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Dewey's "Experience & Education"

Chapter Summaries of Dewey's
"Experience and Education"

James Neill
Last updated:
06 Oct 2004


Chapter summaries of John Dewey's classic theory of experience, championing the progressive education movement.

Reference: Dewey, J. (1938/1997). Experience and education. Macmillan.


Chapter 1: Traditional vs. Progressive Education

Dewey polarizes traditional and progressive educationís respective philosophies and argues that progressively education has to do more than simply react to the problems of traditional education; progressive education must be rigorous in developing its methods. 

Go to Concept Map Summary of Chapter 1.

Chapter 2: The Need of a Theory of Experience

Dewey offers a theory of education based on needing to understand the nature of experience.  He argues that we must understand how experience occurs in order to design and conduct education for the benefit of individuals in society both in the present and the future.

Chapter 3: Criteria of Experience

Dewey argues that there are two abstract principles which explain the nature of experience:
(i) continuity (that all experiences are carried forward and influence future experiences) and
(ii) interaction (present experiences arise out of the relationship between the situation and the individualís stored past).

Chapters 4 to 7: Social Control; The Nature of Freedom; The Meaning of Purpose; Progressive Organization of Subject Matter

Dewey explores and explains the principles of continuity and interaction with regard to concrete educational challenges: social control (Ch4), freedom (Ch5), purpose (Ch6), and the progressive organization of subject matter(Ch7).

Chapter 8: Experience - The Means and Goals of Education

Dewey briefly sums up and reiterates his underlying arguments about the importance of having a theory of experience if one is to able to be an effective educator.