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ERIC Number: ED568323
Record Type: Non-Journal
Publication Date: 2014
Pages: 175
Abstractor: As Provided
Reference Count: N/A
ISBN: 978-1-3038-4167-5
Remember Childhood: Stories from a Progressive School
Read, Sally Jean Warner
ProQuest LLC, Ph.D. Dissertation, Michigan State University
"Progressive education" is a term more often used than fully understood. Generations of authors have attempted to settle on a definition for this term, generally by looking to the work of John Dewey around the turn of the 20th century. Many have noted the variety of interpretations of this ideology, with some arguing that no single definition exists. I came to this project with the goal of understanding what progressive education looks like in a real school in the 21st century. Beyond some set of philosophical ideals, progressive education has meaning primarily in how it is lived by teachers and students. This dissertation utilizes stories from two elementary classrooms (kindergarten and third grade) at a small, independent, progressive school to construct a possible understanding of progressive education today. Drawing on narrative methodologies, the study takes an in-depth look into Marsh School and the work of two teachers, Sigrid and Amanda. I am particularly interested in the teachers' personal practical knowledge (Connelly & Clandinin, 1985), or the ways in which they live their knowledge in their classrooms. The story of the third grade class's mascot election reveals Amanda's commitment to providing a safe, caring learning environment for students. This commitment arises from personal experiences in her childhood, her role as a parent to two Marsh School students, and her understanding of the school's role in promoting a democratic society. Amanda negotiates parental expectations while giving students structured experiences with conflict and competition. This story leads into an analysis of how students at Marsh School learn about, through, and for democracy. In addition to facts and skills, students learn through experiences in a democratic school environment and learn to appreciate difference as a way of strengthening democracy. The story of the kindergarteners' activities learning about math in the woods provides an opportunity to understand Sigrid's pedagogy of wonder. Through a rich, polyvocal, polyspatial curriculum, Sigrid integrates elements of fantasy alongside traditional academics. Students engage in wondering about the world around them and about fairies and other mythical creatures. By keeping herself open to childhood, Sigrid becomes a fellow wonderer and is enriched through her interactions with children. From this story, I move to consider various interpretations of "natural education." Teachers at Marsh School enact a vision of what it means to follow Romantic notions about respecting the child's "natural" development. The study also offers insights into how Amanda and Sigrid find meaning and value in their work. Their stories show what two experienced, passionate, and compassionate teachers might do if given the opportunity to decide much of what and how they teach. What emerges is a portrait of teaching as a moral, caring endeavor. Their stories remind us that teaching is not just about producing numerical results; it is grounded in human relationships. [The dissertation citations contained here are published with the permission of ProQuest LLC. Further reproduction is prohibited without permission. Copies of dissertations may be obtained by Telephone (800) 1-800-521-0600. Web page:]
ProQuest LLC. 789 East Eisenhower Parkway, P.O. Box 1346, Ann Arbor, MI 48106. Tel: 800-521-0600; Web site:
Publication Type: Dissertations/Theses - Doctoral Dissertations
Education Level: Elementary Education; Kindergarten; Primary Education; Early Childhood Education; Grade 3
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A