What is Progressive Education?
Attending to the whole child: Progressive educators are concerned with helping children become not only good learners but also good citizens. Schooling isn’t seen as limited solely to academics, nor is intellectual growth limited to verbal and mathematical proficiency. Instead, progressive educators guide the whole child to develop robust life skills. Academic, social and emotional development fosters academic independence, emotional intelligence, knowledge, creativity, responsibility and confidence.
Community: While we personalize attention to each and every student, we also leverage the community to foster learning. Children learn with and from one another in a caring community which fosters social, emotional and academic learning.
Collaboration: Progressive schools are characterized by a “working with” rather than a “doing to” model. In place of rewards for complying with the adults’ expectations, or punitive consequences for failing to do so, we emphasize collaborative problem-solving. We seek to understand not only the action, but the underlying motives, values, and reasons for behavior.
Social justice: A sense of community and responsibility for others isn’t confined to the classroom. Students are helped to locate themselves in widening circles of care that extend beyond self, beyond friends, beyond their own ethnic group, and beyond their own country. Opportunities are offered not only to learn about, but also to put into action, a commitment to diversity and to improving the lives of others.
Intrinsic motivation: When considering (or reconsidering) educational policies and practices, the first question that progressive educators are likely to ask is, “What’s the effect on students’ interest in learning, their desire to continue reading, thinking, and questioning?” This deceptively simple test helps to determine what students will and won’t be asked to do.
Deep understanding: Progressive education tends to be organized around problems, projects, and questions — rather than around lists of facts, skills, and separate disciplines. The teaching is typically interdisciplinary, the assessment rarely focuses on rote memorization, and excellence isn’t confused with “rigor.” The point is not merely to challenge students, but to invite them to think deeply about issues that matter and help them understand ideas from the inside out. This method of presentation allows the student to easily retain the learned information and to readily apply it to new situations.
Active learning: In progressive schools, students play a vital role in helping to design the curriculum, formulate the questions, seek out (and create) answers, think through possibilities, and evaluate how successful they — and their teachers — have been. Their active participation in every stage of the process is consistent with the overwhelming consensus of experts that learning is a matter of constructing ideas rather than passively absorbing information or practicing skills.