Literacy in Progressive Education


I am a progressive educator - to the core.

I received my M.S.Ed. in Early Childhood/Elementary Education from Bank Street College, where I learned the developmental-interaction approach. This is a constructivist approach. Teachers using a constructivist approach facilitate a learning environment where a child is encouraged to construct their own knowledge. Constructivist theory says that students do not simply soak up knowledge "like a sponge." They see children constructing knowledge as a more active task. The developmental-interactive approach distinguishes itself from other constructivist approaches by the emphasis placed on the child's emotional life. In the developmental-interactive approach, a child's emotional life and SEL (social emotional learning) skills are seen as equally important and intrinsically connected to academic skills.

I also studied at The Reading and Writing Project (TRWP) at Teachers College, Columbia University. There, I learned balanced literacy, a progressive approach to teaching literacy. A balanced literacy approach recognizes the purpose of reading and writing: not just to form proper sounds and shapes, but to communicate meaning. A balanced literacy approach teaches not only phonics and word work, but also teaches the craft of reading and writing for meaning.

There are many branches of progressive education: Montessori, Waldorf, Reggio Emilia, and others. All these progressive styles of education have different approaches. They also have similarities that contrast with traditional education. I have attempted to simplify the core differences between progressive and traditional education in this quick, easily digestible blog. 

Generally speaking, progressive approaches value experiential learning, while in a traditional approach, students are expected to learn from the teacher and the text. Collaboration between students is valued in a progressive classroom, as students are encouraged to learn from their peers as well as their own experience. And progressive environments tend to take a whole child approach, valuing a child's social, emotional, and developmental growth, as well as their academic growth.

Tell me where you think your child would thrive: a traditional or progressive classroom? What are your thoughts? Tell me in the comments.

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