Contemporary Debates in Childhood Education and Development

Contemporary Debates in Childhood Education and Development

Contemporary Debates in Childhood Education and Development

Contemporary Debates in Childhood Education and Development


  • What are the risks and benefits of non-parental care for young children?
  • What are the short- and long-term effects of academically vs. play-focused environments for learning?
  • How and when should we teach reading?
  • What are the purposes of Education?
  • What is the best way to teach mathematics to children, from preschool and beyond?

Contemporary Debates in Childhood Education and Development is a unique resource and reference work that brings together leading international researchers and thinkers, with divergent points of view, to discuss contemporary problems and questions in childhood education and developmental psychology. Through an innovative format whereby leading scholars each offer their own constructive take on the issue in hand, this book aims to inform readers of both sides of a variety of topics and in the process encourage constructive communication and fresh approaches.

Spanning a broad spectrum of issues, this book covers:

  • Phonic and whole language reading approaches
  • The developmental effect of non-parental childcare
  • The value of pre-school academic skill acquisition
  • The most effective methods of teaching mathematics
  • Standardized assessment - does it work?
  • The role of electronic media and technology
  • The pedagogical value of homework
  • The value of parents' reading to children.

This book combines breadth of vision with cutting edge research and is a 'must have' resource for researchers, students and policy makers in the fields of education and child development.


It is better to stir up a question without deciding it than to decide it without stirring it up.

Joseph Joubert (1754–1824)

One of the many lessons from the dialogues of Plato, one of the founding fathers of the Age of Reason, is the power of dialogue and debate. Indeed, only fools, not scientists, shy away from debate, which at its best entails not only the skills of jousting and defending, respect and tolerance, knowledge and reason, but above all a regard for the workings of the world. Through debate, we seek and hope to gradually reveal universal secrets. Equipped with these virtues and undertaken in this spirit, debate becomes a veritable tool, through which we learn the ideas of our fellows and hone our own scientific understanding.

Unfortunately, several features of modern academic environments often mean that such noble and far-reaching debate is not possible. On simple logistical grounds alone, experts are often scattered across universities and continents, departments and disciplines. Where researchers gather in larger research teams, the human trait of preferring colleagues with similar views and expertise to oneself can reduce diversity.

Diversity, however, is a beast of burden in this increasingly complicated world. Just as research methods belong to developmental psychology, philosophy belongs to research methods, and all of these are, in turn, necessary for educational research. The application of education to real life necessitates sociology, economics, and politics – and this is surely only part of the picture still. It is critical for scientists to know not only what they study, measure, count, and weigh, but what they fail to measure and take into account. In this spirit, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe once bemoaned that the scientist seeking to study the rose has at once failed in his or her task the moment that she or he cuts the bud from the plant and brings it into a laboratory.

A further problem – that has not only yet to be solved, but multiplies by the month – is the exponential and bewildering increase in the number of journals, fields of studies, researchers, and research results. Thus many researchers are compelled to become specialized to such an extent that they end up neglecting the broader aspects to any given field of study, which are absolutely crucial for an integrated perspective. Conversely, one can aim for a broad perspective, but then a consequence is the loss of specialist expertise as one inevitably fails to keep abreast with swarms of new research findings. Indeed, one of us (S. S.) once read that the definition of an expert is one who knows ever more about an increasingly narrow field, such that the perfect expert knows absolutely everything about absolutely nothing! Equally, the perfect Jack-of-all-trades knows absolutely nothing about everything.

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