Getting Back on the Bike (Dewey Post #4)


“Give the pupils something to do, not something to learn; and the doing is of such a nature as to demand thinking; learning naturally results.” – John Dewey

It seems as though the educational ideas that Dewey struck upon more than one hundred years ago would have ceased being relevant. Yet, here we are, still having our pre-service teachers still learn about and adhere to these models. They are not outdated, but might still provide meaningful insight into what we could and should be doing for our students.

Take, as example, Dewey’s quote from above that students learn by doing. If you ever watched a baby learn to walk, or a small child learn to ride a bike, you know that this statement might hold true.

The key question lies in the forgotten part of the statement that the “doing” requires thinking. When a child is trying to ride a bike for the first time, does the learning require thinking? A child will hop on the bike, and begin to pedal, falling due to a lack of balance. Does the child, then think of multiple strategies for improvement, so as not to fall? Or does the child get back on the bike and simply try again?

We know that when students are doing, they are learning. This is why experiential play is so important for our youngest learners. Let students work on passion projects. Let them learn and discover by creating, making, building, and designing. Give students the opportunity to take part in tasks that they are interested in. As Dewey states, the doing will naturally result in learning.




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