Manchester University
Oak Leaves

November 8, 2019

MU Students Travel to Twin Cities for Progressive Education Conference

Carlos Argueta


Future teachers and scholars from Manchester University went to Minneapolis last month to learn new and innovative ways to teach the next generation of students. Dr. Heather Schilling, director of Teacher Education and professor of education, took a group of students majoring in education to the Progressive Education Conference in October.

This bi-yearly event brings professional educators from around the country in one place to learn new teaching techniques, have discussions on social justice issues, and to listen to world renowned keynote speakers. The invitation was open to every student in the education department, and the majority of the students that traveled to Minneapolis were upperclassmen. The department believes that taking students to events like these is crucial and vital so that students can be exposed to the professional environment and learn ideas that are hard to learn in the classroom.

“It is nothing we can replicate in our classes,” Schilling said. “The students spent their time immersed in different schools; they had opportunities to listen to keynote speakers and were involved in different breakout sessions.” The conference revolved around progressivism, a system of learning where the students are in control of their education, this technique of teaching applies to children and young adults — promoting the curiosity of the students to be the driving factor of their learning.

This system of education is an inquiry, project and collaborative-based learning, focusing on questions that arise from experiencing the world. Progressivism was popular in the early 1900s but soon fell out of favor because this model of education was considered to be too liberal for most people at the time. Today
there is a significant resurgence of progressivism, and many private and independent schools have incorporated a progressive education model in recent years.

The overarching goal of the conference is to have teachers apply these different techniques in their classrooms. Teachers use this newfound knowledge to promote change within their school system. “I tell my students that I care about you, but I have an obligation to all the kids that you are going to have in your classroom for the next 30 years of your career,” Schilling explained.

The main focus in the department is not just to give students a degree in education, but to truly prepare them for their crucial roles as educators in the future. The Progressive Education Conference is not the only event that the education department offers to students. The department gives students dozens of opportunities to go to events like these throughout the whole year. It also requires students to attend workshops with professionals here at Manchester every year other than their first year.

“We are now an endowed department which gives us flexibility to be able to take students on these trips, and give them a different view of what it is like to be a professional,” Schilling said. “Students at these events are surrounded by people who are in the field, who are passionate, who see the big picture that educators can change the world.”