Psychological Perspectives on Early Childhood Education: Reframing Dilemmas in Research and Practice

Psychological Perspectives on Early Childhood Education: Reframing Dilemmas in Research and Practice

Psychological Perspectives on Early Childhood Education: Reframing Dilemmas in Research and Practice

Psychological Perspectives on Early Childhood Education: Reframing Dilemmas in Research and Practice


The field of early childhood education and the science of psychology have a long and closely intertwined history. The study of young children's learning within school contexts provides a test of developmental theory while at the same time identifies the limits of psychology for informing practice. The purpose of this book, part of the Rutgers Invitational Symposium on Education Series, is to bring together the work of the leading researchers in the field of child development and early education to inform three issues facing the United States today: * clarifying developmentally appropriate instruction from the perspective of cognitive developmental psychology; * ensuring that young children's schooling adequately addresses content; and * meeting cognitive goals while simultaneously supporting social and emotional development. Throughout, the role of empirical inquiry in developmental psychology for the practice of early education is examined.


As we enter the new millennium, the public is clamoring for bold reforms in our public education system. One component of reform is the implementation of prekindergarten programs on a widespread basis. With the call for universal prekindergarten, researchers and scholar practitioners have been asked to identify which programs will most effectively facilitate children's learning. This is not a new question. Early childhood education has a relatively short, but rich history of instructional innovation grounded in the field of applied developmental psychology. Teachers and researchers have looked to the field of child development and developmental psychology for guidance in answering their query: How can we best help children learn? The purpose of this edited volume is to present some examples of current thinking on this topic in a manner that will be useful to teacher scholars, policymakers, and researchers struggling with questions of how to optimize preschool education.

Several dilemmas are explored across the chapters in this volume. The prevailing concern focuses on identifying strategies that support the child's self-regulation of learning while providing the teacher with a clearly defined role in teaching or guiding learning. All of the authors address this issue as they explore the limitations in earlier conceptions of instruction in the early childhood classroom. Everyone agrees that the child-centered versus teacher-centered dichotomy is overly simplistic and that more sophisticated conceptions of early childhood instruction are needed. The authors included in this volume assume a constructivistic stance as they apply current research in children's cognition to classroom practice.

A second concern focuses on content. How can we be sure that all young children are indeed ready to learn socially, emotionally, and cognitively? What kinds of experiences should be included in programs to ensure children's learning across such content domains as literacy, reading, science, social studies, and the arts? The volume is organized to deal with this issue head on. One section of the book focuses on foundations for pedagogy addressing issues in children's social, emotional, and cognitive development (e.g., Case, Griffin, & Kelly, chap. 2; Stipek & Greene, chap. 3; McCune & Zanes, chap. 4; Hyson & Molinaro, chap. 5; Klein, chap. 6). Another section focuses on the practice of pedagogy in specific content domains (e.g., DeVries, chap. 7; Ginsburg, Pappas, & Seo, chap. 8; Morrow, chap. 10).

A third issue is implicit in the organization of the volume. Recent years have seen a critique of the field of child development as a basis for early childhood practice. However, much of this criticism has ignored recent research in the field of developmental psychology. Recent theory and research is far more context sensitive and presents a more fine-tuned analysis of the role of . . .

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