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Since the mid-19th century, ideological tensions have existed in classroom teaching among European and U.S. school reformers who sought to have teachers direct and control student actions in covering a mandated curriculum and those who sought to organize classroom instruction to actively engage students’ interest in subject matter and skills. Although the dominant mode of instruction was teacher directed in both Europe and the United States, educators on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean made repeated efforts to introduce and maintain student-centered forms of teaching and learning.

Johan Pestalozzi, the Swiss educator, and Friedrich Froebel, the German founder of the kindergarten, for example, influenced U.S. educators to focus on children’s ideas, passions, and activities in organizing teaching concepts and learning skills. In the United States, Edward ...

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