Summarize John Dewey's contribution to understanding the learning process.

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Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Dewey's contribution to understanding the learning process is rooted in his zealous support of individual freedom.  Dewey was one of a handful of philosophers able to make the leap from theoretical underpinnings to practicality.  Dewey's embrace of praxis is where one sees his largest contribution to understanding the learning process.  Dewey believed that there was no "predetermined natural end" in what it meant to be a human being.  Dewey saw the basis of consciousness as being accomplished through "open-ended inquiry and by the freeing of human intelligence."  Dewey understood the basis of being in the world as possessing "different tools for different jobs" that would be geared towards the enhancement of the social democratic experiment.  The freedom within this idea becomes the basis of his instrumentalist theory.

Dewey's contribution to understanding the learning process  rests in instrumentalism.  His construction of the learning process was one in which individuals were set free in an intellectual bazaar of ideas.  There was not one dominant ideology that controlled learning and understanding.  Students needed to be exposed to as many different ideas as possible to understand relevance in the social democratic setting.  Dewey understood the learner as one who had to be immersed in this free condition of thought and inquiry. Learning had to be "hands- on" and a domain where individual learners were submerged in practical application of theoretical ideas. Students had to be active participants in constructing knowledge and understanding that would enhance the social democratic context.  “Hands-on” trial and error replaced static construction offered in the traditional classroom setting.  Dewey recognized that a vibrant and active condition of understanding is where the process of learning resides.  This transformation of the learner in the classroom setting is where his contribution to understanding the learnign process can be best seen.