The New Progressivism is Here!


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Presentation on one view of the evolution of progressive education in the 21st century, originally made for the Progressive Education Network national conference in October 2009.

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The New Progressivism is Here!

  1. 1. The New Progressivism …is here! Peter Gow Beaver Country Day School PEN 2009
  2. 2. “ What is Progressive Education ?” <ul><li>A question that baffles the general public </li></ul><ul><li>A question that challenges educators to explain themselves and what they do </li></ul><ul><li>A “whipping boy” of an idea that has complicated our lives with distractions and red herrings for a century </li></ul><ul><li>Target of choice for Hirsch, Ravitch, Finn, and more (especially when we let them define us) </li></ul><ul><li>A question some of us are tired of answering </li></ul>
  3. 3. Assault on Progressive Education <ul><li>“ Permissive” education </li></ul><ul><li>“ Content-free” education </li></ul><ul><li>“ Alternative” education </li></ul><ul><li>Founding Father John Dewey, condemned as </li></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Atheist </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Socialist </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Elitist conspirator </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>“ One-worlder” </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><li>(And our work is often damned in the same terms) ‏ </li></ul>
  4. 4. Why a “New Progressivism”? <ul><li>To acknowledge the evolution of the paradigm </li></ul><ul><li>To focus on the positive aspects of current best practice </li></ul><ul><li>To acknowledge the adoption of new ideas and practices in many schools--independent, charter, pilot, some public </li></ul><ul><li>To position progressive education positively for a new century </li></ul><ul><li>To acknowledge continuities and clarify distinguishing characteristics </li></ul>
  5. 5. The New Progressivism <ul><li>Not fundamentally ideological or political but politically progressive in its essence </li></ul><ul><li>Grows out of the “child-centered,” “experiential,” and “democratic” traditions of old Progressive thinking </li></ul><ul><li>Incorporates new understandings of child development, cognition, and Constructivist learning theory </li></ul><ul><li>Universalizes “Old Progressive” belief in the potential of each child through new models of intelligence, cultural identity, and pedagogical practice </li></ul>
  6. 6. What’s been happening? <ul><li>New understandings of human and child development </li></ul><ul><li>New understandings of brain function and cognition </li></ul><ul><li>New ideas about the nature of intelligence </li></ul><ul><li>New ideas about “learning style” </li></ul><ul><li>Social/political evolution: civil rights, environmental awareness, global awareness </li></ul>
  7. 7. New Ideas about Development <ul><li>Cognitive, social, moral, and racial identity development: Piaget, Erikson, Kohlberg, Bronfenbrenner, Cross, Parham, Helms </li></ul><ul><li>New answers to questions like </li></ul><ul><ul><li>When are children ready to learn? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>How does language development relate to other kinds of development? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>When can children internalize particular kinds of intellectual and moral concepts? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>How do social, cultural, and racial contexts and factors affect child development? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>How can curriculum best engage and serve many kinds of learners at different developmental levels? </li></ul></ul>
  8. 8. New Ideas about Intelligence <ul><li>Intelligence and learning theory: Bruner, Gardner, Sternberg, Ritchhart </li></ul><ul><li>Intelligence: multiple, triarchic, dispositional (and does it matter, except insofar as models help us design effective learning experiences?) </li></ul><ul><li>New answers to questions like </li></ul><ul><ul><li>What does it mean to be “smart”? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>What role do interest and experience play in intelligence? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Are learning differences and “learning disabilities” expressions of neuropathy or neurodiversity? </li></ul></ul>
  9. 9. Principles of Progressive Education (Smith et al. for PEA, 1924) ‏ <ul><li>Freedom to develop naturally </li></ul><ul><li>Interest, the motive of all work </li></ul><ul><li>The teacher a guide, not a taskmaster </li></ul><ul><li>Scientific study of pupil development </li></ul><ul><li>Greater attention to all that affects the child's physical development </li></ul><ul><li>Cooperation between school and home to meet the needs of child life </li></ul><ul><li>The progressive school a leader in educational movements </li></ul>
  10. 10. Hallmarks of the New Progressivism <ul><li>Thematic, cross-disciplinary, understanding-based curriculum </li></ul><ul><li>Assessment-driven instruction </li></ul><ul><li>Real-world problem-solving to engage students </li></ul><ul><li>Emphasis on the creative self </li></ul><ul><li>Exploration of character and values in authentic social contexts </li></ul><ul><li>Technology as a powerful tool, but not an end </li></ul><ul><li>A culture of professional reflection and growth </li></ul>
  11. 11. Some Key Differences <ul><li>New Progressives skeptical of psychometrics: DIFFERENTIATED INSTRUCTION, not differential diagnosis </li></ul><ul><li>New Progressives believe that ALL children can meet high standards </li></ul><ul><li>New Progressives acknowledge and celebrate cultural difference </li></ul><ul><li>New Progressives emphasize outcome-based curriculum design </li></ul>
  12. 12. Some Key Continuities <ul><li>Interesting and engaging students remains the key to success </li></ul><ul><li>Experience and thematic, interdisciplinary curriculum are central to learning </li></ul><ul><li>The “teacher as guide” role </li></ul><ul><li>The teacher-observer role focuses on detailed understanding of individual differences </li></ul><ul><li>Focus on the development of the whole child as an individual free from unnecessary constraints </li></ul>
  13. 13. Understanding-Based Curriculum <ul><li>Incorporates work like that of Bruner, Gardner, Wiggins & McTighe, and others in curriculum (“backwards design”) ‏ </li></ul><ul><li>Constructivist to its core </li></ul><ul><li>Acknowledges new findings in cognitive science </li></ul><ul><li>Builds understanding around powerful questions and experiences, active inquiry </li></ul><ul><li>Teaching for Understanding; Understanding by Design </li></ul>
  14. 14. Assessment-Driven Instruction <ul><li>Makes standards explicit, offers tools for improving performance </li></ul><ul><li>Uses explicit instruction-assessment-feedback loop to build student understanding and capacity </li></ul><ul><li>Multiple modes of assessment to build multi-dimensional picture of individual student performance and understanding </li></ul>
  15. 15. Real-world problem solving <ul><li>Challenges students with multiple perspectives </li></ul><ul><li>“ Authentic assessment” using real problems </li></ul><ul><li>Project- and problem-based learning methodologies to engage student interest </li></ul><ul><li>Assessment for audiences beyond the teacher or classroom </li></ul><ul><li>Embraces ambiguity and open-endedness </li></ul><ul><li>Permits and elevates themes of globalization, environmental awareness </li></ul>
  16. 16. Emphasis on the Creative Self <ul><li>The arts as a catalyst to analytical and critical thinking </li></ul><ul><li>Values design and story as modes of communication and analysis </li></ul><ul><li>Problem-solving that rewards innovation and flexibility of mind </li></ul><ul><li>Builds on the public and collaborative nature of creative activity </li></ul>
  17. 17. Character and Values in Authentic Social Contexts <ul><li>Student participation in school decision-making, governance </li></ul><ul><li>Schools as diverse, collaborative learning environments </li></ul><ul><li>Importance of living, working, and creating across boundaries: race, gender identity and expression, culture, religion, age, ability </li></ul><ul><li>Service, service learning, social justice, and cross-cultural experiences built into learning </li></ul><ul><li>Equity pedagogy acknowledges difference and works to give all students equal chance at success </li></ul>
  18. 18. Technology as a Powerful Tool <ul><li>“ 21st-century learning” integrates emerging and established technologies with proven methods </li></ul><ul><li>Promotes collaboration, communication, creativity, and in-depth research </li></ul><ul><li>Expands the boundaries of the classroom to support authentic learning and expand social contexts </li></ul><ul><li>Acknowledges limits of technology in creating human-scale learning environments and solutions to issues of social justice </li></ul>
  19. 19. A Culture of Professional Reflection and Growth <ul><li>Teaching as a profession with established standards and expectations </li></ul><ul><li>Acknowledges ongoing research and improvements in practice; idea-driven </li></ul><ul><li>Promotes and rewards professional collaboration and creativity </li></ul><ul><li>Technology promotes establishment of professional learning networks, sharing of best practices </li></ul><ul><li>(Contributions of Coalition, Ted Sizer) </li></ul>
  20. 20. A Little Survey <ul><li>NP themes in PEN workshops: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Curriculum & Assessment 28 </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Diversity, equity, civic engagement 20 </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Social and cognitive development, in context 18 </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Reflection on professional culture and practice 16 </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Arts, creativity 8 </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Technology 4 </li></ul></ul>
  21. 21. NAIS “Alive & Well” Schools <ul><li>Anecdotal research from summer 2009 </li></ul><ul><li>“ Thriving” schools in challenging contexts </li></ul><ul><li>Common themes </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Curriculum development on New Progressive themes </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Values-driven initiatives around civic engagement </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Intentional development of reflective and growth-oriented professional culture </li></ul></ul>
  22. 22. Here and there… <ul><li>Charter and pilot schools prime exemplars of New Progressive ideals and practice; walking the walk of democracy and inclusivity </li></ul><ul><li>A few brave public schools bucking the trend of retreating to the safety of progress as measured only by standardized tests </li></ul><ul><li>But still, small voices examples can be found almost everywhere, in every school </li></ul><ul><li>Probably erroneous to declare victory, but the New Progressivism is here </li></ul>
  23. 23. Your thoughts? Peter Gow [email_address]