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John Dewey


John Dewey, (1859-1952), American philosopher, psychologist and educator. He was born in Burlington, Vermont, Dewy received a B.A. degree from the university of Vermont in 1879 and a ph.D from johns Hopkins university in 1884.

Dewey,s long and influential career in education began at the university of Michigan, where he taught from 1884 to1888, and saw him teaching at the university of Minnesota, the university from 1904 until his retirement as professor emeritus in 1931. Dewey lectured, acted as an educational consultant, and studied educational systems in China, Japan, Mexico, Turkey, and the then Soviet Union.

During his tenure at Chicago, Dewey became actively interested in the reform of educational theory and practice. He tested his educational Laboratory School, the so called Dewey School, establish by the university of Chicago in 1896. These principles emphasized learning through varied activities rather then formal curricula and opposed authoritarian methods, which, Dewy believed, offered contemporary people no realistic preparation for life in a democratic society. Dewey felt, moreover, that education should not merely be a preparation for future life but should constitute a full life in it self. His work and his witting were largely responsible for the drastic change in pedagogy that began in the United States early in the 20th century as the emphasis shifted from the institution to the student.

Dewy,s theories have often been misinterpreted by the advocates of so-called progressive education; although Dewey opposed authoritarian methods, he did not advocate lake of guidance and control. He criticized education that emphasized amusing the students and keeping them busy, as well as education that was oriented towards pure vocational training.

As a philosopher, Dewey emphasized the practical, striving to shoe how philosophical ideas can work in everyday life. His sense of logic and philosophy was ever changing, adapting to need and circumstance. The process of thinking, in his philosophy, is a means of planing action, of removing the obstacles between what is given and what is wanted. Truth is an idea that has worked in practical experience. Dewy followed the American philosopher and psychologist William James as a leader of the pragmatic movement in philosophy; Dewy,s own philosophy, called either instrumentalist or experimentalist, stems from the pragmatism of James.

Dewy,s influence can be seen in many fields besides education and philosophy. As a political activist, he advocated progressive and sometimes radical approaches to international affairs and economic problems. His voluminous writings include psychology(1887), The School and society (1899), Democracy and education (1916), Reconstruction of philosophy (1020), The quest for Certainty (1929), Arts of experience (1934), Logic: The theory of Inquiry (1938), and problems of men (1946).

His Conception Of Knowledge:

Dewy believed that knowledge is always a mean, and never an end in itself. He said that knowledge is purely instrumental i.e. it is an instrument through which we reach our ends. This concept of Dewey is known as his instrumentalist.

Aims Of Education:

According to John Dewey the aims of education are the following.

  1. To build the child,s personality in accordance with the society.
  2. To prepare children to find a solution to the problems of life.
  3. To develop a social and democratic thinking in children.

Dewey's Definition And Conception Of Education:

Dewy,s has defined education as the "development of all those capacities in the individuals which enable him to control his environment and fulfill his responsibilities. He also define education as the continual reconstruction of experience".

Dewey's conception of education is based on the following four fundamentals:

Education As Life Itself:

He believed that education does not mean to prepare students to future life but it is life itself. He considered school as a social instrument where individuals are prepared to solve the problems of life. Previously, the school was considered as formal place where children go to get information. But Dewey reject this view and said that the education starts with the very birth of the child and goes on throughout his whole life. Thus he regarded education as life itself and not a preparation for life.

Education As Growth:

Dewey said, "Since all education involves growth and since there is nothing to which growth is relative, save more growth, there is nothing to which education is subordinate save more education". His concept of education as growth means that the result of education is inspire for more education, therefore, it is a growth.

Education As Reconstruction Of Experience:

According to Dewey education takes place as a result of experiences. Experience is the best teacher. In day-to-day life an individual takes so many experience; he commit some mistakes. These lead him towards the final result which is known as education. Dewey say,s "never to do a mistake is no wisdom but never to repeat mistakes is wisdom which is gains from experience".

Education As A Mean To Transmit Or Transform Culture:

Dewy considers education as a mean of transform culture, and school as a social institution where children are trained for solving social problems. He rejected the conventional concept of school as a formal place of getting information.


Dewey rejected teacher-centered curriculum of the conventional type and introduced child-centered curriculum. He said that education is for child, not for teachers or books, so he should be the center of curriculum. Curriculum and the teacher school discipline and books should revolve around him. He did not mention the importance of spiritual values in men,s life and he did not include religious elements in the curriculum, for which he was bitterly criticized by some educationist.

Dewey was a pragmatist in his educational philosophy. He emphasized the utilitarian aspect of education and said,"Men,s fundamental concerns center about food, clothing, shelter and the appliances connected with production, exchange and consumption". He said that art in the courses of study were not luxuries both socially and psychologically but they were useful in daily life. when the children have to face some problem, they should select material and use them in such a way as to find out solution to the problem under the supervision of the teacher. Thus his theory of curriculum is based on self-effort and activity.

The old dictum was "Teach things rather than words", to which Dewey responded, "Teach not so much of things as the meanings of things".

Method Of Teaching:

Dewey's recommended method of teaching, known as problem solving method of teaching. In his famous book "How We Think" he has given some steps for problem solving method these steps are as under.

  1. In the first step students will sense a problem created during an activity.
  2. Then they will clearly explain, define and criticized it.
  3. At the third step they will think out some suggestions for finding its solution.
  4. Next they will reason out the implications of these suggestions and the consequences of their implications.
  5. Finally they will test the suggestions that seem most appropriate for the solution.

These are the steps of his "problem method". Later these steps were modified by William Kirkpatrick and he reconstructed Dewey,s "problem method" into his "project method".

Role Of The Teacher:

Dewey rejected the conventional system of teaching in which teacher would select an activity for the students and the students would have to learn it willy-nilly. According to him, activity should be on the part of the students and not of the teacher. The teacher,s role is that of a guide and supervisor. Teacher should only guide and help his pupils during problem solving situations.

His Concept Of Discipline:

Dewey was against the traditional concept of discipline. He said that the behavior and conduct of the student should not be regulated by artificial means. Instead, the teacher should provide them with the right kind of environment so that the activities of the student may go on in a co-operative manner. He added that the purpose of discipline should be to develop social attitudes, social interests and social habits.

Criticism On His Theory:

Dewey,s theory of education has remarkably influenced the education of 20th century. He challenged the old static ideas of knowledge and emphasized the dynamic role and aim of education to meet with the changing environment. He brought a revolution in the aim, method and curriculum of education. His problem solving method was appreciated and practiced by many others. He advocated freedom of thought and action.

However, there is a close similarity between his thoughts and that of the previous philosophers. For example, the term action, activity etc. Were first used by Foreble and not by Dewey. Similarly, there is a great effect of the theories of Harbert and other educators on Dewey.

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