What Is a Child-Centered Constructivist Approach to Early Childhood Education?
The child-centered constructivist approach to early childhood education has its roots in the work of psychologists Lev Vygotsky and Jean Piaget. Piaget’s theories in child development, cognition and intelligence worked as a framework to inspire the development of the constructivist approach to learning. The constructivist approach views children as active participants in their own learning. Education is then much more than rote memorization; instead, it is integrating and assimilating knowledge to be further used and explored. Constructivist strategies seek to ignite a child’s curiosity and love of learning.
1 The Principles of Constructivism
At the center of constructivist education is an environment in which children become active learners who make choices and seek out experiences that foster their development. Teachers provide an integrated curriculum that allows children to explore multiple themes and subjects within a topic. Children are empowered to investigate and reorganize their knowledge bases. Children learn through developmentally appropriate activities and learning exercises that challenge their academic, physical, social and emotional growth. Group activities promote a sociomoral environment in which young children can learn about and practice respect for one another. The daily schedule is flexible and loosely structured. Teachers allow students sufficient time to fully explore topics.
2 The Teacher's Role
The role of the teacher in a constructivist approach to early childhood education is primarily one of guidance. Teachers act as a guide to children’s learning by facilitating activities and learning opportunities without dictating learning objectives. They emphasize the whole child when designing curriculum and learning topics. Teachers encourage young students to develop and investigate their own interests. Curiosity sparks effective learning. Instead of the traditional concept of a teacher standing at the front of the classroom and dictating information, educators become partners with their students. They encourage children to ask questions and get involved. Teachers should consistently provide open-ended activities with multiple outcomes.
3 The Children's Role
In a constructivist classroom, children investigate their surroundings and learning topics. They act as young scientists discovering the world around them. Because the teacher opens the classroom to imaginative learning, children become important agents in their own education. Children are doing their own learning rather than receiving learning given to them. They actively participate in projects and activities, choosing the depth of learning in any given topic. Children assimilate what they have learned into what they already know, creating new knowledge.
4 Practical Applications
A child-centered constructivist approach to early childhood education is applicable to various classroom scenarios. Children benefit from group problem-solving. By working together to find solutions, students experience cognitive growth. Teachers can then assist children in the reasoning process, encouraging them to think and reason through problems. Science particularly lends itself to constructivism. Children are able to satisfy their curiosity about the natural world through experiments. They can develop simple hypotheses, test their theories and compare the results.
- 1 “The Constructivist”; The Seven Principles of Constructivist; Denise D. Cunningham; Fall 2006
- 2 “The Constructivist”; Maximizing Early Childhood Practices by Incorporating Constructivist Principles in an Elementary School; Pamela Evanshen; Fall 2005
- 3 Journal of Elementary Science Education”; Process-Oriented Inquiry—A Constructivist Approach to Early Childhood Science Education: Teaching Teachers to Do Science; David Jerner Martin, Raynice Jean-Sigur and Emily Schmidt; Fall 2005