Progressive Teacher

Progressivsim is an educational philosophy that in many ways is the foundation of educational theory in the United States. In this post, we will look at the background of progressivism as well as the beliefs and how it may be practiced by a teacher.

Progressivsim is yet another reaction to traditional teacher. The era in which this philosophy was developed was the late 19th to early 20th century. This was a time of rapid change and the development of the philosophy called pragmatism, which had a strong influence on progressivism.

Pragmatism had such beliefs as that there was no fixed truth and that whatever works is true. Progressivism adapted and expended on this idea in the context of education. Another major source of influence on progressivism was the work of Freud who encourage self-expression in his writings.

The primary movers in propagating progressivism includes William Kilpatrick, George Counts, John Dewey, and others. This movement dominated educational theory in America from the 1920’s to the 1950’s until the launching of the Sputnik satellite by Russian moved Americans away from child centered self expressive education to an education focused on the essentials in order to compete in a global competition.

Philosophical Position

In the classroom progressivism does not support a teacher-centered approach, nor a heavy focus on textbooks or memorization. there is even concerns with the classroom environment in that the use of fear or physical punishment is discouraged.

The child is the centered of learning rather than the subject. This means that the interest of the child should be taken into consideration when developing learning experiences. Of course, there is a limit to the child’s input as the teacher has a certain responsibility for the learning. However, to even consider the child’s opinion on learning was somewhat revolutionary at the time.

Students need to be active rather than passive. This  means that lectures are unusually because the student not active when listening. Learning by doing is a primary assumption of progressivism. The teacher and the student interact and learn from action rather than from listening.

In order to establish active learning, problem solving is one of the primary tools for teaching. Problem-solving leads to a whole lot of thinking in a systematic manner in ways that are tied to reality rather than to theory.

Lastly, progressivism supports the idea of a democratic classroom. This means that everyone is a learner, including the teacher, and the learning environment encourages discussion and debate. The motive behind this is preparing students to participate in a democratic world.

Progressivism in the Classroom

There is little here to add that was not already mentioned. A progressive teacher is going to support a warm and engaging classroom. The teacher will see themselves as a facilitator of knowledge rather than as a dictator of it. Students will work in groups or alone depending on interest and the content learned  will have input from them. There will be few lectures and more hands on learning activities with a focus on the thought process rather than the product of the  learning.


Progressivism is yet another philosophical system that claimed to have the answer for learning only to eventually lead t people’s disappointment. It was hard to assess learning during the progressives era due to the open nature of problem solving. In addition, when the Russians beat the Americans into space. Focusing on the child simply became impractical due to the perceived threat of Russia. In many ways, progressivism was successful because when it was no longer practical it was abandon and this is something that progressivism teaches.

1 thought on “Progressive Teacher

Leave a Reply