As stated by Diane Trister Dodge & Toni S. Bickart, “There is now more research on how people learn and specifically on how young children learn than we have ever had before. This research has led to widespread debates in both the general public and media as well as the profession about curriculum and pedagogy. Frequently missing from the debate, however, is an understanding of how teachers make decisions in the classroom.
High-quality programs are planned and implemented by people who are skilled and knowledgeable about young children and how they learn. But even the best trained professionals find it beneficial and appropriate to teach in early childhood programs that use a curriculum as a focus for learning. An early childhood curriculum offers educators a vision of what an age-appropriate program looks like and a framework for making decisions about how to achieve that vision.
Curriculum in early childhood is defined as “an organized framework” that includes three components (Bredekamp & Rosegrant, 1992, p. 10):
Content—This component is the subject matter of the curriculum, the goals and objectives for children’s learning.
Processes—This component is the pedagogy of learning, how teachers teach, and the ways in which children achieve the goals and objectives of the curriculum.
Context—This component is the setting, the environment in which learning takes place.
Each of these components, to be implemented well, requires a knowledge of how children develop and learn at each stage of development; their individual strengths, interests, and needs; and the social and cultural contexts in which they live (Bredekamp & Copple, 1997, p. 9). These dimensions of learning, known as developmentally appropriate practice, guide all aspects of teaching and learning. When teachers understand developmentally appropriate practice, they can use this information to guide children’s learning.
At each stage of development, there are issues of central importance to the healthy growth of children. Therefore, we have created three frameworks to acknowledge the different needs and abilities of infants and toddlers, preschool and kindergarten children, and children in grades one through three. We base our curriculum frameworks on Erik Erikson’s stages of socioemotional development (Erikson, 1963).
Infants and toddlers are at Erikson’s stage of establishing trust and autonomy. Because these issues are addressed in the context of relationships, we emphasize the relationships caregivers/teachers have with children as the focus of decision making.
Three- to 5-year-olds are at the stage of initiative. They like to have choices, to come up with ideas for using materials and for play. Thus, we use an environmental approach and design each interest area as a laboratory for exploring, trying out and sharing ideas, and creating representations.
Six- to 8-year-olds are at the stage of industry. They are increasingly product oriented, want to do a job well, and want to feel competent as learners. In a structured community of learners, teachers can give children opportunities to investigate, represent, and reflect on what they are learning.
Strategies for teaching grow from learning principles moderated by this information about stages of development. Purposeful teaching and learning occur when this knowledge is put into practice through curriculum.”
Please visit http://ceep.crc.uiuc.edu/pubs/katzsym/dodge.html to learn more about how children learn