Much of my work lately has involved getting ready for a big 1:1 push at our high schools next year. This involves making sure that our curriculum will be ready and friendly for technology use, teachers have tool, and we, as leaders, have a knowledgable background about best practices for 21st century learning.
So, to that end, we do what any educational organization does – we start a book study. The book study is Horn and Staker’s Blended (affiliate link)- really great read about creating new learning experiences with technology!
And, of course, we hire consultants to come in and teach us about what it means to support 21st century learners. Things like, the teachers should be the facilitators of learning while students explore their passions. Education should be flexible and emphasize real-world and relevant content. We need to value creative and communication skills, etc.
Here’s my problem though, I keep having this overwhelming sense of deja vu. Like, are all
of these things we want for kids really so brand new? Haven’t we wanted those things all along?
I started my doctorate last summer. I’m just about to the point where I have to pick a focus for my dissertation, and I’m thinking it might be something along the lines of looking at these current goals through a historical lens. My short working title right now is, What would Dewey do?
In 1919, the Progressive Education Association adopted the following 7 Principles as their core philosophy.
I. Freedom to Develop Naturally
The conduct of the pupil should be governed by himself according to the social needs of his community, rather than by arbitrary laws. Full opportunity for initiative and self-expression should be provided, together with an environment rich in interesting material that is available for the free use of every pupil.
II. Interest, the Motive of all Work
Interest should be satisfied and developed through: (1) Direct and indirect contact with the world and its activities, and use of the experience thus gained. (2) Application of knowledge gained, and correlation between different subjects. (3) The consciousness of achievement.
III. The Teacher a Guide, not a Task-Master
It is essential that teachers should believe in the aims and general principles of Progressive Education and that they should have latitude for the development of initiative and originality.
Progressive teachers will encourage the use of all the senses, training the pupils in both observation and judgment; and instead of hearing recitations only, will spend most of the time teaching how to use various sources of information, including life activities as well as books; how to reason about the information thus acquired; and how to express forcefully and logically the conclusions reached. Ideal teaching conditions demand that classes be small, especially in the elementary school years.
IV. Scientific Study of Pupil Development
School records should not be confined to the marks given by the teachers to show the advancement of the pupils in their study of subjects, but should also include both objective and subjective reports on those physical, mental, moral and social characteristics which affect both school and adult life, and which can be influenced by the school and at home. Such records should be used as a guide for the treatment of each pupil, and should also serve to focus the attention of the teacher on the all-important work of development rather than on simply teaching subject matter
V. Greater Attention to all that Affects the Child’s Physical Development
One of the first considerations of Progressive Education is the health of the pupils. Much more room in which to move about, better light and air, clean and well ventilated buildings, easier access to the out-of-doors and greater use of it, are all necessary. There should be frequent use of adequate playgrounds. The teachers should observe closely the physical condition of each pupil and, in co-operation with the home, make abounding health the first objective of childhood.
VI. Co-Operation Between School & Home to Meet the Needs of Child-Life
The school should provide, with the home, as much as is possible of all that the natural interests and activities of the child demand, especially during the elementary school years. These conditions can come about only through intelligent co-operation between parents and teachers.
VII. The Progressive School a Leader in Educational Movements
The Progressive School should be a leader in educational movements. It should be a laboratory where new ideas, if worthy, meet encouragement; where tradition alone does not rule, but the best of the past is leavened with the discoveries of today, and the result is freely added to the sum of educational knowledge.
Pretty sure if I crossed out 1919 Progressive, this could pass as principles of any one of a number of current organizations.
I wonder – if we’ve been saying for nearly 100 years now that we want this for education, why hasn’t it come to pass? What has been in our way?
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