High Scope: A Constructivist Approach (page 2)
The High/Scope Educational Research Foundation is a nonprofit organization that sponsors and supports the High/Scope educational approach. The program is based on Piaget’s intellectual development theory. High/Scope provides broad, realistic educational experiences geared to children’s current stages of development, to promote the constructive processes of learning necessary to broaden emerging intellectual and social skills (High/Scope Educational Research Foundation, 1989).
High/Scope is based on three fundamental principles:
- Active participation of children in choosing, organizing, and evaluating learning activities, which are undertaken with careful teacher observation and guidance in a learning environment replete with a rich variety of materials located in various classroom learning centers
- Regular daily planning by the teaching staff in accord with a developmentally based curriculum model and careful child observations
- Developmentally sequenced goals and materials for children based on the High/Scope “key experiences” (High/Scope Educational Research Foundation, 1989)
Basic Principles and Goals of the High/Scope Approach
The High/Scope program strives to
develop in children a broad range of skills, including the problem solving, interpersonal, and communication skills that are essential for successful living in a rapidly changing society. The curriculum encourages student initiative by providing children with materials, equipment, and time to pursue activities they choose. At the same time, it provides teachers with a framework for guiding children’s independent activities toward sequenced learning goals.
The teacher plays a key role in instructional activities by selecting appropriate, developmentally sequenced material and by encouraging children to adopt an active problem-solving approach to learning....This teacher-student interaction—teachers helping students achieve developmentally sequenced goals while also encouraging them to set many of their own goals—uniquely distinguishes the High/Scope Curriculum from direct-instruction and child-centered curricula (High/Scope Educational Research Foundation, 1989).
The High/Scope approach influences the arrangement of the classroom, the manner in which teachers interact with children, and the methods employed to assess children.
The Five Elements of the High/Scope Approach
Teachers create the context for learning in the High/Scope approach by implementing and supporting five essential elements: active learning, classroom arrangement, the daily schedule, assessment, and the curriculum (content).
The idea that children are the source of their own learning forms the center of the High/Scope curriculum. Teachers support children’s active learning by providing a variety of materials, making plans and reviewing activities with children, interacting with and carefully observing individual children, and leading small- and large-group active learning activities.
The classroom arrangement invites children to engage in personal, meaningful, educational experiences. In addition, the classroom contains three or more interest areas that encourage choice.
The classroom organization of materials and equipment supports the daily routine—children know where to find materials and what materials they can use. This encourages development of self-direction and independence.
The teacher selects the centers and activities to use in the classroom based on several considerations:
- Interests of the children (e.g., kindergarten children are interested in blocks, housekeeping, and art)
- Opportunities for facilitating active involvement in seriation, number, time relations, classification, spatial relations, and language development
- Opportunities for reinforcing needed skills and concepts and functional use of those skills and concepts
Arranging the environment, then, is essential to implementing a program’s philosophy. This is true for Montessori, High/Scope, and every other program.
The schedule considers developmental levels of children, incorporates a sixty- to seventy-minute plan-do-review process, provides for content areas, is as consistent throughout the day as possible, and contains a minimum number of transitions.
The plan-do-review process is an important part of the High/Scope approach and is one worthy of your particular attention. The plan-do-review is a sequence in which children, with the help of the teacher, initiate plans for projects or activities; work in learning centers to implement their plans; and then review what they have done with the teacher and their fellow classmates.
Teachers keep notes about significant behaviors, changes, statements, and things that help them better understand a child’s way of thinking and learning. Teachers use two mechanisms to help them collect data: the key experiences note form and a portfolio. The High/Scope Child Observation Record is also used to assess children’s development.
The High/Scope curriculum comes from two sources: children’s interests and the key experiences, which are lists of observable learning behaviors. Basing a curriculum in part on children’s interests is very constructivist and implements the philosophies of Dewey, Piaget, and Vygotsky.
A Daily Routine That Supports Active Learning
The High/Scope curriculum’s daily routine is made up of a plan-do-review sequence and several additional elements. The plan-do-review sequence gives children opportunities to express intentions about their activities while keeping the teacher intimately involved in the whole process. The following five processes support the daily routine and contribute to its successful functioning.
Planning time gives children a structured, consistent chance to express their ideas to adults and to see themselves as individuals who can act on decisions. They experience the power of independence and are conscious of their intentions. This supports the development of purpose and confidence.
The teacher talks with children about the plans they have made before the children carry them out. This helps children clarify their ideas and think about how to proceed. Talking with children about their plans provides an opportunity for the teacher to encourage and respond to each child’s ideas, to suggest way to strengthen the plans so they will be successful, and to understand and gauge each child’s level of development and thinking style. Children and teachers benefit from these conversations and reflections. Children feel reinforced and ready to start their work, and teachers have ideas of what opportunities for extension might arise, what difficulties children might have, and where problem solving may be needed. In such a classroom, children and teachers are playing appropriate and important roles.
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