ERIC Identifier: ED468565
Publication Date: 2002-09-00
Author: Golbeck, Susan L.
Source: ERIC Clearinghouse on
Elementary and Early Childhood Education Champaign IL.
Instructional Models for Early Childhood Education. ERIC
What is the best approach for teaching young children? No question could be
more pressing as teachers, researchers, and policy makers strive to make sure
all children are "ready to learn." Yet, as of now, there is no definitive
answer. This Digest discusses the existing knowledge base on the differential
effects of various approaches to early education. Concurrently, the field
eagerly anticipates results from the recently funded Preschool Curriculum
Evaluation Research initiative, which will use randomized trials to examine a
variety of preschool curricular approaches.
EARLY EMPIRICAL STUDIES AND LONGITUDINAL FOLLOW-UP
began in the mid-1960s when Head Start was initiated. Well-implemented,
conceptually coherent programs grounded in the scientific theories of the time
were studied for their effects on children in the short and long term. Three
studies are especially noteworthy (see Golbeck, 2001, for more detail about each
Miller and Bizzell (1983a, 1983b) studied (1) a traditional nursery school,
also called Bank Street; (2) Montessori; (3) a direct instruction approach
called DISTAR; and (4) a program called DARCEE, which blended specific
pre-academic goals and motivational goals. Short-term effects of the programs
were consistent with program goals. DISTAR and DARCEE produced the highest
outcomes in pre-academic areas, while the more child- centered programs led to
higher levels of inventiveness, curiosity, and social participation. However, by
second grade, the boys from the Montessori program appeared to be outperforming
other groups in reading and also showed a less severe decline in IQ. This
advantage was maintained through middle school. Unlike the boys, girls seemed to
fare better in the more pre-academic DARCEE program.
Karnes and colleagues (1983) studied five model approaches, including
traditional, Montessori, and direct instruction. At the end of first grade, the
children from the most highly structured pre-academic programs were most
successful in school. But in a later follow-up, the original Montessori group
contained the highest percentage of high school graduates, with the traditional
program group close behind. Relatively low rates were shown for the other
programs. On a composite indicator of success in school, the Montessori boys
outperformed boys in other programs.
Researchers at the High/Scope Foundation compared their own Cognitively
Oriented Curriculum, direct instruction, and a traditional, child-centered
theme-based approach. Again, there was a slight advantage for direct instruction
initially, but long-term data collected in adolescence showed higher levels of
social adjustment for children in High/Scope and traditional programs
(Schweinhart & Weikart, 1997). (These results must be viewed with caution
because the developers were also the evaluators in this study.)
These studies have methodological limitations, but taken together, they
present a pattern worthy of more exploration. To the extent that there are any
differences across pre- kindergarten programs at the beginning of elementary
school, they tended to favor the more teacher-directed approaches. Yet, in the
long term, children in the child-centered programs fared at least as well or
better. In all three studies, children in the direct instruction program had
slightly higher IQ or achievement scores immediately following preschool. By
middle school, these advantages had eroded, and boys, especially, were
floundering more than peers from at least some of the child- centered programs.
The success of the Montessori models studied by Miller and colleagues (1983a,
1983b) and also by Karnes et al. (1983) merits closer scrutiny. Although
Montessori models vary, in these studies, boys actually outperformed children in
other programs at seventh and eighth grades. Karnes reported that children from
the Montessori program showed the highest levels of school success, although
they did not necessarily show the highest IQ scores. Perhaps working
independently and persisting--both components of Montessori--were important
program elements. There may be similarities between instructional strategies
found in the DARCEE program, the Montessori approach, and more recent Vygotskian
approaches to instruction. The Montessori teacher appears to scaffold from a
distance. She keeps extensive observational notes on individual children, using
this information to decide when to introduce new materials in a demonstration
lesson. She supports the child as he works with carefully structured didactic
materials in a carefully sequenced instructional experience.
Complementing these longitudinal studies is
more recent work linking specific instructional variables in preschool and
kindergarten classrooms to developmentally appropriate instructional practices.
Diverse dependent measures have been studied, including child stress,
interpersonal reasoning, and motivation for learning. Instructional techniques
that emphasize drill, worksheets, and pre-academics, while minimizing child
choice and decision making, lead to higher levels of child stress (Burts et al.,
1990; Hyson & Molinaro, in Golbeck, 2001). The effects appear to be most
pronounced among boys (Burts et al., 1992).
Motivational outcomes also vary as a function of preschool instructional
practices. Although children in more academically oriented preschool programs
fared better on achievement tests when compared to children in more
child-centered preschool programs, the children rated their abilities lower,
showed lower expectations for success on academic tasks, showed more dependency
on adults, evidenced less pride in their accomplishments, and claimed to worry
more about school. A subsequent study replicated these findings in preschool but
suggested that these relationships become more complex in kindergarten, making
it difficult to separate the type of instruction from the social context of
teachers' behavior (Stipek et al., 1995, 1998; Stipek & Greene, in Golbeck,
A CALL FOR NEW PARADIGMS
Empirical support can be found for
child-centered approaches to preschool instruction, especially if the emphasis
is upon long-term goals and social-emotional factors related to academic success
(e.g., self-regulation). Research suggests that there is an important role for
play or active "meaning making" by the child in the classroom, but this must
occur within an environment offering the teacher a clear instructional role
(Case, Griffin, & Kelly, in Golbeck, 2001; see also Dickinson, 2002). As
Stipek et al. (1995; 1998) note, the simple dichotomy between teacher directed
and child centered is not adequate for characterizing the complexity of
instructional practices in early childhood, and further research combining
direct instruction with high nurturance is needed. There are varieties of
child-centered approaches, and research shows they are not all equally
effective. Similarly, there are varieties of teacher-centered approaches. The
discrepancy between short-term and long-term outcomes suggests that there are
benefits, and risks, associated with several of the approaches studied.
One way to pursue new paradigms for instruction is to ask teachers how they
conceptualize their practices. Marcon (1999) queried teachers about their
beliefs and practices. She found that when teachers were clear and their
responses corresponded to a single coherent theory of young children's learning
and development (based either on a didactic learning approach or a more
traditional developmental orientation), children fared better than when their
teachers' approaches were "eclectic" or inconsistent.
Practitioners, researchers, and policy makers
must envision new approaches to instruction integrating proven success with new
research on early learning. Developmentally appropriate practices must provide a
clear role for the teacher, a sequence of content for the child to learn, and
opportunities for self-regulation (Ginsburg et al., in Golbeck, 2001; Roskos & Neuman, 2002). Furthermore, new approaches must acknowledge the complex
ecology of young children's learning and development. It is imperative to
include (1) the interplay among emotions, social understanding, and cognition
within the child (Hyson & Molinaro, in Golbeck, 2001; Pianta,1999); (2)
factors within the classroom such as socioemotional climate and the
teacher-child relationship; and (3) the larger context of school, family, and
community (Rogoff et al., 2001).
FOR MORE INFORMATION
Bredekamp, S., & Copple, C.
(1997). DEVELOPMENTALLY APPROPRIATE PRACTICE IN EARLY CHILDHOOD PROGRAMS (Rev.
ed.). Washington, DC: National Association for the Education of Young Children.
ED 403 023.
Burts, D. C., Hart, C. H., Charlesworth, R., Fleege, P. O., Mosley, J., &
Thomasson, R. H. (1992). Observed activities and stress behaviors of children in
developmentally appropriate and inappropriate kindergarten classrooms. EARLY
CHILDHOOD RESEARCH QUARTERLY, 7(2), 297-318. EJ 450 531.
Burts, D. C., Hart, C. H., Charlesworth, R., & Kirk, L. (1990). A
comparison of stress behaviors observed in kindergarten children in classrooms
with developmentally appropriate versus developmentally inappropriate
instructional practices. EARLY CHILDHOOD RESEARCH QUARTERLY, 5(3), 407-423. EJ
Dickinson, D. K. (2002). Shifting images of developmentally appropriate
practice as seen through different lenses. EDUCATIONAL RESEARCHER, 31(1), 26-32.
EJ 642 337.
Golbeck, S. L. (Ed.). (2001). PSYCHOLOGICAL PERSPECTIVES ON EARLY CHILDHOOD
EDUCATION: REFRAMING DILEMMAS IN RESEARCH AND PRACTICE. Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.
Karnes, M. B., Schwedel, A. M., & Williams, M. B. (1983). A comparison of
five approaches for educating young children from low-income homes. In AS THE
TWIG IS BENT: LASTING EFFECTS OF PRESCHOOL PROGRAMS (pp. 133-170). Hillsdale,
NJ: Erlbaum. ED 253 299.
Lazar, I., & Darlington, R. (1982). Lasting effects of early education: A
report from the Consortium for Longitudinal Studies. MONOGRAPHS OF THE SOCIETY
FOR RESEARCH IN CHILD DEVELOPMENT, 47(2-3), 1-151. EJ 266 057.
Marcon, R. A. (1999). Differential impact of preschool models on development
and early learning of inner-city children: A three-cohort study. DEVELOPMENTAL
PSYCHOLOGY, 35(2), 358-375. EJ 582 451.
Miller, L. B. (1979). Development of curriculum models in Head Start. In E.
Zigler & J. Valentine (Eds.), PROJECT HEAD START: A LEGACY OF THE WAR ON
POVERTY (pp. 195-200). New York: Free Press.
Miller, L. B., & Bizzell, R. P. (1983a). Long-term effects of four
preschool programs: Sixth, seventh, and eighth grades. CHILD DEVELOPMENT, 54(3),
727-741. EJ 284 356.
Miller, L. B., & Bizzell, R. P. (1983b). The Louisville experiment: A
comparison of four programs. In AS THE TWIG IS BENT: LASTING EFFECTS OF
PRESCHOOL PROGRAMS (pp. 171-200). Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum. ED 253 299.
Pianta, R. (1999). ENHANCING RELATIONSHIPS BETWEEN CHILDREN AND TEACHERS.
Washington, DC: American Psychological Association. ED 435 073.
Rogoff, B., Goodman Turkanis, C., & Bartlett, L. (Eds.). (2001). LEARNING
TOGETHER: CHILDREN AND ADULTS IN A SCHOOL COMMUNITY. New York: Oxford University
Roskos, K., & Neuman, S. (2002). Environment and its influences for early
literacy teaching and learning. In S. B. Neuman & D. K. Dickinson (Eds.),
HANDBOOK OF EARLY LITERACY RESEARCH (pp. 281-294). New York: Guilford. ED 457
Schweinhart, L. J., & Weikart, D. P. (1997). The High/Scope preschool
curriculum comparison study through age 23. EARLY CHILDHOOD RESEARCH QUARTERLY,
12(2), 117-143. EJ 554 350.
Stipek, D., Daniels, D., Galluzzo, D., Millburn, S., & Salmon, J. M.
(1998). Good beginnings: What difference does the program make in preparing
young children for school. JOURNAL OF APPLIED DEVELOPMENTAL PSYCHOLOGY, 19(1),
Stipek, D., Feiler, R., Daniels, D., & Millburn, S. (1995). Effects of
different instructional approaches on young children's achievement and
motivation. CHILD DEVELOPMENT, 66(1), 209-223. EJ 501 879.