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Basis of The High/Scope Curriculum

By — Pearson Allyn Bacon Prentice Hall
Updated on Jul 20, 2010

The High/Scope curriculum model has had a major influence on early childhood education for over 40 years (Bredekamp, 1996). David Weikart and others created the Perry Preschool Program in the 1960s as a model approach designed to help disadvantaged preschool children develop the skills needed to succeed in the public school system. The program emphasizes the importance of teaching the cognitive understandings needed for academic success in reading and mathematics (DeVries & Kohlberg, 1987).

After initially receiving federal support in the 1960s, a private organization called the High/Scope Foundation took over responsibility for continuing to promote the model. David Weikart, who has been the leading visionary and driving force behind the High/Scope program from its beginning, served as president of this foundation until 2000, when he retired (High/Scope Foundation, 2006). This curricular approach, although originally designed for preschool-age children, has been successfully used with infant/toddlers and primary-age children in more recent years (Bredekamp, 1996; Post & Hohmann, 2000).

Theoretical Basis

The High/Scope curriculum is grounded in the theoretical perspectives of Jean Piaget, who believed that children learn best when they build understanding through direct experiences with people and objects in the world around them. The application of Piaget’s theories to life in classrooms has led to the development of several programs that are collectively called constructivist in their approach. The High/Scope curriculum is the best-known example of this type. DeVries and Kohlberg (1987) and Kamii and DeVries (1978) have each described their thoughts on constructivist education in separate books. Studying the perspectives presented in these resources will add further insights into the High/Scope model.

While emphasizing the development of the whole child, High/Scope focuses on strengthening cognitive skills through active, hands-on learning experiences. This cognitively oriented curriculum is founded on the belief that children cannot understand themselves without first being able to place themselves in time and space and to classify and order objects and events (Weikart, Rogers, Adcock, & McClelland, 1971).

The High/Scope program is designed to help children develop logicomathematical and spatiotemporal understandings of the world around them (Hohmann & Weikart, 1995). Logicomathematical relationships include organizing objects into groups according to common characteristics and ordering items from smallest to largest. These tasks are based on Piaget’s studies of logic and number. Spatiotemporal relationships focus on helping children understand relational concepts such as up/down, over/under, and inside/outside. Event sequences and cause-and-effect relationships are also emphasized.

The Plan-Do-Review Sequence

To help children develop stronger conceptual understandings, the High/Scope curriculum uses a procedure called the plan-do-review sequence (Hohmann & Weikart, 1995). The teacher encourages children to plan the tasks they want to accomplish during free-choice time, engage in those activities, and then spend time later in the day reflecting on what they learned.

Children typically engage in planning time in small groups of four or five, while working with a teacher. Children identify activities they would like to try during work time, and the teacher helps them refine their thinking to produce a clear, structured plan for the work period ahead. The teacher uses a variety of motivational strategies to assist children in making decisions about their school day. For example, a set of pretend walkie-talkies could be used to help children communicate their plans to others.

Teachers often refer to the “do” time in the High/Scope curriculum as work time; it directly follows the planning period. In this model, teachers organize classroom space into areas where children spend their work time with blocks, art projects, quiet activities, and dramatic play. Teachers provide children with a large block of time (usually 40 to 60 minutes) to carry out their planned activities.

Review time is the last of the three components of the plan-do-review sequence and typically follows the work period. Teachers can conduct this recall time either in small groups or as a whole class. Again, teachers assist the children in reviewing their work experiences in a variety of developmentally appropriate ways. Drawing a picture of the block structure built, discussing who children spent time with, and reviewing the plans made earlier in the day are examples of the techniques used during this period.

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