Ask the Expert series, Dr. Paul Lieblich talks about the advantages of Progressive classrooms over Traditional classrooms in Dubai
1 November 2018| Last updated on 1 November 2018
Question: Why are Progressive classrooms better than Traditional classrooms?
Answer: In progressive schools, learning is an active process connected to all other aspects of a child’s life. It is engaging, inspiring and hands-on, an exchange between teachers and students in which everyone plays a part in shaping the experiences.
Progressive classrooms look and feel different from traditional classrooms because this kind of learning requires a dynamic environment. Lifelong learners find joy in learning, and by valuing flexibility over rigidity, process over product and interdisciplinary studies over discreet subjects, progressive classrooms change the learning process.
Progressive classrooms are flexible and adaptable.
Desks are arranged in groups of three or four with students facing one another, or are eliminated entirely and replaced with larger tables. Talking and sharing of ideas is encouraged, and students often work in small groups rather than individually. The teacher does not stand at the front of the room; in fact, there is often no clear front of the room. Teachers may lead lessons at the smartboard, seated next to blank chart paper to be filled with student brainstorms, questions and ideas, or from a chair on the rug in the classroom library. Lessons are interactive. The teacher guides the lessons but rather than recite information for students to passively absorb, the students actively participate, contributing ideas and observations that help the group construct knowledge. Much of the school day is spent in hands-on activities, with the teacher moving around the room to participate in small group conversations and work with individual children. The flexibility in progressive classrooms allows teachers to meet the needs of each student and creates an environment of community and support.
Engaging the children to their learning
When children are engaged and connected to their learning, they are motivated by the learning process, not by a test, final product or other measurement of success.The process becomes the means and the end, and any culminating project reflects the depth of knowledge and the steps along the way. Taking risks and making mistakes is part of this process, and is often the greatest way for children to learn and grow. Teachers engage in assessment not only at the end of a unit of study, but consistently throughout, and they assess children in a variety of ways to measure their skills and their understanding. This supportive environment where academic risk-taking is encouraged helps children become confident, competent students who are invested in their own growth rather than children who are pressured to perform and driven by external rewards and competition.
How progressive schools make learning more engaging
Many people wonder how progressive schools make learning more engaging, or how students acquire the skills they need in this flexible environment. Progressive classrooms are sometimes seen as being loose or unstructured, but they are quite the opposite. While ideas form organically and understanding comes through experience, the curriculum is carefully and thoughtfully planned in an interdisciplinary manner to create deep learning and skill acquisition. Students studying oceans will learn about marine life in science, explore math concepts by looking at weather patterns, tidal data and other statistics, and investigate the communities and industries that thrive in a coastal environment during social studies. This brings more depth and breadth to their understanding and is a more effective way to learn than practicing skills in isolation.
Progressive classrooms are intellectually stimulating environments
Progressive classrooms are intellectually stimulating environments for teachers and students because learning looks different every day, with the common thread that learning is inquiry-based, experiential and purposeful. Students ask questions and help direct the course of their own learning while teachers guide them and work closely with them to make sure that they are gaining skills and knowledge along the way.
About Dr. Paul Lieblich
Ed.D., Executive Principal, Clarion School (an SIG School).
Dr. Lieblich is the Director of Schools at Scholars International Group spearheading the development of Clarion School, the only progressive school in the Middle East. He is a well-regarded educator having co-authored the International Baccalaureate PYP, recognized as a National Distinguished Principal by the US State Department and has led several leading international schools in Europe and Asia.
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