John Dewey’s philosophy of education has been and currently is a catalyst for change in higher education.
There are three terms that best describe John Dewey: progressive education, experiential learning and pragmatism.
Higher Education today often credits John Dewey as one of the founders of experiential learning.
History of Progressive Education and Experiential Learning Progressive Education in Higher Education (1900-1970) Progressive education can be described by students becoming the main focus, and learning best from real-life experiences with other people, using critical thinking skills and solving problems. This was in contrast to conservative education which was a standardized learning process most analogous to an assembly-line method of schooling, in which the teacher is the focus not the student. Progressive education fell short during this time period to conservative education. Progressive education connected to experiential learning and pragmatism.
History of Progressive Education and Experiential Learning Experiential Learning in Higher Education Dewey knew early that experiential learning in higher education would be an effective way for students to learn, become independent thinkers, obtain rewarding careers, and create social reform. Experiential Learning Theorists include: Kurt Lewin and David Kolb Experiential Education can be summed up as anything involving learning outside the classroom; however, this is not limited to the realm of the academe.
Pragmatism – Combination of progressive education and experiential learning Largest impact: 1930-1970 Impacted the emergence and acceptance of Liberal education, The Student Personnel Point of View, Experiential Learning in Higher Education, and Student Development.
Student affairs practitioners today should ask themselves how far from Dewey’s original intent has higher education strayed?
Many of the struggles today draw parallels to those of the early 1900’s.
Issues of educational access, socioeconomic status, marginalization and economic woe are still in existence today.
Student affairs professionals are called to uphold the fundamental beliefs of Dewey’s philosophy of education by implementing a more multicultural environment for students, and allow them to share their experiences with others.
As a profession, student affairs practitioners will have to decide the best way to continue the growth that has been taking place for students, and how to continue that growth in the future.