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Progressive Teaching Methods: An Opposing Opinion

Updated on December 31, 2016
Diane Lockridge profile image

Lockridge holds an EdS in Curriculum and Instruction, an MS in Elementary Education, and a BA in History. She also homeschools her children.

Dorothy L. Sayers suggests that in order “to produce a society of educated people … we must turn back the wheel of progress”. Indeed progressive teaching techniques have not progressed education at all, but have in reality repressed legitimate learning.

Progressive educational trends are weak for many reasons, such as not tending to the learning needs of the students, promoting relativity, and putting child in charge of the classroom.

Progressive teachers tend to teach with the experimental and experiential teaching methods. While there is a time and place for experiments and discovery, teaching primarily through those means discounts information that others have compiled in textbooks. Progressivism often employs only the one technique of learning preference and virtually excludes the needs of other learners.

What's so bad about progressive teaching techniques?
What's so bad about progressive teaching techniques? | Source

Traditional teachers characteristically employ a variety of teaching techniques into the daily classroom curriculum. For the visual learner the teacher works on the chalkboard or whiteboard while explaining concepts. This also allows students who are auditory or reading/writing learners to learn in their preference as well. Aural learners also benefit from the teacher and other students reading aloud from the textbook during normal class time. Traditional teachers don't neglect kinesthetic learners in the classroom either; teachers often involve activities or teach motions to songs and ideas to help them remember the concepts.

Relativity-based teaching denies anything that isn’t experienced for oneself. In that case, I can’t know that zero gravity exists because I’ve never been in space. Education is built on accepting the findings of other people, and is ridiculous to build a system against the theory altogether. Indeed, students can realize for themselves things by performing experiments, but not all knowledge needs first-hand experienced in order to believe it.

When progressive classrooms allow students to dictate the curriculum it belittles the teacher authority, and limits the possibilities what can and should be taught during the year. Young students especially don’t know what they don’t know, thus they won’t know what they need to know before they can learn other things. Teaching students with progressive methods imparts neither knowledge nor skill, which is the definition of teaching, according to the American Heritage Dictionary.

Progressive methods often teach only when in the context, which leaves curriculums weak . Traditionalists teach concepts in order and sequence, building a foundation of knowledge so that the student can adequately understand “deeper” concepts once they are presented. While progressive methods claim to teach students, in this author’s opinion it fails to give students the adequate opportunity to learn.


Saywer, D. The Lost Tools of Learning. Menlo Park, CA: Center for Independent Education, 1948.


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