There are different types of methods and activities of teaching in early childhood education.
1) Rudolf Steiner & Steiner waldorf education curriculum for preschools
This curriculum was devised to ensure that child development is focused upon through its three stages of early childhood education, elementary education and secondary education. While early childhood relates to the promotion of hands on activities, creativity, elementary would dwell on social capability development along with artistic expression. Secondary education would help boost the critical reasoning as well as empathetic understanding in children.
The overall objective behind this curriculum is to provide morally responsible individuals endowed with high social acceptance qualities. The various qualitative assessments that are integrated into class work also prepare children for college entry.
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2) Maria Montessori & the Montessori Method
Dr Maria Montessori developed this Method that has been in practice for over a century. The focus of this curriculum is primarily dependant on how the child progresses in its development from birth into adulthood through scientific observation. The approach here is to capture the physical, emotional, cognitive and social development stages in the life of the child while keeping the values of the human spirit intact.
Dr Maria Montessori strongly believed that children who are allowed and encouraged to act freely within a conducive environment will experience optimal development. That is why this model that works on the twin principles of children below 6 years of age as well as adults engaging in self construction through interaction with respective environments remains popular to this day and age.
3) Loris malaguzzi & early education in Reggio Emilia
The approach of psychologist Loris Malaguzzi and Reggio Emilia revolves around a philosophy that is entirely concentrated on preschool plus primary education. This curriculum which came into being just after World War II was developed to promote experiential learning among students and is very student centered. It centers on the belief that children develop personalities on their own through self discovery and exploration. This is also a period when they are uninhibited and will express their ideas.
Therefore the Reggio Emilia curriculum lays greater emphasis on symbolic languages like sculpting, painting, drama so that children are encouraged to give vent to their creative energies. It encourages children to exert some kind of control over the learning they are exposed to and to seek opportunities for expression.
4) Chris athey & schema theory
This curriculum theory is based on the observation of children by adults to ascertain persistent action forms and then creating more such experiences revolving around that theme. It also entails the educator coordinating closely with the parents of the child before developing such experiences. The belief is that children exhibit behavior at home that parents should also observe and report to the educator. The combined knowledge thus gained will help both educator and parents to understand certain actions of the child that is repetitive or frequent.
The Schema theory was derived from Chris Athey’s work and is in force in nursery schools around UK as well as New Zealand with a high degree of success.
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5) David weikart & the highscope approach
The refreshing aspect of this curriculum is the intent to help poor children needing special education help till the time they can attend school. The Highscope curriculum zeroes in on children up to 3 years of age facing learning difficulties and how to help them. The attempt is to standardize educational opportunities for these children so that they are not discriminated against.
It believes that skills need not be picked up through conventional memorization and repetition methods but through the mode of learning by action. The curriculum relies on active learning, regular adult-child interactions, daily routines and assessment to help such children pick up skills. This type of learning is sustainable and prepares children for life once they join school.
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6) Margaret Donaldson & post – Piagetian theories
The Piagetian theory was proposed to track stages in child development from birth to 2 years and then from 2-7 years of age. The former is the “sensorimotor period” and the latter represents the “pre-operational” stage of development. Piaget believed that even during the very early stages of the child’s development, it is able to understand the concept of object permanence or that an individual or toy continue to exist even though not in sight of the child.
Piaget understood the huge importance of communication for the child even during its early and pre-operational periods. He stressed how language would enable the child to not only communicate but also internalize thoughts.
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7) Howard Gardener & multiple intelligence theory
Howard Gardener believed that intelligence in a human being should be able to fulfill 8 different criteria and that is how the multiple intelligence theory came into being in 1983. He further added that abilities such as being musically oriented, having visual-spatial dimensions understanding, being linguistic, logical, having interpersonal and intrapersonal skills and being naturalistic are all key to achieving the 8 criteria.
He further added that moral intelligence should also be added but did not support any labeling of learners as per their intelligence exhibited. His theory sought to empower learners without restricting them to any specific learning modality. Intelligence according to him had the potential to process information for solving problems or help in creation of products for the general good.
8) Te whariki
Te Whāriki was a curriculum guideline that was published in 1996 and has been revised in 2017. It does not actually prescribe any formal teaching of subjects in the convention form. It is widely used in New Zealand with every ECS needing to follow it for retention of license.
This curriculum stresses more on the ability of the child to experience home life in the company of parents, community. There is thrust on family bonding, play activities with family members, invoking a sense of well being and making contributions through such participative activities. ECE services expected to follow this curriculum are facilitated through the setting of goals along with guidance for teachers on how to go about it and also assess progress.
9) Forest schools
This is one curriculum that is refreshingly different from the rest in more ways than one. First of all, it lays emphasis on outdoor learning experiences primarily. It encourages children of all ages to set tasks and go about their achievement traversing woodland territory. The participants thus have to rely on self motivation, keen sense of sound as well as social skills to complete the tasks.
Forest schools have led to many success stories of children who learn to solve problems in tasks through the use of the natural environment and their own initiatives. These programs go on for 36 weeks through the year and involve travelling to woodlands in all weather conditions. Children make use of tools, understand limits of behavior and become highly confident.
10) Learning through play
Yet another different approach in curriculum is the one that encourages children to learn through play activities. Children learn social, cognitive skills and gain the self confidence that is necessary for engagement in new environments.
Children learn the advantages of team performance, communication, meeting physical challenges through sport. The repeat activities emphasize these skills on a regular basis and stimulate children to attempt new things. The main condition being play must always be enjoyable and not a burden on the children. It should also have elements of make believe to make it interesting for the children. Play has the uncanny merit of arousing natural curiosity in the child and when spontaneous it brings out the best from the child without any prescribed norm of learning.
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11) Friedrich Froebel
He was truly a pioneer in the field of early childhood education, establishing a school type for those up to 4 years of age way back in 1837. Prior to this, children till the age of 7 had no formal school system. In fact the belief was that children were incapable of any learning at such tender ages.
It was the time he spent with nature and outdoor surroundings that enabled him to love the environment, study books on forestry, architecture and surveying along with mineralogy. He spent time working in these fields before coming back to set up the education system for early childhood education. The experiences he went through in his working life shaped his education work later on.
12) Jean Piaget
The Piaget theory propounded for cognitive development remains a milestone achievement behind the understanding of human intelligence. The theory relates to how humans got to know about knowledge and how they ultimately started acquiring it for usage in various fields.
This theory is also known as the “developmental stage theory”. Piaget was of the opinion that cognitive development happened in an individual based on the exposure to environmental experiences as well as biological maturation. He trusted children to quickly adapt, understand the world and discriminate between discrepancies of what they know and what they do not. The modern day child centered schools and the open education being encouraged are direct influences of Piaget’s theory. The only drawback of this theory is its support of “sharp stages” as opposed to continuous development.
13) EYFS is based on theories of piaget & Vygotsky & Montessori
The theories of Piaget, Vygotsky and Montessori have inspired many a modern early childhood education curriculae. The emphasis they all placed on the ability of children to adapt to changing situations as long as they are given the freedom to learn by experience is the basis for the success of such curriculae.
Both Piaget and Montessori placed great faith in children from 2-7 years of age being able to learn and grasp concepts if the environment was amenable. The role of nature, outdoor surroundings and learning through play has all been stressed by them with conviction. Based on what they observed during their times when they put into practice what they believed in, they then refined their theories to make it suitable for modern day schools.
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14) German curriculum – based on Humbaldt Frobel , Montessori & Piaget .
German education has its roots in the Middle Age when the first university was opened in 1386 by Heidelberg. However the true reform in their education came after Prussia’s defeat at the hands of France and Humboldt brought about changes in the manner secondary schools functioned till then.
Humboldt modernized the curriculum, emphasized on adequate training for high school teachers and introduced the principles of academic freedom, self government by professors and unity of teaching & research. In some ways, these tied in with the concepts later on propounded by Frobel, Montessori and Piaget. All of them firmly believed that children in the age group 2-7 would show tremendous development if they are provided with the right environment and teachers.
15) France curriculum is based on theories & ideas of Piaget , Vygotsky & bruner .
France took the technology route of education way back in the early half of 1960, when French middle schools had to adopt technology for general education curriculum as well. The Piagetian construct along with what Vygotsky and Bruner brought in by way of changes in the curriculum enabled France to take a strong lead over other countries in education.
All of the above three reformists believed in the exposure and introduction of instruments for boosting cognitive development in children. They believed that natural behavior exhibited by humans have to be distinguished from the behavior exhibited when exposed to instruments. This distinction paved the basis for activating functions within the cognitive mind space, leading to development. It follows from this that development can happen only if natural and artificial mediation is allowed in a balanced manner.
16) Japanese curriculum – three layer of activities
Another country that took giant reformist steps in education is Japan where education is mandatory at the elementary as well as lowers secondary stages. It is only at upper secondary and university that students opt for private education.
They follow the “DAP” methodology. In this early childhood education is split into 3 layers. The first layer promotes free play and ordinary life experiences to shape the development of the child. The second layer mainly depends on play activities, group performances, celebrations and elements extracted from early childhood. The third layer is more systematic where concepts of numbers, geometry, language, letters, music and arts play their part. These three layers serve to introduce the child into a system of education that is seamless and not a burden for the child.
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17) Project based approach
This approach believes in the pedagogy that students when confronted with real world challenges in a dynamic classroom set up will learn faster and better. Typically students learn about topics by trying to solve an issue related to it. This promotes inquiry, curiosity to find out more and is totally opposite to the memory learning methodology or paper based study.
Students spend time finding out how they can solve problems using the knowledge of the topic they are studying, which is a more hands on approach. PBL thus integrates the processes of knowing and doing effectively and students make use of digital tools as well to come out with collaborative ideas and products. The approach is more experience centric than book centric.