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ECE 311 Early Childhood Curriculum and Methods
January 21, 2013
Pre-School age children from ages three to five years old are eager and thriving to learn. Qualified teachers are crucial in helping young children to develop. To incorporate age appropriate curriculum, the teachers need to know their children and their characteristics.
Jean Piaget (1896-1980) was one of the most influential researchers in the area of developmental psychology during the 20th century. Piaget originally trained in the areas of biology and philosophy and considered himself a "genetic epistemologist." He was mainly interested in the biological influences on "how we come to know." He believed that what distinguishes human beings from other animals is our ability to do "abstract symbolic reasoning." Piaget\'s views are often compared with those of Lev Vygotsky (1896-1934), who looked more to social interaction as the primary source of cognition and behavior. This is somewhat similar to the distinctions made between Freud and Erikson in terms of the development of personality. The writings of Piaget (e.g., 1972, 1990; see Piaget, Gruber, & Voneche) and Vygotsky (e.g. Vygotsky, 1986; Vygotsky & Vygotsky, 1980), along with the work of John Dewey (e.g., Dewey, 1997a, 1997b), Jerome Bruner (e.g., 1966, 1974) and Ulrick Neisser (1967) form the basis of the constructivist theory of learning and instruction. While working in Binet\'s IQ test lab in Paris, Piaget became interested in how children think. He noticed that young children\'s answers were qualitatively different than older children which suggested to him that the younger ones were not dumber (a quantitative position since as they got older and had more experiences they would get smarter) but, instead, answered the questions differently than their older peers because they thought differently (Huitt, & Hummel 2003).
According to his cognitive-developmental theory, children actively construct knowledge as they manipulate and explore their world. In his theory, as the brain develops and children?s experiences expand, they move through four broad stages, each characterized by qualitatively distinct ways of thinking. Cognitive development begins in the sensorimotor stage with the baby?s use of the senses and movements to explore the world. These action patterns evolve onto the symbolic but illogical thinking of the preschooler in the preoperational stage. Then cognition is transformed into the more organized reasoning of the school-age child in the concrete operational stage. Finally, in the formal operational stage, thought becomes the abstract, systematic reasoning system of the adolescent and adult (Berk, 2008).
Experimental learning is learning through reflection on doing, which is often contrasted with rote or didactic learning. Experiential learning is related to, but not synonymous with, experiential education, action learning, adventure learning, free choice learning, cooperative learning, and service learning. While there are relationships and connections between all these theories of education, importantly they are also separate terms with separate meanings.
Experimental learning focuses on the learning process for the individual (unlike experiential education, which focuses on the transactive process between teacher and learner). An example of experiential learning is going to the zoo and learning through observation and interaction with the zoo environment, as opposed to reading about animals from a book. Thus, one makes discoveries and experiments with knowledge
firsthand, instead of hearing or reading about others\' experiences. Experiential learning requires no teacher and relates solely to the meaning making process of the individual\'s direct experience. However, though the gaining of knowledge is an inherent process that occurs naturally, for a genuine learning experience to occur, there must exist certain elements:
1. The learner must be willing to be actively involved in the experience;
2. The learner must be able to reflect on the experience;
3. The learner must possess and use analytical skills to conceptualize the experience; and
4. The learner must possess decision making and problem solving skills in order to use the new ideas gained from the experience.
Experimental learning can be a highly effective educational method. It engages the learner at a more personal level by addressing the needs and wants of the individual. Experimental learning requires qualities such as self-initiative and self-evaluation. For experimental learning to be truly effective, it should employ the whole learning wheel, from goal setting, to experimenting and observing, to reviewing, and finally action planning. This complete process allows one to learn new skills, new attitudes or even entirely new ways of thinking. Simple games, such as hopscotch, can teach many valuable academic and social skills, like team management,
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Educational psychology, Alternative education, Developmental psychology, Child development, Constructivism, Early childhood education, Jean Piaget, National Association for the Education of Young Children, Experiential learning, Piagets theory of cognitive development, Learning, Experiential education, early childhood curriculum, cognitive developmental theory, constructivist theory of learning, lev vygotsky, genetic epistemologist, jerome bruner, jean piaget, john dewey, areas of biology, biological influences, iq test, developmental psychology, symbolic reasoning, school curriculum, theory of learning, neisser, social interaction, ulrick, younger ones, test lab
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