A pre-eminent educational theorist of the 20th century. Dewey provides a concise and powerful analysis of and on education. Dewey continually emphasizes experience, experiment, purposeful learning, and freedom. Dewey argues that the quality of an educational experience is critical and stresses the importance of the social and interactive processes of learning.
An experience-based model of education implies students learning new material must find a way to ground unfamiliar concepts and ideas within the scope of ordinary life-experience. Progressive education with an emphasis on experience-linked learning relies on the role of the educator to structure material being studied in a manner that facilitates this.
Conversely, students' diverse backgrounds create an infinitely diverse range of experiences for the educator to consider. It is his/her responsibility to organize learning experiences to allow assimilation of new material in a context appreciable by and beneficial to the student. Developing this structure first requires acknowledgement of experience as a vehicle of learning. Subsequently the educator's discretion is important in selecting the material for a course of study and a sensitivity to weaving connections between the students' previous experiences and new material, such that the lesson learned is of greater value.
One of Dewey's preeminent concerns was the educator's role in creating an environment of education that provides continuity within this contextualized experience-based assimilative model of student learning. The difficulty in this challenge lies in continually adapting subject matter to the growing sphere of individual experiences as students progress.