#2: Traditional vs. Progressive Early Education

101_3871 Hello!  I am back for the second installment of my new mini blog series. Please check out my other posts and join the conversation! 🙂

Today I am delving into comparing traditional and progressive early education.  This posting is based on my own experiences through the years being both an early learning teacher and an elementary teacher.  As always, please like, share and join in if you have experiences to impart!  I love reading other people’s experiences.  We learn from each other so, keep the doors and windows open! 🙂

Here is a brief summary comparing the two types of early ed.  There is much more that I am leaving out because I don’t believe it to be necessary to go into too much depth at this point.


  • worksheets
  • workbooks
  • teacher directed
  • teacher or another adult helps children complete work
  • children’s work is not entirely theirs or as authentic
  • direct instruction
  • pre-formed and cut artwork
  • projects with limited collaboration and creativity
  • individuality is diminished while conforming to a normative standard is preferred
  • must have certain skills obtained by certain points in the school year
  • lessons and units focus on either boxed curriculum or school’s theme choices or teachers choices
  • assessment is either not appropriate for preschool or not detailed enough depending on the type of early learning school a child attends.  And sometimes it is too strict for the age range of preschool.
  • individuality and uniqueness are not valued or considered


  • provocations
  • interest areas
  • child-directed play
  • curriculum emerges with children’s interests and developmental abilities
  • Teacher is a facilitator, guide, support, and mentor
  • children choose to work individually, in pairs, threes, as a small group or with the entire class
  • children utilize and learn new skills at their pace of development and their age
  • current research on ECE is implemented and reflected on
  • assessment happens in a more natural way rather than a more structured way
  • different forms of documenting children’s learning are in place
  • assessments are based on the state standards, current research and the unique abilities of each group of children.
  • children’s work is theirs and no one else makes it for them 
  • there is no limit placed on children’s learning
  • the environment is designed to support each developmental step a child takes on his/ her learning journey
  • the whole child is appreciated and respected for their capabilities wherever they are on the developmental timeline.

101_3943As you can see from both traditional and progressive, there are major differences.  Since these have been my experiences through the years I do expect to meet others through this medium who have similar experiences to mine.  And I also expect to meet people that have gone through very different experiences.  Obviously, you can tell I prefer progressive to traditional.  

I would like to give just a small example of what a curriculum unit would look like from both a traditional and progressive perspective.  Please keep in mind I am leaving out quite a bit from both due to an effort to keep this posting shorter.


A traditional unit usually includes all of the following but not limited to:

  1. a set goal along with mini goals and objectives
  2. the unit is aligned with state standards or the teacher has to do this
  3. the unit contains workbooks, worksheets and pre-cut artwork for the children to fill out or cut and paste
  4. direct teacher instruction
  5. no room for pure creativity or hypothesis from the children.
  6. the directions must be followed exactly or the child has to redo the work
  7. there are either mini tests along the way or one big assessment at the end of the unit
  8. the unit already has a theme and all lessons are extensions of that theme.
  9. the children all do the exact same thing
  10. the children either work individually or in a group
  11. a time limit is placed on when each lesson should be finished
  12. adults help complete work for the child if a child is not finished by the designated time


  1. a unit only comes about if it emerges with whole group interest or a small group interest
  2. one goal and several mini goals with objectives
  3. the children are a part of the process for coming up with goals and how to achieve each
  4. group work is encouraged but not required
  5. there is no time limit on the unit
  6. children use a multitude of materials to complete the lessons in the unit they have helped design
  7. the children meet as a group often throughout the process to collaborate on ideas and ask questions 
  8. the unit meets  the needs of not only the age range of preschool children but the developmental needs; these can be different or similar depending on the child
  9. the work the children do is authentic and emerges with their skill level and desire
  10. the teacher is a constant support as a facilitator, and someone the children can ask questions, but the teacher does not do the actual work for the child
  11. the individual work and group work is valued
  12. the teacher documents in more than one way the entire process the children go through from start to finish.
  13. there is a culminating event when the entire unit is finished
  14. children’s learning is assessed throughout the process, yet they are not actually aware of any assessment taking place. ( assessments are for us teachers to help support each child’s learning).

101_5409 Please take some time and really reflect on the differences I have posted here and what you have experienced as an early learning teacher or parent with children going through our educational systems.  Please share your experiences and like this posting and share with others so more people have an opportunity to join in the conversations! 🙂

Thank you for stopping by The Marigold School of Early Learning! 🙂


One response to “#2: Traditional vs. Progressive Early Education”

  1. Reblogged this on The Marigold School of Early Learning and commented:

    This is an older blog but very relevant to today. If you are an ECE Teacher, Parent or someone who finds these topics of interest please share some of your experiences.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: