Differences Between Traditional and Progressive Education



School is a preparation for life. School is a part of life.
Learners are passive absorbers of information and authority. Learners are active participants, problem solvers, and planners.
Teachers are sources of information and authority. Teachers plan learning experiences that foster critical thinking.
Parents are outsiders and uninvolved. Parents are recognized as providing support for the school program.
Community is separate from school, except for funding. Community is an extension of the classroom.
Decision-making is centrally based and administratively delivered. Decision-making is shared by all staff members.
Program is determined by external criteria, particularly test results. Program is determined by mission, philosophy, and goals for graduates.
Learning is linear, with factual accumulation and skill mastery. Learning is spiral, with depth and breadth as goals.
Knowledge is absorbed through lectures, worksheets, and texts. Knowledge is constructed through play, direct experience, and social interaction.
Instruction is linear and largely based on correct answers. Instruction is related to central questions and inquiry, often generated by the children.
Disciplines, particularly language and math, are separated. Disciplines are integrated as children make connections.
Skills are taught discretely and are viewed as goals. Skills are related to content and are viewed as tools.
Assessment is norm-referenced, external, and graded. Assessment is benchmarked, has many forms, and is progress-oriented.
Success is competitively based, derived from recall and memory, and specific to a time/place. Success is determined through application over time, through collaboration.
Focus is on product. Focus is on process not just product.
Intelligence is a measure of linguistic and logical/mathematical abilities. Intelligence is recognized as varied, includes the arts, and is measured in real-life problem-solving.
School is a task to be endured. School is a challenging and fun part of life.

Modified from Independent Schools, a magazine of the National Association of Independent Schools