Progressivists believe that education must be based on the fact that humans are social animals who learn best in real-life activities with other people. Progressivists claimed to rely on the best available scientific theories of learning. Most believed that children learned as if they were scientists, following a process similar to John Dewey
's model of learning:
- Become aware of the problem.
- Define the problem.
- Propose hypotheses to solve it.
- Test the consequences of the hypotheses from one's past experience.
- Test the most likely solution.
Given this view of human nature, a progressivist teacher desires to provide not just reading and drill, but also real-world experiences and activities that center around the real life of the students. A typical progressivist slogan is "Learn by Doing!"
In 1957, the orbiting of Sputnik caused a panic in educational establishments as Americans and Europeans felt they had fallen behind the Soviet Union technologically. A rethinking of education theory followed that caused progressivism to fall from favor.
For a discussion of other educational phiosophies, see educational philosophies and education reform.