John Dewey Explorations


  1. Analyze the organization of Dewey’s argument. Dewey begins the essay by stating that “thinking is the method of intelligent learning that employs and rewards mind” (para 1). What does he mean by this statement? Note how he enumerates four necessary methods that can be employed in schools to enhance thinking. Discuss how the four methods are linked together. Is there a necessary sequence to the four methods?
  2. In paragraph 6, Dewey discusses the importance of problems and the significant relationship between problem-solving and learning. His discussion here perhaps expands on his claim in the first paragraph that “information severed from thoughtful action is dead, a mind-crushing load.” Analyze why problem-solving is so important to student learning. Consider Dewey’s distinction, though, between “genuine and simulated or mock problems.” Think of examples of both kinds of problems and how they might promote or detract from thinking.
  3. In analyzing the importance of problems to Dewey, consider the following statement, “No one has ever explained why children are so full of questions outside of the school (so that they pester grown-up persons if they get any encouragement), and the conspicuous absence of display or curiosity about the subject matter of school lessons.” What is your answer to Dewey’s question about curiosity in and out of school? Did grade school promote or inhibit your natural curiosity? How might it be changed to promote student curiosity? That’s a big question. Here’s your chance to transform primary school education! If that’s too big a problem to tackle at once, what is one change that could be made to traditional schools to promote student curiosity?
  4. In discussing the uses of data, Dewey notes that “pupils who have stored their “minds” with all kinds of material which they have never put to intellectual uses are sure to be hampered when they try to think. They have on practice in selecting what is appropriate, and no criterion to go by; everything is on the same dead static level” (para. 11). Research the concept of “metacognition” and its relationship to learning. How would activities that promote student metacognition solve the problem that Dewey poses here? Alternatively, research how portfolios are being used to promote student metacognition and thinking? Would Dewey approve of student portfolios? Why or why not?