A List for Educators: Influences Over One Hundred Years
Maureen Connolly,  faculty at Elmhurst College,IL
or the last six to twelve months the media have presented us with
numerous lists of the top, the most significant, the favorite, or the
most influential people or events of the century. Lists seem to vary
in length from ten to one hundred. More of these lists are sure to
come, but this writer offers a list for educators - a list of those
people who have greatly influenced the education scene.
Parameters for developing this list were simple. Individuals needed
to have made a contribution after 1900. Contributions needed to be
wide in scope, not merely a local stir in educational circles.
Individuals were not limited to only the United States or to a specific
level of education.
Background was gleaned from a variety of websites located at the end
of the list. Please visit them for additional information. The
individuals are ranked from one to twenty, with the first having the
1. John Dewey(1859-1952)
Dewey revolutionized educational thinking by emphasizing learning by
doing, which was a radical concept for an educational system based on
rote learning. He also organized the laboratory school at the
University of Chicago based on the principle that research is the way
to improve education. His books The School and Society (1900),
Democracy in Education (1916), and How We Think (1933) are still
considered mandatory reading for many college courses while
discussion lists and websites about Dewey are abundant.
2. Alfred Binet(1857-1911)
Binet was a French psychologist who began studying the intelligence
of children. He developed the first I.Q. test, which has become one
of the mainstays of education as well as the subject of many
3. Edward Thorndike(1874-1949)
With the majority of his years at Teacher's College of Columbia
(1904-1940), Thorndike was a specialist in educational psychology.
Using animals as his subjects, he developed the "law of effect" which
held that behavior is learned by trial and error and is more likely
to occur if its consequences are satisfying. His best-known texts,
The Psychology of Learning (1914) and The Measurement of Intelligence
(1926) are still quoted today.
4. Burrhus Friederich Skinner(1904-1990)
Skinner was a behaviorist whose behavior modification principles
influenced classroom learning for many years. Building on Thorndike's
law of effect, he developed the concept of operant conditioning.
Interestingly, in the late 60's he became critical of programmed
instruction which some considered a natural outgrowth of his principles.
5. Jean Piaget(1896-1980)
Piaget was a Swiss psychologist whose five-year plan to study children
took thirty years. His research in the development of children's
cognitive functions is detailed in The Origins of Intelligence in
Children (1948). His finding, that the intellectual actions are
prepared by sensory-motor functions before language, changed the way
teachers viewed the education of young children.
6. Robert Gagne
Of the behaviorist school, Gagne has written that learning has nine
instructional events that should occur sequentially. His books The
Condition of Learning (1985) and Principles of Instructional Design
(1988) explain these events and emphasize that responsibility for
learning falls on the instructor alone.
7. Jerome Bruner
Bruner's 1960 publication of The Process of Learning detailed learning
as an active, social process. The teacher's role is to encourage
students to discover principles by themselves, a departure from Gagne.
8. Carl Rogers(1902-1987)
Rogers introduced a new role for the teacher as a facilitator.
According to Rogers, two types of learning exist: cognitive and
experiential. Experiential learning is of the greatest importance
as he explained in On Becoming a Person (1961) and Freedom to Learn
(1969). Numerous educational programs have been built on experiential
9. Albert Bandura
Although Canadian by birth, Bandura is a Stanford University professor.
His Social Learning Theory became Social Cognitive Theory. He developed
a theory of modeling or observational learning and his theories are
explained in his 1986 book Social Foundations of Thought and Action.
10. Lev Vygotsky (1896-1934)
Books and articles by the Russian Vygotsky were not revealed until
after the Cold War. His major work, Thought and Language (1934),
was based on his research of children's problem solving; and his Zone
of Proximal Development theory has been discussed and analyzed by
educators worldwide. According to Vygotsky, mental activity results
from social learning. Thus learning circles, learning communities,
and cooperative learning can be viable strategies in education.
11. Benjamin Bloom(1914-1999)
A University of Chicago professor, Bloom developed mastery learning.
His Taxonomy of Educational Objectives (1956), consisting of know,
comprehend, apply, analyze, synthesize, and evaluate has spurred
educators to reevaluate and redesign classroom activities for basic
understanding, critical thinking, and problem solving.
12. Maria Montessori(1870-1952)
Montessori was an Italian physician who opened "children's house"
in 1907. She developed an innovative system of education for
children ages 3 to 6 which included freedom of movement, considerable
choice, and specially designed equipment and activities. Her system
has been copied throughout the world.
13. Paulo Freire(1921-1997)
Freire, a Brazilian, abandoned a law career, eventually earning a
doctorate in education. His ideas, which are most complete in Pedagogy
of the Oppressed (1970), provided such radical views about the education
of adults that Brazilian officials considered him subversive. He
believed that those of the lowest socioeconomic classes could be and
should be literate. People become aware or conscientized and enter
a transfer state known as praxis. Education empowers the people.
14. Malcolm Knowles
Knowles is often referred to as the father of adult education as a
separate entity. He is associated with the terms self-directed learning
and andragogy. His text The Modern Practice of Adult Education (12970)
and its 1980 revision with the subtitle From Pedagogy to Andragogy are
essential reading for those interested in adult education, a consistently
15. Ernest Boyer(1928-1995)
President of the Carnegie Foundation from 1979 to 1995, Boyer saw the
"interconnectedness of all learning" as a reason for linking learning
to community service. Currently, service learning is an integral part
of many course offerings in secondary and postsecondary institutions.
Scholarship Revisited (1990) and High School: A Report on Secondary
Education (1983) have become landmark texts.
16. James B. Conant(1893-1978)
President of Harvard from 1933 to 1953, Conant reorganized the
curriculum of the university, placing general education courses at
the undergraduate level and professional training for post-graduate
students. Conant is often considered the father of the modern American
high school with his publications of The American High School Today
(1959) and The Education of American Teachers (1963).
17. Myles Horton(1905-1990)
In 1932, Horton founded the Highlander Folk School based on the
Danish concept. Despite a variety of segregation laws, Horton taught
leadership skills to both black and white students. "Education leads
to action" was his philosophy for this grass roots, activist movement.
18. Howard Gardner
In 1983, Gardner, a Harvard professor, wrote Frames of Mind: The Theory
of Multiple Intelligences in which he advocated an assessment of all
forms of intelligence. These forms, which include linguistics,
logical-mathematical, spatial, bodily-kinesthetic, musical, interpersonal,
and intrapersonal, have greatly altered how educators view intelligence
and the value of I.Q. tests as proposed by Binet.
19. William S. Gray(1885-1960)
Long associated with the University of Chicago, Gray's work as a pioneer
of standardized reading tests and diagnostic theory has been
well-documented. His research in the area of reading has had far
reaching effects; he promoted adult reading and content area reading as
specialties within the reading field. In addition, he served as the
first president of the International Reading Association and he worked
on the famous Dick and Jane basal readers, a classroom standard for years.
20. Andrew Carnegie(1835-1919)
Although not in the education profession nor an allied field, Carnegie
influenced education greatly by his philanthropy. In 1901 he funded
the Carnegie Institution of Washington, a national research institution,
as a resource for all universities. In 1905 the Carnegie Foundation for
the Advancement of Teaching was founded and has developed widespread
educational standards. The year 1911 brought Carnegie's "great give
away" of $150 million to colleges, universities, and educational
institutions. Today funding from Carnegie's legacy is even provided
to PBS's Sesame Street.
For Additional Information Check These Website Resources: