John Dewey gave importance to the concept of education and learning especially in its social aspect. 21st century education postulates that education and learning should prepare students to become successful and contribute to their continuous growth and development as well as aid students to learn how to work in a team or a group in order to harness their leadership abilities and potentials. John Dewey believed that democracy is a fundamental and essential value. This belief influenced his principles and vision for an industrial and democratic society especially in the field of education, which became known as the Progressive Movement later on. This philosophy serves to abandon the old and traditional beliefs and authoritarian methods in education and instead, it emphasizes learning through continuous practice and experimentation. Simply put, Dewey viewed education as an instrument for enabling citizens to integrate their vocation and culture in a useful and effective manner.
The main goal of John Dewey is the preparation of students to become capable individuals. His views on education are pragmatic and focus on the instrumental value of education: the outcomes and the results. In addition to this, his views also held in importance the intrinsic value of learning and education which views learning as an end that is worthwhile. Dewey advocated the concept of lifetime learning wherein he postulates that one does not stop learning even if an individual has completed their education already. For him, it is a continuous and lifelong process. Traditional beliefs and methods of education are characterized by a paradigm that is teacher-centered and largely dominated by subject matter, with the role of students as passive observers. Dewey viewed education as something that is more dynamic with the student as the main focus.
Today, in the field of education, we have become familiar with such terms as active learning and student-centered learning. There have been several studies on the different learning styles of students that have influenced methods in classroom instruction. More emphasis has been placed on the role of the teacher or educator as a facilitator of learning who guides students as compared to their traditional role as the giver of knowledge and possessing authority that cannot be challenged or questioned.
According to Dewey “The teacher is not in the school to impose certain ideas or to form certain habits in the child, but is there as a member of the community to select the influences which shall affect the child and to assist him in properly responding to these influences” (From the work of John Dewey vol. 5, page 88). Dewey still believes that educators still need to employ methods that directly instruct students as it cannot be denied that they possess a vast knowledge on the subject that they teach.
Current trends and insights in education today were already foreseen by Dewey in the past, which are evident in his writings. He wrote of the importance of the social aspect of education, the need for continuity within the classroom and everyday life, and most of all, the need to shift the focus from teacher to the student. His views are all the more important and significant today as we are experiencing a period characterized by increasing cultural diversity, global capitalism and an increase in immigration. Dewey’s insights prove to be crucial in finding other alternatives to the traditional classroom methods. In addition, his views are largely supported by the acceptance today that learning is best achieved if the student is actively involved and that students learn more in a cooperative environment.
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Dykhuisen, G (1973). The Life and Mind of John Dewey. Southern Illinois University Press,
Hickman, L. (1990). John Dewey’s Pragmatic Technology. Indianapolis: Indiana University Press.