According to Katz and Chard (1998)  in recent years many teachers of young children have taken a hands- off approach to skill building because they confuse systematic instruction ( teaching individual children a progression of skills that contribute to greater proficiency) with direct instruction (teaching the same skills at the same time in the same way to a whole class).  Wanting to provide developmentally appropriate environments, teachers often shy away from any instruction and fail to give children instruction in basic skills they need to get through the day.

How can we use this research to better understand our job and children’s learning?  Remembering how important conversation is to cognitive development, how can you utilize conversation as a tool to offer instructions to young children?

Jean Piaget: founder of Constructivism

Jean Piaget 



“What unifies constructivists across the board, is the notion that children are active builders of their own cognitive tools, as well as of their external realities.  In other words, knowledge and the world are both construed and interpreted through action, and mediated through tool- and symbol use.  Each gains existence and form through the construction of the other. In Piaget’s worlds:”intelligence organizes the world by organizing itself ” (Piaget, 1937, p. 311). What’s more,  knowledge, to constructivists, is not a mere commodity to be transmitted—delivered at one end,encoded, retained, and re-applied at the other. Likewise, the world is not just sitting out there waiting to be uncovered, but gets progressively shaped and reshaped as people interact with it.

Most psychologists and educators of constructivist obedience indeed would agree that learning is less about acquiring information or transmitting existing ideas or values, than it is about individually and collectively imagining and creating a world in which it is worth living.” (Constructivism(s): Shared roots, crossed paths, multiple legacies – a brilliant overview of constructivism and constructionism by Edith Ackerman)

As we think about a world worth living, remind yourself that you are shaping the world as you interact with it.  That includes young children! That is a huge responsibility and privilege!

Have you given thought to what you believe, how children build knowledge? Take some time to revisit  educational philosophies. Are your beliefs in line with beliefs and values of the school or center where you work? Have some deep conversations with co workers.  What do they believe?

Benjamin Lee Whorf

Benjamin Lee Whorf ( Wikipedia)

Language shapes the way we think, and determines what we can think about.
Benjamin Lee Whorf

I’ve been thinking a lot about the way we talk to each other as educators.  What effect does that have on children’s learning?  When we make a choice to call our time together  “Collaboration ” instead of “staff meeting” does that elevate the subject matter to focus on children’s work instead of  house keeping type topics?  When we call each other “educators” in addition to “teachers” does that imply a different attitude? When we talk about our projections, intentions, and provocations instead of “plans” do we instill a sense of professionalism and a move away from didactic methods? By choosing certain words does it shape the way we think? Some might think we’re just putting on airs but I feel that we are trying to find strategies that support a new way of thinking about children and about our work together.  What do you think?