The purpose of this paper is to discuss the issues relevant to the
relationship between developmental theory and practice in preschool programming. The rationale for advocating
"the match" is that such a match is essential if we are to
create curricula that are relevant and appropriate for maximizing
the potential of young children.
Each of three themes of childhood education in the U.S.—the ethic of social reform, the uniqueness
and importance of childhood, and the reform of educational practices—
has had a variety of manifestations. Occasionally one theme
has dominated a particular debate; often the themes are hardly distinguishable.
As a group, however, they have appeared consistently, and they have shaped the development of early childhood education
in the United States.
It has long been recognized that nutritional deficiencies, either
of individual nutrients or of total food intake, retard physical
growth and delay sexual maturation. Similarly, malnutrition and
infection have synergistic actions thus adding to their effects on the
individual. In the past fifteen years attention has focused on the possibility
that malnutrition in early infancy and childhood may also
adversely influence behavioral and intellectual development. If
true, this will have serious consequences for technological development,
for educational programs, and for achievement of each individual's
inherent capacity to contribute to society.
Health concerns relative to the preschool and early school age
child understandably have different meanings to each individual
involved. Parental concerns often differ from those of the physician;
the physician's concerns, in turn, may differ from those of
the teacher and community, and yet all have similarities and overlap.
Furthermore, the communicating of facts of health among all
participants is far from ideal and often suffers from misunderstanding,
misstatement, unnecessarily long delays, over-concern, under-concern,
and even failure to communicate at all. In addition, over-attachment
to traditional methods of obtaining and administering
health surveillance and care to children may contribute to delay in
the emergence of innovative and experimental programs in this
The problem of early identification of developmental difficulties
would seem at first blush to focus on the technical efficiency of our
current identification measures. Instead, as we explore beyond the
surface issues of how effective our various instruments are in detecting
developmental problems of early childhood, we find ourselves
in a thicket of problems of measurement, of definition, and of
the will of the society to provide services that should follow such
Recently, public and professional attention has focused
on the few television programs designed to contribute positively to
the development of cognitive and social skills. Simultaneously, empirical
literature devoted to observational learning and imitation has
burgeoned in the field of child development. In the following discussion,
direct studies of the media are integrated with those of
imitative learning in order to draw conclusions and implications
concerning media effects on "young children," that is, those of preschool
and early elementary school age. The review is restricted to
studies of publicly distributed media, primarily television and films,
which are the subject of most publications.
This chapter will be mainly restricted to an analysis of three
types of characteristics: pupil, instructional situation, and goal characteristics. It will not reflect the
means used by the program sponsors to implement their programs,
their logistical arrangements for consultation and inserviee training,
their means for monitoring and data collection, except insofar as
these reflect on the characteristics. The analysis, therefore, is limited
to the instructional and curriculum phases because it is believed
these have the most direct application to an understanding of
future academic (as distinct from political or economic) movements
in the field of early childhood education.
The key issues in research and evaluation in early childhood education
are the same as those arising in research and evaluation at any
educational level. The major recurring questions are these: What
characteristics or variables should be focused upon? How adequately
are these variables being measured? Can observed effects
or changes be defensibly interpreted—in particular, can they be attributed
to specific experimental or educational treatments? And,
finally, can the findings be generalized to other populations and
other conditions? These are difficult questions at best, but in the
area of early childhood education they are made even more complicated
by the vagaries of measurement with very young children
and by the occurrence of rapid changes during the early years.
In the brief space available, it would be impossible to describe
meaningfully the actual programs as they exist in these eleven countries.
Rather, we will examine a number of conceptual and practical
variables which seem to underlie differences and similarities among
this sample of nations in their programs for the young. 1 Every
nation acknowledges that its children are its most important resource.
For planners, practitioners, and citizens everywhere it is
important to consider alternative means to improve the care and
enhance the development of the young child. It is important, too,
to understand that a broad range of issues and circumstances must
be taken into account, that what is "best" in one country may not
fit another at all.
The position of the present chapter is that parent participation
in early childhood education is vital to child development. The
defense for this position rests on moral grounds as well as on research
evidence. It does not seem possible for a society to morally justify
the encouragement of parent abdication. Parents must be involved in
decisions affecting their children, and their role in influencing early
development must be recognized.
Early childhood education takes place in many settings. Public
educational systems have generally been responsible for the education
of children above age six. While kindergartens have been a
part of these systems since before the beginning of this century,
only recently have more than half of the five-year-olds been enrolled
in public school kindergartens. In recent years the movement
downward has included a number of children in public education
programs even before the age of five.
The impact of ECE on the elementary school should be studied
novo. There are at least six reasons why programs involving early
learning should be examined with respect to their possible influence
on elementary schools.
This chapter will be divided into the following sections: (a) a
discussion of differences in language skills as a function of social
class; (b) an exploration of the role of language in learning and
thought; and (c) a description of various preschool programs with
a language focus.
The author contends that the bland, insipid content of first-grade readers not only complicates the process of "learning to read," but may, in fact, later contribute to an adolescent's anxiety.
In this article the author adds his voice to the discussion of the popular children's program, Sesame Street. A consultant on early childhood education, he suggests several more effective techniques for teaching young children that Sesame Street might employ.
The more we know about diverse children, the more complex becomes the problem of readiness. The author reviews relevant research and proposes a number of suggestive new guidelines.
Early childhood is a period of rapid growth. Changes, some of
which are the greatest that occur in the total development of the individual,
become evident as the child manifests differences in physical
appearance and abilities and develops, in a few short years, a
multiplicity of complicated skills and behavior patterns. Some developmental
tasks, such as walking, running, jumping, and talking,
emerge dramatically and can be observed readily as they are initiated
and refined. Feelings, attitudes, and concepts, which are personality
components, are also engendered by early experiences but may evolve
relatively unnoticed due to their less perceptible nature.
Human biology encompasses the study of all the structural and
functional characteristics of man, from the cellular to the organismic
level, and their ontogenesis. Advances in technology have made it
possible to extend cytologic and histologic studies to the point where
behavioral correlates may be sought even at these levels, and progress
in both the biological and physical sciences has resulted in the
emergence, within the broader interdisciplinary fields of biochemistry
and biophysics, of highly specialized disciplines such as histochemistry
and cytochemistry. The topics singled out for discussion
here are ones which offer a group of studies with some direct behavioral
implications. Each section demonstrates a different way of
systematizing the biological data and their potential behavioral
By the expression, "sociological correlates of child behavior," we
may designate the effects of social arrangements, relationships, and
expectations, which are not primarily reflections of unique personality
constellations surrounding the child but which influence the
probability of occurrence of particular types of behavior opportunities
The most important contribution that modem linguistics has
brought to child language studies is its conception of what a language
is. A language is a system that can be described internally in
terms of two primary parts or levels—the phonological (sound system)
and the grammatical. A complete description of a language
would include an account of all possible phonological sequences and
also a set of rules by which we can predict all the possible sentences
in that language.
The primary purpose of this chapter will be to present a framework
for the developmental study of perception and to formulate
some important issues.
Learning, as the psychologist defines it, is a relatively permanent
behavior change which is the result of experience. Since learning in
childhood and adolescence plays an important part in shaping adult
behavior, psychologists have long been intensely interested in the
learning process. Their concern has been with learning as process with
the minimal conditions which are necessary for learning to take
place, with the surrounding conditions which better or worsen
learning, and with the question of what the basic changes which
constitute the learning process (or processes) might be.
This chapter is concerned with current research on the development
of children's thinking, concentrating on the work of the last
two decades. Within this period a new tradition of research, that
of Piaget and his Geneva collaborators, has made its appearance and
has contributed extensively to knowledge in this area.
In spite of this tradition of theoretical interest in children's morality,
early research in the area was dominated by obvious, practical
concerns about good behavior in children. Only in the last twenty
years has research focused upon basic theoretical problems in the
development of morality. The present chapter reviews the results of
recent research as these results clarify the psychological nature of
moral development and the psychological processes leading to such
This chapter will place greater emphasis upon dependent than upon
independent behavior because the literature relating to the development
of the latter is not extensive. The large majority of
systematic studies of dependency and independence have been completed
since 1946. Occasional findings relevant to dependence may
be found in the earlier literature, but for the most part such results
are by-products of investigations whose main emphases lay on childrearing
practices, disciplinary techniques, and the like.
For the past thirty years, the psychology of aggression has been
dominated by the hypothesis of Dollard, Doob, Miller, Mowrer, and
Sears, according to which, as it was originally propounded,
aggression is a natural and inevitable consequence of frustration. In
later modifications of the hypothesis, aggression was regarded
as a natural, though not inevitable, consequence of frustration,
since nonaggressive responses to frustration could be learned.
chapter summarizes research concerned with factors influencing the
development of children's achievement propensities and actions, and
the role children's achievement motivations play in determining
their achievement performances.
In recent years there has been a metamorphosis in the study of
anxiety in children. Once a concept primarily of clinical interest and
of central scientific importance only within psychoanalytic theory,
anxiety has become a concept of ubiquitous theoretical relevance
and the focus of considerable systematic research with normal children.
While the causes of this transformation are diverse, two factors
seem especially implicated. These are the increasing interest of
methodologically sophisticated researchers in testing psychoanalytic
hypotheses concerning the interrelationships between affective and
other behavior systems and the meteoric rise to prominence of
anxiety as a drive or drive-related construct in learning theory.
The body of theory which actually
guides scientific work includes much more than these. Explicit definitions
and hypotheses are but the small portion of the iceberg visible
above the water; beneath is a mass of often unrecognized assumptions,
constructs, and modes of thought which reflect the
prevailing scientific ethos about the kinds of research questions that
should be asked, how problems are to be formulated, and what strategies
are best employed in pursuit of an answer.
The essential attribute of four-year-olds, particularly relevant to
parents and teachers, is the distinctive capacity of these children to
plunge into developmental adventures: motor, emotional, social, and
intellectual. This eagerness to master and control one's body, to
broaden social horizons, to bring feelings under control, and to express
thoughts and ardently pursue intellectual interests offers parents
and teachers of four-year-olds a rare opportunity to accept,
support, and nurture human individuality in one of its most transparent
forms. The educational potential which this attribute releases
constitutes the theme of this chapter.