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Progressive education in the 21st century. (Among the Periodicals).

Is progressive education alive and well in the 21st century or is it just an amusing part of our history? The articles reviewed in this column were found by doctoral students in early childhood education and educational leadership as they strove to answer this question.--J.A.

Although the media is dominated by reports on the merits of traditional education, the five articles reviewed here reveal that the influence of progressive education, which originated over 100 years ago, is still vital to current education issues. Early progressive educators, including Patty Smith Hill, William Heard Kilpatrick, Marietta Johnson, Lucy Sprague Mitchell, and John Dewey, were proponents of the home and school connection, teacher and student collaboration, the project approach, and the importance of play. The reviewers found a strong connection between the pragmatism of the past and current practice.

FOSTERING LANGUAGE AND LITERACY IN CLASSROOMS AND HOMES. Dickinson, D., & Tabors, P. Young Children, 2002, 57(2), 10-18. Siding with progressive educators about the importance of the home and school connection, the authors "discuss how early childhood programs can make a difference through classroom-based experiences and by the efforts of preschool staff to help parents communicate with their children in ways that build the language skills critical to early literacy" (p. 10). Dickinson and Tabors draw some interesting conclusions about early literacy experiences in preschool classrooms.

The authors found that early literacy-rich environments, at home and school, are strong predictors of early language acquisition, as well as of higher scores on reading and comprehension tests. The authors conducted a longitudinal study of children, both at school and in the home, and interviewed teachers and parents about their practices and beliefs concerning children's language development.

According to the authors, even children whose home environments have a low language and literacy structure can score above average on kindergarten tests if they attend a language-rich preschool. In contrast, those children from literacy-rich homes will score well below average if their preschool does not support their development in language. These statements alone serve as an invitation for further research.

Is there enough data to conclude that literacy development at home will be negated if a child's preschool environment isn't equally supportive? Clearly, more research needs to be undertaken to determine what is specifically necessary in both the school and home to ensure success in literacy for all children. Reviewed by Andrea K. Rudder, doctoral student in Early Childhood Education, University of Alabama at Birmingham.

COLLABORATIVE INQUIRY: Working Toward Shared Goals. Hamm, M., & Adams, D. Kappa Delta Pi Record, 2002, 38(3), 115-118. Hamm and Adams provide a glimpse into collaborative group work, a hallmark of progressive education. They identify some of the academic benefits as increased self-reflection and assessment by students, greater motivation to learn and contribute to the ideas developed by the group, and an increased opportunity to respond to or ask questions. The authors also identify social benefits of the methodology, such as an emphasis on collaboration rather than competition, opportunities to teach as well as learn, and increased student self-confidence to solve problems.

The article also highlights the responsibilities of the teacher in a collaborative classroom. The teacher must model collaborative problem solving, arrange the physical environment to facilitate face-to-face interactions, and provide encouragement. A collaborative classroom, where the teacher takes on the role of facilitator, is contrasted with a traditional classroom, in which the teacher provides direct instruction and validation for thinking. The authors state that "becoming a contributing member of a learning team can help students by promoting self-discovery, higher level reasoning, and social cohesion" (p. 118). Reviewed by Amy Morgan, doctoral student in Early Childhood Education, University of Alabama at Birmingham.

WHEN TEACHERS HAVE TIME TO TALK: The Value of Curricular Conversations. Mills, H., Jennings, L., Donnelly, A., Mueller, L., and the Center for Inquiry Faculty. Language Arts, 2002, 79(1), 20-28. Progressive educators value being part of a collegial teaching community where teachers have opportunities to talk frequently, both informally and formally. A group of teachers at the Center for Inquiry have engaged themselves in just such a process of professional inquiry in an attempt not only to validate professional practices, but also to explore their personal beliefs about the ways in which teachers perform in the classroom. They have found that conversations and reflections about shared experiences can strengthen the quality of their teaching.

Over a period of four years, this group has built a unique learning community through diligence, hard work, and trial and error. The result is a school culture that fosters inquiry-based learning not only for teachers, but also for the students. The ability of this team of educators to learn from each other through real-world experiences helps create a model for teaching in the child-centered classroom.

The regular study group meetings and curricular conversations have provided a path on which these educators can progress toward more effective teaching strategies. This practice spills over into the classroom communities as well, significantly benefiting students' growth and learning process. The original progressive educators would applaud these efforts. The authors conclude, "For those who dream of creating or enhancing cultures Of inquiry within classrooms, across schools, and throughout university / public school partnerships, we invite you to take the lessons we have learned and make them your own" (pp. 27-28). Reviewed by April P. Aldridge, doctoral student in Educational Leadership, University of Alabama at Birmingham.

THE PROJECT APPROACH: Meeting the State Standards. Schuler, D. Early Childhood Research and Practice, 2000, 2(1) [On-line journal]. When children are engaged in project work, most of the skills identified in state learning standards are both practiced and applied. The project approach "allows children to not only practice basic skills but to do so in an integrated and meaningful way" (p. 1). Schuler cautions, however, that additional basic skills that are not or cannot be adequately addressed during project work should be systematically taught and practiced concurrent to project work.

Schuler effectively illustrates how the project approach, as undertaken by her own students, met standards set by the Illinois State Department of Education. She provides detailed examples of the project, and identifies the connection between each phase of the project and the skills that they address. Schuler also provides an appendix detailing specific items from the state standards.

This article helps progressive educators answer the all-too-common question, "But when do you find time to teach basic skills?" As Schuler only explores the standards in the state of Illinois, it should be interesting to find out if her assertions have wide-ranging applicability for proponents of the project approach and progressive education. Reviewed by Dean Addison, doctoral student in Early Childhood Education, University of Alabama at Birmingham.

THE ROLE OF PRETEND PLAY IN CHILDREN'S COGNITIVE DEVELOPMENT. Bergen, D. Early Childhood Research and Practice, 2002, 4(1) [On-line journal]. Progressive educators believe that a tremendous amount of learning takes place during play. Bergen suggests that problem solving, narrative recall literacy development, and academic performance will improve through high-quality pretend play. She takes issue with educators who do not allow time for play in schools. Bergen points out that the current trend to exclude play has had a negative effect on social pretend play, which requires extended, uninterrupted time Periods to develop in complexity,

The author reports the results of several studies that focused on the relationship between high-quality pretend play and the development of academic skills. The review supports the need for further research concerning social pretend play.

Generally, progressive educators recommend large blocks of uninterrupted play over an extended period of time, without a teacher-directed emphasis. Progressive pioneers such as Marietta Johnson, Caroline Pratt, and Lucy Sprague Mitchell would have agreed with Bergen's conclusions supporting the need for social pretend play as a necessary and vital part of young children's learning. Reviewed by Toni Taylor and Lin Rou-May, doctoral students in Early Childhood Education, University of Alabama at Birmingham.

Conclusions--Can Progressive Education Survive in the 21st Century?

All of these articles were reviewed by students enrolled in a doctoral seminar class called "Dewey and the Early Childhood Curriculum." Advanced graduate students who took this class were somewhat surprised by how much of today's education research, practice, and literature is rooted in the progressive education movement. While many teachers acknowledge the importance of the home and school connection, the salience of teacher and student collaboration, the virtues of the project approach, and the values of play, some are unfamiliar with the progressive educators who discussed all of these issues a century ago. Why is it that large numbers of teachers and education majors are unaware that some of the "new and innovative" practices have been around for so long? Despite this lack of awareness, progressive education is alive in the 21st century, and will probably continue to thrive.
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Title Annotation:review of recent articles on education issues
Author:Aldridge, Jerry
Publication:Childhood Education
Article Type:Bibliography
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Sep 22, 2002
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Next Article:Educational environments to support children's psychosocial development. (ERIC/EECE Report).

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