Educational Theorist John Dewey

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John Dewey is acclaimed as the greatest educational theorist during the 20th century. His theory of experience was well-known not only within the educational field, but also in philosophy and psychology. His works remain a strong influence in the models of innovative approaches such as adult education, learning beyond the confines of the classroom and experiential therapy. He was born in October 20th of a modest family in Burlington, Vermont, U.S.A. in 1859 and died on June 1, 1952. Together with other theorist such as Charles Sanders and William James, Dewey put forward and championed the educational theory of progressivism during the first half of the 20th century (Huerta, 2007). He wrote a variety of articles in different fields of nature, ethics art logic and democracy and education.

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Dewey’s contribution to education changed the classical perception about education. He outlined that education was a basic necessity for life. He was a strong crusader of experiential education traditionally referred to as progressive education. He was also critical of complete freedom in leaner-driven education that he claimed lacked ordered structure in learners’ own experiences to maximize learning to a beneficial level (Huerta, 2007). He actively took part in the setting up of learning institution such as the University of Chicago Laboratory Schools in 1896 and the new School for Social Research in 1919. Moreover, many of his ideas influenced the establishment of the Bennington collage in Vermont in which he was a board of trustee member.

Dewey’s concepts are used in training of teachers in order to take into account the uniqueness of learners by understanding their individual differences during instructional delivery. Learner’s differences in background experiences arises from the uniqueness in genetic make up and life experiences (Huerta, 2007). Teachers must bear in mind that formulating a standard curriculum cannot meet learners’ differences in isolation. Thus, a teacher’s role in class is to facilitate learning process of desired attributes. Also, it reminds the teachers that education process should produce a person who adjusts well to the democratic society in a broader sense of education. Thus, evaluation of learning should not only be confined to literacy but also the desired affective aspects, skills and attitudes. Studying Dewey’s theory make teachers appreciate that the unilateral delivery of curriculum content is rigid and only reduces learners to passive consumers of knowledge in prescribed packages; a concept that is perceived as undemocratic (Huerta, 2007). Progressive education operates on the principle of freedom of learners. However, freedom may not solely result in desired learning outcomes hence must be guided by structured or ordered program of study based on clear theories of experience, and not the impulse of teachers or the students. Studying the works of Dewey help teachers and curriculum developers to design effective educational curriculum based on theory of experience pegged on two central tenets of interaction and continuity.

To effectively teach the current experiences, education should be made meaningful to the learners in such a way that the learnt content should be able to solve the prevailing problems in the immediate society (Huerta, 2007). Thus, innovative teaching methodologies and instructional media such as the use of computers, internet and other ICT based technologies may be instrumental in teaching abstract content, illustrating ideas especially when the learners have language difficulties or other specialized needs. In addition, examination of critical historical theory has impacted in teacher training, education and assessment. This explains the emergence of standards in teacher education. Professional accreditation, licensing and certification bodies such as National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE) and Interstate New Teacher Support Consortium (INTASC), commonly use the framework of critical theory to examine the challenges, limitations and deterrents to set educational standards (Drake & Burns, 2004). The analysis of the results obtained gives comprehensive information on the relationship between the school, education and its impact on the general society.

This can be achieved the development of e-learning and adoption of integrated curriculum which has shown remarkable improvements in standardized test scores. Integrated curriculum breaks down the barrier between subjects and makes learning more meaningful. Its implementation revolves around teaching of themes and organizing centers such as the environment. Integrated curriculum assesses knowledge without pairing it with the leaner’s past experiences, adds problem solving-skills and brings about real life applications and social consciousness to the learning process. It makes learning more comprehensive and related to social problems and their solutions. The learners gain knowledge when an intellectually challenging task is given.

Classical description of literacy as the ability to read and write has undergone rapid metamorphosis with addition of the ability to discover, comprehend and intermingle with technology in a meaningful way (Huerta, 2007). The use of technology has been lauded a means of bridging the gap in education as evident in No Child Left Behind (NCLB) program launched on January 8th, 2002 by president Bush (Huerta, 2007). It aims at enhancing education through technology with an objective of improving academic achievement among learners. Technology enhances learning not only through access to technology but also knowing how to use it. Educational use of technology enhance educational and literacy improvements, productivity, creativity, interaction and publishing of materials. It promotes access and use of information, problem-solving skills and decision-making. Learners can access, analyze, generate and transmit useful information by applying appropriate technology. In order to teach to the expected standards and promote literacy in a cosmopolitan, multicultural environment, technology use must be enhanced or integrated in the classroom (Huerta, 2007). E-learning according NCLB can expand educational access and bridge the achievement gap which is a greater disparity among learners with varied cultural, social, economic, or linguistic backgrounds such as the Hispanics, African-American population who do not score relatively well in National Standardized Test. Use of technology may reduce the high turn over rates in school especially to cater for learners that come from backgrounds that lack access to instructional materials such as books, motivation to learn, poverty, and illiteracy. Retention in school can be resolved through inclusion or streamlining in education (Huerta, 2007). Teaching of life and employable skills is essential as outlined by Dewey.

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The development of e-learning and adoption of integrated curriculum has shown remarkable improvements of standardized test scores. Integrated curriculum breaks down the barrier between subjects and makes learning more meaningful to students. Its implementation revolves around teaching of themes and organizing centers such as the environment. Integrated curriculum assesses knowledge without pairing it with the leaner’s past experiences, adds problem solving-skills and brings about real life applications and social consciousness to the learning process. It makes learning more comprehensive and related to social problems and their solutions. The learners gain knowledge when an intellectually challenging task is given (Drake & Burns, 2004). E-learning according NCLB can expand educational access and bridge the achievement gap which is a greater disparity among learners with varied cultural, social, economic, or linguistic backgrounds such as the Hispanics, African-American population who do not score relatively well in National Standardized Test. Use of technology may reduce the high turn-over rates in school especially to cater for learners that come from backgrounds that lack access to instructional materials such as books, motivation to learn, poverty, and illiteracy. This can be resolved through inclusion or streamlining in education. Teaching of life and employable skills is essential as outlined by Dewey. Assessment of acquisition of life skills rather than literacy as outlined in the learner evaluation techniques by NCLB ensure attainment of education for life in line with the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

In conclusion, teachers should therefore learn to modify the learning process or environment to provide a rich educational experience that makes the learners valued, equal and responsible citizens. This results into an ascribed social equity which is a recipe for non-stratified society. Failure to observe this, results in education process producing a highly stratified society where few individuals exclusively enjoys the benefits of education with the larger population remain sidelined in developmental aspects. This is a recipe for instability as outlined in Dewey’s.

Reference List

Drake, S., M. & Burns, C., C. (2004). Meeting standards through integrated curriculum. London: ASCD.

Huerta, G. (2007). Educational Foundations: Diverse Histories, Diverse Perspectives. New Jersey: Cengage Learning.

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PsychologyWriting. (2022, September 19). Educational Theorist John Dewey. Retrieved from https://psychologywriting.com/educational-theorist-john-dewey/

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PsychologyWriting. 2022. "Educational Theorist John Dewey." September 19, 2022. https://psychologywriting.com/educational-theorist-john-dewey/.

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