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Early Childhood Education Theorists and Their Theories

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Education
Wordcount: 1494 words Published: 8th Aug 2018

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Throughout this topic I have learnt many things about pioneers, theorists and current thinkers who have had a big influence on the way to treat children in a setting like a nursery or school. These people have had thoughts that stretch from, corporal punishment to healthy settings, playing areas and timings. In my presentation I chose two theorists, two pioneers and one current thinker, and the people I chose were; Robert Owen, The McMillan Sisters (Rachel and Margaret), Lev Vygotsky, Jean Piaget and Tina Bruce. I analysed their impact in the presentation of what it had on current day thinking and Early Years provision.

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I have learnt about many techniques and ideas that have been put in place across child settings across the UK, and what their influences were on current times. There were many great ideas from the pioneers, theorist and current thinkers and in my presentation I discussed these. Most of the pioneers and theorists that I focused on were from the 19th century or the early 20th century, and from researching for my presentation I have become aware that many great ideas about subjects like corporal punishment, play, when the child will develop most, had come from hundreds of years ago, not just in the past couple of decades. This surprised me as because of all the modern research that is done today, and huge reform in education in the past 30 years, I would have thought that most of the current studies would have been a cause of this, especially with corporal punishment. This personally has brought up some questions to why it took so long to implement this into children’s settings, especially schools, which not employed until 1987.

One of thought of a pioneer was allowing free play within nurseries, schools and other locations. This idea came from the McMillan Sisters, who are arguably the most influential pioneers, and had questionably the biggest impact. I explained this in my presentation, how it affects the children to develop creativity and also how it has been implemented within the EYFS (Early Years Foundation Stage). In my presentation I analysed the impact and influence that it has on the children, the setting and the teachers or people who work in the school or surroundings. I said that they were key in promoting playgrounds in the schools for the children to be creative when they were at school, and also not to just do boring classes, but to be kinaesthetic and learn in all different ways possible. The McMillan sisters also were of the belief that the key to the development of a child was the years between 0-6. This inspired other pioneers and teachers to realise how vital teaching 0-6 year olds was, and how it would shape their lives. It is also now a core subject and feature in the EYFS.

Robert Owen was a pioneer from the late 18th, early 19th century, who realised the importance of a rational approach to teaching and believed that there should not be any punishment given out to children. I explained this in my presentation, by stating that it is something that has been implemented into all settings that have children in them which was employed in 1987. This also has been taken one step further in the UK and now adults are not allowed to strike children at all. He used to work a lot with children and built a model community which included a day nursery, a playground and a school for children in 1817 which meant the children did not have to work in factories like usual. With this approach he was part of the reason why children stopped working in factories and other workplaces at such a young age. Instead they were required to be educated at a school, which meant that children would have a better education and society were likely to have brighter people as a result. This had a huge impact on society, throughout the UK and most of the World, and now is part of Human Rights laws. From this I found out that Robert Owen had a huge impact on education and stressed how important it was for a child, and had influences of getting children out of the workplace and into education.

Jean Piaget was a theorist from the 20th century who believed that the way a child develops was down to nature, and it was something that they are born with, which related to formal and logical thinking. This lead to a lot development and research into the development of child psychology, and how much importance is there for put on a teacher or how much importance there is the child’s gene pool. I thought this was quite a step forward for child psychology and I believe he has started a real debate between ‘Nature vs Nurture’. Piaget also created “Piaget’s Stages of Cognitive Development”, which had four different stages to it; the Sensorimotor Stage (0-2 years), Pre-Operational Stage (2-7 years), Concrete Operational Stage (7+ years) and the Formal Operational Stage (11+ years). With this cycle he also stressed that the child cannot be forced to move on to each stage and that they have to be mentally ready to move on. I explained in my presentation that as a result of this work that he completed and the cycle he made, many education curriculums or areas are now built on the thought that the children should be taught towards their level, and if they are not ready, they will not move on, which is similar to the national curriculum in England. This has lead to work support environments being set up across the World to help children who are struggling in education. From this I believe that Piaget has made one of the biggest impacts on children’s development, psychology and children’s settings.

Lev Vygotsky was a very influential theorist from the early 20th century who based most of his work on, thought, language and psychology and believed that development mostly came from guidance from adults, language and the environment. From this work, Vygotsky had a big impact and I recognised this in my presentation by stating that Vygotsky’s impact from this was that he promoted the teachers and educators of the children to speak to the children clearly and in a way that they would understand. This would lead to the children becoming more attentive, and thus make them more likely to take information in, and consequently learn more. This was a great point, and has influenced so much in modern times, not just for schools and children settings, but for work places and customer care or service. He also stressed the importance of the adult’s role within the child’s life. Later in the 20th century this point became very important, and it made people take notice that children need an adult influence in their lives to send them in the right direction, and make them become a nice person and the best they can be at whatever they wanted to do. In my presentation I stressed this as a very important point, which had a huge influence on society today.

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Tina Bruce is a current thinker, who has a strong belief in learning through the use of play through the development of experience using representation and games with rules. With this she has helped inspire and influence play in the National Curriculums, which led to the Early Childhood Reform for Education, in countries across the World from USA to New Zealand and from the UK to Portugal. However I believe this is the hardest person to judge with her impact and influence, as her ideas are fairly recent and therefore you cannot see how she has influenced children’s settings and how children develop through her thoughts and observations. In my presentation I brought this point up, and even though she may have some good ideas, most notably her though of the use of play through the development of experience using representation and games with rules, these ideas cannot be fully judged or merited, and therefore cannot be compared to any of the pioneers or theorists such as Robert Owen or Jean Piaget.

I learnt a lot during this module, and found out what a huge influence these people had on society and children’s settings for today. I believe the person who had the greatest influence was Jean Piaget as the work he did on his “Stages of Cognitive Development” had a monumental impact on today’s national curriculum, not just in the UK and Europe, but in the rest of the World too. What I thought was clever about this cycle was that it wasn’t fixed or set, so if the child is not mentally ready, then they will not move on which differs to other cycles with do not allow that leeway or flexibility. He also made great points about logical and formal thinking which lead to a lot of research towards the development of child’s psychology which is very helpful in society today, through the knowledge of how best to teach, develop or educate the children.


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