John Dewey (1859-1952) was a highly respected American philosopher, psychologist, and educational reformer, whose ideas continue to be significantly influential.
Dewey was a leading representative of the progressive movement in U.S. schooling during the first half of the 20th century. The ultimate goal of education, for Dewey, was to enable each individual to become an effective member of a democratic society. Dewey was critical of "traditional", teacher-centric educational styles, but equally critical of the overly free "progressive" educational movements for lacking sufficient theory and discipline in their pedagogical methods.
Dewey proposed that a theory of experience was needed in order to be able to understand students' learning experiences and how they might be optimally arranged and facilitated by teachers.
Dewey proposed two key principles in his theory of experience:
- Continuity: All experiences affect all future experiences (for better or worse)
- Interaction: All past experiences interact with the present circumstances to give rise to each person's unique experience of the present.
Carver and Enfield (2006) provide a contemporary description of Dewey’s principles of continuity and interaction operating within an experiential education program.
"Keeping track is a matter of reflective review and summarizing, in which there is both discrimination and record of the significant features of a developing experience. To reflect is to look back over what has been done so as to extract the net meanings which are the capital stock for intelligent dealing with further experiences. It is the heart of intellectual organization and of the disciplined mind."
"Perhaps the greatest of all pedagogical fallacies is the notion that a person learns only the particular thing they are studying at the time."
- Carver, R. L., & Enfield (2006) . John Dewey’s philosophy of education is alive and well. Education and Culture, 22, 55-67. Retrieved January 30, 2008, from https://muse.jhu.edu/demo/education_and_culture/v022/22.1carver.html
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