Chapter

Learning theories related to early childhood science education

If you want to read the PDF, try requesting it from the authors.

No full-text available

Request Full-text Paper PDF

To read the full-text of this research,
you can request a copy directly from the author.

ResearchGate has not been able to resolve any citations for this publication.
Article
Full-text available
Conceptual change models of student learning are useful for explicating the role of prior knowledge in students’ learning and are very popular in the research on learning in the subject areas. This article presents an analysis of a conceptual change model for describing student learning by applying research on student motivation to the process of conceptual change. Four general motivational constructs (goals, values, self-efficacy, and control beliefs) are suggested as potential mediators of the process of conceptual change. In addition, there is a discussion of the role of classroom contextual factors as moderators of the relations between student motivation and conceptual change. The article highlights the theoretical difficulties of a cold, or overly rational, model of conceptual change that focuses only on student cognition without considering the ways in which students’ motivational beliefs about themselves as learners and the roles of individuals in a classroom learning community can facilitate or hinder conceptual change.
Article
Full-text available
This essay considers the question of why we should teach science to K-2. After initial consideration of two traditional reasons for studying science, six assertions supporting the idea that even small children should be exposed to science are given. These are, in order: (1) Children naturally enjoy observing and thinking about nature. (2) Exposing students to science develops positive attitudes towards science. (3) Early exposure to scientific phenomena leads to better understanding of the scientific concepts studied later in a formal way. (4) The use of scientifically informed language at an early age influences the eventual development of scientific concepts. (5) Children can understand scientific concepts and reason scientifically. (6) Science is an efficient means for developing scientific thinking. Concrete illustrations of some of the ideas discussed in this essay, particularly, how language and prior knowledge may influence the development of scientific concepts, are then provided. The essay concludes by emphasizing that there is a window of opportunity that educators should exploit by presenting science as part of the curriculum in both kindergarten and the first years of primary school.
Article
Full-text available
This article describes the ScienceStart! Curriculum, an early childhood curriculum that takes coherently organized science content as the hub of an integrated approach. ScienceStart! maps onto the typical preschool day and may be adapted for use in full-day or half-day preschool programs. It is designed to support the important developmental achievements of the preschool years, particularly in the areas of language development, acquisition of preliteracy skills, problem solving, social interaction, and self-regulation, for example planning and attention management. Science content is highly engaging for young children because they are biologically prepared to learn about the world around them. Within this context, they are capable of acquiring a rich knowledge base that supports the acquisition of vocabulary and the use of higher order cognitive skills such as planning, predicting, and drawing inferences. Engaging content also provides a setting for a variety of language and literacy-related activities such as talking about activities, exchanging information, asking questions and planning how to answer them, reading aloud, consulting books for information, making charts and graphs, dictating reports, and describing careful observations. Each day’s science lesson is structured according to a simple cycle of scientific reasoning—reflect and ask, plan and predict, act and observe, report and reflect. The daily science lesson is supported by literature that is read aloud, by props included in the various learning centers, and by planned activities for art and outdoor play. Math and social studies content is integrated into the science activities on a regular basis. Lessons are organized into four modules, each of which lasts approximately 10–12 weeks. Within the modules, each lesson builds on the content of previous lessons and provides a foundation for subsequent lessons. In addition to being highly engaged, socially active, and rarely disruptive, children in ScienceStart! classes regularly show a significant gain of approximately 0.5 standard deviation on the Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test, a standardized instrument that is commonly used to assess young children’s cognitive and linguistic level and the impact of intervention programs geared to better prepare preschoolers for academic success.
Article
Full-text available
Much of children's knowledge is derived not from their direct experiences with the environment but rather from the input of others. However, until recently, the focus in studies of concept development was primarily on children's knowledge, with relatively little attention paid to the nature of the input. The past 10 years have seen an important shift in focus. This article reviews this approach, by examining the nature of the input and the nature of the learner, to shed light on early conceptual learning. These findings argue against the simple notion that conceptual development is either supplied by the environment or innately specified, and instead demonstrate how the two work together. The implications for how children reconcile competing belief systems are also discussed.
Article
Full-text available
Evidence for the superiority of guided instruction is explained in the context of our knowledge of human cognitive architecture, expert–novice differences, and cognitive load. Although unguided or minimally guided instructional approaches are very popular and intuitively appealing, the point is made that these approaches ignore both the structures that constitute human cognitive architecture and evidence from empirical studies over the past half-century that consistently indicate that minimally guided instruction is less effective and less efficient than instructional approaches that place a strong emphasis on guidance of the student learning process. The advantage of guidance begins to recede only when learners have sufficiently high prior knowledge to provide “internal” guidance. Recent developments in instructional research and instructional designmodels that support guidance during instruction are briefly described.
Article
Full-text available
In a study with 112 third- and fourth-grade children, we measured the relative effectiveness of discovery learning and direct instruction at two points in the learning process: (a) during the initial acquisition of the basic cognitive objective (a procedure for designing and interpreting simple, unconfounded experiments) and (b) during the subsequent transfer and application of this basic skill to more diffuse and authentic reasoning associated with the evaluation of science-fair posters. We found not only that many more children learned from direct instruction than from discovery learning, but also that when asked to make broader, richer scientific judgments, the many children who learned about experimental design from direct instruction performed as well as those few children who discovered the method on their own. These results challenge predictions derived from the presumed superiority of discovery approaches in teaching young children basic procedures for early scientific investigations.
Article
Young children are keenly motivated to inquire into and make meaning about their worlds. This article discusses working theories, one of two indicative learning outcomes of the New Zealand early childhood curriculum, Te Whāriki. Working theories occur as children attempt to find connections between their experiences and understandings to make sense of their worlds. The article proffers several sociocultural theoretical bases for understanding and developing this under-explored construct. Specifically, the concept of working theories is proposed as a way children connect, edit, extend and deal with new or discrepant pieces of knowledge in endeavours to build their understandings. To substantiate this argument, examples of children's working theories from a qualitative study of young children's interests and inquiries are provided. A spiral of knowing provides a concept to further theorise processes of children's knowledge connections and meaning making. Implications for early childhood teachers' knowledge and practice and future research are described.
Article
The impact of Vygotsky's theorising about culture, development, learning and education continues into the 21st century. This paper focuses on teachers' understandings of elements of young children's thinking. Young children have been described as “life theorizers”, keenly motivated to make meaning about their worlds during interactions with others. This paper discusses working theories, one of two indicative learning outcomes of the New Zealand early childhood curriculum, Te Whāriki. Working theories occur in children's thinking and sense-making as they attempt to make connections between prior and new experiences and understandings. Specifically, the paper explores the Vygotskian notion of the development of everyday concepts as one theoretical underpinning for the notion of working theories. The concept of working theories is argued as a mediating mechanism that young children employ to progress through Vygotsky's three phases of everyday concept formation. It may also be a strategy that children utilise as they begin to develop and connect everyday and scientific knowledge. Working theories therefore provide a way teachers might recognise and build on children's everyday and early conceptual knowledge. To substantiate this argument, examples of children's working theories and associated pedagogical issues from a qualitative study in two early childhood education settings are provided. Some implications for teachers' knowledge and practice and future research are described.
Article
The view that knowledge cannot be transmitted but must be constructed by the mental activity of learners underpins contemporary perspectives on science education. This article, which presents a theoretical perspective on teaching and learning science in the social setting of classrooms, is informed by a view of scientific knowledge as socially constructed and by a perspective on the learning of science as knowledge construction involving both individual and social processes. First, we present an overview of the nature of scientific knowledge. We then describe two major traditions in explaining the process of learning science: personal and social constructivism. Finally, we illustrate how both personal and social perspectives on learning, as well as perspectives on the nature of the scientific knowledge to be learned, are necessary in interpreting science learning in formal settings.
This article presents a broad review of recent developments in perspectives and research on early cognition. An overview of methodologies used to explore infant memory and categorisation is provided, with a discussion of the manner in which studies using these procedures have served to overturn Piagetian viewpoints on infant cognitive competence. In addition, research into the way in which the brain grows and responds to early experience is described, with a consideration of how neural networks are established and shaped by early learning. The general conclusion is that there is now available a range of radically new approaches to understanding the growth of the human brain and mind that is potentially of immense value to early childhood educators.
Article
This paper examines the cognitive process of concept development in preschool children, based on recent psychological research. Rather than attempting an exhaustive review of the more than 7000 articles written on children's concepts of categories, the paper highlights and illustrates four key themes that emerge from recent research: first, concepts are tools with powerful implications for children's reasoning; second, children's early concepts are not necessarily concrete or perceptually based, as even preschoolers are capable of abstract reasoning; third, children's concepts are not uniform across content areas, individuals, or tasks; and fourth, children's concepts reflect their emerging theories about the world. The paper notes that these four themes contradict some widely held, but erroneous, views of early concept development and explores a variety of issues regarding early education raised by these themes. Contains 52 references. (JPB)
Article
Preschool Pathways to Science (PrePS©) is a science and math program for pre-K children that has been developed by a team of developmental psychologists in full collaboration with preschool directors, teachers and other staff. The PrePS© approach is rooted in domain-specific theories of development, theories that assume that different areas of knowledge are organized into separate mental structures as opposed to domain-general ones like concrete operations. Features of this theoretical stance are outlined, and their implications for educational practice are illustrated using examples from classroom practice. Specific attention is paid to the importance of science process skills, the need to connect experiences using a central concept, and the roles of math, communication, and literacy in a science-based learning approach. Finally, the critical interdependence of basic research and classroom practice is discussed.
Article
It is argued that research on the acquisition of science concepts has rich implications for the teaching of science and can lead to the development of useful principles for the design of learning environments. An experimental project that attempted to use these research-based principles to construct a learning environment for teaching mechanics to fifth- and sixth-grade students is described. The students were encouraged to take active control of their learning, express and support their ideas, make predictions and hypotheses and test them by conducting experiments. They worked in small groups and presented their work to the classroom for debate. Metaconceptual awareness was promoted by encouraging students to make their ideas overt, to test them and compare them with those of other students and to give scientific explanations. Emphasis was also placed on giving the students the opportunity to use models, representational symbols, and measurements. Results showed significant differences between the experimental and control groups in pre-test–post-test comparisons, confirming our hypothesis that the experimental learning environment would result in cognitive gains for the participating students. Further interview analyses and analyses of the classroom discourse helped to clarify some of the variables contributing to the observed conceptual change.
Article
This paper reports research which focuses on ways of enhancing understandings by teachers of the key role that emotions play in their personal professional growth. It combines the narrative, autobiographical accounts of teachers attending part-time masters degree programmes in England (Continuing Professional Development and School Improvement) and Northern Ireland (Personal and Social Development) with an interrogation of the underlying values which affect the practices of their tutors. It reveals the effects of powerful and often unacknowledged interaction between personal biography and professional and social contexts upon teachers in schools and higher education.
Article
The author's thesis is that there is sufficient research evidence to make any reasonable person skeptical about the benefits of discovery learning--practiced under the guise of cognitive constructivism or social constructivism--as a preferred instructional method. The author reviews research on discovery of problem-solving rules culminating in the 1960s, discovery of conservation strategies culminating in the 1970s, and discovery of LOGO programming strategies culminating in the 1980s. In each case, guided discovery was more effective than pure discovery in helping students learn and transfer. Overall, the constructivist view of learning may be best supported by methods of instruction that involve cognitive activity rather than behavioral activity, instructional guidance rather than pure discovery, and curricular focus rather than unstructured exploration.
Legitimate Peripheral Participation; citation_author=Lave
  • Learning
Designing learning environments to promote conceptual change in science
  • Vosnaidou