Is New in Early Childhood Education?
Dr. Lorraine McCune
a January column in Education Update I drew on a chapter written
with Mary Zanes, a preschool educator, regarding the use of play
strategies within the school environment. The newly published
book, Psychological Perspectives on Early Education: Reframing
Dilemmas in Research and Practice includes the entire chapter
and provides exciting new information for educators and policy
designers on a variety of topics. This volume, edited by Dr. Susan
Golbeck of Rutgers University, follows from a conference of the
same title presented as part of the annual Rutgers Invitational
Symposium on Education. The book takes a very long view, as Golbeck
examines research findings from comparative studies of Head Start
Programs beginning in the 1960’s, reporting recent longitudinal
outcomes from follow-up studies, and interpreting the entire complex
through the lens of current curricular debates in early education.
For example, in examining the “Back to Basics” approach with its
emphasis on quick academic progress, in comparison with “Developmentally
Appropriate Practice” as defined by the National Association for
the Education of Young Children, Golbeck reviews findings regarding
instructional practices and child stress, motivation, and affective
development. This book is a call for educators to develop new
instructional models that draw on past experience in a coherent
Contributors to the volume include the late Robbie Case, a major
cognitive theorist, who here examines socioeconomic differences
in children’s cognitive development and school readiness. In the
process he provides a beautiful analysis of early steps in mathematics
learning with approaches to guiding all children’s early mathematical
learning and suggestions for using this model approach across
additional curricular areas. Deborah Stipek of Stanford University
takes up the topic of motivation, harking back to Robert White’s
seminal work on achievement motivation, which places the development
of motivation for mastery clearly in the earliest years. Stipek
recommends enhancing motivation through specific educational strategies.
Liben and Downs find that most preschoolers have a general notion
of the representational nature of maps, and curiosity about their
place in the real spatial world.
My four-year-old granddaughter indicated the world map on my kitchen
wall the other day, and asked me to point out where her gymnastics
class was held. A teaching opportunity, but we had to use a New
Jersey map. Liben and Downs demonstrate the interest of this content
area as a basis for teaching about space and graphic representation
in an exciting and well-documented framework.
These are only tidbits. The book as a whole is a rich resource
for teachers and planners designing the ideal instructional approaches
for now and the future.
McCune is an associate professor at the Rutgers University Graduate
School of Education and serves as advisor to toy company, General
Creation. She can be reached at www.generalcreation.com
in the “Ask Dr. McCune” section.
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