Two most important factors that contribute to successful learning among preschoolers are the classroom approach applied and the environment of the classroom. In most cases, the learning approach used defines the classroom environment in which the learners develop their cognitive and non-cognitive abilities (Chen & McNamee, 2011). The people who developed the various learning approaches base them on individual beliefs and conviction. Such beliefs are inspired by the need to support creativity and productivity in the process of education for both early childhood other education levels (Masran & Ismail, 2016). In as much as I may not classify the learning approach used during my childhood development, I can make a comparison and figure out one of the approaches that use similar teaching techniques as the ones used in my case. Understanding the various learning approaches helps in understanding the most effective one that a teacher may wish to use in his or her class (House, 2013). It also helps figure out the most effective ones to be used in early childhood education setup. In this paper a comparison is carried out to help establish the similarity between any learning approach to the one used during my time as a preschooler, figure out my most preferred learning approach and state reasons why it can be applied in early childhood education.
Most of the learning approaches in early childhood education are based on the foundation of active participatory learning. For instance, in the environment I learned, playing among children was considered to contribute to the most fundamental development in every child's potential. That environment bears a lot of similarity to the High scope learning approach, where, learners are allowed to play in environments that are suited to their development (Durak, 2009). Children who grow in active environments end up having experiences such as positive control, enjoyment, interest, having self-confidence, being competent and the probability of success. This is similar to the approach in the environment of my childhood learning; we were allowed to freely interact with the defined environment that made us expose our abilities, interests, and dislikes. For someone to know if the activities undertaken by the children are appropriate to the context of their development and can provide active learning experiences, various playing materials must be present. High scope researchers, together with the educators managed to develop these materials, which are known as 'ingredients of active learning' (Chen & McNamee, 2011). Age-appropriate materials, which appeal to any child's senses can be used in various ways (Durak, 2009). Again, high scope argues that the materials directly influence how children think. The environment in which I learned based on our reaction to the materials at our disposal. Most of the things we were taught were in relation to the materials we expressed interest in. For instance, being taken to a music class or an art class depending on if a learner loved music or art materials. Children's learning abilities, according to High Scope and the environment I learned in, grow according to their direct actions as influenced by the materials. The two approaches are in agreement that, the materials chosen by children can enable them to have the opportunity to manipulate, combine, explore and transform.
The classroom learning approach that aligns with the environment I would like to create for my class is the Waldorf learning approach. One of the reasons I prefer this learning approach is because it allows children to develop their non-cognitive abilities by interacting with their environment. Another reason I prefer the Waldorf learning approach is because it is based on the belief by Steiner that children should learn to write before they learn to read. Children perform better in physical activities such as drawing, painting, and writing before they reach the age of seven. Since the approach directs that children should not start reading until they reach the age of seven, it perfectly aligns with the environment I desire my learners to be exposed to. The approach allows the learners to start engaging in creative and imaginative exercises between the age of seven and fourteen. Engaging in performance arts such as dances and singing are best suited for learners of more than seven years. I believe that is the right age for starting to learn foreign languages. Before children reach the age of seven, it is important that their first language is used to allow them learn from their environment as naturally as possible. Just like in Waldorf leaning approach, I believe that a more structured environment, which includes the stressing of the social responsibility, should be part of the learning process of learners from fourteen years of age. Lastly, I prefer the Waldorf learning approach because it is play-based and exposes learners to predictable structures. This provides learners with dependable routine, for instance, the learning approach dictates that certain days of the week should be set for activities such as gardening or baking (House, 2013). Other routines such as mixed-age classrooms with the same teachers also expose the learners to the experience they need as they take part in activities such as acting, singing, and creative learning. Such exposure is important, especially for learners who need predictability and creativity in their learning process. The play-based learning approach emphasizes on a setting that generally appears like home, with a friendly, warm environment and natural materials such as wooden toys.
Waldorf classroom learning approach is best suited for early childhood learners for various reasons. First, according to the approach, Steiner believes that the first seven years of a child's development should be supported through initiating sensory and imitation-based learning (Taplin, 2012). Such learning should be devoted to enhancing the child's non-cognitive abilities. Besides, the system is defined by Waldorf, who is against traditional grading as well as the inclusion of the media among learners. According to Steiner, media such as videos, computers, and electronics of any kind should not be used among early childhood learners (House, 2013). This is aimed at achieving a natural environment for the learners. When children are allowed to play, they interact better with their natural environment. This gives them a better chance of developing their brains and abilities independently as opposed to choosing for the children what they need to learn (Taplin, 2012). The system is also best suited for early childhood education, as it does not involve academic work such as tests, homework, handouts, or even strict classroom environment including the use of desks. The approach encourages that children are introduced to formal reading at their first grade; this makes the system friendly to early childhood education, especially as it makes them spend most of their time taking part in outdoor activities (House, 2013). Children need to engage in activities that help them develop their non-cognitive abilities; this is best achieved by creating a friendly environment where learners interact with their environment without specific or defined learner's activities. In the approach, learners are allowed to play with their toys and make mistakes freely. That way, the educators get the chance of learning about what the children are good at and what they are not good at (Masran & Ismail, 2016). The system allows the teachers to point about the strengths and the weaknesses of the learners. That way the weaknesses can be strengthened as the strengths sharpened.
In summary, children's learning possibilities result from their pursuit of personal interests and goals, because of this, their opportunity to choose various activities and materials are considered to be very important. Through the thought and language of every child, a serious encouragement is given to children to be able to think appropriately and to communicate in both words and action whenever they are doing something. This formed an important premise during my childhood education. As we were growing, we were able to assimilate new experiences into existing knowledge and pursue other interests connected with such activities. This aligns with the High Scope learning approach as the educators in the system encourage children's reasoning, creativity, and problem-solving, which are based on their existing knowledge and other related interests. However, the curriculum, which defines the classroom learning method by Waldorf, is the one that aligns with the environment I would prefer for my learners. The Kindergarteners under Waldorf schools are not taught their academic content until they reach the age of seven. That way they start their academic work when their non-cognitive abilities are fully developed, and they can effectively appreciate the content of their syllabus.
Chen, J., & McNamee, G. (2011). Positive Approaches to Learning in the Context of Preschool Classroom Activities. Early Childhood Education Journal, 39(1), 71-78. doi: 10.1007/s10643-010-0441-x
Durak, S. (2009). Taking a High Scope Approach in a Turkish Preschool: Assessing the Physical Environment and the Promotion of Positive Adult-Child Interaction. The International Journal of Learning: Annual Review, 16(3), 31-48. doi: 10.18848/1447-9494/cgp/v16i03/46155
House, R. (2013). Understanding the Steiner Waldorf approach: early years education in practice. Early Years, 33(4), 429-430. doi: 10.1080/09575146.2013.852721
Masran, M., & Ismail, Z. (2016). Fun Learning Effect Towards Readiness of Learning Among Preschoolers. Advanced Science Letters, 22(8), 1966-1969. doi: 10.1166/asl.2016.7747
Taplin, J. (2012). Practising Steiner Waldorf early childhood education: what it means in 2012 and beyond. Nursery World, 2012(5). doi: 10.12968/nuwa.2012.23.5.1106083
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