Order now

Elements of the Progressive Adult Education Philosophy


The United States Education System has been formed upon the great impact of progressivism. Any other single school has not had such impact on educational movement in the United States as progressivism. The roots of progressive adult education are in the rationalism and empiricism that have been developed firstly in Europe, and then distributed in the United States. In accordance with progressive philosophy of adult education traditions, religion, and authority has been replaced by reason, feeling, and experience.

Elements of the Progressive Adult Education

The first thoughts of progressivism were developed in the 16th century. “Elements of progressive thought are found in the writings of all major theorists in the field of adult education, including Malcolm Knowles, Carl Rogers, Cyril Houle, Ralph Tyler, Edward Lindeman, Paul Bergevin, and Paulo Freire” (Elias and Sharan). The main ideas of progressivism were developed in the works of such theorists as Charles Peirce, who believed that ideas were not more than hypothesis until they were checked by experience. Furthermore, there was William James, who viewed that the main task of an editor was to form students’ habits, and especially John Dewey, who was the most influential philosopher of progressivism in the United States.

Analyzing this philosophical approach of adult education, it should be noted that the main purpose of progressivism was to provide practical, experienced, and progressive knowledge, based on problem-solving method in order to change society.

In addition, the main basic principles of progressive education should be mentioned. The first contribution of progressivism was an expansion of the education’s concept. Liberal philosophy considered education as development of person’s mind and intellectual abilities, while education in the progressive philosophy was broadened by socialization. In accordance with progressive approach, education is considered as a lifelong process, which should be focused on “pragmatic, utilitarian, and vocationally dimensions” (Elias and Sharan). Education should also be experience-centered. Additionally, other contributions of progressivism involved new focus on learners in education, new methodology, new relationships between learners and teachers, as well as a new focus on education as a tool of social changes.

It should be mentioned that progressivism developed a new focus on learners and teachers. According to this philosophical approach, learners are considered in terms of their “needs, interests, and experiences” (“Philosophies of Adult Education”). In addition, each person has unlimited potential for its development and learning. Learning in terms of progressive adult education is considered as a lifelong process, and that is why everyone should constantly develop their intellectual abilities, knowledge, and skills based on problem-solving method, and activity method.

On the other hand, teacher is not considered as a source of knowledge in order to put them in the students’ minds. Teacher is considered as organizer, stimulator, and evaluator of the learning process. Moreover, teacher can be considered as a guide of learning process, based on experience in order to educate students. It should be noted that relationships between teacher and learner are changed in terms of progressive philosophy, since teacher should provide favorable conditions for learners. Additionally, teachers are becoming learners for the mentioned relationships.

Additionally, the programs that have been developed and inspired by progressive adult education should be considered. There are at least three main programs inspired by progressivism, such as “Americanization education, the National Issues Forum program, and the Community Education Movement” (Elias and Sharan). Americanization of education can be considered as a program of civics education. The program is focused on citizenship, and things that will be helpful in order to become active, enlightened, and informed members of society. The National Issues Forum can be considered as union of educational organizations and communities that organizes meetings of citizens in order to discuss the actual questions facing them.


Summarizing, progressive education is a philosophical approach that developed new focuses on such concepts as education, learning, teacher, learner, etc. The given philosophy is focused on experience-oriented education, based on other methods, such as problem-solving, active, and other techniques. The approach has a significant influence on education system in the United States.

call us
scroll to top