Progressive education is a teaching philosophy. With a name like “progressive”, you would assume this is a newer ideology. In the American academic system, the progressive education movement dates back to the beginning of the last century or earlier, starting with John Dewey. However, it wasn’t a mainstream teaching method until recently.
Progressive education values experience over rote learning. Its intention is to teach children how to think and to honor their experience, voice, and understanding rather than trying to make them conform to a standardized method of learning. With progressive methods, the priority is not to get the student to memorize facts but rather to understand the lessons. This is the belief that it’s not enough for a student to repeat text book information. They need to be able to comprehend their lessons in their own language and with the ability to compare that information to their own experience.
This higher level of autonomy and understanding allows them greater freedom to develop their innate talents. They are able to benefit from a more holistic learning environment that they can translate into their everyday lives to build a better foundation for applying their knowledge to their experience in innovative ways.
Progressive vs. Traditional Education
The key difference between progressive and traditional education is in the way that the learning is structured. Traditional education centers on a curriculum. There is a set, standard process to teach the entire class a prescribed amount of information on subjects in their lesson plan.
The traditional method often uses rote learning methods. Students read information, memorize facts, and are tested based on what they are taught. There are some activities that are meant to compel a higher level of thought and analysis, but those activities don’t tend to be the center of the experience. A student can easily go through the traditional education model successfully by memorizing information and completing tasks but without improving their own internal thought processes or individual talents to a high degree.
The progressive method works less with structure and more with building opportunities for the child to employ and develop critical thinking
and individuality. Higher thought patterns that are based on the student’s own experience and the ability to develop new experiences that feed into the whole of their educational journey can help them succeed beyond the classroom doors. These critical thought processes serve students well in college and in the world beyond.
Ideally, the progressive method strives to eliminate the compartmentalization that traditional academic settings tend to compel. Rather than the student only learning textbook knowledge and theory, they are encouraged to develop understanding that they use in daily settings to further their own ability to contribute to their work and community.
Positive Impact of Progressive Schools
There are a number of reasons that progressive schools have become more appealing than the traditional education system. Here are a few of the major benefits:
- Internal Discipline. Through progressive methods, children develop their own internal discipline methods, rather than being ruled simply be an outward structure. This is especially important in a world that continues to evolve toward remote work and education dynamics.
- Problem Solving Skills. Progressive methods value autonomy. Rather than telling the child what to think, they ask the child to do the thinking. This means that children are more able to solve problems and equate current scenarios with past lessons and experiences.
- Improved Self Esteem. Progressive methods are more challenging in that the answers are not “right” or “wrong” but rather a series of choices. This helps with problem solving skills but it also gives children a building block way to overcome fears of meeting higher challenges. They learn to see mistakes as lessons rather than failures.
- Improves Adaptability. Without a rote method, progressive learning helps children learn to adapt to their surroundings, new influences, and a greater array of thoughts and perspectives.
During middle school, progressive education can offer great impact for children. This is a time period when students are working through great emotional and physical growth. Progressive learning opportunities help them to face the challenges of their widening world while honoring their individual thoughts, talents, and abilities.
Progressive Middle School at All Saints’
At All Saints’ Episcopal Day School
, we strive to honor the child while employing a progressive teaching method that helps them to honor the world. Our community is built on the belief that creating an environment where children are challenged and engaged leads to a life-long love of learning and the ability to bring those gifts to life in ways that will benefit the world.
We work to help each child reach their full potential by building an environment of spiritual, academic, and social excellence. Children are given the freedom to build experiences in a holistic way that helps them make sense of the larger world. They form greater empathy and problem solving abilities while striving for the highest level of intellectual success.