Foundations of Education


Re-introduces John Dewey's educational philosophy upon which the inquiry learning philosophy is based.

Key Concepts

  • John Dewey

Graded Tasks

  • prepare for your seminar this week

The Educational Philosophy of John Dewey

The inquiry learning philosophy has deep roots in 20th century progressive education, a focus of Week 10 of the course.

Re-read the Week 10 "The Rise of Progressive Education" topic page which summarizes the educational philosophy of John Dewey, widely regarded as the pre-eminent educational philosopher of the 20th century. Dewey's educational principles continue to permeate K-12 education today.

In the text below (excerpted from the above topic page), note how Dewey critiques the disciplinary initiation philosophy and the social continuity philosophy, both of which appeal to a 'fixed authority' - respectively, the wisdom of subject disciplines (disciplinary initiation) or traditional values (social continuity):

"Dewey's conception of the educational process contrasted sharply with the traditional, authoritarian, and hierarchical view of learning that dominated the history of schooling up to his time. Underlying traditional education was an atomistic conception of a fixed and predetermined universe which revealed a set of 'permanent values' and 'static knowledge' that could be transmitted piecemeal to each successive generation. Taking an opposite view, Dewey argued that humans live in an indeterminate world that undergoes constant change and flux.

In order to create a sense of meaningfulness and purpose out of this 'universe in process', humans did traditionally turn to the fixed authority of various religious and philosophical systems which provided an overriding context for daily life (and the roots of traditional education), but in an age of rapid progress and technological advancement, a reliance on such outdated systems was neither wise nor warranted.

Rather, argued Dewey, it was that vanguard of the modern experience - experimental science - which provided the best tool for understanding the world in which we live. And it was through the disciplined use of the scientific method and the problem-solving process which extended from it that humans could learn to solve most problems and direct the course of future experiences."

In preparation for your seminar this week, write out an answer to the following question. Your TA may call on you to share your answer in the seminar:
Q22.1: To quote from the text on "The Educational Philosophy of John Dewey" topic page, do you agree with Dewey "that humans live in an indeterminate world that undergoes constant change and flux" in which "experimental science provides the best tool for understanding the world" or do you instead believe there is "a set of 'permanent values' and 'static knowledge' that [should] be transmitted piecemeal to each successive generation." Tip: Feel free to challenge the inherent dualism or false choice that may be implied by this question. (Answer Length: 100 - 125 words | Format: Sentences)
Potential Seminar Question
📌 Dewey's most seminal book on the philosophy of education is Democracy and Education (1916) (), but his most accessible book for practitioners and those new to the study of educational philosophy is arguably Experience and Education (1938) ().