Adhering to the belief that education should be practical and relevant to the needs of society, Dewey argued for the reformation of the educational system. In Experience and Education, Dewey (1925) stated that in many cases, schooling stands in the way of learning. In order to make intellectual progress, he noted, "we mostly have to unlearn what we learned in school" (p. 7). As revolutionary as they were several decades ago, Dewey's philosophical theories in the field of education have stood the test of time and have tremendous relevance to education in the 21st century.
Dewey's theory of experiential learning focused on learning within a social environment (Semel & Sadovnik, 1999). He asserted that knowledge was based on prior experiences and constructed in social settings. He argued that knowledge needs to be organized in real-life experiences that provide a context for the information being presented. The role of teachers is to help students organize content and facilitate real-life experiences to reinforce the information included in the lessons. Dewey suggested that experiences in education should reflect the capabilities and readiness of the learner, and the quality of the experience is a critical component of his theory on experience and education. If the experience is appropriate, learners can develop the knowledge needed to apply their experiences to other situations. As a result, they have created new knowledge, have advanced to a different level of readiness, and are prepared to acquire and construct additional knowledge.
Dewey was frustrated when philosophers did not view education with sufficient seriousness. He maintained that learning by participation in the ways of their communities, allowed children to achieve and grow cognitively and become productive adults. Rather than teaching isolated bits of information in a given lesson, Dewey perceived education as an interactive process with schools providing opportunities for students to engage in activities that require the exercise of a complete set of reflective thoughts and experiences (Tanner, 1997). This is quite a contrast from the traditional model of the classroom where the teacher transmits the knowledge to the students and the students are passive recipients of knowledge.
At the present moment, as schools face challenges in providing students with adequate education to become productive citizens in a global economy, stakeholders in education are searching for ways to provide effective educational experiences for the students (Davis, 2005). Everyone is looking for results. With the government requiring greater accountability and academic outcomes from students through the enactment of the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 educators must assume accountability for the intellectual development of their students. This has once again focused the teaching profession on creating classroom experiences for students that produce more lasting learning. As a result, many educators are beginning to revisit Dewey's educational philosophies and theories (Semel & Sandovik, 1999). They recognize that education that builds on the prior experiences of children contributes to development of new knowledge. This use of experiential education also can help children become active learners who take more responsibility for their academic outcomes. Thus, Dewey believed that building on prior experience as an instructional strategy should be primary in all educational