Looking to the Future vs. End Goals

In John Dewey’s Experience and Education, he mainly discusses his ideas regarding progressive versus traditional education and how they both relate to experience. One section I found interesting was on page 76, and I thought it might be interesting to compare this example to standardized testing or AP classes.

On this page, Dewey explains the difference between the progressive and the traditional educator. He explains that the progressive educator constantly looks to the future, and tries to relate the current experiences he is providing his students to ones they will experience in the future. He is looking to enhance a student’s education by having their current experience in the classroom be influenced by the past while also influencing the future experiences.

On the other hand, the traditional educator only has a narrow scope of the future. Dewey says, “the problem for the progressive educator is more difficult for the teacher in the traditional school. The latter had indeed to look ahead…he could be content himself with thinking of the next examination period or promotion to next class. He could envisage the future in terms of factors that lay within the requirements of the school system as that conventionally existed” (Page 76). With idea in mind, I started thinking about standardized testing and AP classes. They are exactly what Dewey is talking about when he says the traditional educator has an end goal in mind, something he or she has to cover in class in order for the students to move on.

It is not necessarily a bad thing to have the school system regulated and a certain amount or type of material required to be taught in classroom. However, Dewey favors an environment where the educator worries more about the future of the student, rather than the exam they must take at the end of the semester to asses what they know. So, from this perspective, AP exams and standardized tests are not good in the sense the students are being taught to pass the tests, not experiences to help better them in the future. But my question then becomes, isn’t the material on the exams worthwhile to learn, thus being taught with the end goal of an exam helps students learn things they need to know? What do you think?

4 responses to “Looking to the Future vs. End Goals

  1. It’s interesting that you mention AP tests because my group members and I were having a similar discussion about them on Monday. I understand where you’re coming from when you say that the approach teachers to take to teach classes in preparation for the AP goes in line with Dewey’s prefered method of teaching children for the future. However, I do believe that this method fails many students because it’s just like an extended period of studying for one final exam. Speaking from personal experience, I often find myself studying for really hard for a test and then losing half the information I studied for shortly after I take the test. I feel that this same result often applies for AP classes, just on a slightly different scale. I think the only way for students to really find the AP material worthwhile is if they find a purpose for it in the future, say for their major or occupation but other than that, I don’t see an AP class with an end goal of teaching for the AP test as an effective way to retain information in a progressive matter.

  2. In response to lauren – I agree, if I am not motivated or don’t find a purpose for it in the future then I am very inclined to just study for the exam and lose the information shortly after (almost immediately). Another way to look at AP tests though, is that they are kind of an “out” for students. Meaning if the student has no interest in moving forward with the field then AP tests offers an escape in some sense. For instance, I have no interest in biology so I took an AP class and scored well enough on the exam so that I tested out of it in college and do not need to fulfill the requirement. AP tests are kind of a twisted way of going about a course, I feel.

  3. I think you pose an interesting question. Just to play devil’s advocate, it could be argued that AP testing is a form of looking to the future, thus making AP testing a more progressive form of education. If you think about it, apart from using APs to look impressive on a college application, the final goal of them is for you to learn the material necessary to test out of entry level college courses. This ability to test out of entry level college courses with AP testing then allows students to take more advanced and more open courses that allow them to shape their curriculum much more. For example, if you take AP U.S. history in high school and you score a 5 and therefore AP out of an entry level history course in college, you can then take courses on the material that you prefer to learn because you now have open credit hours to fill. While this may be a little bit of a reach, I think it is interesting to think about how the same oppressive structure that has been instituted in high schools for years may actually be a form of liberation later on.

  4. I love the discussion, everyone. I just want to add here too that there is also a link to $$$ — testing “out” of a requirement in college through AP means that you have fewer credits you need to buy in college to receive your degree. Some take AP, or do Running Start programs which allow you to take community college classes in place of high school classes, for this very reason. Just another pressure point in the complicated interweavings of power, discourse, and education…

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