Active learning, Deweys Ideal education

  • 13 Pages
  • Published On: 27-11-2023


Prior to the end of the 19th century, the worlds educational system was based on informational, moral and religious aims. However, by the beginning of the 20th century, John Dewey had caused a paradigm shift in education by discarding all these aims of education to introduce his new aims, which focused on responding to the rapidly changing economic and social environment, especially in America (Brady et al, 2011). The American educationist and philosopher came up with thought processes that have changed the trajectory of education to date. One of his strong beliefs is that traditional methods of teaching and authoritarian strictures in schools should be rejected, and instead replaced by progressive systems of education that advocates for reforms across various pedagogical aspects of school curricula and teaching methods (Brendtro, 1999). More importantly, according to Denton & Kriete (2000) Dewey believed that the child should be at the centre of the whole academia. This essay explores the extent to which Dewey’s philosophy of active learning played a critical role in his vision of education. In doing so, the essay will evaluate the historical background of Dewey’s educational vision, his propositions of how education should be structured and the supposed benefits of active learning. Ultimately, the essay will explore the applicability of Dewey’s active learning educational vision to modern day educational context.

Dewey’s Educational Vision, a historical overview

John Dewey was born in 1859 and earned a doctorate degree from John Hopkins University, Baltimore. He later began his academic career at the Columbia University and University of Chicago, in which he began to grapple with the problem of how to reconcile philosophical naturalism and absolute idealism (Dewey, 1938). On one hand, Dewey agreed with Hegel’s need to eliminate the divisions that separate individuals from the community, the head from the heart and the hand from the brain (Flinders & Thornton, 2013). On the other hand, according to Ford et al (2014), Dewey believed in the idea that philosophers were influenced by Charles Darwin’s work to revaluate their presumptions as to whether reason is a pure faculty or how human intelligence imperfectly navigates the material world. Dewey spent the early part of his career thinking about this challenge, only to arrive at the doctrine of pragmatism, functionalism or instrumentalism (Graham, 2007). Whatsapp However, Dewey faced a dilemma in 1894 that would later shape up his philosophical career – the dilemma of choosing a school for his kids. Against this backdrop, he wrote a letter to his wife, Joyce, noting that it was unfortunate that thousands of children are ruined in Chicago schools every year (Gutek, 2014). To respond to his disappointment with Chicago schools, Dewey opened the Laboratory of Schools of the University of Chicago – to deliver quality education to his children. But Dewey did not only aim give his children quality education. He also believed that future democracies should focus on offering a comprehensive, personalized education to all children and not just for the intelligent, well-connected or wealthy children (Higgins, 2009). Thus, according to Hopkins (2007), Dewey held an education creed that “education is the fundamental method of social progress and reform” (Januszka & Vincent, 2015, pp 105). This implied that schools teach children how to practice autonomy while helping them realise democracy. According to Jorgensen (2015), Dewey’s idea of ‘Laboratory of Schools” meant that he wanted the ideas developed in his school to spread among education researchers and educational policy makers. According to him, this was the only way to eliminate a two-tiered education system that only promoted racial and class division. However, shortly after developing this vision, Dewey began to face criticisms from administrators and industrialists who opined that schools should focus on preparing children for the workforce. For instance, in 1915, according to Kriete (2002), Dewey publicly engaged in a heated exchange and debate with David Snedden, the then Massachusetts commissioner of education. On one hand, Snedden argued that public schools should focus on training children from the kind of jobs they would like to take on after graduating. On the other hand, Dewey argued that schools should not focus on ‘adapting’ workers to the economy but rather, it should teach children how to work so that they can lay a good foundation for industrial democracy (Lillard, 2013). Ultimately, Dewey and his progressive supporters won an important concession from the vocational education movement. As opposed to Snedden’s aspirations to separate schools for the college bound children and those bound to work in factories or farms, public schools added garages and woodworking shops to teach such technical skills and alike.

Dewey’s theory of education

Through his vision for education, Dewey provides no final or fixed goal of education. Instead, he theorized that education should target the learner’s proximate or immediate aims (Lim, 2006). Thus, To Dewey, education is a subject that is under constant change based on changing life patterns. It is a continually adjusting process that entails the individual adjusting and re-adjusting to the environment (Montessori, 2013). While Dewey agreed on the function of education as a preparation for future life, he contended that education should majorly focus om the now and immediate future. According to Murris & Thompson (2016), children are not interested in the far future and any attempt to make them focus on the far future will not motivate them to learn. Instead, Dewey envisioned that education should seek to prepare learners for their immediate life, thereby encouraging them to learn. Above all, Dewey believed in the aim of education as an enabler for individual self-realization. He based his philosophy on the idea that as pupils live, they develop, grow and exist in the present world, and therefore, they should realise their power now. According to Peng & Md-Yumus (2014), Dewey proposed that each pupil’s potentiality and powers should not be developed according to any absolute or predetermined standard but, rather, they should be developed according to the students’ own capabilities and opportunities. Based on his theory, Dewey came up with his ideal way of structuring schools, which is explored here below:

Dewey’s Ideal way of structuring schools

Dewey’s model school at the University of Chicago helped him experiment his ideas of an ideal education, which he though should bring schools into a closer touch with real life. This was after his painful realization that existing schools did not keep up with the changes created by industrial revolution and America’s democratic lifestyle (Powers, 2004). Consequently, according to Samuel & Suh (2012), Dewey coined the ‘ideal school’ based on the belief that school is fundamentally a psychological and social institution and not a place for imparting dry knowledge into the pupils. Moreover, according to Dewey, school should be a place where children learn by their personal experiences. Thus, considering his view of schools as psychological necessity, he argued that an ideal school should be like an ideal home (Schiro, 2012). In the ideal home, according to Sobel (2004), the parent understands and provides for their children’s needs. Schools should be like homes, where the real-life experiences of the community are provided. This implies that instead of making schools a ‘listening’ environment to the children, the schools should be a ‘doing’ environment that is mainly focused on active learning (Taylor, 2005). According to Dewey, active learning is especially important because it provides an opportunity for the pupils to learn occupational and moral skills through living and acting in real life situations (Theobald, 2009). Against this background, Dewey developed a definite scheme of elementary education that would be executed in three major stages namely: the play period (4 to 8 years), the spontaneous attention period (8-12 years) and the reflective attention period (12 years onwards). As a social institution, according to Yumus (2014), one of the key objectives for schools is to develop the children’s social consciousness. Additionally, the school should represent the society outside it, whereby the children learn about life by living it within a balanced and a purified society. Dewey’s ideal school was like an enlarged ideal home where pupils participate in educative experiences and common pursuits (Flinders & Thornton, 2013). It should be an enlarged family whereby the discipline that the child accidentally receives at home is perfectly delivered in the school through better equipment, skills and scientific guidance. Furthermore, Peng & Md-Yumus (2014) pointed out that Dewey’s ideal school should provide moral education not in separate lessons but through jointly performed activities. this would enable the children to be aware of themselves and the society. In Dewey’s active learning school environment, teachers are key participants not only as a source of guidance but also as social service providers. According to Dewey, teachers’ main responsibility is to ensure that children grow in a good social atmosphere by maintaining proper social order (Januszka & Vincent, 2015). Their main concern should be more about the pupil’s interests than knowledge inculcation. Therefore, they are supposed to guide the pupils through complexities of life while helping them to successfully adjust to the changes in the contemporary life conditions (Brady et al, 2011). Based on his philosophy of education, Dewey was a strong advocate for children’s freedom. However, according to Peng & Md-Yumus (2014), Dewey also believed that children’s freedom must be organized and regulated by the teachers to ensure they are exercised in the society’s interest. Nonetheless, the teachers are also not expected to inculcate their ideologies or personalities into the children. Rather, their main business is to identify influences that can enrich the child’ experiences and help them to properly respond to those influences. Consequently, Dewey suggested various methods of teaching – espoused on the concept of active learning. The first method of teaching according to Dewey is the continuance of psychological order of the curriculum, which happens naturally and is therefore essential (Higgins, 2009). the second method of teaching that Dewey recommends to teachers is the retention of project method, which entails the students learning the methods of things and not things. Lastly, Dewey proposed an extension of social opportunity as one of the most important teaching methods, which entails arousing the pupil’s social consciousness (Flinders & Thornton, 2013). Within this context, intellectual, physical and social active learning have been proposed as the most important types of active learning that can be adopted in a school setting.

Intellectual active learning

Dewey proposed that teachers’ primary goal in the classroom should be to have the children intellectually engaged with the educational content. This means that the children should be intellectually active rather than passively receiving the educational content or just accepting information from teachers (Januszka & Vincent, 2015). Through intellectual active learning, pupils can actively gain new knowledge by solving problems, making enquiries and questioning the content (Schiro, 2012). Furthermore, according to Yumus (2014), intellectual active learning facilitates pupils to go beyond basic comprehension and memorization – engaging in higher levels of thinking such as synthesis or critical thinking.

Social active learning

Intellectual learning alone is not enough for children, especially those in their developmental stages of 10-15 years. According to Peng & Md-Yumus (2014) young adolescents are peer-oriented group who need to collaborate and therefore requires a social set up that allows them to interact. Dewey recommends that teachers can use simpler methods of teaching to facilitate social active learning, including having the pupils discuss a concept among themselves in a group or giving them small group level activities that requires them to work together and learn the content (Flinders & Thornton, 2013). Furthermore, whole class or small group discussions can also help pupils to be socially active in their learning process.

Physical active learning

Yumus (2014) argues that some children, especially young adolescents, are typically energetic, active and need physical involvement within a classroom set up. As a result of puberty, according to Samuel & Suh (2012), a lot is going on in young adolescents’ physical development. Therefore, such students need an opportunity to move and this can be created through experiments, the use of manipulatives, hands-on projects and building models (Brady et al, 2011). Today, Dewey’s ideas of active learning have been applied in the 21st century education through different ways. For example, one of the modern teaching methods that emphasises on active learning is the Responsive classroom curriculum. Responsive classroom, according to Samuel & Suh (2012), is a research-based teaching method that relies focuses on the link between children’s academic achievement and their social-emotional learning. Fundamentally, the Responsive Classroom approach relies on the premise that delivering a high-quality education requires happy and safe community (Januszka & Vincent, 2015). Teachers who take the Responsive Classroom approach use various methods to create a classroom community that allows the children to thrive academically and socially. Some of the most practical ways of creating a Responsive Classroom include creating a warm tone and climate within the classroom to bring a sense of safety among the pupils, teaching routines and schedules as well as the behaviour expectations within each schedule, availing and showing the students their physical space and materials they would use for learning and developing yearly learning expectations for the school (Brady et al, 2011). Dewey’s idea of social-emotional learning is applied in modern day schools through morning meetings, whereby teachers establish a climate of trust and respectful learning. According to Samuel & Suh (2012), creating the climate of trust helps students to feel comfortable with risks within the learning process and enhances their trust for their classmates. All these, according to Januszka & Vincent (2015), helps to create a positive social-emotional setting and enhances their sense of belonging in the classroom. The other practical application of Dewey’s active learning is Montessori. According to Yumus (2014), Montessori schools generally along with Dewey’s learner-centred approach to curriculum design, whereby teachers are expected to develop an appropriate curriculum that is based on a care observation their students. Consequently, the curriculum is focused on enhancing the pupil’s personal interest, talents, and meeting their social and physical needs (Flinders & Thornton, 2013). Maria Montessori, just like Dewey, believed that traditional schools were unsuitable for learning because they seemed to be boring and stifled pupils’ creativity. Today, there are more than 3000 Montessori schools around the world (Januszka & Vincent, 2015) with various characteristics that set them aside from traditional schools. For example, they focus on the children’s age, and not grade levels as an enrolment criterion (Januszka & Vincent, 2015). Moreover, according to Yumus (2014), Montessori schools allow children to have access to all the materials in the classroom and can use them freely and have a choice in the learning process. Order Now In conclusion, John Dewey emerged as a significant contributor to modern education who changed the world’s approach by thinking and writing about active learning. Dewey’s immense contributions to modern education is exemplified in today’s practice of Montessori, Responsive Classroom and Monitoring Meetings. At the heart of his educational philosophy is the child, in which he proposes that children should have the freedom to learn, and that the teaching process should acknowledge pupil’s experience as a significant factor influencing their ability to learn.

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2. Basic Structure and Corporate Governance

Melmotte’s is a Limited Liability company (LLP), which essentially means that it is a company which has two or more owners who own the total shares. It differs from a sole trading company as a sole trading company wouldn’t make its shares public. From the perspective of investment, Grosvenor hopes that the company will be able to go public in the next few years, which means it will not limit itself to only owning shares by partners, but open its shares to the public. In the UK, the business owner must undertake an Initial Public Offering (IPO) to the London Stock Exchange or The Alternative Investment Market. It is recommended they conduct audits too, since shareholders will need concrete information about their profits and losses. With regards to Grosvenor’s comments on the structure of the organization, the advantage of Ms. Carbury being both the chairman and the COO of Melmotte is that it provides for a strong and unified base, a rationale companies like JP Morgan Chase use. However, most UK companies encourage division of owner and executive duties as that would mean effective management and less conflict of interest. A post which can be considered by her is being a non-executive director, who is a member of the board of directors but not an executive of the company. Benefits of being a non-executive director is that they can provide strategic direction to the planning of the company policy without the bias of being an executive. Second, Hetta will have more time to concentrate on the creative aspect of the production. A separate corporate governance committee should be in place which should include Marbury and the COO of the company, who should be appointed in due course. Considering how valuable Fisker has been to the company, aside from the 25% shares and higher salary, the company should consider making him a partner with equal share as well.

3. Management

Leadership and management are different as a leader needs to provide vision and direction to the company, but a managers job is to also make concrete policies to realise that vision. Decision making, organization and leadership are three important qualities Melmotte needs in its leadership. In terms of the new clientele ‘Luxury’ newer directions in negotiations have to be made in terms of payment. Fisker must consult with the clientele because lack of negotiations are leading to higher interests in loan repayments. The CEO of the company must possess the quality of decision making because based on the testimonials, the major decision for expansion taken so far has been the contract with Luxury, which has proven profitable. cisions like contracts with celebrities to develop their lines of fragrances, partnership with international retailers to operate in flourishing markers of Asia and the US. Given the current scenario, three must-have skill the potential CEO must have are: Experience in industry of luxury grooming products is essential as the business is still new and needs to develop sustainably. A strong background in multinational business, for international expansion. Strong contacts with suppliers and brands to eliminate sourcing problems of Melmotte.

4. Overseas Expansion

Because the company has no prior experience in expansion strategies, it could employ the help of institutions which work with business for expansion. One such institution is the UK’s Department for International Trade which has various e-exporting programs to help UK business sell their products online in foreign countries. Additionally they help companies apply for export opportunities online ( A highly emergent market in contemporary world is the South Asian nation of India. Three cultural issues it will have to consider in the region are: The cooperation of local players is important as the nation has deep ties of loyalty with their domestic business (Gupta and Bhaskar, 2016) Negotiations are usually made at the highest level in the hierarchy ( The regional diversity ensures that cultural identity is varied and highly sectional (Ibid). The strategy Melmotte could do in order to remedy these are as follows: Establish connections with local retail giants like Goenka group or Reliance in order to enter the Indian market. Make local contacts to gain better access to company heads. Local contacts will help the company get inroads into the domestic businesses. Cultural research should be based on region, not nation as the nation is very culturally diverse. Additionally, three socio-cultural factors it should take into consideration are: Marketing needs to target the young groups in India as 50% of the Indian population is below the age of 25. That being said, it is one of the most populous developing countries and Melmotte needs to target both children and young adults with its products as well (Sharma and Singh, 2015). Younger population must be provided with affordable perfume options, like Zara did with its in-house brand of perfume, since it is still considered a luxury item. Because of pervasive western influence on the Indian youth, the company can save capital by retaining its western collaboration collections, should it decide to undertake that.

5. Marketings

This section will elucidate on the newest product of Melmotte, the ‘Juliet’ perfume and the most effective strategy to market it. An important framework to keep in mind while advertising this perfume is taking into consideration that four P’s of marketing: 1.Product: Testimonials mention that innovation in their product is one of their first priorities and they try to keep their products as trendy as possible. However, the brief fails to mention what motivates the development and production of a product and how does it come about. What the company can do to market ‘Juliet’ better, is dissect the production process and use the innovation in the production process as a marketable distinguishing factor in the advertising of the product. Price: Although the perfumes Melmotte makes is a luxury product, what it needs to understand is that in the current scenario luxury product sales may fall in the domestic market. The brief did not contain figures for 2019 and 2020, but to maintain an upward projection, Melmotte could provide discount codes for ‘Juliet’ for the first 100 online customers, to drive up sales. 2.Place: One of the main channels for marketing for ‘Juliet’ should be social media as this form of marketing is free and has an in-depth reach, across borders. Reiterating on earlier advice, the company needs to do collaborations with social media influencers to reach target audience. Promotion: Promotion strategy for ‘Juliet’ may include perfume samplers in magazines and mail, lucky draws at retail stores, online giveaways, discount codes to YouTubers and so on. 3.Three ways in which Melmotte’s could market ‘Juliet’ are as follows: Personalized Bottles: Melmotte’s could provide engraved bottles to customers who purchase the perfume. This would assign a uniqueness to the perfume and earn cult status for customers. However, it could lead to increased cost of engraving per bottle. Release Date: The release date should be centred around the holiday season like mid-December or the month of February. That way, customers can find their ideal gift item for Christmas or Valentine’s day. The downside is, they have to compete with the overwhelming number of brands who use the same strategy. Focusing on Ingredients: As mentioned before, the marketing strategy needs to focus on the origins of the perfume ingredients while advertising it. This strategy legitimises on the naturalness of the perfume. Alternatively, it could appear ingenue to the target customer base, but the broadcast ad needs to be filmed accordingly.

6. Conclusion

For Melmotte, the major recommendations have been given in the area of administrative restructuring and hierarchical changes, changes in the executive structure of the business, strategies to globally expand the business in economically viable nations and best strategies for marketing the upcoming perfume ‘Juliet’ in the existing markets. Total Words (excluding references): 1531


  • GOV.UK. 2020. About Our Services. [online] Available at: [Accessed 29 December 2020].
  • Gupta, S. and Bhaskar, A.U., 2016. Doing business in India: cross-cultural issues in managing human resources. Cross Cultural & Strategic Management.
  • Office), L. and Delhi, N., 2020. Business Culture In India - UK India Business Council. [online] UK India Business Council. Available at: [Accessed 29 December 2020].
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