Wednesday, May 05, 2004

Child-Initiated Learning Activities for Young Children Living in Poverty

Child-Initiated Learning Activities for Young Children Living in Poverty. This is an essay with some good ideas for helping elementary school students from poor families learn better in school.

From the site:

Should Head Start and other preschool programs for young children living in poverty center on teacher-directed, large-group academic lessons or on teacher-supported, child-initiated learning activities? The concerns reflected in this long-standing debate are that an exclusively teacher-directed approach fails to encourage children's social and emotional development and creativity, while an approach based exclusively on child-initiated activities may not sufficiently stimulate poor children's academic development. These concerns are echoed today in the struggle of early childhood educators to cope with academic-learning mandates that conflict with their own child-centered dispositions, particularly in school districts that have been less successful in helping children achieve academic success. This Digest discusses the findings of empirical studies on teacher-directed and child-initiated preschool programs.


Three long-term preschool curriculum comparison studies began in the 1970s--the High/Scope Preschool Curriculum Comparison Study (Schweinhart & Weikart, 1997), the Louisville Head Start Study (Miller & Bizzell, 1983), and the University of Illinois Study (Karnes, Schwedel, & Williams, 1983). All three included the Direct Instruction model--which offered scripted, teacher-directed academic instruction--and a Nursery School model, in which children initiated their own learning activities with minimal teacher support. The High/Scope study included the High/Scope model, in which children initiated learning activities with substantial teacher support. The Louisville and Illinois studies included several additional teacher-directed models and the Montessori model, which encouraged child-initiated activities with didactic materials.

These three studies found that children in Direct Instruction programs intellectually outperformed children in child-initiated-activities programs during and up to a year after the preschool program, but not thereafter. In the Louisville study, the Nursery School children showed higher verbal-social participation and increased more in ambition and aggressiveness than did the Direct Instruction children, but both groups scored lower than their peers on inventiveness. In the Illinois study, 78% of the Nursery School group, but only 48% of the Direct Instruction group and 47% of the no-program group graduated from high school.


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