John Dewey

An American philosopher, educator, and psychologist who significantly contributed to the establishment of the school of functional psychology.

John Dewey was born in 1859 near Burlington, Vermont. After receiving his bachelor of arts degree from the University of Vermont, he taught high school and studied philosophy independently before entering the graduate program in philosophy at Johns Hopkins University. After receiving his Ph.D. in 1884, Dewey served on the faculties of the University of Michigan, the University of Minnesota, the University of Chicago, and Columbia University. Dewey was a founder of the philosophical movement called pragmatism, and his writings on educational theory and practice were widely read and accepted. He postulated that the disciplines of philosophy, pedagogy, and psychology should be understood as closely related. Dewey developed a strong belief in an instrumentalist theory of knowledge, in which ideas are seen to exist primarily as instruments for the solution of problems encountered in the environment.

Dewey was also an educational reformer and a pioneer in the field of educational psychology. Paralleling his philosophical and psychological theories, his concept of instrumentalism in education stressed learning by doing, in contrast to authoritarian teaching methods and rote learning. Dewey's ideas remained at the center of much educational philosophy in the United States. While at the University of Chicago, Dewey founded an experimental school to develop and study new educational methods, a project that won him both fame and controversy. He experimented with educational curricula and methods, successfully combining theory and practice, and also put forth the notion that parental participation plays an important role in the educational process. His first influential book on education, The School and Society (1899), was adapted from a series of lectures to parents of the pupils in his school at the University of Chicago. During his time at Columbia, he continued working on the applications of psychology to problems in education, and his work influenced educational ideas and practices throughout the world.

In 1886, Dewey wrote the first American psychology textbook, Psychology, which was followed by William James's The Principles of Psychology four years later. Dewey served as president of the American Psychological Association from 1899 to 1900 and was the first president of the American Association of University Professors in 1915. In 1920 he helped organize the American Civil Liberties Union. In subsequent years, Dewey surveyed educational practices in several other countries, including Turkey, Mexico, and the Soviet Union. After his retirement in 1930, Dewey continued his writing and his advocacy of political and educational reform, including the advancement of adult education. Among Dewey's large body of writings are: Applied Psychology: An Introduction to the Principles and Practice of Education (1889), Interest as Related to Will (1896), Studies in Logical Theory (1903), How We Think (1910), Democracy and Education (1916), Expe-rience and Nature (1925), Philosophy and Civilization (1931), Experience and Education (1938), and Freedom and Culture (1939). He died on June 1, 1952, in New York City.

See also Assessment, psychological ; Educational psychology ; Functionalism ; Wundt, Wilhelm.



Dewey, John. Experience and Education. New York: Macmillan, 1938.

Dewey, John. How We Think: A Restatement of the Relation of Reflective Thinking to the Educative Process. Boston: D. C. Heath, 1933.

Dewey, John. The School and Society. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1915.

Hoy, Anita Woolfolk. Educational Psychology. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Merrill, 2010.

Noll, James William. Clashing Views on Educational Issues. New York: McGraw-Hill, 2013.


Roth, Michael S. “Learning as Freedom.” New York Times (September 5, 2012): A27.

WEBSITES “John Dewey Biography.” (accessed September 17, 2015). “John Dewey's Theories of Education.” (accessed September 17, 2015).