The following article caught my eye solely by the title and upon further investigation, I learned that it was written by a well know educational advocate for early childhood from the United Kingdom. The content is research-based and solidifies what we in the education field have pretty much known all along. Don't rush childhood especially in the earliest years. Direct teaching is not what toddlers and preschoolers need. It has been known for decades and backed by extensive research that young children learn by being active, fully engaging their bodies and all their senses in unstructured and creative play. They require ample opportunities to be allowed to explore, inquire, pretend and discover, and we absolutely need to converse with them. Learning through free play with other children and adults, where communication is open and flexible is most effective. Spontaneous learning is paramount. From birth to through early childhood is a stage of development that is better spent building the skills of ‘learning to learn’.
More from Teachers With Apps about the benefits of unstructured free play:
This study may have been written in another country but children around the globe could all benefit from this piece.
Time to Trust the Teacher
Dr. Pam Jarvis
The arena of early years practice has, over the past decade, been pitched into a situation where we seem to constantly swim against a relentless tide of inappropriate policy ‘initiatives’. This situation appears to have developed because those charged with policy development are not child development specialists. They have learned the lessons of the impact of early environments upon neuronal development, but appear to think that the way to respond to this is a fast pace of adult-directed activity at the earliest possible age. Nothing could be further from the truth; there is no empirical or theoretical evidence to support earlier adult direction of children’s activities. In fact, research in the fields of anthropology, neuroscience, psychology and education tells us that play-based learning is far more effective in developing the core skills upon which later academic achievements are based However, the orientation of government policy is relentlessly ‘top down’- what is expected in later development dominates the input in earlier development; skills that used to be constructed as ‘milestones’ instead become ‘goals.’
.....So what is the evidence for the requirement for learning through play in early childhood, birth to seven years? Internationally renowned psychologist Alison Gopnik’s research indicates that direct instruction from adults at such an early stage in a child’s development ‘leads children to narrow in, and to consider just the specific information a teacher provides’. Without didactic input from an adult, however, ‘children look for a much wider range of information and consider a greater range of options.’
We need to make it very clear to the government that as a profession we are not ‘against assessment’ and that indeed, trained teachers are able to use a vast range of informal assessment techniques to understand where each of our pupils are located in their learning journey, and to consider a range of inputs that might most effectively trigger their ‘next steps’. What we are against is a monolithic national surveillance system that simplistically ‘rates’ children at earlier and earlier ages, thence additionally simplistically exports the products of this exercise to ‘rate’ their teachers...Teachers, children, and parents must no longer be left to the blundering, politically driven manipulations of ministers who have no inkling of the skill, art and above all, vocation and humanity involved in teaching.
Dr. Pam Jarvis is a graduate psychologist and a historian and her key research focus is that of 'well-being' in education across all age ranges and academic levels, with a focus upon bio-cultural transactions in human behavior.