You may have heard it called many different things before. Progressive Learning, Individualised Learning, Personalised Learning, Student Centred Learning, Active Learning, whatever term you are familiar with, there is no doubt that there is some exciting things happening in the world of Education.
Progressive Learning originated in the late 19th Century and was coined by educational reformer and philosopher John Dewey. He proposes that “Education is more than preparation for the future, it is life itself”. In Democracy In Education, published in 1916, Dewey proposed that education should be active and interactive and that the method of teaching should fit the student.
He saw education a less of “an affair of ‘telling’ and being told, but an active and constructing process.” Since then, other philosophers and educators built on the work of Dewey to create what we now know as the progressive schools movement.
In its simplest form, traditional teaching involves direct instruction with a specific end-goal (usually an assessment task or test). Whereas, progressive education philosophy embraces the idea that we should teach children how to think and that a test cannot measure a child’s intelligence.
The process of ‘learning by doing’ is at the heart of this style of teaching and often incorporates experiential learning. The concept of experiential learning actively engages students in an activity that puts their knowledge and understanding of a topic to use. Thus the student develops an even stronger understanding of the topic through practice.
Progressive education that is based on experiential learning is often considered to be the best way for a student to experience real-world situations. The workplace is a collaborative environment that requires teamwork, critical thinking, creativity and the ability to work independently.
Experiential learning focuses on developing these important skills within students, helping them better prepare for college and life in the modern workforce.
Here are a few key differences (adapted from the National Association of Independent Schools)
Student learning under a progressive model places emphasis on problem-solving and critical thinking, group work and development of social skills.
Learning is more personalised and revolved around a number of key components working together harmoniously.
Progressive learning and flexible learning environments go hand-in-hand. It’s not just student learning that can be personalised and made more flexible. Modern learning environments offer more flexible seating and give students a choice in where they work in the classroom.
If you were to look inside a modern classroom you might confuse it with a university commons. In progressive learning environments, the role of a classroom is to provide a place for students to actively learn, solve problems and participate in hands-on tasks.
These flexible open plan spaces have been heralded as learning hubs that not only improve student engagement but also result in deep student learning rather than surface learning.
Traditional teachers would see themselves as the absolute authority. Their main role is to deliver instruction from the front of the room and assess whether or not each student has successfully comprehended the information. They are expected to teach using the same methods devised hundreds of years ago and see any deviation from traditional practices as risky.
The problem is that the world students grew up in hundreds of years ago is vastly different from the one they are now growing up in.
We now understand each student learns differently from one another and one strict educational model does not suit all. A more progressive teaching model involves teachers becoming facilitators that support students as needed and encourage them to solve problems independently or collaboratively with their peers.
They plan lessons that evoke curiosity and encourage collaboration. Gone are the days of standing at the front of the classroom lecturing before a blackboard while students passively consumed and parroted information back into their exam papers.
Many teachers today are embracing new technologies and implementing them in their classrooms to engage students in new and more meaningful ways. It’s becoming more and more common to see iPads, apps, videos, games and robotics in today’s classrooms being used as educational tools to assist in student learning.
There is even a movement called Flipped Learning which flips the traditional model right on its head by allowing students to consume the content teachers would deliver during class as homework instead. Leaving class time free for more hands-on collaborative tasks.