Dewey, democracy and interdisciplinary learning: A Scottish perspective

Malcolm Thorburn

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

Interest in progressive education ideas has often been accompanied by advocacy for greater use of interdisciplinary and holistic learning approaches, as these are considered beneficial in conceptual, curriculum and pedagogical terms. The paper reviews the possibilities for progress on this basis and contextualises the paper around three concurrent watershed moments in Scottish education: the end of the five-year programme implementation phase of a Curriculum for Excellence; the half-century anniversary of comprehensive schooling (1965-2015); and the centennial anniversary of the publication of Democracy in Education by John Dewey. Following a brief outlining of the Scottish policy context, the paper analyses the influence of Dewey on conceptions of curriculum integration and interdisciplinary learning and their connections with curriculum planning, effective pedagogical practices and whole school reforms. Analysis describes the areas of conceptual clarity required and reviews how exactly versions of interdisciplinary learning might operate in practice. It is argued that the learner-led ideals championed by Dewey can still provide guidance and traction to help ensure that policy and practice gains are more than modest and variable. However, progress is likely to be greatest if school organisational changes accompany alterations to the curriculum and pedagogical culture in schools.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-13
JournalOxford Review of Education
Publication statusPublished - 14 Feb 2017

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • Dewey
  • democracy
  • interdisciplinary learning
  • pedagogy
  • Scotland


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