The Pedagogy of John Dewey

24 March, 2020
In this article, we'll learn about John Dewey and highlight some key points regarding his pedagogical theory.

The pedagogy of John Dewey is considered to be the precursor of the current education system known as New School. Pedagogue, philosopher, and psychologist, John Dewey was born in the USA in 1859.

He developed a pedagogical theory that focused on students. As a basis, a school was considered to be a space for experiences and reflection about said experiences also.

He systematized his “experimental method” in a designated school. Subsequently, this method has become a great legacy for the subsequent development of modern pedagogy.

The pedagogy of John Dewey

Firstly, his pedagogy was against traditional schools consisting of unidirectional education; with a teacher as the sole possessor of knowledge and a student as a docile recipient of knowledge.

Above all, this pedagogue would defend the active participation of students in their learning process; unlike schools that are abstract, follow routines, and have finite resources in subjects.

The Pedagogy of John Dewey

For this reason, he thought of a school that would consist of permanently awakening the students’ feelings and emotions, and for them to acquire knowledge through experience.

Therefore, the conception of education for this pedagogue was that of a permanent process that uses intelligence as a method of observation, experimentation, and reflective reasoning. At the same time, he considered that everything taking place at a school should serve to improve the students’ quality of life and build an increasingly democratic society.

The experimental method

In summary, these are the main points and fundamental pillars that make up his method:

  • Organization of educational experiences, methods, and selection of materials that provoke curiosity and generate attitudes. 
  • Educational experiences that require the use of the senses to perform activities that unite nature and the human experience. 
  • Educational practices that are developed through workshops, like cooking, crops, carpentry, gardening, etc. They serve to put into play and reproduce daily life activities.
  • Use of research methodologies. Inquiry, experimentation through trial and error, and reflection, for example.
  • Plan educational experiences that develop democratic transferable attitudes both in productive and social environments.
  • Combine games with work in the educational field, since both are the main entrance to knowledge. There’s a link between the interest that games arouse and the effort we require while working to achieve results.
  • Experimentation with the world around us as a condition to construct knowledge.
  • Start from the resolution of problems and the search for alternative solutions based on data and information. 

The teacher’s role in the pedagogy of John Dewey

In his pedagogy, teachers are given a fundamental role.

  • Instead of imposing their ideas or knowledge onto students, teachers should select influences that affect their students and that are also educational.
  • They must stimulate and develop the active faculties of their students. This can surely be achieved by planning educational experiences that have a connection with social reality.
  • Teachers must certainly know and well manage the subjects that they teach; knowledge in child psychology is also appropriate.
  • Their function won’t be directive. Instead, they’ll accompany the students’ experiences.
The Pedagogy of John Dewey

Contributions of John Dewey’s pedagogy to the current school system

Among the main contributions, we highlight the need for a teaching-learning process based on experience. Thus, students will have the possibility to learn relatively independently with a teacher to serve as a guide.

On the other hand, we must insist on the importance of transferring and applying in their lives the knowledge they learn in a formal school environment. Consequently, knowledge must serve to respond to concrete experiences and real problems.

The greatest contribution of the pedagogy of John Dewey to our current education system is to conceive students as active subjects of their own learning and as knowledge-building participants; not as mere recipients of known information.

  • Ruiz, G. (2013). La teoría de la experiencia de John Dewey: significación histórica y vigencia en el debate teórico contemporáneo. Foro de Educación, 11 (15), pp. 103-124. Recuperado de http://www.redalyc.org/pdf/4475/447544540006.pdf