John Dewey's Philosophy of Education Lesson Plan

Instructor: Dana Dance-Schissel

Dana teaches social sciences at the college level and English and psychology at the high school level. She has master's degrees in applied, clinical and community psychology.

How did John Dewey approach learning and teaching? This video lesson introduces the educational philosophy of John Dewey, and the following activity challenges students to put theory into practice.

Learning Objectives

Upon completion of this lesson, students will be able to:

  • explain who John Dewey was and the role he played in the field of education
  • summarize Dewey's theory on education
  • discuss and exemplify the elements of continuity and interaction in relation to Dewey's theory


45 to 90 minutes

Curriculum Standards


Cite strong and thorough textual evidence to support analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text.


Determine a central idea of a text and analyze its development over the course of the text, including how it emerges and is shaped and refined by specific details; provide an objective summary of the text.


Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including figurative, connotative, and technical meanings; analyze the cumulative impact of specific word choices on meaning and tone (e.g., how the language of a court opinion differs from that of a newspaper).


  • Paper copies of the worksheet from the associated video lesson

Pre-Lesson Activity

  • Divide students into pairs.
  • Place one student in the role of teacher and the other in the role of learner.
  • Have the students in the teacher role decide on a skill they have expertise in and then provide basic instruction to the students in the learner role on that particular skill.
  • Have the students in the learner role try to demonstrate this skill to the student teacher based on the instruction.
  • Switch roles.
  • Have the students share with the class some of the things they found to be effective teaching methods along with those that they did not find useful in learning the new skill.

Lesson Instructions

  • Play the video lesson John Dewey on Education: Theory & Philosophy for the class, pausing it at 2:18.
    • What are the hallmarks of traditional education?
    • How is progressive education different from traditional education?
  • Play the remainder of the video lesson for the class.
    • What are the critical elements of John Dewey's theory on education?
    • How did our in-class instruction sessions compare to Dewey's theory?

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