The progressive theory of education advocates impartation of education and knowledge through interactive means. Since human beings are social beings, the best way that can be used to teach them is through real-life activities. This belief has been held for a long time and has been integrated into some systems of education around the world. This is because people learn fast and in a better way through doing something, or hands on experience, a concept that existed since time immemorial and commonly referred to as apprenticeship. Today, progressive learning is the best method of teaching that should be used to meet today’s needs.
Characteristics of progressivism
According to John Dewey’s model, learning should comprise of various process like making the student identify and become aware of a problem or a shortcoming, then be in a position to define the problem that is seen. This is not enough, but the student should then proceed to formulate a hypothesis to solve it. This is the second step to being inventive or innovative. After formulating the hypothesis, the consequences of the hypothesis can be evaluated from any previous experience that is similar to the current one. It is therefore crucial that the learner should have encountered a similar problem or anything of similar magnitude. This is easily provided in progressive learning. The final thing to do it to test the best solution that one is likely to encounter. This is forms the basis of progressive learning that is developing not a store of knowledge, but making it applicable in the world today.
One outstanding benefits of progressive learning are its emphasis on doing things, rather than mere reading from textbooks (Zilversmit, 1999). This aspect of doing is a powerful learning tool, which not only ensures that the student easily grasps the concept, but can be easily examined due to the fact that it yields physical results. The output can easily be quantified since a big lot of what the students do is easily visible. Emphasis on learning by doing create an inventive and innovative mind, which is exactly what we want to develop the young people to be, as a nation. It is therefore, prudent that we integrate progressive learning in all areas of learning since the resultant student is all round developed and has various skills.
In progressive learning, the integrated curriculum equips the learner with various skills that are vital and relevant to today’s world. This is because the teaching is not just based on what is on the textbook, but on a variety of skills that can are applicable in day-to-day life. The variety of learning methods helps to make the learning process exciting and real, than it would be in a traditional classroom setting. This has helped to solve the shortcoming that are evident in the traditional classroom teaching, where teachers and instructors try to use various illustrations and models to simulate real life situations. Using this model is therefore, the ideal method that is inferred by the use of models.
It is necessary to note that the use of progressive learning is not inspired by a bid to reform the education process, but the need to create a solution to the needs of humanity. In today’s world, the systems require a well-rounded person, who is responsive to the needs of the environment and to meet the strenuous demands of life. One needs to be ready to face whatever life is going to hand to him or her. A good foundation in appropriate training is therefore, extremely valuable to ensure that a person integrates well into the job market and life.
This raises the need for progressive learning. In this mode of learning, student encounter problems, formulate the solutions and useful implement them to solve the problem. This in itself is extremely beneficial as it helps to promote the problem-solving approach to problems and trains one in critical thinking. This development of mind is what should be the primary aim of education, so that the learners will be prepared to meet a wide range of challenges in life and in similar situations.
One serious problem that faces humanity today is the decline of social skills due to the current lifestyles. This has been aggravated by the emergence and wide usage of social media. This has led to social problems where people especially the children are near impaired and find it difficult to communicate and socialise. However, this would be a problem of the past if progressive learning is adopted and implemented in all learning systems. This is because it lays considerable emphasis on socialization through activities and group projects. Those who participate in these activities get a fair chance to develop and to better their social and group skills. It helps to set the learner as a constituent of a big society.
With all these various modes of learning, progressive learning helps to make a child to be not just an academic geek, but to be part of a successful society or community. This is because the system takes into interests the need of the learner, making him or her feel that he owns the system or he is at the centre of learning. The learner will therefore, seek to understand in his own way rather than trying to understand how the instructor a certain situation. This creates a sense of ownership. The feeling ownership is transferred not only to the learning process but to other sectors of life as well, making one to value community and creating a sense of belonging to the nation.
Oppositions to this theory
There are several proponents opposed to this model of learning. One of the major arguments about it is that it is too narrow in its approach, and that it cannot cover a lot of areas as compared to the conventional way of learning (Wraga, 2001). This may seem partially true because of the fact that the conventional learning techniques always major on pursuing volumes in a short period of time. On the other hand, progressive learning takes into account a lot of activities to ensure an all round development. However, this is not the case. Quantity does not translate to quality and therefore, although the content of coverage is not too much, there is genuine progress in the development of the learner. Besides, creating a critical thinking mind is more salient than making a factory-produced warehouse of knowledge that cannot be translated into something more tangible.
The second argument against it is based on the fact that people tend to misrepresent the whole idea, out of lack of knowledge or sheer ignorance. Instead, of the real model of progressive learning, people have developed an idea that progressive learning aims at transforming the learners into jacks of all trades, who lack an in depth knowledge of many other pertinent issues. Alternatively, some people take it mean engaging the learners in a widespread process of activities that have no value to a learner or which can be acquired from the general life skills. This view is just but a total misconception. Those who hold this view need to get a deeper understanding on what interactive learning is, after which they will be in a position to appreciate its role and value to the development of the learner.
Benefits of progressive theory
The benefits of progressive learning are exceedingly immense. One only needs to have an in-depth look at the whole learning process in order to develop a clear understanding of how it works. If this system were adopted in all the schools in the country, we would end up having a more robust young generation that is better equipped to handle every day challenges in life, as well as key national matters (Beyer, 2001). Currently, such skills are learnt through years of experience, a time that could have been used in serious development issues.
The solution to all countries problems lies on building sharp, dynamic and innovative minds, which will build smart solutions; and not just banks of information, which cannot translate, into tangible evidence. Progressive learning is therefore, the best method of learning that should be used to solve all the needs in the world today.
Altenbaugh, R.J. (1994). Book Reviews: Whither Progressive Education? Educational Researcher. 23 (5), 35-36.
Beyer, L.E. (2001). The Value of Critical Perspectives in Teacher Education. Journal of Teacher Education. 52 (2), 151-163.
Dewey, J. (2000) Experience and Education. Indiana: Kappa Delta P.
Harris, J.J. & Lindsay, B.(2007). Progressive Education and the black college. Journal of Black Studies. 7 (3), 341-357.
Wraga, G.W., (2001). Left Out: The Villainization of Progressive Education in the United States. Educational Researcher. 30 (7), 34-39.
Zilversmit, A.(1999). Changing schools: progressive education theory and practice. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.