Being a teacher involves a lot of tough decisions and complex challenges.

Offering your knowledge to a new set of children each year provides a whole new set of opportunities to share what you know and instill inspiration and new knowledge in a new generation. However, there are a lot of philosophies that can impact how you teach and the best way to pass on new information. There are four critical educational philosophies: Perennialism, Essentialism, Progressivism, and Reconstructionism, and an understanding of these ideas can help you when it comes to teaching.

So, read on to find out the four philosophies and how you can use them in your teaching to ensure the best outcome for the children in your class.

Education resources



Perennialism outlines that teaching aims to ensure pupils fully understand modern ideas and how civilization works. This equips learners to solve problems effectively. Developing students’ problem-solving skills, as opposed to simply teaching the solutions, makes sure that they are best equipped to deal with any situation that arises in the future. This approach is arranged around cultural understanding and emphasizes students developing enduring disciplines. Particular attention is paid to teaching ideas around widely praised literature, art, and sciences.


For essentialists, it is believed that critical elements of knowledge should be passed on to students. This more systemized mode of learning places a focus on moral understanding as well as intellectual learning. It could be easy to confuse this with perennials since it is similar in many ways. However, essentialist theorists believe that learning fundamentals can change over time. In contrast, perennials tend to teach core content that is believed to remain unchanged over time.

Essentialism, as the name suggests, focuses more on teaching students the core or essential skills such as reading, writing, speaking, and computing. They are also taught to be hard working and have discipline as part of this approach which originated in the 1920s.


Regarding progressivism, the belief is that education should take a more broad approach and pay attention to the whole child instead of focusing on the content or a specific teacher. This approach allows children to practice and try things out as a way to learn. Students are encouraged to be inquisitive and follow where their questions lead them. This is an active approach to learning and asks for the student to solve problems and be more thoughtful and considerate of a problem. This approach looks at experiences of the world in context to help students learn. A good teacher should offer experiences to the students to enable this method and let the students have the chance to learn through doing and experiencing. Content can even be decided based on the interest of the students as well as adapted to fit their questions. Mainly, the emphasis is placed on how one learns something or comes to know it, with a focus on learning through experience.

Progressivism runs on the concept that schools should work to make the lives of everyday people better by making sure that they are prioritizing freedom and democracy. Giving students a chance to have an input into decision making and letting students help with planning and the choices of topics are a part of this. In this way of learning, students use books as a tool to learn rather than study and memorize content.


Reconstructionism, or social reconstructionism, is more preoccupied with social questions and looks at finding ways to improve elements of society and democracy for those all around the world. With a reconstructionism approach, students will likely find they look most at social reform issues. This originated as a result of World War 2 and was developed to help people understand and be prepared for a new social order as things changed dramatically to incorporate new technology and lengths of human cruelty. The idea behind this theory is that things are constantly changing, so learning must change to accommodate this. The system must continue to change and adapt to challenge any oppression and make things better for the general public. This comes from the idea that education should be used to enforce social change and improve conditions for all. This encourages children or learners to be more aware, have communication skills, and be conscious of problems to recognize issues and enact change.

A reconstructionist curriculum typically includes ways to deal with controversy and teaches students to be able to take action in the face of real-world problems like poverty, violence, hunger, inequality, and inflation. Some taught strategies include open dialogue and viewing issues from various perspectives. Bringing real-life situations into the classrooms aims to make learning more applicable to the broader world and actual-life situations.

Develop your teaching style

Teaching styles typically incorporate a mix of these vital educational philosophies, with individual teachers leaning towards particular approaches in their practice. As an educator, it can be helpful to understand various teaching methods and critical philosophies around education.

Understanding these core principles enables you to develop a curriculum and lesson plans that are engaging and informative for your pupils. So whether you choose a perennial, essentialist, progressivist, or reconstructionist approach to teaching, you can guarantee that your students enjoy and benefit from your lessons.