The Principles of Learning

September 14, 2021

“Education is not preparation for life; it is life itself” (Dewey, 1916)

John Dewey is considered to be one of the most significant educational thinkers of his era and, many would argue, of the 20th century. Throughout his life, he worked tirelessly to advance our understanding of what a student-focused educational system should look like, and how it should work.

Dewey's concept of education put a focus on meaningful activity in learning and participation in the classroom. It was a progressive approach where students are invested in what they were learning through a curriculum relevant to their lives. It is teaching and learning where students are active contributors and agents of their learning and that for knowledge to be acquired successfully, their learning should be an experience. 

By actively engaging students in their learning and immersing them in the present and not a distant future, students/children discover the deep, rich, and memorable experiences of learning by doing, by experiential learning. 

For example - in science students grow plants, harvest fruits, and then feed them to snails to see what happens instead of just resourcing facts from books. Sometimes things work out, sometimes accidents happen — whatever the outcome, the students take notes, observe and form solid memorable experiences and understandings. 

Then as their learning continues they reflect and summarize and turn to discussions. Discussion prepares them for life in a society where decisions are based on reasonable arguments. Through these discussions and debates, children prepare for life itself as they learn to formulate their own ideas, see things from multiple perspectives, convince others, and learn to see the world from a different point of view as they serve society for innovation and reform.

Classes are interactive. Since education is an experience that is subject to constant change, interaction with the environment is essential for the learning process, bringing with it a dialogue that expands understanding and underlines learning. It is interdisciplinary, providing a continuity that is critical to comprehension and allows students to build on what they already know - which strengthens their understanding.

So from their observations of growing a plant in science, they bring in calculations in math, written about in English, and put into images through the arts providing students the opportunity to learn how things are connected. To the brain, this process is highly effective as it links new knowledge with previous experiences and builds stronger mental models.

Green Shoots has absorbed and adopted these guiding principles of learning that Dewey set forward. They are principles that are built within the learning of every classroom and community that is Green Shoots. They are principles that connect our school community to the community beyond and to the future.

“When the school introduces and trains each child of society into membership within such a little community, saturating him with the spirit of service, and providing him with instruments of effective self-direction, we shall have the deepest and best guarantee of a larger society which is worthy, lovely and harmonious." (Dewey, 1899) 

As Green Shoots believes that children are the future of our society and human progress, their time in our care will be a foundation, it will be their playground to practice a future we wish to see, so when they grow up, they can go and create it.

Rick Elya, Head of School

Reference sources

Dewey, J., & University of Chicago. (1899). The school and society: Being three lectures.

Dewey, J. (1916). Democracy and Education. An Introduction to the Philosophy of Education. New York, NY: Free Press.

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