John Dewey’s Ideas Are Alive at AIER’s Education Programs

By Natalia Smirnova, PhD

AIER’s founder, Col. E.C. Harwood, was an admirer of John Dewey’s ideas on education. And now Dewey’s ideas about the functions a teacher performs in the classroom are alive within our Teach-the-Teachers Initiative program.

John Dewey wrote in his 1933 book How We Think: A Restatement of the Relation of Reflective Thinking to the Educative Process:

The older type of instruction tended to treat the teacher as a dictatorial ruler. The newer type sometimes treats the teacher as a negligible factor, almost as an evil, though a necessary one. In reality the teacher is the intellectual leader of a social group. He is a leader, not in virtue of official position, but because of wider and deeper knowledge and matured experience.

When I read this quote, I thought about the goals of AIER’s Teach-the-Teachers workshop. Our goals are to provide deeper knowledge of economic concepts to teachers who might have not taken economics classes in their preparatory education and to instruct them about contemporary pedagogical practices for helping deliver this content to students. During our three-day workshops, teachers ponder and discuss ideas about infusing economic concepts into various subjects’ curricula, and create a lesson plan to implement in the classroom. These interactions between teachers and the teachers’ mentorship by economic education experts pave the road to maturity of the lesson plans.

As the fall semester unfolds, information about implementing lesson ideas in the classrooms is coming in. I discussed the inflation lesson taught in Nebraska in my previous blog. Today I received reflections and evaluations from Matthew Heckel, teacher at Heritage Classical Christian Academy in Fenton, Mo. Matthew participated in our 2017 Teach-the-Teachers Initiative workshop in St. Louis. He incorporated the topic of inflation into the eighth-grade Christendom I course. Students in this class learned how an increase in the Roman money supply through debasing the coinage caused inflation in the empire. Matthew also conducted an inflation auction activity, which taught students that too much money chasing the same amount of goods increases the overall price level. The main concepts from the lesson were money, inflation, deflation, and hyperinflation, and the takeaway was that hyperinflation was a factor in the fall of the Roman Empire.

As I cite the work of John Dewey, I see the connection between his ideas on education and the goals and outcomes of AIER’s Teach-the-Teachers program. I continue to be amazed by the creativity of teachers who go through our program after they deepen their knowledge of an economic concept. Matthew wrote: “The workshop challenged me to expand my understanding of economics and then apply it in a lesson for my students.… Being wiser about the economic factors in the fall of Rome, helped me and the students be more aware of the impacts of economics today.”

Our teachers do become intellectual leaders and come to the classroom with “freshness and fullness of interest and knowledge,” exactly as John Dewey suggests.

 

Reference:

Dewey, J. (1933). How We Think: A Restatement of the Relation of Reflective Thinking to the Educative Process. D.C. Heath and Company, Lexington, MA.

 

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