A Progressive Curriculum is based on the students’ interests. Teachers have themes and objectives, but they do not just design a course of study for their students; they design it with them, and they have to be prepared to welcome unexpected detours. The learning sessions have to be organized around problems and questions that allow students to explore difficult issues in theory and practice; and that engage students in active learning, inquiry, and problem solving.
Progressive Education focuses on experienced-based learning. That is, much of what children learn is attained through experience-based activities related to a study which is developmentally appropriate for them. At the end of a particular unit of study, children present a culmination that portrays the information they learned in the unit.
Teachers should devise assessment techniques that include elements beyond homework and testing (i.e. portafolios, group presentations, etc)
Because the curriculum is based on a specific group of students, a fourth-grade teacher's curriculum won't be the same as that of the teacher next door, nor will her/his curriculum be the same this year as it was for the children she/he taught last year. Progressive educators realize that the students must help to formulate not only the course of study, but also the outcomes or standards that inform those lessons.
As an example, take a look at the Middle School Curriculum for The Crefeld School (Philadelphia, PA):
A core grade level team of three teachers oversees the Middle School. This team consults weekly, or more often, on the whole spectrum of Middle School concerns and the specific strengths and weaknesses of each student. These teachers create yearly alternating themes and interdisciplinary units for their English, history and science curricula. The 7th and 8th grade students are combined into three sections for instruction in most disciplines. Math, physical education, and the arts are grouped differently. Every student is scheduled into four extended learning periods per week. During X-Block, which occupies one class period in the middle of each week, middle school students and their teachers gather in one classroom for their Weekly Meeting, where they address various topics that may have arisen during the past week, within the Middle School, as well as cover some very important life skills, that don’t necessarily fit into the regular course curriculum.
Middle School teachers work diligently to introduce each student to the culture of the school. Each child must feel welcomed, emotionally safe and appreciated. Teachers guide the students in creating portfolios of their work. Students also have opportunities to connect with their peers and teachers through advisories, community service, activity periods.