Progressive education boasts a long, successful tradition of thoughtful practice and inquiry about what is the best way to educate children.The values and ideals of progressive education have remained remarkably relevant as society has moved from the industrial age to our era of astonishing technology and information. The accelerating pace of global change makes it difficult to guess what the world that our students will inhabit as adults will be like. As we anticipate the 21st century skills and aptitudes that our students should take with them into adulthood, publicly mandated standards and curricula seem sadly inadequate to the task of guiding the development of our young people as good citizens of the future.
Below are the core ideas that are generally behind progressive education.
Attending to each child
Every child is on an individual path to a unique and unknowable destination. Learning structures are created that not only permit but expect and encourage varying paces, interests, styles, and goals. There is institutional flexibility and responsiveness to differences between children and groups of children.
Attending to the whole child.
Schooling is about much more than academic proficiencies. It nurtures the physical, creative, emotional and social aspects of a child’s nature, with the goal of enabling them to become good people as well as good learners.
Learning is most powerful and lasting when children construct ideas for themselves instead of being passively filled with knowledge and drilled on isolated skills. Students participate actively in formulating questions, choosing topics and activities, researching answers, and evaluating their progress.
Attention is paid to the deep desire of children to learn, their true interest in discovery, and their drive to work at those things. This is in addition to the legitimate gratification experienced through winning or successful accomplishment. The ultimate goal is to foster a lifelong disposition to learn.
Facts and skills are important, but only in context and for an authentic purpose. They are presented through projects, problems, and questions. Teaching is frequently interdisciplinary or integrated. Solutions and outcomes may be “messy”, but the process leading up to them has challenged students to think deeply about the ideas and issues.
Children spend time with partners and in groups, problem-solving and sharing their thinking. Movement and busy chatter characterize such learning. Teachers are collaborators too, “working with” rather than “lecturing to” their students.
Children learn with and from others, in a caring and dynamic community that models intellectual and creative growth by all its members and provides a moral compass.
Social justice and democracy
Egalitarian ideals and practices are visible within the community. The voices of children can be heard and are taken seriously. A sense of responsibility for the community is nurtured. A commitment to diversity is evident. There is a call to action and created opportunities for taking good care of self, others, and the world.
Mixed Age Groupings
Children learn not only from their teachers, but also from one another. The concept of multi-aged, multi-grade classes is certainly not new; however, UFS has redefined the notion, taking many factors into account when determining the composition of a class in any given year. This arrangement allows for some students to remain with the same teacher for two years as a positive educational experience, and sets up natural peer learning opportunities within the classroom due to the mix of ages, abilities, and maturity levels.
Benefits of Multi-grade, Mixed Age Classrooms:
- Encourages peer teaching and flexible learning opportunities in a cooperative environment in which students thrive.
- Encourages children to learn cooperatively rather than competitively.
- Provides a setting that is student-centered and rich in diverse learning styles, abilities, and points of views.
- Allows for peer teaching and flexible learning opportunities.
- More closely resembles real life situations and encourages children to develop their own expertise while becoming skilled nurturers.
- Often allows older students to assume the role of more knowledgeable, experienced, and responsible learners. In that role, they are continually reinforcing their knowledge while being challenged to advance to a new level. Younger children in a mixed age group have opportunities to learn from their older peers and to teach their “elders.”
- Benefits students who remain in the same class for two years with a teacher who knows their learning style, strengths and challenges.