RSS

[CD 479] Policy article: Universal Preschool

Early Childhood Education Journal

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2011

10.1007/s10643-011-0449-x

Universal Preschool’s Promise: Success in Early Childhood and Beyond

Jon Lasser  and Kathleen Fite 
(1)

Department CLAS, Texas State University-San Marcos, 601 University Drive, San Marcos, TX 78666, USA
(2)

Department of Curriculum and Instruction, Texas State University-San Marcos, 601 University Drive, San Marcos, TX 78666, USA
Published online: 19 February 2011
Abstract
Fueled by a belief that early intervention can prevent a host of educational woes, efforts to provide universal, publicly funded preschool have the potential to radically change the way we think about our commitments and responsibilities in education. We call for the implementation of innovative, universal preschool programs that attend to developmental characteristics of learners, cultural and linguistic diversity, ecosystemic context, and the new mandates on teacher training. Universal preschool has the potential to go far beyond mere “day-care,” as it has the potential to establish the foundation for a lifelong love of learning and optimal social/emotional development. We also advocate for high-quality teacher training to populate preschools with high-quality teachers. If universal preschool is carefully planned and provided, K-12 education stands to benefit substantially.
Keywords

Early childhood Universal preschool Diversity Teacher training Public policy

Though most agree that education reform is needed, there is little agreement about how to achieve success. Changes to the ways public education is financed, reductions to student–teacher ratios, and increased emphasis on standards-based approaches all have been suggested. We advance the proposal that universal preschool education (free preschool education available to all children) is the best approach to addressing the educational challenges of the twenty-first century.
Persuading policy makers that early childhood education is a good investment may be a tough sell, particularly in a poor economic climate. We contend that the provision of free preschool for all children makes economic sense when placed in the context of long-term academic and employment success. What happens to American children in education after early childhood? The data are not encouraging. Our students in math and science are ranked 48 out of 133 countries (Simmons 2011). Though this finger pointing provides little in terms of solutions, it raises questions about responsibilities and the origins of academic success. Promoting universal preschool as a means to improving academic and developmental outcomes for all children makes sense in both academic and economic contexts.
An investment in universal early childhood education has great potential for addressing concerns about academic preparedness in K-12 education and beyond, but that maximum benefit will arise when we carefully attend to developmental characteristics of preschoolers, cultural and linguistic diversity, ecosystemic context, and new mandates on teacher training.

Why Universal Preschool?

Advocates for publically funded, universal, voluntary pre-school argue that such programs provide academic, social/emotional, and economic benefits (National Institute for Education Research 2007). For example, Edward Zigler and colleagues have argued that an investment in early childhood education for all children provides not only the school readiness skills for academic learning, but also a critical foundation in social and emotional regulation that makes learning possible (Zigler et al. 2006). According to Karoly and Bigelow (2005), the direct and indirect returns on such an investment, as measured by job growth, crime prevention, and decreased reliance on social welfare programs has been estimated to be substantial (for every dollar invested yields a return of $2.62). So if universal preschool has so much to offer, why have we not made the commitment?
Public opposition to universal preschool has been substantial. A California ballot initiative for universal preschool, advanced by actor/director Rob Reiner, was defeated in 2006 by a large margin. Critics argued that the alleged benefits of universal preschool would not materialize, and that the proposed tax increase to fund the program would both discourage investment in the state and drive wealthy families from California (Institute of Governmental Studies, University of California 2006). We wish to leave the economic forecasting to those more qualified to do so and focus our attention on key factors that could enhance the outcomes of universal preschool.

Attention to Developmental Characteristics of Learners

Recognizing and applying the unique developmental needs of preschoolers to early childhood education elevates programming from mere “day-care” to meaningful, enriching educational opportunities. Children three to four years of age are not simply smaller versions of their 5th grade counterparts. The cognitive and social/emotional developmental needs of early childhood learners demand specialized goals, objectives, and methods.
Proponents of publicly funded preschool wisely note that school readiness (i.e., preparedness for kindergarten) is a primary benefit of universal early childhood education. However, rarely is “readiness” operationalized. When some speak of readiness, the term is conceptualized as pre-literacy and numeracy skills necessary for the efficient absorption of the elementary school curriculum. But this narrow view is an iteration of the four-year-old-as-small-fifth-grader perspective. Developmentally appropriate early childhood education’s goals are to establish the foundation for a lifelong love of learning and optimal social/emotional development, for these are the precursors to successful learning in K-12 settings.
What methods, strategies, and techniques should preschool programs use to achieve the dual goals of fostering a love of learning and enhancing social/emotional development? Simply stated, the focus of early childhood education should be age-appropriate, nurturing, play-based instruction. Good early childhood educators are already doing this, and with phenomenal results. They recognize that socially and cognitively, the three and four-year-old crowd learns by playing and is supported in their social/emotional development through encouragement, gentle limit setting, and unconditional positive regard.
Ultimately, school readiness comes not from an emphasis on academic preparedness in a conventional sense, but in preparing the hearts and minds of young children for participating in a community of learners. Listening, taking turns, respecting others, and student engagement in learning constitute the long-lasting benefits of age-appropriate goals and activities in preschool.

Addressing Cultural and Linguistic Diversity

Just as educators must attend to the unique developmental needs of early childhood learners, so must we take cultural and linguistic diversity into consideration, for the risks of ignoring diversity are significant (Sullivan and A’Vant 2009). Others have detailed the changing demographics of the United States, so we focus our energy on the implications rather than the statistical trends. Here we consider the importance of making the early childhood education experience both culturally relevant and practical for culturally and linguistically diverse young children.
Keeping the goals of universal preschool in focus allows us to see culturally responsive early childhood education as not merely a worthy end in itself, but as a means to achieving the readiness goals described above. Preschool children entering the school system experience a tremendous shift from the home and neighborhood as primary environments to the new world of school. Consequently, a culturally relevant curriculum facilitates the transition to school and nurtures the young learner. Moreover, inclusion of cultural diversity in early childhood education promotes respect for others and establishes the school as both familiar and accepting, laying the foundation for future learning.
The early childhood brain is primed for language development and schools are language-intense environments, which is to say that the vast majority of learning in schools is transmitted through spoken and printed language. That being the case, it stands to reason that at least in the preschool years, non-English speakers would stand to benefit from instruction in both their native language and in English, and that native English speakers would benefit from learning a second language. We reject an English-only approach because developmentally, early childhood learners need to feel comfortable in their learning environments, and instruction in their native language is a critical component of establishing such comfort. We now turn our attention to the provision of universal preschool in an ecosystemic framework.

Incorporating an Ecosystemic Context

Child development is best understood in an ecosystemic context that recognizes the environmental influences on the child (Bronfenbrenner 2004. Family, school, community, and larger systems play unique and important roles in human development. Moreover, the activity across these systems (e.g., collaboration across home and school systems) is significant. A large body of research has supported the notion that parent involvement is related to better educational outcomes (e.g., Christenson and Sheridan 2001). Here we promote an ecosystemic approach as a way of facilitating shared goals and responsibilities for schools and families by situating preschool not as a distinct, standalone institution, but rather as part of the child’s network of critical systems.
Preschool programs that recognize families as partners in education are aware that most families want to participate in their children’s education, and collaborative efforts pay off. Schools are a site of learning, but not the only site. Much learning occurs in homes and communities, and children learn best when there are consistent expectations across settings. In this respect, universal preschool enhances not only child readiness, but also family readiness for learning through high school and beyond.
We acknowledge considerable overlap between our promotion of both an ecosystemic framework and culturally responsive preschool programs, as schools will more easily partner with diverse families when they are aware of and respectful of families’ beliefs, values, and traditions. But we emphasize that independent of culture and language, families want their children to be successful in school, and our efforts to include families in preschool education will go far in preventing academic failure and promoting sustained learning.

Teacher Preparation for Universal Preschool

High quality, universal preschool will require high quality teachers. Frost (2007) tells us that a “perfect storm” is mounting in the early childhood field, characterized by a more business-like approach to education with a focus on accountability that deemphasizes the role of play, discovery, and spontaneity; therefore, the preparation of new preschool teachers must emphasize developmentally appropriate programs and practices in order to foster young children’s success. It is essential for teachers to be caring and culturally responsive to children in addition to helping them become academically prepared (Noddings 2006). Becoming familiar with cultural and social practices needs to be at the heart of the twenty-first century preschool teacher. Providing universal preschool education will prepare for our children’s future success in a more global environment. Thus, the question becomes, “What attributes and skills should be nurtured for the children who today represent what our future is to become?”
Pink (2006), in his book, A Whole New Mind focuses on how we need to revisit teaching “as we have been taught” in light of looking at how the world and workplace will be different for the children of the twenty-first century. He states that children who are empathetic and creative thinkers capable of seeing patterns and the bigger picture will be more likely to succeed in a rapidly changing world. Therefore, teacher training must emphasize the importance of developing not only the cognitive skills, but also the social/emotional skills of the young learner.
Hirsh-Pasek et al. (2008) believe that the role of preschools in preparing children for readiness in mainstream education is becoming increasingly important. As teachers and administrators plan for curriculum and instruction, they need to rethink the traditional parameters of training—a reminder that children who will be the workforce of the future are today in our preschools (Temple University 2009). Hirsh-Pasek and Golinkoff (2009) argue that attributes necessary for the twenty-first century will be what they call the six C’s: collaboration, communication, content, critical thinking, creative innovation, and confidence. Pre-service teachers need to learn about these qualities in their classes and ensure they are more universally addressed in programs for young children, adapting them into their plans for curriculum and instruction. Next, we outline how the six Cs (Hirsh-Pasek and Golinkoff 2009) readily translate to what would be appropriate for a universal preschool curriculum designed with twenty-first century skills.
Collaboration suggests a cooperative social environment. We must learn to work together locally as well as globally, embrace the ideas of others, and freely share our thoughts and expertise. The synergy that is created from collaboration is greater than what an individual or single group can produce. Teachers and administrators as well as children and the greater community, need to be given opportunities to work together and exchange information and views. We need to capitalize on our skills and strengths and use them to their greatest advantage. Opportunities for initiating collaborative activity abound in preschool and provide children with team building skills that will benefit them throughout their life. Educators need to focus on their collaborative efforts to bring together skills and ideas that will best address common goals.
Communication is critical for success in the twenty-first century as our sense of community expands into more a web of more global networking. We need to be respectful of cultural differences and yet seek common ground to ensure understanding. Understanding what others are saying and being a good listener are valuable as is being a persuasive speaker. Many of our children come to school with limited language ability. Cultural and socio-economic differences make it essential for children to learn early the patience and understanding necessary to interact with others. Universal preschools would afford more of our young children an opportunity to learn these valuable skills early. Their daily interactions would boost their ability to work in environments of diversity.
When we refer to content, most people would list math, literacy, and language skills because traditionally they have been most valued in American education. Our technical, information society is bombarding our students with ideas, some of which are intellectually stimulating and some of which is inappropriate; for those lacking access we are creating an intellectual divide. We need to rethink the content in broader context so that children have experiences that enrich and expand their learning. Opportunities to experience the arts and social sciences in ways that promote creative expression, develop curiosity, and foster inquiry will be valuable in twenty-first century arenas. However, poverty, isolation and accessibility, cultural barriers as well as other factors, create great division in exposure to important life events and information that, if not addressed early, can extend well into the upper grades and later undermine the success of future families, the work force, the economy, and ultimately, the government.
Fourth is critical thinking. To be successful in the twenty-first century, we must be able to employ purposeful judgment to understand, process, and use the information presented to us. To interface with the people and situations of our environment we need skills, abilities, and experiences that enable us to ask pertinent and leading questions, consider possibilities, and integrate information so that it is connected and appropriate for accomplishing our goals. We need to become reflective practitioners so that we are more cognizant of the “what and why” of our success and may benefit from our actions in the future.
Fifth is creative innovation. Emerging teachers are drilled in content, the what to teach, but sometimes lack the repertoire of skills to allow children variety in how they address their personal learning and interact with their environment. We need to find ways to nurture inventiveness so that our children seek to know more and to find better ways of doing things, thus becoming innovative architects of our future. Opportunities to experiment and use and do things in developmentally appropriate, non-traditional ways will encourage children to think divergently, from conceptualization to implementation.
Sixth is confidence. Children need early social experiences to learn how to interact with people and their environment. They build upon prior experience and gain self-assuredness from a sense of what comes next and what works best. Ironically, curriculum and teachers can thwart learning and erode confidence. According to Hirsh-Pasek and Golinkoff (2009), “We’re so busy being cautious that we’re not giving our kids a chance to fail at anything.” Confident children become confident adults who are risk takers.
We need to rethink edutainment, gimmicks, and standardization. What is it that we want our children to know and be able to do to be successful in the future, and how can we best provide an environment that nurtures those skills and attributes? Teacher training institutions and schools have an important role in helping emerging and practicing teachers to rethink both curriculum and instruction to ensure developmental appropriateness for today and the applicability to jobs and the world of tomorrow.
The National Commission on Teaching and America’s Future (2006), advocates for how we can improve our schools and provide every child in America with twenty-first century teaching. Strategies for improvement include creating strong learning teams in schools; closing the gap between teacher preparation and practice; supporting professionally rewarding teaching careers; and developing authentic teaching standards and learning assessments. The emphasis on collaborative learning teams and appropriate learning environments are clearly important for twenty-first century education (Carroll 2009).

Conclusion

In short, universal preschool requires a unique model of teacher preparation, curricular goals, and instructional methods. There is little doubt that success in universal preschools, like any other educational setting, depends on sensitivity to diverse learners. Universal public preschool presents an opportunity to welcome new learners to public education in such a way that values their unique contributions to the learning community. Moreover, school and community need not be separated by a vast chasm; there’s great potential for community-school partnering. A recognition and appreciation of cultural and linguistic learners will enhance education at the preschool level and beyond.
To prepare the best educators for our youngest students, we promote high quality early childhood education for all. A far cry from the intense focus on basic academic skills, this approach prepares teachers to develop students that are learners in the broadest sense. This is so critical because early childhood education lays the foundation for lifelong learning. We acknowledge that universal preschool will be costly, but we believe that not providing high quality, developmentally appropriate, culturally-sensitive preschool from high quality teachers will be even costlier.
References
Bronfenbrenner, U. (2004). Making beings human: bioecological perspectives on human development. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
Carroll, T. (2009). The next generation of learning teams. Phi Delta Kappan, 91, 8–13.
Christenson, S. L., & Sheridan, S. M. (2001). Schools and families: Creating essential tools for learning. New York, NY: Guilford.
Frost, J. L. (2007). The changing culture of childhood: A perfect storm. Childhood Education, 83, 225–230.
Hirsch-Pasek, K., Golinkoff, R. M., Berk, L. E., & Singer, D. (2008). A mandate for playful learning in preschool: Presenting the evidence. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.CrossRef
Hirsh-Pasek, K., & Golinkoff, R. M. (2009). Playing for the future: The 6 C’s. Invited address at the association of children’s museum conference, Philadelphia, PA, May.
Institute of Governmental Studies, University of California. (2006). Proposition 82: Universal preschool. Retrieved April 26, 2010, from University of California, Berkeley, Institute of Governmental Studies web site: http://​igs.​berkeley.​edu/​library/​htUniversalPresc​hool.​html#Topic3.
Karoly, L. A., & Bigelow, J. H. (2005). The economics of investing in universal preschool education in California. Santa Monica, CA: Rand Corporation.
National Commission on Teaching and America’s Future. (2006). NCTAF research reports. Retrieved April 26, 2010, from http://​www.​nctaf.​org/​resources/​research_​and_​reports/​nctaf_​research_​reports/​index.​htm.
National Institute for Early Education Research. (2007). The universal vs. targeted debate: Should the United States have preschool for all? Retrieved April 26, 2010, from http://​nieer.​org/​resources/​factsheets/​6.​pdf.
Noddings, N. (2006). Teaching themes of care. Phi Delta Kappan, 76, 675–679.
Pink, D. (2006). A whole new mind: Why right-brainers will rule the future. New York, NY: Penguin Group.
Simmons, D. (2011). U.S. education still found lax in science, math. The Washington Times. Retrieved from http://​www.​washingtontimes.​com/​news/​2011/​jan/​25/​us-students-still-lag-science-math/​.
Sullivan, A. L., & A’Vant, E. (2009). On the need for cultural responsiveness. NASP Communique, 38. Retrieved April 26, 2010, from http://​www.​nasponline.​org/​publications/​cq/​mocq383culturalr​esponsive.​aspx.
Temple University. (2009). For pre-school, it’s not the ABCs, but the five Cs. Retrieved April 26, 2010, from Temple University, Temple Cutting Edge web site: http://​templecuttingedg​e.​wordpress.​com/​2009/​08/​14/​for-pre-school-its-nottheabcsbutthe​fivecs.
Zigler, E., Gilliam, W. S., & Jones, S. M. (2006). A vision for universal preschool education. New York, NY: Cambridge University Press.

Article resource:

Lasser, J. & Fite, K. (2011). Universal preschool’s promise: Success in early childhood and beyond. Early Childhood Education, (39), 169-173. Retrieved from Academic Search Elite.

Policy group members: Kathy, Ruth, Kat, Teron

Discussion questions:

In 2006, California Preschool for All Act (Proposition 82) did not pass, mainly because the fact that the initiative would be financed by a 1.7 percent tax increase on individuals who earn over $400,000 (or couples earning over $800,000), which represents an 18 percent tax increase on wealthy Californians (Snell, 2006). After reading this article, what do you think?

Many opposers think that the insignificancy of the effect of universal preschool system on our current K-12 education system, along with its economic cost and tax pressure on low-income families. But the article indicated that the provision of free preschool promotes long-term academic and employment success. What do you think?

Set aside the idea of universal preschool, based on your experience, do you think that preschool schooling is necessary for children to attend K-12 education system?

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on September 9, 2014 in CD 479, Policy Articles

 

[CD 479] Passion and Anxiety of Public Advocacy

Hightower, J. & Frazer, P. (2004). [Graph]. Fables, film-flam, and urban legends of our time. Highlower Lowdown, 6(12). Retrieved from http://www.hightowerlowdown.org/node/358#.U__doLxdXT4

Ever since I started to pay attention to policies and the process of passing laws, I have been having this anxiety about how media is affecting on voters’ decision making. Like this picture I have found online, majorities of our population are influenced by media in various ways –  while they thought that they are all on the same “dimension of stairs”, the reality is really the opposite. Whenever I encountered a discussion of certain policy, I often found that the people I was debating with have very different information of that policy than what I had. Apparently the media nowadays are giving people different informations of government policies that make people to have very opposite impressions on one policy. And the general populations hardly research to certify the information that they were given because of the difficulty level of reading a manuscript law. I suppose that my fear is that people spread false information to bigger population while thinking they are making a difference for good. Meanwhile, what I really hope for is that people can rise awareness of certain things and change the related policies with adequate research and valid information, and that’s what will really make a difference for a better society.

 

[CD 469] News brief

Reporter: Yiyue “Kathy” Jiang

Date: April 8, 2014

Blatt-Gross, C. (2014, March 30). Why do we make students sit still in class?. CNN Living. Retrieved from http://www.cnn.com/2014/03/30/living/no-sitting-still-movement-schools/index.html?iref=allsearch

This source is a news article from CNN Living, specifically under the “Head of the Class” section, which focuses on schools and thoughts about education. Standing at the educator and parent’s viewpoint, the author explained her initiation and exploration of the issue on whether children should be required maintaining physical stillness while learning. By questioning the traditional classroom settings and its expectation of students’ physical management, the author visited private school, charter school and public school and found out that, despite their different curriculum, educators in separate school systems agreed on the fact that learning is accompanied with physical movements and that restricted physical stillness may cause behavioral problems and shifting focus of learning. This article is intended for educators and parents. The author encouraged educators to challenge some aspects of traditional school systems, and she also gave positive advices to parents whose children may experience struggles with maintaining physical stillness in traditional classroom settings. Some limits of this article may include the fact that the author has the background of being a mother whose two children are highly physical active and having troubles remaining still during class. The article is limited with the perspective from her background and didn’t carry out other perspectives, such as parents whose children are having trouble concentrating because of the distractions that caused by children who cannot maintain physical stillness in class.

As a child development major, I agree that physical movements is a reflection of sensory-motor learning stage that is a part of learning process according to behavioral theorists. I understand the author’s concerns on physical restrictions taking students’ energy on concentrating on learning; however, I have to take in consideration that some students might have trouble of concentration because of the distraction of other students’ physical movements. Personally, I am one of the people who can only concentrate with quiet environment. For example, some physical movements, such as tabbing on desk, may cause me high irritation. I admit that these concerns from both perspectives originated in traditional class settings where students are expected to sit in individual desks during majority time in school, and that if schools can develop curriculums that comprehend learning and physical movements, the perspectives would alter accordingly.

 
2 Comments

Posted by on April 8, 2014 in CD 469

 

[CD 257] Advice for future students

It’s almost the end of the semester and my lab experience for this course has almost came to an end. I’ve learned a lot during the course and the lab experience, and here’s what I want to share with the future students who are going to enroll in this class.

The most important thing I have learned during this class is that we as teachers need to respect for individualities in children. Every child is different: they learn in various of ways and their developmental levels varies as well. When planing out small group activities, teachers need to take in consideration of each child’s characteristics, interests, and learning process to plan an activity that engage everyone in the group as well as scaffold them for development. Children behaves differently in the lab, and there might be many reasons behind their behaviors. Pre-assumptions of any child and their behavior is not a good start  when working with children. Sometimes children misbehave, and that usually contain deeper meaning than we, as student teachers that only spend four hours in the lab with these children every week, can understand. We need to always see things with open minds and accept the fact that there are many things about children that we do not know.

Class lectures tie with lab experience very closely. The discussion that we have in the class meetings will do tremendous help and provide guidance and strategies for us to use during our lab practices. Team work is another important thing for this course. We constantly work in teams both in lab day teams and small group activity groups. It is important for us to remain awareness of all the children and lab team members doing during lab practice. Sometimes situation occurs when we need help from the other side of the room or in need to take a break, and that’s when good team coordination comes in handy. During small group activity plans, we can talk to each others and make a week-long activities that are consistant on children’s learning experience.

It is highly impossible to avoid working in teams as educators,  this course provides us the opportunity to practice what are necessary for our professional practice later on in life. I’ve been taught that college is a practice for professional performance throughout my college experience. For example, attending class shows accountability and team project shows reliability, task management and many other important skills and disciplines. In that case, this course also requires us to practice and refine certain professional performance  when working in the lab, such as calling in the lab and finding substitutes when we cannot make it to the lab, as well as dressing up professionally and talking to children and adults with objectivity.

I believe that this is a very nice course for people to experience, whether or not if you want to become educators. It is within my belief that parents need to contain the knowledge that educators do for the children to reach their highest potentials. Parents are children’s first teachers, therefore I think this course will bring people with appropriate techniques and strategies of helping children to development, both academically and intellectually.

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on December 2, 2013 in CD 257 Advice

 

[CD 356] Reading Reflection – Project Approach

Last week I read Helm and Beneke’s book, The Power of Project, and found the book very practical for teachers who choose project approach curriculum as teaching model. There are teaching strategies that I found extremely useful, such as it mentioned the fact that, when planning project themes, not all topic are interested to al children: “For those who might be more interested in different topic, the teacher can acknowledge the feeling by saying something like ‘I understand that you are not especially interested in the Bike Shop Project. I hope the next project we do will be more interesting for you. In the mean time, do what you can to help the others in your group.’ In this way, the teacher expresses genuine understanding and respect for the child and makes clear the importance of working and helping others” (p.15). The book included tremendous amount of projects that students worked on in different schools, based on separate learning goals as well as special focus for ESL (English for second language) students and the ones with special needs. There is a specific chapter that the book spent to talk about ESL, which I found personal related because I learned English as a second language in school. “Being bilingual has definite economic advantages and increases career opportunities” (p. 64). While more and more students in US are bilingual, teachers are mostly only speak one language. “Children with ESL are more likely to have discipline problems and to drop out of school before their education is completed because English is the only language used for instruction” (p. 65). It is important for teachers to realize that children with different language often experience cultural conflicts due to different expression such as expression of emotions and attention. Teaching English to an ESL children are more challenging for teacher as well as for students to learn English as a second language. The book listed teaching second-language strategies, including: using demonstrations, modeling and engaging role-plays, repeating words and sentence patterns, etc. “Children vary greatly in their motivation to learn a new language” (p.65), and I believe that it is important for educators to make any language learning experience meaningful for children. To achieve academic learning goals as well as help develop children’s internal emotions, “the warmth of the classroom and how comfortable a child feels with the teacher also influence language acquisition” (p. 65).

The other member from my discussion group also read the same book, and we both found it interesting that the book mentions, “the use of the project approach in the U.S. has been stimulated by information about projects developed in the preschools of Reggio Emilia, Italy” (p.7). I thought that project approach model is developed from Piaget’s Developmental Theory because there are big amount of the guidelines of project approach model is similar to Piagetian’s philosophy, such as autonomy and engagements. At the same time, it is understandable due to the close relationship between project approach and Reggio Emilia approach: they both focus on children-directed learning experience through sensory and relationship building.

In the Introduction of The Power of Project, there are several records of the conference of NAEYC (National Association for the Education of Young Children), and one of them was talking about curiosity, “If children aren’t challenged to think, it can become a self-fulfilling prophecy. If children don’t get a chance to be curious and find answers to their questions, they don’t see themselves as successful learners, or they don’t view school as a place where they can learn interesting, relevant thing. Eventually, their intellectual curiosity dies” (p.1). I shared this with discussion group and we both found this really powerful and influential for our personal teaching philosophy.

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on October 14, 2013 in CD 356 Reflection 3

 

Tags: ,

[CD 356] Reading Reflection – Project Approach and Rie

For this reading response, I finished the Katz & Chard’s Engaging Children’s Mind. There are two people in my discussion group who read Power of Project and another person read about infant education curriculum. 

While reading Engaging Children’s Mind, I noticed a few quotes that I thought are interesting. “The teacher must make every effort to help any child experiencing difficulties acquiring academic skills” (p. 15). I think this statement is very powerful. As educators, we are not just teaching children things to pass standardized tests. It is important for us to know each children’s Zone of Proximate Development to make appropriate scaffoldings. Since ZDP differs for each person, it is teacher’s duty to recognize individualities and diversity in the class and plan lessons that can meet every child’s developmental needs and goals. The book stated that there are four categories of learning goals for children: knowledge, skills, dispositions, and feelings. While knowledge, skills and dispositions can be achieved through different methods, I think that the project approach model especially fits with the development of children’s emotions by engaging them in group activities. “We generally want children to feel accepted, comfortable, and competent, that they belong to the class group and can contribute to shared experience. Such feelings can be learned while interacting with significant others in the group” (p. 39). This is another reason why I believe that project approach model can be integrated in education for children that are older than early childhood. Adolescents and pre-adults also crave for sense of belonging and friendships just as much as early and middle childhood children. Projects can build relationships and connections between people and continue emotional development through our life. The rest of the book contains huge amount of practical informations about strategies of teaching for educators, such as criteria for selecting and focusing particular project topics (p.93) and procedures while giving instructions (p. 80).

From the group discussion, I learned that The Power of Projects contains practical examples of different projects that meets various particular learning goals. We talked about the curriculum structure of project approach model and how it focus on both individuality and group works, while still meeting standards and maintain children’s curiosity and interests. We also discussed this video we all watch before in other child development courses. It’s a documentary of a vacation/airport boarding series of projects in an elementary school. We shared the view how it’s important for every child to have a place in group projects and feel important in the community. 

The person who read about Rie, an infant education model, and shared some insights. She said that this model take approach to treat babies as other human beings rather than objects. Instead of setting boundaries for infant, children in Rie model is allowed to find their own boundaries and limits in a safe environment. I thought this model is really fascinating, because, just as children of other ages, infants need to be encourage to seek answers and solutions to learn effectively.

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on October 9, 2013 in CD 356 Reflection 2

 

[CD 356] Reading response reflection – project approach and Piaget

For this reading response, the discussion group that I joined mainly focused on project approach and Piaget theory of developmental model.

The two books that our discussion of project approach model based on were Helm’s The Power of Projects: Meeting Contemporary Challenges in Early Childhood Classrooms — Strategies and Solutions (2003) and Engaging Children’s Minds: The Project Approach that was written by Katz and Chard (1985). We found out that in Helm’s book, he referenced the definition of “projects” from Engaging Children’s Minds, which stated that “a project is an in-depth study of a particular topic that one or more children undertake”. Both books talked about how project approach is a period-long learning process that can be built upon individual, groups, or even whole class. One statement in Engaging Children’s Minds that I found particularly interesting was that projects help children gain knowledge that may not be accessed by standardized tests but promote children’s intellectual development by engaging their minds. We talked about the importance of attention in learning process and how children can reach their highest potentials through interests and engagements. Engaging Children’s Minds also mentioned that project approach models are mainly used in early childhood teaching and learning. It stated that, in project approach model, teachers’ role is to encourage children to interact with objects and others, and children’s role is to learn through active participation, which then bring us back to the topic of children’s engagement during learning. I want to question whether project approach model extend its influence after early childhood into life-long learning experience and whether it can be used not only for intellectual knowledge but also academic learnings. Because, through my own experience, I learn faster with deeper understandings on academic subject matters when the teacher choose to include projects with my interests.

For discussion on model based on Piaget’s developmental theory, we discussed that observation was the main expectation of teacher’s role and that logical and mathematical knowledge are the focus of teaching and learning. In Piagetian models, children are provided with the freedom to make sense of learning subject matters on their own so that they can make interrelationships with their prior knowledge. The knowledge we gain is a continuously building on learning process. We also talked about the three main activities in this model which are numerical meaning in daily life, group projects, and discussions.  I found it fascinating how Piaget’s model is similar with project approach on children’s attentive learning through everyday objects and activities. Our discussion group member also shared with us that Piagetian models found discussions important to learning because it provides children with the concepts of perspectives other than their own.

While questions raised during this reading response discussion, I hope to find answers and more understanding of both project approach and Piagetian models upon further readings.

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on September 30, 2013 in CD 356 Reflection 1

 

Tags: , ,

 
Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.