of political positions. The development of the field is infused with pioneering ideas that broke with entrenched historical traditions and habitual ways of learning, harkening toward new ways of thinking, being, relating, and creating. Taking the world as its source material and humanity as its target audience, the history of the progressive discipline of drama education/applied theater tells the story of an ambitious, flawed, idealized, politicized, divisive, and deeply humanistic scholarly and practice-driven field.