John Dewey was born October 20, 1859, in Burlington, Vermont. He studied at the University of Vermont, and graduated in 1879 as Phi Beta Kappa. He continued his education at Johns Hopkins University and then began a short-lived teaching career in the elementary school system. He returned to Johns Hopkins University and earned his Ph.D. and began teaching psychology at the University of Michigan. Dewey was one of the first faculty members of the University of Chicago, and later established the University of Chicago Laboratory Schools, from which he developed his theories that resulted in his first publication on education, The School of Social Progress. Dewey served as President of the American Psychological Association for a period of time, and finished his career as a professor at Columbia University, retiring in 1930. Dewey published nearly forty books and hundreds of articles and reports during his long career. He is recognized as a philosopher, educational innovator, and psychologist who greatly influenced social and educational reform. He was responsible for the push toward experiential learning and his accomplishments have been recognized by many organizations. Dewey was acknowledged for his impact on society with a commemorative postage stamp displaying his image in 1965.
Contribution to Psychology
Dewey had several major accomplishments during his professional career, but his influence on education and education reform is the most significant of his contributions to social psychology. Dewey published several articles that espoused his theories on education. Dewey believed that students benefit the most when they are permitted to interact and are provided with experiential learning and social processes for acquisition of knowledge. He firmly believed that the educational realm was one in which a student should learn specific academic skills, but more importantly, they should be able to realize their ultimate potential and use their knowledge to impact society in a positive way. Dewey stated that when the student is able to relate to the information through experiences of their own, they can absorb and retain the information in a more personal and permanent manner.
Throughout his career, Dewey worked hard to ensure that the educational environment maintained a blended focus toward the students’ interests as well as the sharing of knowledge. Dewey’s experiential learning model stated that the teacher should serve as a guide to the knowledge and act as an eager partner with the student, prompting the student to discover their own understanding of the topic at hand. He advocated for experiential education and worked hard to implement hands-on learning in the educational arena. His theories influenced many experiential models of the time and were at the foundation for Project Based Learning, which is a technique that enlists the students to become the researchers of their own experiences.