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The Two Faces of Deweyan Pragmatism: Inductionism Versus Social Constructivism

by Richard S. Prawat - 2000

Dewey is widely acknowledged as the intellectual force behind the progressive movement in the U.S. With justification, he is viewed as a stanch advocate of what has been variously termed an actively-based, problem-centered, "hands on" approach to education. Recently, however, some scholars have pointed out that there is a discipline-centered, social constructivist side to Dewey--both as an educator and a philosopher. This paper deals with this divergence of views, building a case for the fact that Dewey underwent a major shift in thinking at mid-career. Around 1915, I demonstrate, Dewey finally and firmly rejected James's extreme subjectivism in favor of Peirce's brand of pragmatism, which Dewey recognized, integrates the biological and sociological aspects of knowledge and mind in a way that is unique and powerful. The educational implications of Dewey's Peircean shift are discussed.

Dewey is widely acknowledged as the intellectual force behind the progressive movement in the United States. With justification, he is viewed as a staunch advocate of what has been variously termed an activity-based, problem-centered, or hands-on approach to education. Recently, however, some scholars have pointed out that there is a discipline-centered, social constructivist side to Dewey—both as an educator and a philosopher. This paper deals with this divergence of views, building a case for the fact that Dewey underwent a major shift in thinking at mid-career. Around 1915, I demonstrate, Dewey finally and firmly rejected James’s extreme subjectivism in favor of Peirce’s brand of pragmatism, which Dewey recognized integrates the biological and sociological aspects of knowledge and mind in a way that is unique and powerful. The educational implications of Dewey’s Peircean shift are discussed.

Dewey continues to confound educators and philosophers. Dewey, as is now commonly accepted, is viewed as the main proponent for what is variously termed an activity-based, hands-on, or learning-by-doing approach to teaching and learning. As an alternative to this approach, which views the individual as the instigator of learning, Dewey from 1915 on argued for a view of teaching and learning that was social constructivist in orientation. In this second approach, which assigns an equal priority to public as opposed to private knowledge, powerful ideas appropriated from the disciplines are the instrument of choice for getting the learning process underway.

It is the early work on activity-based learning that educators and psychologists most associate with Dewey. Silberman (1970), in a book that played an important role in the last great educational reform effort in the United States, was quick to pair Dewey with Piaget, characterizing their approaches as learner-centered and interest-based. Flavell (1963), the preeminent American expert on Piaget, also saw a strong connection between the two seminal thinkers. In fact, he writes, Piaget admitted that his philosophy of education was based on Dewey’s (p. 297). The key to the activity-based approach, according to both Piaget and Dewey, is to build on children’s engagement in situations that appeal to their natural curiosity and interest. In this approach, it is the teacher’s responsibility to detect, in students’ activities, the “germs of genuine knowledge” and to exploit them, “even when the paths they imply diverge from the ‘traditional’ avenues to a new topic” (Arcavi & Schoenfeld, 1992, p. 333).

The rationale for the activity-based approach can perhaps best be characterized as a cognition-to-the-rescue view of learning. It goes something like this: Students develop routine or habitual ways of dealing with objects and events in their environment. These generally adaptive responses require minimal cognitive monitoring on the students’ part; indeed, they typically are unaware of the amount of processing that is going on in this type of response. This changes, however, when they find themselves in a new or uncertain situation. Routine or habitual ways of responding are no longer effective. Left to their own devices, the students soon realize that new knowledge is needed. If, in fact, the situation appeals to their interests and needs, and is not too daunting, all the ingredients for a Deweyan “teachable moment” are present. When one lacks the cognitive wherewithal to deal with a new, inviting situation, it creates a state of disequilibrium. The need to alleviate this discomfort provides the incentive necessary for “real” learning to occur. Tiles (1988), a leading Deweyan scholar, puts it this way: “On Dewey’s view, the main engine of the process of creative reorganization of behavior patterns, or habits, lies in the conflicts that arise when different patterns pull in different directions” (p. 174). Garrison (1997), in his recent book Dewey and Eros, provides a good example of how teachers might exploit Dewey’s need–habit–frustration–problem-solving model of learning in the classroom. Before elaborating on this example, however, I want to introduce an alternative view of what Dewey was about in education, teaching, and learning.

Well into the progressive education movement, Dewey went out of his way to emphasize that teachers must attend to the educative value of the experiences they create for youngsters. An experience is educative, Dewey insisted, if it increases the quality of one’s interactions with important objects and events in the immediate environment and lays the groundwork for even more expansive interactions in the future. This does not occur, typically, in situations where teachers take their cue primarily from students: “It is held that, out of due respect for the mental freedom of those taught, all suggestions are to come from them,” Dewey complained in 1933 (1986a, p. 334). This is wrongheaded; it is only natural that the teacher take the lead in the give and take of classroom discussion as envisioned by the later Dewey. It is through the process of social negotiation, directed by the teacher, that powerful ideas get constructed and consensus is reached on how those ideas are to be tested. It is the teacher’s responsibility to make sure that ideas are worked out in a way that honors the discipline and the students’ own efforts to understand. The teacher needs to strike a careful balance in this regard, Dewey writes, between “so little showing and telling as to fail to stimulate reflection and so much as to choke thought” (p. 334).

The educational issue that Dewey confronted in 1915 or 1916 was how to manage what he came to view as the inherent tension between public and private, objective and subjective knowledge in the classroom. The former is derived from the rich storehouse of ideas developed within the discipline. It is the teacher’s responsibility to ensure that students try on these powerful lenses. Because understanding invariably involves a mix of the particular and the universal, the idiosyncratic and the conventional, teachers face a balancing act. They must support students in their efforts to construct their own personal meanings. Absent this ownership, powerful ideas become mere verbalizations. Students’ personal, often idiosyncratic meanings, however, must be objectivized, that is, they must be brought into contact and reconciled with the more general understandings that are part and parcel of the public or disciplinary side of any concept. There is no escaping this dilemma in a truly educative experience, Dewey came to understand. The subjective aspect of an experience puts each individual into closer contact with his or her world, grounding the idea in the here and now. The objective aspect is forward looking, anticipating objects and events yet to be encountered.

The difficulties involved in attempting to reconcile the two contrasting versions of Deweyan pragmatism outlined above have vexed scholars from Dewey’s time on. Dewey is a champion of the classic child-centered approach to teaching and learning. Thus, he writes,

the child’s own instincts and powers furnish the material and give the starting point for all education. Save as the efforts of the educator connect with some activity which the child is carrying on of his own initiative independent of the educator, education becomes reduced to a pressure from without. It may, indeed, give certain external results but cannot truly be called educative. (1897/1972a, p. 85)

A smaller number of scholars, on the other hand, associate Dewey with an approach to education that is even more subject-centered than the traditional approach in its efforts to replicate disciplinary discourse and method in the classroom (cf., Prawat, 1995). In this guise, Dewey insists that “no experience is educative that does not tend both to knowledge of more facts and entertaining of more ideas and to a better, a more orderly, arrangement of them” (1938/1988a, p. 55).

The fact that Dewey entertained two dramatically different views about teaching and learning explains why some regard him as the champion of activity-based learning while others view him as a discipline-based social constructivist. As I will explain in this paper, Dewey underwent a dramatic change in thinking and this explains the disparity in views. Illustrative of this shift in thinking are the major changes Dewey introduced in the revised, 1933 version of his 1910 classic, How We Think. As Dewey explains in the preface to the later version, he totally rewrote part two of the book, entitled “Logical Considerations,” and reworked a key chapter in part three dealing with pedagogy (i.e., “The Recitation”).


In the 1910 version of part two, Dewey builds a case for the movement in education from inductive to deductive thinking. This kind of movement, he argues, is typical during reflection: Individuals first immerse themselves in data, “the raw material of reflection.” The lack of coherence evident in this detail perplexes and stimulates thought (1910/1978, p. 242). When this occurs in the classroom, it is the teacher’s responsibility to subtly guide the process that enables students to bring order to the chaos: “Control of the formation of suggestion is necessarily indirect, not direct” (p. 246), Dewey admonishes at this point in his career. However it happens, the subtle guidance allows individuals to see the patterns and induce the rules that connect seemingly disparate facts. At this point, the deductive process takes over: “Deduction brings out and emphasizes consecutive relationships, and only when relationships are held in view does learning become more than a miscellaneous scrap-bag,” Dewey writes (1910/1978, p. 256).

The inductive-deductive model that Dewey advocated in 1910, of course, strongly supports the notion that activity-based learning is the way to go. According to this model, the teacher exposes students to the particulars of a potentially problematic situation, allows them to struggle a bit, and then points them toward the higher ground, a kind of “mental platform” to use Dewey’s terminology, which allows them to see both the forest and the trees (p. 243). In his 1933 reworking of the text, Dewey removed nearly all references to the inductive/deductive approach. He also ablated all material that equates concept formation with classification. Gone, for example, are earlier statements that define concepts as a kind of “bounded space” (e.g., “a meaning that supplies a standard rule for the identification and placing of particulars” [1910/1978, p. 280]). In their place is new text that emphasizes the inherent fuzziness of concepts, at least early on, characterizing them as “vague and pulpy” and “wavering” (1933/1986a, p. 240).

The material that Dewey added to the 1933 version of How We Think is as illustrative of changes in his thinking as the material he deleted. Thus Dewey saw fit in the later version to adopt a much more nuanced view about the origin and testing of ideas. Induction, where an explanatory concept almost forces itself on the mind, was out. Dewey is clear about that. The new argument he develops, in fact, closely parallels the one developed by Peirce. This is important, I will explain, because Dewey’s change in educational philosophy resulted from his adoption of a Peircean perspective. Peirce insisted that ideas do not originate as acts of reason (or inference) (1934, Vol. 5, p. 120). The justification for this view is deceptively simple. Reason represents self-control, which is “purely inhibitory.” As such, it cannot give free rein to new insight, which is a noninhibitory process. It is perception that gives rise to ideas; inference guides the process of idea verification.1

Dewey is very careful in his use of language in the 1933 reworking of text, especially when he talks about the role of inference. A la Peirce, Dewey argues that there is something ineffable about the process of idea generation. Serendipity plays a large role in the process. In text added to a chapter in part one, for example, Dewey writes that “the having of ideas is not so much something we do, as it is something that happens to us” (p. 145). Inference enters in after the idea has been hatched, so to speak, and determines the conditions that have to be satisfied if the idea is to be judged valid: “The process of arriving at an idea of what is absent on the basis of what is at hand is inference,” he adds (p. 190). Thus students may reason that one consequence associated with the notion of negative number will be their ability to account for why subtraction from debt—a negative from a negative—is actually a positive. Examples like this must have figured prominently in Dewey’s decision to revise the 1910 book. Being able to draw inferences based on a powerful idea like negative number, he realized, is at the heart of the educational enterprise.

In the 1933 book, Dewey argues that it is the intellectualization of classroom experience that makes it educationally worthwhile. An experience that does not meet this criterion may be instrumental to another goal (e.g., enjoyment), but it will not contribute to student understanding. An experience is intellectualized, Dewey continues, when it is viewed through the lens of an idea that is both “definite” and “general” (1933/1986a, p. 239). The first attribute refers to the richness of the experience; powerful ideas bring objects and events into sharper focus and relief. The second attribute refers to the range of the experience; important ideas extend beyond the here and now to illuminate future, related objects and events. Every lesson, at all stages of development, Dewey writes, must have the intellectualization of experience as its goal: “Without this conceptualizing or intellectualizing, nothing is gained that can be carried over to the better understanding of new experiences” (p. 239).

In a reworked chapter in the third section of the book, the changes Dewey introduces in his advice to teachers on how they ought to conduct lessons mirror those reported above. Thus Dewey drops his earlier recommendation that teachers use a variant on the inductive-deductive model proposed by Herbart. In this three-step approach, the teacher first draws attention to the relevant facts, then helps students generate a rule that applies to those facts (induction), and finally guides students in the application of the rule to new material (deduction). Prior to step one, Dewey emphasized in his version of the Herbart model, teachers need to “problematize” the situation, highlighting the unexpected or puzzling aspects of what it is that students are about to learn. “When the feeling of a genuine perplexity lays hold of any mind,” he writes, “that mind is alert and inquiring, because stimulated from within” (1910/1978, p. 342). This advice, of course, goes hand in hand with the inductive, problem-centered view of learning presented in the 1910 version of How We Think.

The pedagogical moves recommended in the 1933 version are based on a different view of learning, albeit one that is harder to characterize than the fact-to-theory, particular-to-general approach favored in 1910. Rather than view children as junior scientists who, after immersing themselves in puzzling facts, slowly bootstrap their way toward generalized or lawful knowledge, Dewey adopts what, in current terminology, would be termed a social constructivist view of teaching and learning. The focus shifts away from the teacher as a designer of problematic environments toward that of being an intellectual leader—a person who can get the class, as a “social unity,” interested and excited about ideas: “A lively give-and-take of ideas, experiences, information, between members of the class should be the chief reliance,” Dewey insists (1933/1986a, p. 328).

It is the teacher’s responsibility to orchestrate this give and take, taking charge “at the critical junctures where the experience of pupils is too limited to supply just the material needed” (p. 334). Powerful ideas, borrowed from the disciplines, are the instruments that will move students’ minds in the right direction: “There is no mistake more common in schools than ignoring the self-propelling power of an idea” (p. 334). Ideas carry students into new fields, Dewey argues, creating new “appreciations” that otherwise are denied to the young learner. This is true in all disciplines, he adds: “Vital appreciations—that is, ideas involving emotional response and imaginative projection—are ultimately as necessary in history, mathematics, scientific fields, in all so-called ‘informational’ and ‘intellectual’ subjects, as they are in literature and the fine arts” (1933/1986a, p. 341).

The changes in Dewey’s thinking evident when one compares the 1910 and 1933 editions of How We Think are not limited to education. Indeed, as I argue in this paper, they reflect more profound changes in Dewey’s epistemology and ontology. John Patrick Diggins (1994), one of the few Deweyan scholars to highlight this shift, attributes it to Dewey’s growing disenchantment with James’s extreme subjectivism and individualism. James, Dewey began to realize, seemed almost oblivious to social context. Dewey expressed his misgivings about this orientation in a letter to James: “The individual qua individual is the organ or instrument of truth,” he conceded, “but not its author” (in Diggins, p. 140). Knowledge must do more than satisfy individual needs, he continued; it must also “secure the conditions of its objective expression” (p. 141).

In a letter to James written a few years later, Dewey signaled growing appreciation for what Charles Sanders Peirce was trying to accomplish (cf., Perry, 1935, p. 307). Peirce’s brand of pragmatism highlighted the interplay between subjective and objective knowledge and the role of the community in mediating between these two ways of knowing. In a piece written soon after he made his Peircean “turn” (1916/1980b), Dewey gives a sympathetic hearing to Peirce’s criticisms of James and his emphasis on adaptive action. The evolutionary process, contrary to James’s assumption, points toward general ideas, not practical actions, as the “end of man” Dewey wrote. The ultimate good, Dewey quotes Peirce as saying, lies “not in individual reactions in their segregation, but in something general or continuous” (p. 74). Dewey elaborated on the implications of Peirce’s emphasis on generalized knowledge. It means, for one, that Peirce relies less on “tenacity” or the “Will to Believe,” which is how he characterizes James’s approach, and more on the procedure used to “fix” ideas: “Closely associated with this,” Dewey adds, “is the fact that Peirce has a more explicit dependence upon the social factor than has James. The appeal in Peirce is essentially to the consensus of those who have investigated” (p. 77).


Dewey’s mid-career decision to embrace Peirce had profound effects on how he thought about, among other things, reality and the role of chance, public and private knowledge, purposeful action, reflective thought, instinct and habit, and the role of ideas in teaching and learning. Focusing on just one of these constructs—purposeful action—one immediately develops a sense for how wrenching this shift must have been for Dewey. Thus in his early writings Dewey follows James’s lead in highlighting the importance of action, even as a source of reason or knowledge. Consciousness is essentially motor, Dewey wrote in 1897. Intellectual or rational processes “result from action and devolve for the sake of the better control of action” (1972a, p. 92). Peirce, however, directly refutes this notion. The pragmatist, he insisted, “does not make the summum bonum to consist in action” (p. 289, Vol. 5). Rather, it consists in what Peirce calls “generals”—ideas that capture nature’s regularity. On the action issue alone, Dewey made a stunning about face, evidence of his growing dissatisfaction with Jamesean pragmatism.

Evidence of the dramatic change in thinking that Dewey underwent has largely gone unnoticed by philosophers and educators. The latter, in particular, come away with very different views about what Dewey was up to in education depending upon which Dewey, the inductionist or the social constructivist, they use as the basis for interpreting the great man’s work. The inductionist Dewey shared a great deal in common with James, as I will point out in this section. Prior to his shift in thinking, to cite one example, Dewey would have wholeheartedly supported the advice James offered educators: “Education,” James wrote,

in the long run is an affair that works itself out between the individual student and his opportunities. Methods of which we talk so much, play but a minor part. Offer the opportunities, leave the student to his natural reaction to them, and he will work out his personal destiny, be it a high one or a low one. (1906/1956, p. 362)

James placed his faith in induction, defined with remarkable simplicity as the process whereby generalization works “itself free from all sorts of entangling particulars” (cf., Seigfried, 1990, p. 169). Assuming that the particulars are well chosen, and that some helpful guidance is provided, James believed that students can and will extract the relevant generalizations on their own.

Dewey echoed James in the assumption that induction was the way to go in education. “After the conquests of the inductive method in all spheres of scientific inquiry,” Dewey wrote in 1898, “we are not called upon to defend its claims in pedagogy” [italics added] (1972b, p. 545). Twenty years later, Dewey distanced himself from this view, as I have pointed out. In his 1916 book, Democracy and Education, for instance, Dewey warned teachers not to assume that particulars speak for themselves—that the “generalizing function,” as he put it, grows naturally out of the “particularizing function.” Educators must make a concerted effort to place particulars “in the context of the meanings wrought out in the larger experience of the past,” Dewey emphasized. Otherwise, “particulars are mere excitations or irritations” (1916/1980a, p. 353).

It is clear that Dewey became more Peircean over time in his approach to philosophy (cf., Prawat, in press; Weiss, 1965, p. 7). The claim that he also embraced Peirce’s educational views is harder to document, at least from the Peircean side, due to the fact that Peirce gave scanty coverage to education across a large body of work. In an 1878 letter to the president of Johns Hopkins, Peirce did indicate that he favored a mixture of lecture and recitation when teaching. Consistent with his notion that disciplinary ideas serve as a lens for “bringing out truths which otherwise would remain unnoticed” (in Eisele, 1964, p. 51), Peirce writes that teachers should focus on the key aspects of what they want the students to carry away from instruction, the “big ideas” in today’s terminology (1952, p. 367). Peirce reinforced this notion in informal advice advanced to geometry teachers but aimed at a publisher who he hoped would buy his plans for an innovative textbook. Rejecting the notion that students needed “quasi-military drill in the classroom,” Peirce insisted that the goal should be to get into their minds “some sort of an idea of what geometry is. If I do that,” he continued, “I have made a grand beginning, and don’t care if they have a definite idea of the proofs or do not remember the definitions” (in Eisele, 1964, p. 64).

Interestingly enough, Dewey’s own teaching was closer to what Peirce had in mind than what James espoused, at least from the 1920s on. The two factors Dewey cites in accounting for his effectiveness in the classroom at Teachers College, at least, appear to bear this out (cf., Larrabee, 1959, p. 55): One of his strengths, Dewey said, was his ability to quickly settle on the ideas that he needed to develop in his lessons; they always occupied a prominent place in a well thought-out framework of ideas. A second strength was the ability to bring these ideas down to earth, drawing on whatever personal experience “was necessary to give the idea concrete significance.” Dewey wrote that, while he derived his ideas from his philosophical study, he was fortunate in having “a variety of contacts that put substance to these forms.” His students confirm this analysis of Dewey’s strengths as a teacher. His hour-long teaching sessions followed a pattern, Larrabee reports: The first part of the hour was devoted to Dewey’s methodical, painstaking elaboration of ideas. The payoff for staying with Dewey during this part of the lesson was apparent when he suddenly revealed “some hitherto-concealed and unexpected practical consequence of his train of thought.” “One rarely left the classroom,” Larrabee writes, “without the conviction that something intellectually and practically important had been said” (p. 54).

A careful reading of James and Peirce’s public declarations on education indicates that they entertained different views about how best to educate young people. It should also be obvious from an examination of the changes Dewey introduced in his classic text, How We Think, from 1910 to 1933 that he moved from a pedagogy that was more consistent with what James proposed to one that more closely resembled Peirce’s views. Edel and Flower (1985), in their perceptive commentary on Dewey’s thinking at mid-career, argue that it was in the early 1920s that Dewey underwent a profound change in his philosophical and educational thinking. The analysis presented here points to a slightly earlier time, 1915 to 1916. In the next section, the nature of the philosophical change is characterized.


The key to appreciating the change in Dewey’s views is an understanding of how his ideas about the individual and the social were transformed. Habit, formerly viewed as a conservative force, emerged in Dewey’s new analysis as the “star,” to use Edel and Flower’s terminology, being viewed as something akin to culture. Habits, Dewey argued in his 1922 book, Human Nature and Conduct, “do all the perceiving, recognizing, imagining, recalling, judging, conceiving and reasoning that is done” (1922/1983a, p. 124). This view of habit contrasts dramatically with the view Dewey held ten years earlier when he argued that habit was the “counterpart and complement” to thinking (1912/1979, p. 327). “Habit,” Dewey wrote at an even earlier time when he was clearly under James’s spell, “is, upon the whole, opposed to conscious reflection” (1893/1971, p. 198). The concept of habit, from the early Dewey to the later, was thus totally and dramatically reworked. From the mindless enactment of routine, the interruption of which is a cause for concern, the concept metamorphosed into something akin to socially shared cognition. This shift in perspective serves as further, graphic evidence of the extent of the change that occurred in Dewey’s thinking.

James, like the early Dewey, viewed habit as a necessary evil that allows individuals to operate on a kind of automatic pilot, thus freeing them up to attend to more important matters. “Habit diminishes the conscious attention with which our acts are performed,” James wrote (1890/1950, p. 114), which is all to the good. Habit allows us to do more than our “nerve-centres” can handle. Without the ability to deal in a routinized way with the environment, James insisted, our mental energies would be sorely taxed. As this implies, the habit construct, as James develops it, is a broad one; it subsumes the instincts, which James considers to be a special kind of habit—those for which there is some innate tendency (1890/1950, p. 104).

Habits, like biological instincts, are instrumental to the satisfaction of important needs or interests, both emotional and intellectual. Man cannot rely on habit alone, however, to meet all of his needs. Routine ways of responding to the environment are limited for two reasons: First, the environment is in a constant state of flux or change, which means that existing ways of doing business are bound to break down. Novel situations inevitably arise which require novel responses. A second reason that habit proves ineffective is that humans, unlike other creatures, are constantly creating new needs or interests out of whole cloth. The latter arise because of the uniquely human ability to project into the future, to anticipate outcomes that might prove more satisfying than those that one is currently experiencing. As James puts it, humans, compared to “the brutes,” are marked by an excess of “subjective propensity.” Man is preeminent, he insists, in the number and in “the fantastic and unnecessary character of his wants, physical, moral, aesthetic, and intellectual” (1897/1979, p. 105).

Interest, in James’s scheme, is the one a priori element of thought (cf., Seigfried, 1990, p. 41). The blockage of an existing interest or need, or the entertaining of a new one, serves as a call to action, forcing the individual to come to terms with objects and events in the environment in a way that goes well beyond what occurs when instincts and habits prevail. The short circuiting of the energy–action path, which occurs when a need is frustrated, is unpleasant and this serves as an incentive to get clearer about the nature of the need and possible impediments to its satisfaction. Interest is fully engaged; attention becomes more discriminating. Discriminating attention, in James’s model, activates reason, resulting in a special kind of “apperception,” which involves the use of concepts (cf., Myers, 1986, p. 505). Dewey accepted this model. Like James, he argued that reason comes to the rescue when habit breaks down. Dewey, in a selection quoted earlier, relates the two constructs as follows: “Habit expresses the mode of response to old and well-established stimuli; thinking to stimuli where novelty and a doubtful or precarious factor are marked features” (1912/1979, pp. 327–328).

Charles Sanders Peirce, who coined the term pragmatism, had a dramatically different idea about the role of habit in knowledge generation. The difference in perspective between Peirce and his better known colleague James reflects the fact that the two scholars were pursuing different agendas. James’s primary interest was psychology, albeit of an unusually expansive sort. His intent was to develop a theory of psychology that could accommodate the full range of human “adaptive” response, from instinct at one end of the continuum to religious faith at the other. (The latter, in James’s view, picks up where reason leaves off: There are times, and believing in God was one of those for James, when it makes sense to put aside skepticism and give in to the “will to believe.”)

Peirce was a philosopher of science who pursued an equally expansive goal: That of challenging the foundationalist assumptions that underlie modern science (Rosenthal, 1994). Science is an interpretive activity, Peirce argued, although not as interpretive as James would have us believe. While James is correct in saying that it is through mind that the world is grasped, Peirce insisted that mind is not the same as world. World exists independently of mind, and in a form that many philosophers dispute. Regularity, along with particularity, is threaded throughout nature, Peirce believed. Hausman describes Peirce’s view as follows: “Nature has its own rules, and departures from rules, which are its own in the sense that what we react to is not limited to what is confined to human habit” (1993, p. 222).

Peirce, in his belief that nature has its own rules, or “universals,” was reopening a debate that had raged during medieval times. This debate pitted one group of scholars, the scholastic realists led by Duns Scotus, against another, the nominalists led by William of Ockham. The former maintained that our ideas of universals are grounded in reality; the latter denied this, arguing that universals are mere names (i.e., nomen) used to label and talk about collections of individuals. The nominalists put their faith in individuals and in the individual. They believed that it was safer to trust to the individual to impose order on raw data then to hold out hope that some more universal truth would reveal itself. Historically, nominalists argued, the belief in universals translates into a mischievous reliance on authority, church or state.

Peirce sought to undercut the authority argument in two ways. First, he argued, it is possible for individuals to directly lay hold of the regularity present in the world. The human mind is well adapted to this end. Man has the good fortune of guessing correctly more often than chance would allow (1934, Vol. 5, p. 107). The fact that the individual mind is well suited to comprehend the world does not ensure that the insights it offers up are believable or valid. Peirce recognized that further safeguards against authority were needed. This is where the scholarly community comes in. Individuals act as agents of the community, agreeing to test new ideas turned up by members of the community and then to report back to the community on the results of those tests. It is the responsibility of the community to agree on what constitutes a fair test for each idea. Those ideas that pass the test are regarded as valid, for the time being. As this statement suggests, all attempts on the part of the community to lay bare the laws of nature are considered tentative, subject to future challenge and revision—at least until a final consensus is reached, which Peirce holds out as a theoretical possibility.

Individuals and communities, Peirce argued, come to know the world through powerful ideas, also known as “habits” or “habit beliefs.” Habits express general or lawful aspects of the phenomena found in nature (i.e., “nature’s rules”). As indicated, Peirce believed that nature colludes in this. Without the tendency to form habits in nature, there would be no generalizing tendency in the human mind. Generality is an indispensable ingredient of reality and mind: “Mere individual existence or actuality without any regularity is a nullity,” Peirce writes (1934, Vol. 5, p. 289). Habits, then, are as much a part of the world as they are of the individuals that inhabit the world. What accounts for this regularity? Both world and mind owe whatever regularity they evidence to pure chance, Peirce writes, which is a strange way to begin the argument.

Peirce insists that regularity develops out of indeterminacy or chance. Mounce (1997) provides a homey example of what Peirce has in mind: One’s prediction about the throw of a die. Although chance or contingency plays an important role in the short run, contingency yields to generality over the long haul; the chance of throwing a six stabilizes at some point around the expected ratio of one in six. Contingency giving way to generality is the law of both mental and physical evolution, Peirce insists: “The logic of freedom, or potentiality, is that it shall annul itself ” (cf., Sheriff, 1994, p. 5). Chaos, over a long period of time, is supplanted by a more even mix of chance and uniformity. In the infinitely remote future, this unsettling mixture will yield, in turn, to the reign of law. Neither chaos nor uniformity can exist in an entirely pure form, Peirce is quick to add: “At any assignable time in the past, however early, there was already some tendency toward uniformity; and at any assignable date in the future there will be some slight aberrancy from the law” (cf., Sheriff, p. 14).

More important than the past and the future, of course, is the present—and the issue of how the elements of chance and uniformity contribute to or impede the process of mental and physical evolution. Peirce does not waste much time debating about which of the two processes, mental or physical, ought to be the focus of his attention. It is a mistake to conceive of the mental and physical as two distinct entities, he argues. “Viewing a thing from the outside, considering its relations of action and reaction with other things, it appears as matter. Viewing from the inside, looking at its immediate character as feeling, it appears as consciousness” (cf., Sheriff, 1994, p. 18). Peirce chose to focus on the consciousness side of the equation, justifying the decision with his famous comment that “matter is effete mind, inveterate habits becoming physical laws” (cf., Almeder, 1980, p. 154).

Mind is anything but effete, according to Peirce. In fact, Peirce, who began to chart his new vision in the 1880s, was one of the first to argue that scientific ideas are acts of individual imagination and not induction. Recently, historians of science have lent support to Peirce’s controversial view (cf., Miller, 1987). Peirce, I have pointed out, argued that scientific discovery represents inspiration more than logic. It thus relies on metaphor more than established fact. Ideas originate as a “sensuous” form of individual reasoning, Peirce wrote, entering into thought “at the gate of perception” (1898/1934, Vol. 5, p. 131). The focus in the first, iconic stage of idea development is on pure possibility. Once the idea takes schematic form, however, shifting from “mere possibility” to “actuality,” it is put to an important test: Does the idea have potential for opening up some specific aspect of the world?

Hallyn (1990) presents an example of the sort of metaphoric process Peirce had in mind. Copernicus, he explains, borrowed an important idea from Renaissance artists who were intrigued with the mathematics of visual perspective—namely, the notion that what appears distorted from one perspective may be perfectly harmonious when viewed from another, more standard perspective. Copernicus applied this novel idea to his theory, arguing that, like the Renaissance artists in their paintings, God has created symmetry in the universe but it is disguised by the fact that we are observing it from an off-center vantage point. This notion may produce a “so what?” reaction today, but it represented a great intuitive leap for Copernicus.

According to Peirce’s theory, a valid idea, like the one Copernicus advanced, must meet two criteria: It must connect in new and useful ways with objects or events in the real world, and it must survive the process of social negotiation. Two different kinds of signs are involved in these two processes, which actually represent the second and third stages of idea generation: indices, which capture in schematic form the core understandings expressed in metaphoric imagery, and linguistic signs, which provide the verbal exegesis required if the idea is to become part of the community’s body of knowledge. In a sense, the index is the nexus that connects three “worlds” of meaning: the imaginative, intensely individual world that gives rise to the idea and hints at some general meaning; the experiential world that provides the reality check; and the social world that vets the idea and makes sure that it is adequately expressed in words. Hausman (1993) describes the first of these connections as the world of “fancy”—subjective, embodied understanding—meeting the world of “fact.” This, however, is not quite correct. It is not “fancy” that meets reality; it is a schematic version of “fancy” (i.e., the index) that interacts with the actual object it seeks to illuminate. There is a two-sidedness to this interaction, Peirce points out. On one hand, the index imposes itself on the object; on the other, the object exerts an effect on the index.

Index and object are mutually responsive to what each offers the other; index points the way toward general understanding (i.e., habit), the object pushes back with its own unique particularity. The result of this give and take feeds into the linguistic process, the third world of meaning described above. Dewey, in his treatment of Peirce’s theory, took pains to explain the importance of the connection between index and linguistic sign. Linguistic signs express generality or lawfulness, he wrote. “They have of themselves no reference to ‘things’” (1946/1989a, p. 147). It is the index and its associated quality of “Secondness” that provides this connection. As Rosenthal explains, “Secondness is the actual without which laws and types cannot be real” (1994, p. 116).

In the paper cited above, Dewey attempts, succinctly, to characterize Peirce’s views regarding the complex interplay between two broad modes of understanding as they are implicated in Peirce’s semiotic theory—the linguistic mode, which exerts its influence prior to and at the end of the process, and the nonlinguistic or “physiological” mode, which predominates early on and provides the all important “embodied” content of ideation:

While he [Peirce] does not use the following mode of speech it is, I believe, faithful to his position to say that in the course of cosmic or natural evolution, linguistic behavior supervenes on other more immediate and, so to say, physiological modes of behavior, and that in supervening it also intervenes in the course of the latter, so that through this mediation regularity, continuity, generality become properties of the course of events, so that they are raised to the plane of reasonableness. (1946/1989a, p. 149)

In this quotation, Dewey does an excellent job of summarizing Peirce’s views about the semiotic process. Chance and habit, spontaneity and regularity are the yin and yang of this process, according to Peirce—and Dewey. There is a heavy dose of contingency in the early stages of idea generation, along with a heavy dose of the physical here and now (Dewey’s “physiological” meaning). Rich visual metaphors clothe ideas, at least initially: “A pure idea without metaphor,” Peirce writes, “is an onion without a peel” (cf., Rosenthal, 1994, p. 93). Once the idea passes the reality test—that is, once it fulfills its originator’s expectations vis-à-vis the real world—it still has to work its way into words. “One man’s experience is nothing, if it stands alone,” Peirce wrote. “It is not ‘my’ experience but ‘our’ experience that has to be thought of ” (1934, Vol. 5, p. 259). It is during the process of converting “my experience” to “our experience” that what is most general and regular in the idea is highlighted, hopefully without losing the specificity that so appeals to the imagination.

Copernicus, for example, in articulating the flash of insight that led him to equate the Renaissance artist with God, expressed a generality (i.e., a “habit-belief ”) that was so powerful it later led to the persecution of one of his most ardent supporters, Galileo (cf., Toulmin, 1990). The fact that many people already viewed Renaissance artists as God-like—da Vinci comes to mind—increased the risk that this subversive particularity might not give way to the more acceptable generality envisioned by Copernicus. In other words, it increased the possibility that certain individuals, representing the church, might interpret Copernicus’s metaphor literally as implying that God and artist are on the same footing (cf., Hallyn, p. 56). This example illustrates how the two aspects of semiosis, generality and particularity, interact to produce a kind of creative tension.

As Dewey suggests, habit (i.e., generality) does not just supervene, it also intervenes during semiosis. Habit reaches back and drives insight toward more general understanding. “Habit,” Parker writes, “is the interface between Thirdness and Secondness” (1998, p. 183). Of equal import, habit also serves as a backdrop for idea generation. Even brilliant flashes of insight have some relation to general understandings held by members of the community. Peirce emphasized this point several times in his writing: “The very origin of the concept of reality,” Peirce wrote, “shows that this conception essentially involves the notion of a community” (1955, p. 247). Ideas widely shared by members of the community set the stage, as it were, for dramatic and highly individualist departures from those beliefs.

Peirce argued that even seemingly spontaneous or chance responses have a history, a connection to the past, however tenuous. He used an interesting analogy to make this point (cf., Mounce, p. 65). A person draws a single chalk line on an empty blackboard. The specifics of this event owe a great deal to chance; clearly, the angle of the line, its width and length, represent a few of an almost limitless number of possibilities. Drawing the chalk line is a creative event, but it occurs against a background of common understanding: That chalk is a writing instrument; that this blackboard, as a two-dimensional, smooth surface, is an ideal site for writing; that the whiteness of the chalk and the blackness of the board’s surface allow what is written to be perceived by others; and so forth.

As this discussion of Peirce’s theory indicates, habit played a dramatically different role in his scheme than it did in James’s. Dewey embraced Peirce’s view wholeheartedly. Rather than view habit as the counterpart to reason, as he did during his Jamesian period, Dewey began to see this construct as a copartner in the process. Habit is the starting point of inquiry for individuals, and the temporary resting point for a community once it has reached closure on the results of the inquiry. Habit is, as Dewey puts it, “always accessory before and after the fact” (1922/1983a, p. 62). While the ultimate goal of inquiry is truth—the conclusions that one hopes all investigators will ultimately agree on—the immediate goal is to locate regularity in the confusing mix of general and particular traits offered up by nature.

Once stability is located, however, it is dangerous for a community to assume that the issue is closed. “The attainment of settled beliefs is a progressive matter;” Dewey writes, “there is no belief so settled as not to be exposed to further inquiry” (1938/1986b, p. 16). Dewey credits Peirce with this profound insight. Just as chance or spontaneity contains the seeds of order or stability (see above), so too does the obverse hold: That is habit or universality often gives way to chance or spontaneity, which has the potential for turning up new and unexpected insights. Dewey fully appreciated this dialectic element of Peircean theory: “Peirce believed thoroughly in the objective reality of the general,” Dewey writes, but in a way that Aristotle and others would have found abhorrent.

For Peirce understands by the reality of a “general” the reality of a way, habit, disposition, of behavior; and he dwells upon the fact the habits of things are acquired and modifiable. Indeed, he virtually reverses Aristotle in holding that the universal always has an admixture of potentiality in it. (1932/1985, p. 276)

The semiotic process is one in which habit and spontaneous insight play off one another, both at the individual and at the community level: Thus, at the individual level, inquirers must square rich intuitions about the phenomena they are trying to understand with the need to describe these intuitions in a way that is accessible and compelling to others. Something may be lost in the process of converting private insight into public knowledge. Sometimes rhetorical demands take precedence, as in Darwin’s decision to couch his ideas in inductionist language (Ghiselin, 1969), or in his attempts to disarm his religious critics.

At the community level, the obverse of the struggle between habit and insight occurs. The community has to figure out a way to evaluate new ideas, retaining those that pan out and rejecting the rest. The key here is for members of the community to reach agreement on what constitutes a fair test of the idea. Typically, as Dewey explains, inquirers appeal to the experiences of the community for verification of the results.

Until agreement upon consequences is reached by those who reinstate the conditions set forth, the conclusions that are announced by an individual inquirer have the status of an hypothesis, especially if the findings fail to agree with the general trend of already accepted results. (1938/1986b, p. 484)

Language is the key. It allows the individual to transform his or her own inchoate understanding into a form that is more conscious and rational, thus serving the self. It also allows the individual to share insight or understanding with others, thus serving the community. The role that language plays in simultaneously deepening individual understanding and allowing that understanding to be shared with others is truly wondrous, Dewey writes; it is a process that makes transubstantiation pale by comparison (1925/1981, p. 32).

Whether one focuses on the individual or the community, however, there is a common dynamic going on, which Dewey describes as the healthy tension between habit and impulse. Habit, which represents the most general kind of understanding, is a double-edged sword. On the one hand, it represents the most powerful kind of understanding acquired by a community, allowing members of the community to anticipate and thus plan for the future. On the other hand, habit can blind the individual or the community to other possibilities. Under its influence, people often run roughshod over the specifics in a situation, ignoring potentially fruitful detail that may lead one to even greater understanding. Impulse is the counter to habit. It drives one deeper into a phenomenon in search of a more discriminative, if often idiosyncratic, understanding. It thus serves as an antidote to orthodoxy. “Impulse,” Dewey writes, “when it asserts itself deliberately against an existing custom is the beginning of individuality in mind” (1922/1983a, p. 62). As such, impulse contributes immeasurably to the community’s growth and well being. Like habit, however, there is a dark side to impulse. Impulse can scatter and obliterate “with its restless stir,” Dewey writes (1922/1983a, p. 124). The key, as Dewey came to see it thanks to Peirce, is to achieve a healthy balance between habit and impulse, at both the individual and community level, avoiding the extremes associated with either excessive habituation or unchecked impulse. In short, Dewey sought a middle ground solution to this vexing problem: “There is an alternative between anchoring a boat in the harbor till it becomes a rotting hulk and letting it loose to be the sport of every contrary gust” (1922/1983a, p. 117).

Dewey developed this argument in 1922 and elaborated on it from that point until the end of his life. Thus, in his 1922 book, Human Nature and Conduct, Dewey extended his argument about habit and impulse to the world of art. He was to build on this insight in his 1934 classic, Art as Experience. In 1922 Dewey wrote: “Habit as vital art depends upon the animation of habit by impulse; only this inspiriting stands between habit and stagnation. But art, little as well as great, anonymous as well as that distinguished by titles of dignity, cannot be improvised. It is impossible without spontaneity, but it is not spontaneity” (p. 118). Dewey elaborated on this argument twelve years later. Like Peirce, he maintained that habit is in the world, vying with constant, unremitting flux and change. The artist and the scientist learn how to turn this flux to advantage, Dewey wrote, cultivating new contingencies “not for their own sake but because of their potentialities” (1934/1987, p. 21). The end result of the cultivation process is the springing forth of ideas. Taking a page from Peirce, Dewey rejected the notion that ideas are first worked out discursively. They originate, he argues, as fully embodied meanings: “We cannot grasp any idea, any organ of mediation, we cannot possess it in its full force, until we have felt and sensed it, as much so as if it were an odor or a color” (1934/1987, p. 125).

The qualitative element of thought sets in motion the anticipatory process that is at the core of what ideas are all about. It is “the point of departure, and regulative principle of all thinking,” scientific and otherwise, Dewey wrote elsewhere (1930/1984d, p. 261). Thus Copernicus anticipated seeing the universe anew—as order disguised as disorder—through the lens of his rich metaphoric image, God as Artist. These anticipations had to be tested against the reality of the planets’ motion, viewed now from an “off center” perspective, and also had to undergo the language “test.” The important point, as Dewey came to see it, is that ideas represent a hybrid of the qualitative sense of things, of their actual reality, and of how the community typically chooses to talk about them.

Peirce’s influence on Dewey’s thought is unmistakable from mid-career on (cf., Prawat, in press). Dewey himself acknowledges as much in his book on logic (cf., 1938/1986b, p. 17); readers acquainted with Peirce’s work, he wrote, will notice Dewey’s “great indebtedness” to the man. Elsewhere, Dewey reserves some of his highest praise ever for Peirce, calling him a “philosopher’s philosopher” and one of the most imaginative thinkers ever in philosophy (1932/1985). Before returning to the theme of how adoption of a Peircean view altered Dewey’s ideas about education, it might be helpful to briefly trace the evolution of Dewey’s thinking from his earliest years as a philosopher to his subsequent adoption of a Peircean, social constructivist perspective.


Dewey began his philosophical career as a Hegelian. He was clear in his own mind about what drove him in this direction. Hegel, he wrote, “supplied a demand for unification that was doubtless an intense emotional craving” (1930/1984a, p. 153). Dewey, as a repressed New Englander from a devoutly religious home, experienced great angst when he began his studies over issues he identified as personally painful dualities: intellect versus emotion, science versus religion, self versus community, nature versus God. Dewey’s early (i.e., 1882) commitment to Hegelianism, which he was to maintain for nearly ten years, was broadened and given a unique twist when he fell under the spell of George Sylvester Morris during his second semester in graduate school.

Hegel and Morris were idealists who believed that dualisms like subject/object or mind/world dissolve as individuals move closer and closer to the truth. Seeing the world as an interdependent whole, Dewey argued, is what is meant by fully “objectified intelligence” (1887/1967, p. 209). This all-encompassing view is possible because of the way reality is structured. Reality forms a system where seemingly disparate elements, viewed from a different vantage point, are actually interconnected or interrelated. The overarching order is not accidental; it is the product of a designing intelligence. Dewey had no doubts about the nature of the designing intelligence. It was God, but not the transcendental God of his youth. Dewey’s God was one that individuals could come to know. Through the exercise of intelligence, individuals can bootstrap their way toward the sort of understanding that, in Dewey’s scheme, constitutes the end of knowledge and the beginning of God. Those who reach this level of understanding are “completely universalized or related” individuals; they have achieved what Dewey called “absolute self-consciousness.”

Dewey rejected a suggestion offered by an ally that he divide up the pie, reserving for philosophy the task of describing the state of absolute consciousness while psychology takes on the equally daunting responsibility of figuring out how individuals, through their actions and thoughts, might reach this state (1886/1969, p. 144). Dewey argued that the two tasks are—or ought to be—completely intertwined. One cannot tell if acts are relevant to an end-state without being clear about the nature of the end-state; conversely, it is hard to think about an ideal end-state without giving some thought to how that end-state is realized. In this sense, the philosophy of self-consciousness, in its fullness, is psychology, and vice versa (1886/1969, p. 157). Unfortunately, Dewey’s solution, dubbed “experimental idealism” (Rockefeller, 1991, p. 93), attempted to mix methodologies that do not easily combine. Dewey realized this, and was thus receptive to the novel approach put forth by James.

James, who was critical of Hegel and his followers, proposed a radical alternative: The real lies not in the rational and abstract but in the experiential here and now. There is no knowledge outside experience, James believed, and that which is gained within experience is dictated by individual needs and interests. As this assertion suggests, James took an inside-out view regarding the individual’s relationship with the environment: “James valued most that which emanated from the self in its encounter with experience shaped by the will,” Diggins writes (1994, p. 170). It is the individual who must bear primary responsibility for the quality of his or her life.

James used Darwin to justify his approach. His individualistic brand of “social” Darwinism was, he argued, closer to what the evolutionist had in mind than Spencer’s. Spencer put his emphasis on the environment, ignoring the fact that change develops in individuals through a process of “spontaneous variation.” The organism that evidences this difference, James added, does not wait around to see how it will be received—it acts, struggling to impose its will on the environment, sometimes winning and sometimes losing. James’s image of an active organism seeking to fulfill its needs in an ever changing environment was at the core of his evolutionary psychology. It represented an attempt to ground psychology and philosophy in biological discovery (Seigfried, 1990, p. 57).

James’s tilt toward the individual may have been influenced by Darwin but he was already disposed toward this kind of approach, as he demonstrated on numerous occasions. James, in fact, evidenced such sympathy for society’s marginals and misfits and such disdain for its oppressive rules that one might almost dub him an anarchist (Diggins, 1994)—a label that James himself embraced on one occasion when he indicated that he was a “happy-go-lucky anarchistic sort of creature” (Posnock, 1997, p. 325). Be that as it may, James’s antipathy for society comes through loud and clear: “Every great institution is perforce a means of corruption,” James wrote. “Only in the free personal relation is full ideality to be found” (cf., Posnock, p. 326).2

Dewey was drawn to James’s approach, despite misgivings about its extreme subjectivism. It was the “objective” strain in James’s work, Principles of Psychology, that most appealed to Dewey, the effort to ground abstract concepts like individuality, pluralism, and freedom in evolutionary biology. James opened Dewey’s eyes to the fact that there is a huge advantage in equating biological and psychological phenomena. It was extraordinarily fertile to view both as “adjustments of ‘inner’ to ‘outer’ relations,” Dewey recalled in 1940. What particularly excited Dewey about this approach is that it found a place for mind in the transaction between individual and environment. The psychological phenomena that James terms mental life “are intermediate between impressions received by the environment and the responsive adjustments the organism makes to the environment” (Dewey, 1940/1988c, p. 158).

James’s approach had the potential for overcoming the dualism evident in Spencer’s approach. Dewey felt, however, that James did not take full advantage of the opportunity to strike a decisive blow against dualism in his 1897 book. James sometimes lapsed into the use of dualist language, especially in his chapter on consciousness written several years earlier. Still, Dewey found much that was inspirational in James’s work. He singled out for special praise James’s “biological” treatment of the self. Physiologically, James argued, there is no distinction between acts that are felt as ours, part of our inner self, and acts that connect with objects, and thus are viewed as part of the outer self. Both selves are experienced as little more than muscle movement and pressure in the head, jaw, chest, and arms, signifying the check and release of nervous energy (James, 1890/1950). The distinction between inner and outer self, according to James, was entirely a functional one. Physiological acts can be divided, functionally, into those that represent “adjustments” and those that represent “executions”: “The nuclear self,” James wrote (p. 302), “would be the adjustments collectively considered; and the less intimate, more shifting self, so far as it was active, would be the executions.” Dewey thought that this particular solution to the mind/world problem was brilliant.

Dewey extended James’s work in his classic piece on the reflex arc (1896/1972c). He elaborated on an example used by James: A baby grasping for a bright object, anticipating a “delightful exercise,” only to discover that the object, a burning candle, calls for a radically different response. Each of the two acts in this example—grasping-for-light and withdrawing-from-burning—involves a complex coordination of stimulus and response, both within and between acts, Dewey argued. Further complicating the picture, the second of these two acts, pulling back the hand in response to a burning sensation, enters into and transforms the original impulse to reach out. Dewey drew on James’s functional explanation in his example. In the grasping and withdrawing instance, he wrote, “Stimulus and response are not distinctions of existence, but . . . distinctions of function, or part played, with reference to reaching or maintaining an end” (p. 104). Static divisions like inner and outer, organism and environment, break down when subjected to the sort of analysis Dewey and James provide.

It is evident in the reflex arc paper that Dewey bought into another aspect of James’s scheme, the notion that disruption in the smooth flow of habitual activity, like that involved in grasping for a bright object, is the occasion for discrimination and thought. The surprise and pain felt by the baby when its effort to grasp the candle was thwarted forced it to become more discriminating toward bright objects. Emotional experiences of this sort lead to “divided responses,” which signal a need to divide one’s attention between the present situation and earlier experiences, thus laying the foundation for further learning. Most of the time, due to well-formed habits, one’s actions unfold in an unthinking, albeit well-coordinated way. It takes blockage or perturbation to activate intellect, a notion that, as we have seen, exerted a strong influence on James and Dewey’s views of education.

Dewey saw in James’s approach a way to dispense with the most vexing of all the dualisms, that between mind and world or subject and object. He also saw a way to rid himself of a construct that no longer fit with his new, naturalistic way of thinking: An all-knowing intelligence that shapes things once and for all. Thanks to James, Dewey saw how he could achieve his moral and intellectual Valhalla without positing an Absolute Consciousness. Nature offers no inherent ends or ideals in itself but nature has given birth to a being that can create them. Humans are distinct from animals because they engage in conscious deliberation and experimentation. It is through the individualized intelligence of human beings that purpose and awareness of good and evil appear in nature. It is through this same intelligence that facts and doubtful ideas give way to “a more coherent and self-luminous system of meaning” (1903/1976, p. 307). There is no need for an ideal realm outside human experience; man can create it—indeed, must create it—within human experience: In a world “where values are demonstrably precarious, an intelligence that is not a principle of emphasis and valuation (an intelligence which defines, describes, and classifies merely for the sake of knowledge,) is a principle of stupidity and catastrophe,” Dewey writes (1909/1977, p. 29). The ability to distinguish worthy from unworthy ends, general from particular features of nature, is not some God-like quality from another realm. It is part of our nature simply because it serves the interests of human survival.

Dewey thus found much to admire and build on in James’s biological psychology. He also encountered two problems that were to prove so vexing he eventually abandoned James in favor of Peirce.


Dewey’s concern about James’s approach can be attributed to the latter’s extreme subjectivism. One important factor contributing to this subjectivism was James’s liberal interpretation of Peirce’s pragmatic maxim, a point that requires some explanation. Several years before James seized hold of it, Peirce had offered, somewhat tentatively, a criterion for pinpointing the meaning of a particular idea or belief: To be clear about the meaning of an idea or belief, Peirce wrote, one must consider what effects, in the form of “practical bearings,” the object of the conception could conceivably have. One’s conception of these effects would then constitute the whole of the conception of the object (1934, Vol. 1, p. 132).

After Peirce developed this argument, he began to entertain doubts about how it might be construed. Peirce did not intend to equate the meaning of a proposition with its immediate, “sensible” effects. The meaning of a mathematics concept, like additive composition of number, is not tied to a specific, well-rehearsed set of numbers. Disciplinary ideas, in particular, are defined by their general or lawful effects. Additive composition applies to all numbers, not to the particular set that happen to be in front of the child at the time. “The entire intellectual purport of any symbol [i.e., idea] consists in the total of all general modes of rational conduct,” Peirce wrote in 1905, partly in response to James (1935, Vol. 5, p. 293).

When James appropriated Peirce’s maxim, however, he moved it in the opposite direction—emphasizing the specific and sensible rather than the general or lawful. To this end, James introduced some subtle changes in wording. In place of Peirce’s original, vague statement, James argued that when we develop expectations about what we will see through the lens of an idea, the focus is always on specific sensations and specific reactions. In adding this language, James changes Peirce’s concept: The focus in fixing the meaning of a belief is on personal effects rather than “habit” (i.e., rule or law)—on what the individual can expect in the way of concrete experience and a specific call to action instead of on what a community of inquirers might collectively glean from the situation.

While consistent with his emphasis on action, James’s interpretation of Peirce’s maxim was open to a number of interpretations. James contributed to this confusion by shifting back and forth in his use of the principle, sometimes applying it to meaning, as Peirce intended, and other times to truth itself: “The Truth for any thinker,” James wrote, “is his most ‘satisfying’ belief” (1988, p. 244). James’s brand of pragmatism invested each individual with the authority to determine truth, the fool as well as the wise man. The difference between the two is only one of experience, James explained: The fool has less, the wise man more. Both are the same in that interests and desires guide their efforts after meaning. Perry writes of James’s approach: “In forming and trying hypotheses, the mind is not only active, but interested. It tries what it hopes is true. This subjective interest is both unavoidable and legitimate. If the mind wanted nothing, it would try nothing” (cf., O’Connell, 1984, p. 88). Passion, what is wanted and desired, dominates cognition, especially where the facts are divided. In this case, belief creates its own verification. The criterion here is how satisfied we are with the effects that follow from entertaining that belief.

James, and Dewey as well, soon came under attack from a number of directions for what was perceived as an extremely subjective view of truth. Truth is what benefits the individual. Arthur Lovejoy’s criticism, penned in 1908, was one of the most devastating. He argued that there is a huge difference between accepting as true those beliefs whose consequences have been verified versus those whose consequences simply contribute to the individual’s emotional or physical well being. Determining how much satisfaction or dissatisfaction one gains from believing that it is raining clearly represents a different process than the steps one goes through in determining if, in fact, it is raining.

Dewey, as I have demonstrated, bought into the notion that individual needs—more specifically, the frustration of individual needs—gives rise to ideation. He begin to have doubts about James’s decision to carry this argument forward, however (i.e., James’s effort to connect the worth or validity of ideas to satisfaction of needs). As Thayer and Thayer (1978) point out in their introduction to Volume 6 of the Dewey anthology, James and Dewey were subjected to harsh criticism from both the realists (e.g., Russell) and the idealists (e.g., Bradley). James, like Dewey, was bothered by this criticism; he took steps to quell it by hedging on his earlier extreme subjectivist stance: “The pragmatist calls satisfactions indispensable for truth-building,” James explained in 1909, “but I have everywhere called them insufficient unless reality be also incidentally led to” (1978, p. 106).

Dewey tried to get James to revise his views, suggesting in a 1903 letter to James that he do more to work the “world of fact” into his treatment of ideas. In the same letter, not coincidentally, Dewey announced that he was revisiting Peirce: “I can see how far I have moved along,” Dewey wrote, “when I find how much I get out of Peirce this year, and how easily I understand him, when a few years ago he was mostly a sealed book to me, aside from occasional inspirations” (cf., Perry 1935, p. 307). James, as indicated above, was responsive to Dewey’s advice. In an earlier, 1907 reformulation of his theory, James added a second criterion to his definition of truth. A belief is true, he wrote, if it satisfies personal needs and meets certain objective requirements: “That new idea is truest which performs most felicitously its function of satisfying our double urgency” (cf., Dewey, 1908/1977, p. 112).

Dewey argued that James’s inclusion of objective demands in his test of truth ought to disabuse people of the notion that he now believed that “anything which is agreeable is true” (1908/1977, p. 112). Dewey, in the same piece, offers a somewhat tortured explanation for why James adopted such an eclectic orientation to outcomes and consequences. This approach is necessary, he argues, because James wishes to apply the pragmatic maxim to a range of subjects: “ ‘Meaning’ will itself mean something quite different in the case of ‘objects’ from what it will mean in the case of ‘ideas,’ and for ‘ideas’ something different from ‘truths,’” Dewey explains, not very convincingly (1908/1977, p. 102). Dewey clearly struggles in his effort to distinguish between getting clear about an object versus getting clear about an idea. In the first case, one starts with thoughts about objects that are actually present. In the second case, one starts with ideas in the absence of the objects to which they refer; the situation here is “idea as idea.” In the first case, the focus is on the practical reactions that the object either extracts from individuals or imposes on them. In the second case, the focus is on a different set of consequences—the rearrangements in the world intended by the idea. If this is not confusing enough, Dewey digs himself a deeper hole when he shifts his focus to truth. Here the meaning of the object or idea is taken as a given; the issue is one of why anyone should care. “What difference would it practically make to anyone if this notion rather than that notion were true?” At this point, the reader feels that way about Dewey’s own attempt to justify James’s subjective version of pragmatism.

Reflecting back many years later, Dewey expresses regret about the looseness of James’s terminology: “As his [James’s] statements stand,” Dewey concedes, they do point to the conclusion “that something beside evidence, namely, something in the way of personal predilections and their satisfaction, may in some cases be part of the test of truth” (1942/1989b, p. 15). By then Dewey could afford to distance himself from James; he had long since settled on ideas as the construct of interest. In a quote presented earlier (cf., p. 10), Dewey contrasted James’s focus on the particular with Peirce’s emphasis on the general. He indicated on several occasions that, only belatedly, had he realized the significance of this distinction. He was not alone in that regard, however, he added. The scholarly world has moved closer to Peirce. “His thought is nearer the mind of today than it was thirty years ago” (1935/1987b, p. 422). Dewey credits Peirce with opening the road that permits a “truly experiential philosophy to be developed” (1935/1987a, p. 94). There could be no higher praise coming from a man who many think deserves that honor himself.

Dewey thought Peirce was particularly farsighted in equating powerful ideas with general habits: “Peirce realized most explicitly that the relationship postulated by his principle—between ideas or judgments and their consequences—cannot be maintained except on the basis of real continuity in nature” (p. 423). Searching out this continuity, Peirce insisted, is the business of inquiry. Dewey, in hindsight, fully appreciated how this piece of the puzzle fits with Peirce’s notions about habit and the process of knowledge verification. Inquiry is the process whereby individually verified insight is worked into a testable hypothesis that is then subjected to a much more public test. Members of the community help the originator of the idea put thought to words if it seems at all likely that the idea will shed light on a matter of importance to the community.

Working the idea up into a hypothesis is tantamount to agreeing on what constitutes a fair test of the idea (1922/1983b, pp. 57–58). Because new ideas cannot be developed without making use of old ones, the process of communication surfaces tensions between public and private understanding that are similar to those evident in the individual arena, when the creator of an idea attempts to reconcile habit and impulse. The process of negotiation and test is important, however. Ideas, even if they are communicated and shared, are at best “but candidates for membership within the system of knowledge” until confirmed in what Dewey terms “conjoint behavior” (1928/1984d, p. 51).

Dewey found Peirce’s approach, which fully integrated public and private knowledge, enormously inviting. One can, in fact, trace the steps Dewey went through in adopting this model. As indicted earlier, Dewey tried, early and often, to get James to tone down some of his rhetoric, especially as it related to the role—or lack thereof—of the social in his overall scheme. James clearly assigned a tangential role to the social factor, as evidenced by assertions like the one made in the Principles of Psychology: Each mind, he wrote, “keeps its own thoughts to itself. There is no giving or bartering between them” (1890/1950, p. 226). James’s propensity to regard the individual as the repository of the deepest and most meaningful experiences is what most distinguishes him from Peirce (Diggins, 1994).


Prior to his Peircean turn, the social issue vexed Dewey a great deal. So much so that changes in the way Dewey talks about the social and individual is one way to mark his mid-career shift in thinking. The early 1920s, Edel and Flower (1985) argue, was a time when Dewey rethought his “side by side” concept of the individual and social.3 The goal was to fully integrate the social (i.e., custom, habit) and the individual: “It was no easy task,” Edel and Flower write, “to alter the conception of custom and its constituent idea of habit in such a way that reflection could penetrate and be at home within the customary” (p. xiii). Peirce pointed the way in this regard, of course. His whole argument was that habit and impulse, public and private ways of knowing, do interpenetrate—both in the act of idea generation and in the act of idea negotiation. Given this fact, it is understandable why Dewey opted for the change in terminology that so surprises Edel and Flower—that of substituting the phrase “private and public” for that of “individual and social”: The former is tied to function, the latter to location (i.e., inside or outside the individual). Edel and Flower (1985) argue that the shift in Dewey’s thinking about habit and custom occurred sometime between 1919 and 1922, with the latter date marking the publication of Dewey’s book, Nature and Human Conduct, noteworthy for the dramatically different way it treats habit. The data presented earlier indicates that Dewey began to entertain serious doubts about James’s subjectivist brand of pragmatism at least five years earlier. It may be that Dewey incorporated aspects of Peirce’s theory long before he bought into the total package; Dewey admitted on several occasions that his appreciation of Peirce was slow to develop.

The first clear evidence that Dewey had cast aside James’s version of the pragmatic maxim in favor of Peirce’s is found in a piece written in 1916. Entitled “The Pragmatism of Peirce,” it is the first of several treatments of Peirce’s work. Prior to 1916, references to Peirce in the Collected Works are mostly historical in nature. In the 1916 paper (1980b), Dewey expresses a clear preference for Peirce’s brand of realism over James’s. The former makes clearer than the latter, he writes, that pragmatists are dealing with a reality that lends itself to empirical test. Dewey ends the paper by recommending that his critics consult Peirce. The fact that Peirce argues that meaning is tested through the process of inquiry lays to rest a lot of the counterproductive discussion being aired in scholarly journals, Dewey adds.

Dewey, in 1916, embraced at least one key aspect of Peirce’s epistemology—the notion that ideas must be tested against socially verifiable facts. The volume that precedes the one just referenced is devoted entirely to Dewey’s classic Democracy and Education. It offers further evidence that Dewey was rethinking his approach to education as well as philosophy. One example, Dewey’s admonition to teachers to emphasize the general elements of experience over the particular, clearly has a Peircean ring to it (see above). The second piece of evidence surfaces at various points in the book. In these passages, Dewey echoes Peirce in the way he talks about ideas and their imaginative origin. Dewey, for example, urges teachers not to take words as “counters” for the ideas themselves (p. 150). The latter represent acts of imagination, Dewey argues; it is only through imagination that symbols are “translated over into direct meaning” (p. 244). Dewey also urges teachers to discard the notion that ideas can be supplied to students ready-made. Students must be engaged in situations where their own activities will “generate, support, and clinch ideas” (p. 167). These situations, Dewey states in yet another example of his changing views, are more likely to be social than individual in nature.

Toward the end of a chapter entitled “The Individual and the World,” Dewey offers advice to teachers about how they should think about the social aspects of learning in their classrooms. It is tempting but misleading, Dewey maintains, to equate individual activity with freedom. Intellectual freedom and group learning are not at loggerheads. In fact, individual capacities are best brought out in group settings. The key issue for teachers to weigh is not the kind of control that is exerted in various contexts but the quality of thinking that is evidenced. Students in a social setting may be less active physically but more active mentally; conversely, students in an individual context may be motorically quite active but that does not mean that they are mentally engaged.

Regardless of context, teachers should focus on the kinds of opportunities they provide youngsters to try out new ideas, to discover for themselves what each idea offers in the way of a fresh insight about something that matters to students. Dewey makes an interesting observation in this regard, which is indicative of the state of his thinking about the individual/social issue. Scientific discoveries are made when individuals are able to give vent to their own “peculiarities of response to subject matter,” he argues, while at the same time keeping track of what he terms the “group’s interest” (1916/1980a, p. 310). Teachers, if they work at it, can duplicate the exciting process that goes on in scientific communities; the important thing is not to confuse originality of response, which students are fully capable of, with originality of product, which is beyond most students. Dewey explains:

No one expects the young to make original discoveries of just the same facts and principles as are embodied in the sciences of nature and man. But it is not unreasonable to expect that learning may take place under such conditions that from the standpoint of the learner there is genuine discovery. (p. 312)

Dewey closes the chapter by encouraging teachers to keep their eye on the ball: When they center attention on the conditions that promote active thinking, then, to use Dewey’s words, “freedom will take care of itself ” (p. 314).

The soundness of the advice offered by Dewey indicates that he was close to resolving the knotty individual/social issue inherited from James when he penned the chapter in early 1915, an idea that is further supported by what Dewey had to say about this dilemma in the first part of the chapter. The solution that Dewey offers in that section is a good indication that he is working his way out of the dilemma. Thus Dewey begins by distinguishing between what he terms “practical” individualism, which results from the effort to achieve greater freedom of thought, and “philosophical” individualism, which represents a dualist epistemology. Dewey uses the practical framework as a way to argue that individuals must be allowed to develop and test their own thoughts. This does not mean, he adds, that they are free agents. Individuals exist in a social medium and thus share knowledge with others. Shared knowledge serves as the starting point for discovery; it is also the end point in the sense that each new insight must find a place in this body of knowledge. Sounding very much like Peirce, Dewey explains that the dichotomy between individual and social, public and private knowledge is a false one: “When the activities of mind set out from customary beliefs and strive to effect transformations of them which will in turn win general conviction, there is no opposition between the individual and the social” (p. 306).

The problem, Dewey continues, is that philosophers have overlooked the extent to which private and public, individual and social knowledge, are completely intertwined. Dewey himself missed this in his early work, he admits, when his focus was single-mindedly on the biological aspects of thought. Reflecting back many years later, Dewey pays tribute to Peirce for opening his eyes in this regard. Peirce’s theory fully integrates the biological and sociological, making each indispensable to the semiotic process. Dewey explains the role of each of these factors in Peirce’s scheme:

Even a casual reader of Peirce should be aware that habit on his view is first a cosmological matter and then is physiological and biotic—in a definitely existential sense. It, habit, operates in and through the human organism, but that very fact is to him convincing evidence that the organism is an integrated part of the world in which habits form and operate. As to the “sociological” factor, it is easy to quote many passages from Peirce in which whatever is entitled to the names “logical” and “cognitive” is brought specifically and explicitly within the societal. (1989a/1946, p. 151)

Dewey adds that Peirce had a sophisticated view about the interaction between biological and sociological factors, maintaining that it evidences itself both inside and outside the sign process—that is, both during the process of idea generation and during the process of social negotiation that follows closely on its heels.

The analysis presented above points to 1915 or 1916 as the most likely time when the ideas gleaned from a close study of Peirce came together for Dewey. This challenges Edel and Flower’s assumption that changes in the way Dewey talked about habit and public and private knowledge occurred in the early 1920s. The 1915 date is the more likely choice because it is consistent with other events happening in Dewey’s life. Thus Rockefeller (1991), in his well-regarded biography of Dewey, characterizes the period from 1915 to 1918 as one of great stress for the philosopher. James had died the year before, Dewey was physically and emotionally worn down from his intense labors as a philosopher and reformer, his marriage was in trouble; Dewey, in fact, was about to enter into a romantic relationship with a younger woman. It is thus not surprising that Dewey took this occasion to also put his philosophical house in order.


The public has reached a consensus about Dewey’s educational philosophy. It is this work that provides the intellectual grounding for progressive education, defined, variously, as a child-centered, activity-based, hands-on approach to education. A more sophisticated audience comprised of professional educators realizes that this is an overstatement. Dewey’s later ambivalence toward the progressive education movement is widely acknowledged. His well-known statement, made in 1934, that what was needed in the New Education was more, not less attention to subject matter, is taken as proof that Dewey held out the same goals as traditional educators—the mastery of disciplinary knowledge and skill (1986c, p. 199). Where Dewey parted company with the traditionalists, according to this argument, was in his beliefs about how best to achieve these goals.

Dewey’s theory of education can be summarized as follows: Children bring to the learning situation certain interests and needs, and a well-established set of habits and routines for dealing with those interests and needs. The key for the teacher is to design active learning situations that challenge habit and appeal to the child’s interests and needs. Interests and needs that are thwarted activate the youngster’s problem solving skills, latent or otherwise. The teacher’s role is to guide the child toward a resolution of the problem that stands between the person and his or her needs or interests: “The child learns in situations where his interests are involved and he must surmount difficulties by forming and solving problems that must be met if he is to fulfill his purposes” (Baker, 1965, p. 24). This, of course, is classic inductionist Dewey; it is also classic inductionist James.

It is not just educators that represent Dewey’s views in this way. Reputable Dewey scholars like Jim Garrison (1997) and Philip Jackson (1998) describe a similar scenario. The former presents a detailed description of a Deweyan “teachable moment” in his recent book. The teacher he focuses on is deliberate in her efforts to create a problematic situation—in this case, using a paradoxical line from a poem (i.e., “The snow lay thin and apologetic over the world”) to capture student attention and frustrate their desire to reach closure on the piece. “Why would a writer use such a combination of words?” Garrison asks, speaking for the teacher. “Such questions initiate the foreground of inquiry for those who feel the background need and desire to understand what things mean” (p. xvi). Garrison then takes a page out of James’s book when he argues that the consequences that follow from this inquiry, a set of projects judged to be worthwhile, establish its validity. One example he cites involved students producing a “sitcom” that drew loosely on ideas presented in the poem: “Linda’s inquiry eventually had hosts of classroom activities as its consequence,” Garrison explains. “The quality of these activities allows us to evaluate the ‘quality’ of her intuition and the intelligence of her inquiry” (p. 118).

Dewey, before his Peircean turn, undoubtedly would have endorsed Garrison’s assessment of the situation. All the pieces are in place in this example: individual need, frustration of that need, action, consequences that satisfy the need, or, at least, a related need. After the Peircean turn, I submit, based on the analysis presented above, Dewey would have entertained serious doubts about this lesson. Was the sitcom experience truly educative in the sense that an important idea, “definite and general,” was deposited? The general criterion, especially, would have loomed large in Dewey’s thinking. Is this idea—the notion (perhaps) that poetry can create incredibly evocative word images—one that travels well in the sense that it sheds light on a host of other literary works? In helping individuals construct this idea in the classroom, Dewey might also ask, did the teacher use a powerful metaphor or analogy, comparing the poet’s words to an artist’s brush, for example, that appealed to students’ imagination and also advanced their understanding? Did the teacher structure the situation so that a consensus was reached about how best to test the idea? Did the process allow students to have their say, to present their own interpretations of what the idea is about?

These are some of the questions Dewey undoubtedly would have raised about the poetry lesson after he embraced Peirce. While he occupied himself primarily with philosophy in the 1920s and 30s, Dewey did take advantage of a number of occasions to redirect educators’ thinking away from the inductionism he had embraced early on and more toward the social constructivist pedagogy he embraced in 1915. In 1930, for example, Dewey interrupted one of his increasingly frequent, “post-turn” calls for greater attention to subject matter in teaching to point out that he was not advocating a return to education as adult imposition. This approach, Dewey insisted, falls into the same category as its nemesis, the “child-imposition” or child-centered approach to education. Both are obsessed with what Dewey termed the “person” factor: assuming that there is no alternative to “adult dictation” save “child dictation” (1984b, p. 322). The solution to both “person” traps is to focus full attention on the quality of the experience engaged in by all members of the group, the teacher as well as the students. “When the emphasis falls upon having experiences that are educationally worthwhile,” Dewey added, “the centre of gravity shifts from the personal factor, and is found within the developing experience in which pupils and teachers alike participate” (p. 322).

Worthwhile experiences, Dewey wrote in 1933, are those where the teacher “deposits” powerful ideas and, I submit, makes sure they are “worked” by the group. Dewey’s own teaching more and more reflected this belief, as he made clear in an interview late in his life (see above). Dewey did his best in his writings from 1920 on to convince educators that the powerful ideas notion had merit. The failure to appreciate how profoundly Dewey’s educational views changed over the years has limited our interpretation of what he was about in teaching and learning. A prime example can be found in a recent article by Phillips (1998). Phillips reflects back on an important educational experience he had as a young high school chemistry student. Phillips apologizes for this aside, presented in the context of an erudite discussion of Dewey’s educational philosophy. The vignette, he explains, does not appear at all to represent what Dewey had in mind when he insisted that teachers must appeal to students’ direct experience in presenting content.

The example Phillips presents is as follows: He and his peers were studying the kinetic theory of gases when the teacher asked an innocent question: What happens to the movement of molecules when the temperature drops lower and lower? Students excitedly volunteered the answer that the molecules would move more and more slowly. The teacher pushed the notion further. What would happen if the temperature continued downward? Some—and Phillips was one of them—guessed that the motion would stop completely. The teacher then turned the question around: Would it be possible, in this eventuality, to lower the temperature still more? After much thought, the students decided not; the teacher explained that this phenomenon is called “absolute zero.” This incident, Phillips writes, was “starkly engraved” on his memory (1998, p. 413). He admits, however, that he has a hard time squaring this with Dewey’s notion that the student must have firsthand knowledge of the “terrain” being studied. The absolute zero concept was too abstract to fit that requirement.

Not according to Dewey. “Abstract thought is imagination seeing familiar objects in a new light,” Dewey wrote in 1933 (1988b, p. 278). If one makes an additional assumption, this describes exactly what Phillips experienced: The familiar objects that are the target of the idea (e.g., molecules swimming in a gaseous sea) need not be directly present. In fact, Dewey writes, it is a matter of psychological indifference exactly how one comes by the “subject matter” for reflection—memory, observation, communication, or reading are all equally viable routes (1916/1980a). It is important to point this out, Dewey argues, because “no one can carry around a museum of all the things whose properties will assist the conduct of thought” (p. 164). Phillips thus need offer no apology for the exciting example of learning he offers up. It fits perfectly with the kind of idea-based, social constructivist learning that Dewey held up as the ideal from 1915 on. That, at least, is the big idea I have attempted to construct in this analysis of Dewey’s thinking prior to and following his mid-career turn.


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RICHARD S. PRAWAT is a professor of educational psychology and teacher education and chair of the Department of Counseling, Educational Psychology, and Special Education at Michigan State University. He is co-author, with Penelope Peterson, of “Social Constructivist Views of Learning,” in The Handbook of Research on Educational Administration, edited by Joseph Murphy and Karen Seashore Louis (Jossey-Bass, 1999).

Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record Volume 102 Number 4, 2000, p. 805-840
https://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 10499, Date Accessed: 1/20/2022 10:01:02 AM

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  • Richard Prawat
    Michigan State University
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    Richard S. Prawat is a professor of educational psychology and teacher education and chair of the Department of Counseling, Educational Psychology, and Special Education at Michigan State University. He is co-author, with Penelope Peterson, of “Social Constructivist Views of Learning,” in the Handbook of Research on Educational Administration, edited by Joseph Murphy and Karen Seashore Louis (Jossey-Bass, 1999).
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