Traditional and progressive orientations to teaching

Think tank: CEPEO

Author(s): Sam Sims; John Jerrim

October 1, 2022

This report from UK think tank CEPEO looks at empirical evidence on the effectiveness of traditional and progressive teaching methods.

Traditionalists argue that teachers should carefully sequence the best knowledge from their subject area and deliver it directly to the whole class. Progressives argue that teachers should instead facilitate pupils’ exploration of their individual interests, thereby nurturing curiosity and thinking skills. We test these claims using fixed effect models applied to data on 1,223 pupils (age 11-14) in the German National Educational Panel Study. We find few links between pupil outcomes and their teachers’ orientation. The one exception is that — contrary to progressive claims — pupils develop greater interest in learning when taught by teachers with a traditionalist orientation.