Reflections on “Misconceptions about Progressive Education” Video

I’m not sure where I found this video – at some point I put it into my YouTube Watch Later playlist – but when I sat down with my lunch one day and watched it, I was blown away by how spot on it was.

After researching a bit, I discovered that this video is from Green Acres School in Maryland.  The gentleman in the center with the beard is Neal Brown, who appears to be their Head of School.  To his right, with the dark hair, is Dan Frank from the Francis W. Parker School.  To Brown’s left is Robert Shirley from Charleston Collegiate School.  There is a series of videos from this event that I intend to watch in the future – probably over a turkey sandwich, bowl of cottage cheese and some Doritos – but for now I’d like to reflect on my favorite parts of this one.

Check out the video and then meet me in the space below the video to see some of my thoughts.

  • At about 0:50 into the video, Mr. Frank talks about the unfamiliar structure in a progressive education school.  This really resonated with me – progressive classrooms may look chaotic, but there is a complex structure put in place by the educator that is turning that chaos into productive chaos.  And, what it all really boils down to here is: is it worth avoiding that unfamiliar chaos if it means shallower learning?  I’m with Dan Frank here.
  • At about 4:50 in the video, Mr. Brown speaks of the misconception that progressive schools allow students to misbehave.  Within his response is a statement that I really like: “If you’re going to be a partner in your own learning you need to . . . be responsible in a way that is asking much more of you than if you are a passive recipient of what the teacher is telling you to memorize.”
  • At about 6:36, Mr. Brown speaks of a misconception that the “kids are running the school ” and that “the adults must not be in charge.”  This concern comes from adults who were educated in traditional classrooms that were based on ritual compliance (see a sketchnote/infographic of Philip Schlecty’s Levels of Engagement here, made by Sylvia Duckworth).  While students should be respectful of their educators, this mindset that the teacher must appear in charge shows a lack of understanding of how kids learn best.
  • Finally, at about 8:25, Mr. Brown speaks of a program he participated in which two groups of teachers created a lesson about a Civil War.  One group focused on the questions they would ask the students, the activities they would design and the engagement of the students.  The other group focused on the events that the students would need to know; the content itself.  Which group do you think would have a more beneficial learning experience?

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Jake Miller

Jake is a Google for Education Certified Trainer and is the Lead Technology Integration Specialist for Brady Middle School in Ohio's Orange City Schools. In the past he taught STEM, Science & Math in Stow-Munroe Falls, Ohio, where he was also a leader in the district's Technology Leadership Team and a co-advisor for the middle school's STEM Club. He has been an educator since 2003. His Bachelor's Degree is in middle-level education (math/science) from the University of Akron and his Master's Degree is in Instructional Technology from Kent State University. He has enjoyed providing more than 100 professional development opportunities at conferences and school districts across the state of Ohio. He is very involved in Twitter (@JakeMillerTech) and provides regular pointers for educators with his #GAFETip tweets.