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High Scope: One Program Model

By — Pearson Allyn Bacon Prentice Hall
Updated on May 1, 2014

Many different curriculum or program models are available that may be useful for preschool-aged children with or without developmental delays. Several methods are readily adapted to meet a wide variety of needs. The High Scope model is one example. This method focuses on the importance of active learning (Hohmann, Banet, & Weikart, 1979). Active learning is affected by how the room is set up, what materials are made available to the child, and the child's daily schedule.

The High Scope philosophy is, in part, based on the work of Jean Piaget, a developmental psychologist. The following statement by Piaget (1945/1951) suggests the basic underlying philosophy of the High Scope method: "When the active school requires that a student's efforts come from the student himself instead of being imposed, and that his intelligence undertakes authentic work instead of accepting predigested knowledge from outside, it is simply asking that the laws of all intelligence be respected" (p. 56). (Piaget used the term "active school" to refer to a child being involved in active exploration of and experimentation with the environment rather than the child passively listening to a teacher provide instruction. )

The High Scope method has been accepted as effective practice for early childhood education (ages two to six years) for many years. More recently, it has also been shown to be very useful for preschool children with special needs. The basic premise of the High Scope method is that children are "active learners" and best learn from activities they plan and do themselves. The teacher's role is to ensure that children become involved in the activities. Children are also encouraged to organize their own "work."

Each day, children have daily opportunities to choose what they want to do. The teachers often help in developing a plan. Very young children or children with developmental delays may have difficulty planning where they will play and reviewing where they played. Older children may plan where they want to play, provide details on what they plan to do in the chosen area. and gather materials needed to complete the plan.

The need for consistent daily routines is stressed in the High Scope method. Planning time is also an important component. During planning time. children describe their plans to the adult and other children in the group. The adult responds to the children's ideas and may suggest ways to enhance their plans. After discussing their plans. children are given ample time to "work" on them. All children actively participate in cleaning up. They explain what they did, how they did it. with whom th~y worked, and discuss any problems they might have had. Table 1.8 provides an outline of the major goals of the High Scope method (Berrueta-Clement, Schweinhart, Barnett, Esptein, & Weikart, 1984).

The program's approach to teaching children with special needs is based on the philosophy that it is unnecessary to assume that a child should be motivated by adults, but rather that adults should promote learning that extends the child's present level of functioning. The adult's function is to help children to develop their own interests and learn to build on their own strengths rather than focusing on what they cannot do. The focus is not on deficits but on a child's current level of functioning. The adult matches learning activities to a child's skills.

High Scope stresses that children benefit most from more free play and least from formal lessons or structured therapy. Projects should be selected that provide different demands for "time-on-task" (how long a child participates in an activity) and that allow for different skill levels. The underlying goal of early childhood education should be to provide the same ladder, but allow children to be on different rungs. It is also best to have fewer periods and longer periods of activities, thereby reducing the number of changes or transitions for younger children, two to four years old, in particular. Children need advanced warning when it is time for transitions. Teachers should allow children to find their own way as much as possible and do no more redirecting than is necessary. It is particularly important for teachers to develop activities such as art and music. which are more likely to engage children. Children's choices should not be limited any more than is necessary.

Major Goals of the High Scope Method

The High Scope method is designed to:

  1. Help children develop the ability to make choices;
  2. Help children develop self-discipline by carrying out plans;
  3. Develop children's ability to cooperate with others;
  4. Increase children's knowledge about objects and skills;
  5. Increase children's ability to express thoughts, ideas, and feelings;
  6. Help children better understand verbal and nonverbal communication;
  7. Develop children's ability to apply reasoning skills to a variety of situations;
  8. Further develop children's creativity, initiative, and openness to learning.
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