of their students. Dewey thought that children need assistance
from teachers in making sense of their world.
What should this assistance look like? Dewey thought it
was important for teachers to observe children and to deter-
mine from these observations what kinds of experiences the
children are interested in and ready for. He thought that the
educator has a serious responsibility
to invest in planning and organizing
ewey thought it was
for children’s learning activities. In
important for teachers
other words, he believed that it is the
to observe children and
teacher’s job to determine the cur-
to determine from these
riculum based on knowledge of the
observations what kinds
children and the children’s abilities.
of experiences the children
He felt that suggestions and guidance
coming from thoughtful teachers,
are interested in and ready
who after all have more life experi-
for. ence and more general knowledge
than children, could be more useful to children than the ideas
they arrive at by accident.
When progressive education was criticized for allowing
children too much freedom without appropriate guidance,
Dewey agreed. “It is a ground for legitimate criticism, how-
ever, when the ongoing movement of progressive education
fails to recognize that the problem of selection and organiza-
tion of subject matter for study and learning is fundamental,”
he responded (Dewey 1938, 78). Dewey was saying that chil-
dren need teachers to decide what is safe and also develop-
mentally and individually appropriate for them.
Dewey was concerned that many teachers of his time were
claiming to be part of progressive education merely because
they departed from more traditional approaches. He recog-
nized the danger in moving away from one direction without
clearly understanding the new direction one wanted to follow.
He also thought this was a very common pattern among