With the ever-changing times and changes happening with people with every single passing decade, the debate regarding traditional and progressive teaching methods becomes more and more prominent. There will probably be never a unified opinion regarding the necessity for new teaching strategies and methods. There will never be a consensus whether time tested teaching ways are still working effectively decades later. Instead of joining the pointless battle among the supporters of whichever approach, this paper will attempt to seek understanding regarding the primary differences between the two approaches as well as pick out the best elements of each and unite them into something new. It is clear that the debate regarding traditional and progressive teachings boils down to a simple subjective perspective since some people would be more receptive to traditional ways and vice versa. What is clear is that the old methods have to be constantly mixed with the new ones so that the entire system of education could remain up-to-date and relevant to the needs and challenges of current times.
The differences between two approaches can be summed nicely in a series of various principles or rather how each system views some notion or element to education differently. Traditional teaching deems school as a preparation for life. The entire studies are supposedly aimed to preparing a child to adulthood by providing everyone with the necessary skill set and knowledge. According to the progressive system, school is already a part of life, and this approach seems to be far more interesting nowadays and logical. The traditionalist approach lifts quite a bit of responsibility from the students’ shoulders and for a very long period of time, up to eleven or twelve years. The progressive approach, on the other hand, offers to accept life immediately, in the moment, thus teaching students that every decision has consequences, and that there is no a trial period to life. Such a vision is far more realistic and is more able to prove while studying at school is not some boring chore, which has to be completed in order to please the parents, but something beneficial for the students first and foremost.
Traditional system of teaching regards learners as passive participants in the learning process whose mission is to absorb information and accept authority from the teachers. The progressive way of teaching would rather deem learners as active participants in the learning process – partners to teachers so that problem solving could happen with the participation of both parties. Again, the same trend emerges as it becomes apparent that the progressive style of teaching is putting far more responsibility on the student, who has to do all the “dirty work” of finding much information, processing it accordingly, and only resort to the teacher if there are some truly non-understandable elements.
The traditional perspective believes that parents are to stay away out of the educational realm completely while the progressive way of thinking considers parents to be the primary teachers in the lives of children with the biggest potential of setting the right goals and plans for their children. Traditional teaching utilizes linear learning with the gradual accumulation of skills and knowledge while progressive teaching is not afraid to take “scenic routes” and deflect from the primary course for the sake of more breadth and depth in education. Traditional teaching is more inclined to keep disciplines separated while progressive methods of teaching often attempt to integrate disciplines so that the students of any age would keep seeing the big picture and various interdisciplinary notions which would lead to better understanding of every single discipline as a result.
Another important difference between two approaches, which has to be singled out, is that traditional teaching believes in success based on memory and recall within a particular time frame and space. This means that the students have to rely on their memory rather than logic and ability to make connections. Progressive teaching has faith in application of knowledge over time including collaboration with the teaching party.
If one is to compare the approaches by bell hooks and Ron Scapp, they coincide in the notion that a school should be a fun place and not an ordeal, which has to be endured. This approach makes them progressivists at the foundation. Traditional teaching regards school as the task of endurance while progressive way of thinking believes in school as a fun part of life, which has its own challenges nonetheless. Bell hooks notes the importance of the dialogue between the teacher and the students as the first step on the way to crossing boundaries. She is a person who was raised within the traditional paradigm, and it was only after becoming a teacher that she understood the necessity in the change of approach. She believes in constantly shaking up the process so that the students could remain engaged at all times and not resort to boredom. Another important thesis, which should be singled out among her thoughts is that any notion or scientific theory, which cannot be talked about understandably in an everyday conversation cannot and should not be used for education. Scapp was a progressive educator from the start, and his beliefs are rooted in pragmatism rather than the ephemeral “what is right.” In his opinion, the debate over the right methods of teaching is often sent off into the ditch by the discussions of what is right. His belief is rooted in the notion that students have to be given everything necessary without being bogged down by unnecessary information and actions within the day to date studying process.
It can be argued endless which system is better or worse as each has drawbacks and cannot seem to exist apart from each other. Lectures, for instance, still remain the hit within the methodic department at the universities, because, apparently, there is no better way of delivering lots of information to a large group of people sitting within one room. At the same time, many lecturers engage the audience these days and attempt to start a dialogue so that the delivery of information would not be one way. It is clear that delegating more responsibilities to students is necessary, but a student cannot do well at times without the teacher’s firm hand, because a student can often lose track of what is important and what has to be paid undivided attention due to the lack of experience. Either way, it seems that for the sake of the most effective studying process, both approaches have to be united in the harmonious way. At times, there are situations when students should be passive in order to absorb the information as much as humanely possible. The passive role has to be varied with the active one all the time in order to keep the students’ mind engage and interested in what is happening. After studying both approaches, the obvious old cliché comes to mind – everything is good in moderation. Therefore, teachers should try to unite both approaches, use their best elements whenever necessary, and to vary them accordingly so as to make the process of teaching effective.