Debate Continues Over Traditional, Progressive Teaching Methods
> 5/12/2006 3:02:58 PM

A recent Washington Post article highlights the latest stages in a century-long educational conflict: the philosophies of teaching in a traditional style which focuses heavily on "content" versus a more progressive approach based on the "constructivism" of early 20th century philosopher John Dewey, who proposed teaching primarily through real-world experience and heightened critical thinking rather than textbook memorization. In overview, traditional pedagogy relies more on ingraining established formuli than allowing students to reach conclusions in their own time and style through "personal discovery." Opposing arguments center around the theory that students are more likely to analyze and retain knowledge when they encounter it through their own independent actions. Some see no conflict between the two, arguing that true constructivists never wholly negate the idea of teaching hard facts and formulas as information to be remembered and applied later.

A significant number of new educators have attempted to exercise a working balance between the two, encouraging students to learn through extracurricular activity that weaves school topics into their personal lives while continuing to emphasize the statistical material that Dewey called "dead fact." Most find their allegiances lying somewhere in the middle but have little authority over changes in curriculum, an issue brought into focus by the recent expansion in charter schools, or nonsectarian, alternative schools which recieve public funding but are often run for profit and operate outside district affiliations to allow for greater degrees of experimentation. Parts of President Bush's often-debated No Child Left Behind Act seem designed to encourage such exploration while fiscally penalizing charters that fail to measure up to the rigid performance standards set for public schools. Many of these schools report mixed rates of success, and some studies suggest that they are not performing any better than public schools, but the issue is much more complex than a spat between ideologies, and successful applications of charter school principle may well work toward revitalizing crucial areas of our bedeviled education system.  

Children can learn valuable skills by performing community service and interviewing neighbors as well as memorizing fractions. Over at Edwize, commentors discussed the story, and one teacher who flirted with both methods reframes and simplifies the argument by stating that students alone are responsible for what they take from class: "Both methodologies require effort (perhaps different types of effort, but effort nonetheless); 'entitled' students are unwilling to make the required effort under any circumstances." Kids who expect to be entertained by school and place little value on personal achievement or academic responsibility may often be particularly difficult for educators, but for the rest of the national student body, exponents of the competing philosophies continue to work toward positive outcomes as well as a successful compromise.


No comments yet.

Post Your Comments

Post a comment
Email Address:
Verification Code:
Input the 8 characters you see above:


Drug Abuse
Sexual Addiction
Eating Disorders
Alzheimer's Disease

About TOL | Contact Us | Defining Behavioral Fitness | For Healthcare Professionals | Links | Privacy Policy