Progressive Education

So What is Progressive Education Anyway?
Progressive Educators don’t merely say they endorse ideas like “love of learning”. They’re willing to put these values into practice even if doing so requires them to up-end traditions. They may eliminate homework altogether if it’s clear that students view after-school assignments as something to be gotten over with as soon as possible. They will question things like honors classes and awards assemblies that clearly undermine a sense of community. Progressive schools, in short, follow their core values — bolstered by research and experience — wherever they lead.  - Alfie Kohn
What are the Core Values of Progressive Education?

Attending to the whole child:
Concerned with helping children become not only good learners but also good people. Schooling isn’t seen as being about just academics

Learning isn’t something that happens to separate selves at separate desks. Children learn with and from one another in a caring community, and that’s true of moral as well as academic learning. It follows that practices that pit students against one another in some kind of competition, thereby undermining a feeling of community, are deliberately avoided.

A “working with” rather than a “doing to” model. In place of rewards or awards there’s more of an emphasis on collaborative problem-solving — and, less focus on behaviors than on underlying motives, values, and reasons.

Social justice:
A sense of community and responsibility for others isn’t confined to the classroom; indeed, students are helped to locate themselves in widening circles of care that extend beyond self, beyond friends, beyond their own ethnic group, and beyond their own country.

Intrinsic motivation:
Educators ask first “What’s the effect on students’ interest in learning, their desire to continue reading, thinking, and questioning?” This deceptively simple test helps to determine what students will and won’t be asked to do. Thus, conventional practices, including homework, grades, and tests, prove difficult to justify for anyone who is serious about promoting long-term dispositions rather than just improving short-term skills.

Deep understanding:
Facts and skills do matter, but only in a context and for a purpose. That’s why progressive education tends to be organized around problems, projects, and questions — rather than around lists of facts, skills, and separate disciplines.

Active learning:
Students play a vital role in helping to design the curriculum, formulate the questions, seek out (and create) answers, think through possibilities, and evaluate how successful they — and their teachers — have been. Their active participation in every stage of the process is consistent with the overwhelming consensus of experts that learning is a matter of constructing ideas rather than passively absorbing information or practicing skills.

Taking kids seriously:
In traditional schooling, the child is expected to adjust to the school’s rules and curriculum. Progressive educators take their cue from the children. The curriculum isn’t just based on interest, but on these children’s interests. Teachers will have broadly conceived themes and objectives in mind, but they don’t just design a course of study for their students; they design it with them, and they welcome unexpected detours. One fourth-grade teacher’s curriculum, therefore, won’t be the same as that of the teacher next door, nor will her curriculum be the same this year as it was for the children she taught last year.

(From Progressive Education - Why it is hard to beat, but also hard to find by Alfie Kohn)

Where can I find out more?

: : : A Brief History of Progressive Education by Ron Miller

: : : One Size Fits All Education Does Not Work by Alfie Kohn

: : : The (Progressive) Schools our Children Deserve by Alfie Kohn

: : : Alternative Education Resource Organisation

Progressive Education in Australia

: : : Australasian Association of Progressive and Alternative Education