Academic journal article Forum on Public Policy: A Journal of the Oxford Round Table

The Impact of the Shifting Knowledge Base, from Development to Achievement, on Early Childhood Education Programs

Academic journal article Forum on Public Policy: A Journal of the Oxford Round Table

The Impact of the Shifting Knowledge Base, from Development to Achievement, on Early Childhood Education Programs

Article excerpt

Introduction

During the 1970s and 1980s, schools for young children flourished as a result of emphasis on theories and philosophies of cognitive developmentalists. Jean Piaget's genetic epistemology was followed by theorists, educational philosophers, and researchers, including Jerome Bruner, Lev Vigoteky, Lawrence Kohlberg, and more recently Robert Sternberg and Constance Kamii.

A brief review of Piaget's (1957, 1952, 1964) theory of Intellectual Development is appropriate to review how cognitive development emerged as a part of the overall educational knowledge base. Educational programs and samples of research are reviewed as well as teacher preparation, with an emphasis on curriculum development undergirded by a definitive cognitive developmental knowledge base.

As a reform of educational practice, Accountability of student achievement based on mandatory testing emerged as the sole measure of student and school success. With the passage of the No Child Left Behind Act in 2002, Former President George W. Bush formulated a plan for "consequential accountability" for every aspect of school achievement. Federal standards became a mandate that required that all schools allocated federal funds to teach prescribed educational programs, specifically reading and math, be accountable for achievement by states, school districts, schools, teachers, and students.

Questions regarding the impact of shifting the knowledge base from development to achievement measured by specific tests are noted with a brief discussion of that shift in Alabama Black Belt Counties.

Finally, political and professional judgments are included regarding possible modifications of the No Child Left Behind Law. These judgments may allow a regeneration of emphasis on children's growth and development with achievement based on a range of indicators as a knowledge base for early childhood education.

Developmental Knowledge Base--Piaget's Theory of Intellectual Development

Piaget's theory has accumulated the greatest library of theory and research data on the subject of cognitive growth that has ever existed.

John Flavell (1982) presented the first translation of Piaget's works from French to English explaining Piaget's specific theory of how intelligence develops in each individual. As a genetic epistemologist, Piaget changed the way we observe children and childhood. Developmentalists no longer view the child as an incomplete adult. Piaget's view was that children at any age reflect a unique way of interpreting the world. Development was described as more than the simple acquisition of skills and knowledge. In addition to the quantitative differences in children's knowledge and skills, qualitative differences also exist regarding how they know the world. Flavell (1982) contends, "Piaget's primary interest was in theoretical and experimental investigation of qualitative developmental intellectual structures. (Piaget 1964) " This approach may account for current misunderstandings, two of which follow:

1) Piaget's theory does not recognize the need for educators, instructors, or teachers, as he contends that the individual constructs knowledge for him or herself.

2) Piaget is an age-stage theorist who has created an outline to indicate for specific ages at which children may progress through the stages of development.

Both misunderstandings are addressed with reiteration of Piaget's thesis, Piagetian professional judgments and research, and assumptions affecting each misunderstanding. Piaget's theory assumes two aspects, the invariant and the variant.

In-Variant Aspects of Intellectual Development--Misunderstanding #1

Piaget's (1966) central theoretical view is that each learner (child) is intrinsically active and does not wait for the activities that surround him or her to occur before they behave. Learners select which activities they are prepared to construct into knowledge. …

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