How to Apply John Dewey's Theories In the Classroom

Written by sally murphy
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How to Apply John Dewey's Theories In the Classroom
Use John Dewey's theories to create an independent learning environment. (school room image by Alfonso d'Agostino from

John Dewey was an important American thinker and visionary, born in 1859. Dewey contributed many groundbreaking and significant ideas about the state of education. He was a great advocate of progressive education, and his theories are still relevant and important in today's classrooms. If you're a teacher, using Dewey's theories helps improve your students' experiences in the classroom. Students will learn to participate actively and develop personal interest in the classroom lessons, becoming lifelong learners.

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    Encourage students to find personal interest in the subject matter. Dewey believed that students should feel connected to classroom material, in order to retain information and adapt it for personal use. Boost student motivation by highlighting the ways students can use subject matter in the real world. One idea is connecting a history lesson to current events, according to Carnegie Mellon University. If students show informal interest in a recent political scandal or environmental crisis, show how these events are connected to historical lessons. Use popular films to illustrate philosophy concepts. Don't hesitate to show your own passion and enthusiasm for a subject.

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    Design experiences that will lead to independent learning. Dewey saw teachers as mentors, guides and facilitators. Rather than remaining behind the desk, try interacting directly and actively with students. Don't simply convey information. Instead help students discover the information for themselves, by creating learning experiences. When designing active, hands-on classroom activities, start with a bridge lesson to assess how much the students already know. For instance, you might give them a simple related problem to solve, according to Prairie Rainbow Company. After the learning experience has ended, ask students to reflect on what they've learnt.

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    Respect each individual student. Dewey believed teachers should never pressure students to conform. Instead of going into a classroom with certain expectations, accept students of all different cultures, religions and family backgrounds. Within individual school regulations, respect students who wear different or unusual attire. Dewey also believed in a democratic classroom where students felt free to express their opinions. Listen respectfully to each student and ask for frequent feedback. If you witness bullying between peers, intervene in a tactful and respectful way. Teach tolerance to your students.

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    Create opportunities for social involvement. Dewey's theories extend beyond the walls of the classroom to the larger community. Encourage your students to volunteer at homeless shelters, soup kitchens, nursing homes or other local charities and outreach programs. Make volunteering a class project, and encourage students to help the community on their own time. Hold fundraisers to earn money for a local, national or international charity, such as a disaster relief program. Students can also work together to create their own charity programs.

    How to Apply John Dewey's Theories In the Classroom
    Dewey promoted active social involvement and a strong sense of community. (boy painting image by sonya etchison from

Tips and warnings

  • If you have a large classroom or a lack of resources, paying individual attention to each student can be challenging for teachers. Get a general sense of the classroom through informal evaluations, questionnaires and needs analyses. Let students know you're available to listen to their opinions, questions or concerns.

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