Photos of Progressive Classrooms, 1900-1950

Larry Cuban on School Reform and Classroom Practice

Two traditions of teaching in America have evolved over the past century: teacher-centered instruction, the oldest and most familiar way of teaching and student-centered instruction, a way of teaching that unfolded in the waning decades of the 19th century and blossomed in the early decades of the 20th century. The latter tradition of teaching has been called Progressive, child-centered, learner-driven, constructivist teaching, and, of course, student-centered.

Since the mid-20th century, each generation of teachers entering classrooms started out teaching within one or the other of these traditions and, over time, learned to combine both traditions into their lessons to create hybrids.

And this construction of a way of teaching that fits each teacher’s beliefs, accumulated experiences, and the mandated curriculum as well as the specific context within which they teach continues in 2022.

Sometimes photos capture these two traditions better than words.

Here is a collection of photos of students…

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