Paradoxes & Praxis: The 21st Century Imperative for Educational Foundations

Joseph Schwab

Why should we know Schwab and his work?

Joseph Schwab made an important impact on educational research and practice. In his time working at the College of the University of Chicago, Schwab developed an undergraduate curriculum of general education. Joseph also developed classroom discussion as used in classes all over the world as an alternative to the traditional lecture style. Later in his career, he became a chairman of the Committee on Teacher Preparation for the Biological Sciences Curriculum Study and went on to accomplish even more.


February 2, 1909- Born in Columbus, Mississippi
1924- Finished high-school at age 15 and went off to University of Chicago
1930- Graduated with a major in English Literature
1936- Completed his M.S. in Zoology and accepted a fellowship in science education at the Teachers College of Columbia University
1938- Won his first Quantrell award for excellence in teaching
1939- Received doctorate in genetics
1941- Hired as an assistant professor in the natural sciences
1943- Named Assistant Dean of Students in charge of Student Civilian Defense
1945- Became Associate Professor of the Natural Sciences in the College
1946- Associate Professor if Education
1947- Chairman of the College of Natural Sciences Staff
1948- Elected to University senate
1949- Full professorship in natural science and founding member of Committee on Social Thought
1951- William Rainey Harper Professor of the Natural Sciences
1953- First member of faculty to win the Quantrell Award twice
1959-1961- Chairman of Committee on Teacher Preparation for the Biological Sciences Curriculum Study
1969- Addressed the American Educational Researcher’s Association “The Practical”
1976-1977- Founding of Institute for Research on Teaching
1988- Died in Lancaster, PA


PEREIRA, PETER. 1984. "Deliberation and the Arts of Perception." Journal of Curriculum Studies 16 (4):347–366.

REID, WILLIAM A. 1999. Curriculum as Institution and Practice: Essays in the Deliberative Tradition. Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.

SCHWAB, JOSEPH J. 1969. College Curriculum and Student Protest. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

SCHWAB, JOSEPH J. 1976–1977. Transcriptions of Seminars Taught at the Institute for Research on Teaching at Michigan State University. Archived at the Museum of Education, University of South Carolina.

SCHWAB, JOSEPH J. 1983. "The Practical 4: Something for Curriculum Professors to Do." Curriculum Inquiry 13 (3): 239–265.

SCHWAB, JOSEPH J., and ROBY, THOMAS W., IV. 1986. "The Practicals 5 and 6: Finding and Using Commonplaces in Literature and Psychology." Archived at the Museum of Education, University of South Carolina.

SHULMAN, LEE S. 1991. "Joseph Jackson Schwab." Remembering the University of Chicago, ed. Edward Shils. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

TYLER, RALPH W. 1984. "Personal Reflections on The Practical 4." Curriculum Inquiry 14 (1):97–102.

WESTBURY, IAN, and WILKOFF, NEIL J., eds. 1978. Joseph J. Schwab, Science, Liberal Education, and Curriculum: Selected Essays [includes "Practicals 1–3"]. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Contributions to Curriculum:

Joseph Schwab was an agent of change in the field of curriculum. With his B.A. in English Literature, M.S. in Zoology, and his doctorate in Genetics, Schwab connected his love for biology with his passion for curriculum. Joseph Schwab contributed greatly to the development of the curriculum at the University of Chicago. In his graduate studies, his mentors including Robert Hutchins, Richard McKeon, and Ralph Tyler, introduced Schwab to philosophy and education. Here, Schwab studied Aristotle and Dewey who have an incredible impact on his development of theory and curriculum development.

Schwab also studied at the Teacher’s College of Columbia University. After his masters, he returned to Chicago to become an instructor of biological sciences. IN the years following his doctoral program, Schwab served as Chairman on multiple committees, educated as a professor, and even became an Assistant Dean. Schwab worked to defend and reform liberal arts, reconceptualize the teaching of science, and poured in Jewish education.

Joseph Schwab is best remembered for his work in encouraging the American Educational Research Association to improve in the areas of practical problems of theoretical interpretation/ application. In addition to this, Schwab introduced the "commonplaces" of educational thinking. Schwab identifies five bodies of the discipline of experience that must be represented when revising curriculum: 1) affected learners, 2) teachers, 3) subject matters, 4) sociocultural milieu, and 5) the curriculum specialist. Schwab makes the argument that when one of these commonplaces is left out of decision-making, there will be consequences for the others.

Joseph Schwab dedicated his life’s work to the betterment of education, sciences, and reformation.


Joseph Schwab (1909–1988) - Education and Career, Scholarly Work, The Practical, Legacy. (n.d.). Retrieved May 19, 2020, from

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