Pioneers of Early Childhood Education: A Bio-Bibliographical Guide

By Barbara Ruth Peltzman | Go to book overview
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John Dewey (1859-1952)
Dewey's work helped to transform the role of the kindergarten at the turn of the twentieth century and eventually influenced the entire field of early childhood education. Dewey organized the classroom into a community in which children learned in cooperation with each other. He used everyday materials and encouraged childgenerated choices about activities and materials. He promoted teacher flexibility, creativity, and responsibility and the introduction of art and music, field trips, and nature studies, to encourage problem solving and independent thinking. The classroom became a model of group living in which the children initiated activities, projects, and play. The teacher became a guide who enabled children to develop social skills by providing opportunities for their practice. Dewey explained that children develop when they are involved with activities that have a purpose. He maintained that firsthand experiences motivate growth in reading, writing, and arithmetic. When exposed to the right materials and role models, children develop skills for later academic learning as well as the flexibility to cope with social and emotional problems.With Dewey's reinterpretation of the kindergarten emphasis on the social and emotional needs of children, a split developed within the Intemational Kindergarten Union in which one group argued for strict adherence to Froebel's methods and materials and the other for Dewey's reforms. This debate eventually led to a program similar to the modern kindergarten.No other educational philosopher/practitioner has had more influence on early childhood education than John Dewey. His work, replicated by his students and. added to by other philosophers, helped shape practice and theory as we know it today.
PRIMARY SOURCES
6. "Results of Child-Study Applied to Education." Transactions of the Illinois Society for Child Study, 1 ( January 1895): 18-19. In The Theory of the Chicago Experiment (Appendix II), "The Dewey School. The Laboratory School of the University of Chicago 1896-1903", by Katherine Camp Mayhew and Anna Camp Edwards. New York: D. Appleton-Century, 1936; New York: Atherton Press, 1966, (repr.) pp. 474-476. Presents principles for using the results of child study in education, warning against the misuse of this information. Dewey states that we must remember that a child is a being with his/her own activity and not something to be "educated (or) drawn out."

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