John Dewey: Educational Philosopher

Experiential learning & Critical Thinking

“Education is not preparation for life; education is life itself.” ― John Dewey

Education and schooling are instrumental in creating social change and reform. Education and learning are deemed social and interactive processes, where school is considered as a social institution and social reform is undertaken. Students should have the opportunity to take part in their own learning journey and be allowed to experience and interact with the curriculum. In other words, remove the passive role of student and create an enquiry and problem based education system. The difference between the traditional ‘cultural heritage’ school to the new ‘learner focused’ school, provides a learning environment for an ever changing society.

Concepts of Teaching

Central to Dewey’s system is experience. Sound educational experiences involves connectivity and interaction between the learner and what is actually learned. The educator needs to build worthwhile learning experiences and shape theses learning experiences through the surroundings, both physical and social.

“If we teach today’s students as we taught yesterday’s, we rob them of tomorrow.” ― John Dewey

Traditional education is based around information and skills that have been worked out in the past, so the question is how to prepare for a future where we are not even certain of the jobs that will be required in the future. So for Dewey, a student with a the capacity to learn, with critical thinking skills and an inquiring mind is the focus of learning. Education and social change involves finding a new path and not returning to a beaten path.

“Failure is instructive. The person who really thinks learns quite as much from his failures as from his successes.” ― John Dewey

Progressive education aims to ‘connect education with experience’.

Keywords: Dewey; Learner focused; Enquiry; Education: Experience.


Dewey, J. (1986).Experience and education. In The Educational Forum (Vol. 50, No. 3, pp. 241-252). Taylor & Francis Group.

Goodreads (2016) John Dewey Quotes

Knowles, M. S., Holton III, E. F., & Swanson, R. A. (2014). The adult learner: The definitive classic in adult education and human resource development. Routledge.

Wikipedia (2017) John Dewey