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Education, Experimental


EDUCATION, EXPERIMENTAL, encompasses nontraditional methods, curricula, and classroom management. The experimental learning movement departs from competition-based classroom learning by using team assignments and grading procedures that give students a part in each other's progress. Prominent among experimental curricula are Mortimer Adler's Paideia proposal and Theodore Sizer's Coalition for Essential Schools—both of which eliminate electives and vocational programs—and a program based on the theories of psychologist Howard Gardner.

The Paideia proposal focuses on the Socratic method of teaching and three modes of learning—knowledge, skills, and understanding. The foundations of the program are critical thinking, weekly seminars, and scheduling of all three learning modes. Teachers in Essential Schools act as coaches for the study of a few essential subjects using interdisciplinary courses and themes. Rather than assign grades based on objective testing, teachers assess students based on demonstrations of accomplishments through exhibits and learning portfolios. Gardner encourages theme-based courses designed around seven types of intelligence that include linguistic, logical-mathematical, bodily kinesthetic functions, and interpersonal relations.

The experimental educational movement has proved controversial. In reaction to public perception of the failure of the public education system, schools have tried using site-based management, altered school schedules, flexible classrooms, and private management. These methods of school management have come under fire by critics who question whether nontraditional administration has in fact improved education. In another example, multi-media technology and telecommunications predominate, including individual instruction via computers, television, and satellites. Critics fear that the high costs of this technology will create additional unequal educational opportunities among the nation's primary and secondary school systems.


Adler, Mortimer J. The Paideia Proposal: An Educational Manifesto. New York: Macmillan, 1982.

Centron, Marvin, and Margaret Gayle. Educational Renaissance: Our Schools at the Turn of the Century. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1991.

Fiske, Edward B. Smart Schools, Smart Kids: Why Do Some Schools Work? New York: Simon and Schuster, 1991.

Sizer, Theodore R. Horace's Hope: What Works for the American High School. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1996.

Myrna W.Merron/ShelbyBalik

See alsoCurriculum ; Magnet Schools ; Schools, For-Profit ; Schools, Private .

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