Narrator: Listen to a conversation between a student and her education professor.
Karen: Professor McGraw?
Professor: Oh hi, Karen, what can I do for you?
Karen: Well, I might just start writing that paper that’s due next week
Karen: And I’m thinking I’d like to write it on the classroom observations I’ve been doing.
Professor: What level are you observing?
Karen: Fourth grade.
Professor: Okay. That sounds fine. Lots of students write about their classroom observations.
Karen: But before I start, I want to check to see if I’m on the right track with my observations.
Karen: Okay. As I’ve said, I’ve been observing a fourth grade class and the teacher follows a progressive approach to teaching, so I thought I’d write about a mathematics lesson that I observed last week, how it fits in with that approach.
Professor: Okay. What can you tell me about the progressive approach?
Karen: It’s about accommodating each student’s individual learning style, right?
Karen: Each student is seen as having his or her own learning style, so instead of having one planned format or lesson for the whole class, the teacher has each child work at their own pace on their own project in a way that works best for them.
Professor: Okay, good. Now, how does this work in the lesson you’ve observed?
Karen: Well, first the teacher asked six students to find a math problem that interested them, or that they found difficult and to write it on the board. That surprised me, because it seemed more like a traditional teacher-led activity than a progressive one.
Professor: But who chose the math problem?
Karen: The students did, which I eventually realized made it the kind of activity you would find in a progressive classroom.
Professor: And what was the rest of the class doing?
Karen: They were helpers. If a student wasn’t sure how to solve the problem, they asked one of the helpers to join them at the board and well, help.
Professor: And did they?
Karen: Yeah, and if both students got stuck they could ask another student so it ended up with groups of three or four kids working together to solve a math problem. I could see the teacher was getting the students started, but the students then directed themselves and worked together to come up with the answer.
Professor: Which is very much a part of what progressive education is all about. In that way, the curriculum, or what is being learned, centers around what the learners are interested in. What other elements of progressive education did you observe?
Karen: Well, the students were learning in groups so they were learning social skills like negotiation and the activity was designed so no one felt like a failure. In the end, all the problems were solved successfully and all the kids seemed feel a sense of accomplishment. They were smiling. From what I can tell, the activity met the kid’s social needs and their emotional needs as well. It was pretty cool to watch.