Curriculum Definition from Progressivism Point of View

How is curriculum defined from a progressive point of view? Who are the advocates of progressivist definition of curriculum and what are their influences in the educational system?

Read on to see how the progressivists define curriculum and how they contributed to current understanding of the curriculum as we know it today.

Definition of Curriculum

The progressivists disagree with the way curriculum is defined by the traditionalists (Compare this with the definition of the curriculum from a traditional viewpoint.) For them, if the lesson plans or syllabi are not actualized or learned by the students, it is not considered as a curriculum. So, curriculum is defined as the total learning experiences of individuals which means that students be given all the opportunities to apply what they learn.

The Advocates

John Dewey

John Dewey is a famous proponent of progressivism. He argues that reflective thinking is important. It is a tool to unify all the curricular elements, such as aims, goals, and objectives; subject matter/content; learning experiences; and evaluation approaches. For him, it is important to test the knowledge or thought through application, or the learning by doing, which became influential in education. His famous philosophy is pragmatism.

Hollis Caswell and Doak Campbell

Hollis Caswell and Doak Campbell define curriculum as “all experiences children have under the guidance of the teachers.”  In this regard, curriculum should contain all the experiences needed by the children to learn, and a teacher should only act as a guide or facilitator.

B. Othanel Smith, William O. Stanley, and J. Harlan Shores

Smith, Stanley and Shores share the same view that the curriculum, as the way Caswell & Campbell view it, as “a sequence of potential experiences set up in the schools for the purpose of disciplining the children and the youth while doing group activities.”

Curriculum Definition from Progressivism Point of View 1

Colin J. Marsh and George Willis

Colin J. Marsh and George Willis define curriculum as the “experiences in the classroom which are planned and enacted by the teacher, and also learned by the students”. In this definition, the experiences are done in the classrooms.

In a nutshell, progressivism comes from the word progress, which means making changes, reforms, or improvements toward better conditions. In the way curriculum is defined and implemented from the progressivists’ perspective, the people mentioned above have contributed much in educational reforms. They all believe that teachers must provide sets of experiences that are planned and facilitated by the teachers in order for the students to actualize what they have learned within or outside the classrooms.


Bilbao, P. P., Lucido, P. I., Iringan, T. C., and R. B. Javier (2008). Curriculum development. Philippines: Lorimar Publishing, Inc.


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