The Institute for Progressive Learning – Session 6: The Ideal School

We have studied many of the problems and possible reforms to the education system throughout this course, however, the only way to make a real difference in the future of education is for future educators such as ourselves to implement some these changes in our classrooms throughout our careers as educators.  Personally, if I had all the necessary resources at my fingertips, I would create a school of my own. This is what I hope to accomplish with my idea for a new type of school – The Institute for Progressive Learning, the slogan for which would read “Enabling minds to focus on learning.”

The Institute for Progressive Learning would be a school for children grades 7 -9 in suburban communities that employs the progressivist and social reconstructionist philosophies of learning in order to ignite passion in students and rekindle their love for learning.  Much like John Dewey’s philosophy of progressivism, the lessons in the Institute would tie in to real world issues and encourage the students to discover new ways to approach the problems facing today’s society. To do this, the students would be encouraged to use technology, as well as tangible materials – books, newspapers, design materials, etc. – in order to support and present their solutions and view points.  Lessons would also employ the core principles of George Counts philosophy of social reconstructionism in that the lessons would have a segment focusing on how the curriculum being explored relates the the current societal issues and problems and/or solutions the materials.

The main differences between traditional schools and the Institute for Progressive learning are that the Institute will focus on lessons relevant to issues that effect the students’ every day lives and that it will do so in a way that feeds off of the students interests and not only encourages but enables the students to apply their curiosity surrounding the subject matter outside of the classroom. In other words, the Institute will focus on real world lessons and will base these lessons around what the students are most concerned about thus reinforcing their desire to learn. In his article “Questionable Assumptions about Schooling,” Elliott W. Eisner states that, “that the major aim of schooling is to enable students to become the architects of their own education so that they can invent themselves during the course of their lives.”  By adopting a similar mindset, the Institute for Progressive Learning will remind students that their interests and their views are not only important, but valuable as well – especially in respects to making a difference in their society.  The Institute will also back the statement made by Steve Denning in his article “The Single Best Idea for Reforming K-12 Education” that the goal of education needs to “shift from one of making a system that teaches children a curriculum more efficiently to one of making the system more effective by inspiring lifelong learning in students, so that they are able to have full and productive lives in a rapidly shifting economy.”

In order for the Institute for Progressive Learning to be the school it is designed to be, it is crucial to integrate more cross-curricular lessons. By having more lessons that tie together multiple disciplines, students will see the impact that their interests can have on multiple areas of today’s society and culture. It will also be important for teachers to be attentive to the student’s suggestions and interests in order to create an environment conducive to not only fostering a desire to learn but to keeping the flame of learning alive. Without the support of the teachers, student ideas and interests are extremely likely to fall by the wayside thus pushing the Institute closer to the instructional methods of current schools.

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