Froebel, Dewey, Piaget, & Steiner
Though we aspire to innovation in classroom methods and teacher training, we acknowledge our roots in the progressive education tradition. Our image of the classroom owes much to the work and inspiration of Friedrich Froebel, John Dewey, Jean Piaget, and Rudolf Steiner. Each of these philosophers has contributed to the style of the Integrated Learning approach.
Friedrich Froebel was a nineteenth-century German educator who is responsible for originating the idea of the kindergarten. In the kindergarten, Froebel focused on play as a child’s work. He felt that curriculum should not be imposed on children but should rather issue forth from children’s unique interests. For the purpose of teaching and instruction is to bring ever more out of man rather than to put more into him; for that which we can get into man we already know and possess as the property of mankind… On the other hand what yet is to come out of mankind, what human nature is yet to develop, that we do not yet know. From Froebel we learn to honor the child’s interest as the driving force of the curriculum.
John Dewey, perhaps the most famous American educational philosopher in the twentieth century, is credited with originating the Progressive Education Movement. Dewey honored the importance of children’s activity in the curriculum but also focused on the necessary relationship between the school and social progress. He felt that we needed to make each one of our schools an embryonic community life, active with types of occupations that reflect the life of the larger society and permeated with the spirit of art, history and science. When the school introduces and trains each child into membership within such a little community, saturating him with the spirit of service, and providing him with the instruments of effective self-direction, we shall have the deepest and best guaranty of a larger society which is worthy, lovely and harmonious. From Dewey we learn to cultivate the relationship between personal fulfillment and social responsibility in children and teachers.
Jean Piaget was a Swiss educational psychologist renowned for his studies of the development of children’s thinking. Piaget examined the natural patterns of learning in children and encouraged teachers to shape their methods of teaching to better match children’s learning styles. Piaget contends that, We need pupils who are active, who learn early to find out for themselves, partly through their own spontaneous activity and partly through materials we set up for them. Teachers are not merely transmitters of knowledge but are catalysts in the creation of knowledge. From Piaget we learn to transcend the cycle of mindless memorization and aspire to education where students are actively involved in making sense of the world through problem solving.
Rudolf Steiner, the Austrian philosopher, scientist, educator, and artist, applied his view of the human being to a new holistic form of education. He also influenced the development of innovative methods in medicine, agriculture, the arts, and social organization. Throughout his life, he sought to help individuals develop their higher capacities through a process of self-teaching and self-learning. Steiner called his view of the human being anthroposophy — literally, wisdom of the human being. It can be understood as both a body of knowledge and a path of inner development and transformation especially appropriate to Western consciousness. In one of his many lectures, Steiner described anthroposophy as being a road to knowledge leading the spiritual part of the human being to the spirit of the universe.