There have been many theorists which have influenced todays early childhood education. From as early as 1698 with John Comenius to the most mentioned Jean Piaget in the 1920s? John Comenius was one of the first producers of the childrens picture books. Comenius paved the way for subsequent development in education. His understanding of learning through the senses and of the holistic nature of learning remains the cornerstone of educational theories today.
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Friedrich Froebel also believed that teachers should not teach by rote but should encourage self-expression through play. He believed that the education of young children was a vital part of their development as individuals. Froebel was the 1st theorist to articulate a theory on how children learn and gave detailed instruction for putting this theory into practice. This was the first teacher training programmer for young children.
Rudolf Steiners theory is centered on all aspects of growth and development, which included spirituality. He wanted to create an education which gave children a balanced experience. The teachers attempts to engage the childs whole being in what they do, in as an artistic way as possible, by providing a warm and joyful environment in which the child can feel nurtured and at east, happy to explore and play, be busy and be still. The room is painted and in a warm colour has few hard rectangular corners, and is often furnished with soft muslins to mark off a different area or draped over a window to give a softer quality of light. The quality of sound is that of human voices rather than of mechanical toys. The materials in the room are natural and are at childrens level and are stored in aesthetic containers such as simple baskets or wooden boxes which may themselves be incorporated into the play (Drummond, MJ. Lally M. And Pugh, G. (EDS) (1989) Page 59) (Working with Children: Developing a Curriculum for Early Years). This theory and concept of teaching has influenced many types of early learning frameworks and curriculums. But his belief in the non-introduction of print to children prior to the age of 7 years remains a controversial part of his theory. As we are aware today, young children have a huge understanding of print, not just from books but from their environment.
Maria Montessori was one of the most influential theorists. Her aims were to harness childrens natural ability to learn and then offer defined experiences and materials to explain abstract principles. She wrote the child can only be free when the adult becomes an acute observer. Any action of the adult that is not a response to the childrens observed behaviour limits the childs freedom (cited by MacNaughton in Shaping Early Childhood) (Open University Press, 2003). She developed a range of equipment and materials to help develop the childrens daily living skills such as number concepts, language development, education of senses and exploration and science. Today these methods are still widely used and have been some of the most popular methods of early childhood education in the modern day.
Jean Piagets theories dominated developmental psychology in the 1960s and 70s. Like Sigmund Freud, Piaget identified stages of development but while Freud concentrated on the emotional and sexual development, Piaget focused on intellectual development. He identified these 4 stages as Stage 1: Sensorimotor, which was between the ages of 0 – 2 years. Stage 2: Preoperational, came from the age of 2 to 6/7 years. Stage 3: Concrete Operational, identified itself at age 7 years to 11 years. The final stage, Stage 4: Formal Operations, begins at the age of 12 and continues through into adulthood. His theories were covered during teacher training and influenced the education of young children during the 1970s. Today his theories are still taught but as part of a range of theories. He was created a sense of curiosity about how children learn but his emphasis on logic mathematical thinking resulted in his experiments being over-generalised from a narrow range of subjects. His theories were most influential to the modern curriculum of Highscope.
Using Highscope within the creche, I can identify many features from Steiner, McMillan, Froebel, Piaget and Melanie Klein.
Froebel theorised about the importance of outdoor experience. In our creche we ensure that all the children get outside to play every day. This is an important part of the daily routine, Froebel emphasised nature walks and gardening. The creche has limited outdoor space and the children have plenty to play with, which encourages their gross motor skills. Because of the safety flooring, we have little aspects of gardening outdoors. Melanie Klein believed that children use play to express and show their experiences. This is emphasised within the creche as the majority of the childrens learning/teaching is play-based and to manage challenging behaviour, we re-enact situations through play scenarios, i.e. puppets or stories. But we do not single children out, only observe them in group situations.
Rudolf Steiners theory concentrates on the child as a whole, balancing the childrens experiences. I can see through observations and toy selection that this is the thesis of our creche. As a supervisor, I see every child as unique. They may go through particular stage but not always at the same time! Each child needs to have positive and constructive experiences which develop their mind, emotions and will. We allow the children freedom of choice and support needed to help them make those choices. With group-time we give them the freedom to speak which builds self-worth and their listening skills. We encourage them to problem-solve which builds their confidence and teaches them patience and respect.
But unlike Steiners belief in not introducing them to the printed word, we show the books and flash cards from the babyroom up!
McMillan brought the importance of hygiene and nutrition to the forefront. Within the creche we encourage the children to be aware of self-care. Through role-play and story time, we show the children the importance of cleaning hands and face, of brushing their teeth and self-grooming. This is also taught to them through example (staff washing hands regularly, etc.). The creche has a daily well balanced and nutritious menu for the children. We liaise with parents to show them the importance of well balanced meals.
Maria Montessori had many contributions to creche curriculum but the one I see regularly in our creche is her theory and observations. The creche revolves around observing the children and planning their routines around that. Adults need to see what the children are interested in and how to enhance that so that their experience is full! Also when observing the children staff can see problems or issues which arise through play situations, i.e. social issues, developmental delays or problems. But we do not use any of the Montessori equipment as we use as much natural material as possible.
Although I can see concept from each theorist, I feel that Steiner/Piaget theories would be the most influential with the creche. Steiners theory about development of the child as a whole person is strong and his emphasis on the importance of play and imitation play a large part in the creche. Piagets theories of development were very influential to the Highscope approach which is used throughout the creche.
Children love to play! It is an important part of their development. Play offers children the chance to be in control and to feel both confident and competent within relevant and open-ended experiences which are meaningful to them. It helps children make sense of the world around them. Children gain an understanding of their emotions. When children play it involves the exploration of ideas, feelings, relationships, materials and their environment. Play encourages creativity and imagination, and offers the children a chance to explore at their own pace and developmental stage without restriction or expectations. There are different types of play which can overlap and lead into each other.
These are symbolic play:
The child can use this type of play to reinforce, learn about and imaginatively alter painful experiences. Children mimic parents or pretend to be heroes theyve seen on T.V. or read in a book. This type of play helps children cope with fears.
This gives children opportunities to express their feelings by using many different types of materials.
This has a large social aspect to it because it generally involves other children and it provides exercise which is essential for normal development.
This can be spontaneous or adult-guided. The children act out situations which they feel may happen or are fearful of or may have witnessed.
This starts in infancy. Children control and manipulate their environment and people around them. Children manipulate and move objects to better understand how they work.
This is when children handle materials and explore experiences in an enjoyable way.
This is when an incapacitated child watches and enjoys through other children or adults.
This is guided play used by professionals to help children understand their feelings and show them through play.
There are three main stages of play which are:
(0 2 years) Solitary Play where a child plays alone to explore.
(2 3 years) Parallel Play where a child will play alongside other children but not join in.
(3-5 years) Sharing Play where children co-operate and use conversation when playing games. This also involves children taking turns and using imagination.
Our role as Early Years workers is to facilitate and support each child in play.
Through observing practitioners can plan for play. Planning a daily routine and planning the environment around the childs play is important as through planned play a practitioner can best support the children. No matter the age group of the children they need adult support during play. By talking to the children about their play, recognising and supporting their choice of play (without interference) gives children a sense of competence and self-worth. Only participate in childrens play when invited or if you can help them develop the skills of playing. Practitioner can also support by acting as mediator teaching children skills such as problem solving and to be respectful of others feelings. Practitioners knowledge of equality and diversity will protect children from harm in play intervening in satiations that could be potentially harmful for children. Further to practitioners planning and supporting them also need to review play. Observing the children during play can show how the equipment materials and the environment is supporting or maybe hindering the childrens abilities to continue or to progress in the play.
Children today are growing up in a society where they are over-protected and parents are fearful of allowing them to play outside and explore houses are made so safe that children are stifled in their development. Things that we did to have fun and play developed our gross motor skills. We problem solved situations so as to stay out longer but today children have a lot of house based games such as PlayStation, etc., which are generally play solely and are intellectually based. I think children coming to an Early Years setting enjoy playing. Having materials and space which is suited and facilitates their interests, means they can express themselves freely and helps them explore and understand the ever changing world around them. As Froebels theory highlighted, children should be allowed to be children and enjoy the things that children enjoy.
1) What is the current framework available in Ireland? Siolta and Aistear are the most recent frameworks developed by the Centre for Early Childhood Development and Education (CECDE). Now the responsibility of Sioltas implementation lies with the Department of Education and Science. Aistear is the Early Childhood Curriculum Framework.
2) What will the Framework for Early Learning do?
Siolta focuses on all areas of quality within ECCE settings for children aged from birth to six years old. Aistear plays its part in giving children opportunities to learn based on their interests, strengths, culture and specific needs.
3) Who will the Framework be for?
The framework covers children from birth to six years old. This includes all Early Years settings, childrens own homes and infant classes in primary school.
4) How does the Framework consider the children?
Our society today has become more diverse. In allowing the children to learn to their abilities. It will give them quality interactions with other children and an enriched environment that encourages play indoors and outdoors, adult/child interactions, exploration, conversation and observation.
5) What themes are included in the Framework?
c) Exploration and thinking
d) Identity and belonging
6) What are Siolta and Aistear?
7) How can you as an Early Childhood Supervisor promote a quality Framework in your service?
Introducing the National Framework to the service involves educating both the staff and the parents. Training the staff and supporting them as a supervisor with the transition is very important. Aistear will broaden the range of strategies the staff will have for interacting with the children. Introducing new assessments and methods which will progress the childrens learning across the curriculum. The staff must support the children in the learning experiences by observing, listening and interacting, when invited by the child or if intervention is required. The involvement of the parent is essential. To help them understand the benefits to the children of quality play time and helping them understand the limitations paperwork can have with children, as most parents like to see their childrens progress through pictures or writings.
The introduction of project books for the children as a group and as individuals is a great way to review activities and allows the children express themselves through pictures and photos.
Highscope and National Curriculum
The curriculum used at my service is Highscope. This was developed by Dr. David Weikart to serve children at risk of failing school. It originated in the USA in 1962 and is now used in many countries around the world. It can be used throughout the childcare setting with children aged from birth to six years. Staff encourages children to become decision makers and problem solvers. This helps them to develop skills that enable them to become successful students as they grow and progress through school. The central principles are given through a Wheel of Learning. At the centre the active learner (the child) and surrounding that the principles that will support the child while learning these are adult/child interaction: learning environment: daily routine and assessment.
These give staff and management a base on how to provide an environment and daily routine that will enrich a childs experiences within my service. My vision is to have a quality service that children will run into every morning with smiles on their faces and at the end then to watch them become fully rounded, capable children as they make the transition to national school. I want my staff to enjoy coming to work, feeling satisfied that they have made a difference in each childs life. That they have helped each child reach their full potential and have positive experiences in the setting. I want parents to feel secure in entrusting their children to my service, that they know that their children will be nurtured and encouraged positively during every step of the day. They feel still included in every part of their childrens day, even while they are away from them.
I feel that the new National Framework can slot in easily to a service that is High scope-based, as there are a lot of similarities. Aistear curriculum can be used during a Highscope daily routing as both are play-based, learning and emphasise the value of observations to plan routines and activities.
Because of this, I feel the transition to national school should be smooth. The children have built up the abilities to problem solve and make decision and choices for themselves. This builds confidence both socially and academically. I feel the largest problem for children when progressing initially to national school is more social than academic and if a child is confident, self-aware and happy in themselves, the transition can bring more positive experiences than negative which sets a good base for a child to progress successfully as a student.