Vous êtes sur la page 1sur 168

Faculty of Education and Languages

Introduction to Early
Childhood Education

Copyright © Open University Malaysia (OUM)

Dr Mastura Badzis
Assoc Prof Hazidi Abdul Hamid
Mahani Abdul Malik

Copyright © Open University Malaysia (OUM)

Project Directors: Prof Dato’ Dr Mansor Fadzil
Assoc Prof Dr Chung Han Tek
Open University Malaysia

Module Writers: Dr Mastura Badzis

Universiti Islam Antarabangsa

Assoc Prof Hazidi Abdul Hamid

Mahani Abdul Malik
Open University Malaysia

Moderator: Mahani Abdul Malik

Open University Malaysia

Developed by: Centre for Instructional Design and Technology

Open University Malaysia

First Edition, August 2015

Copyright © Open University Malaysia (OUM), August 2015, HBEC1103

All rights reserved. No part of this work may be reproduced in any form or by any means without
the written permission of the President, Open University Malaysia (OUM).

Copyright © Open University Malaysia (OUM)

Table of Contents
Course Guide ixăxiii

Topic 1 Introduction to Early Childhood Education 1

1.1 The Concept of Early Childhood Education (ECE) 2
1.1.1 Care and Education 4
1.1.2 Learn Through Play 5
1.1.3 The Importance of Early Childhood
Education 6
1.2 Terminology Used in Early Childhood Education
(ECE) 7
1.2.1 The Philosophy of Early Childhood
Education 7
1.2.2 Family and Community Partnership 8
1.2.3 Outcomes for Children 8
1.2.4 Holistic Development 9
1.2.5 Quality Early Care and Education 9
1.2.6 Early Childhood Education Curriculum 9
1.2.7 Children with Diverse/Special Needs 9
1.2.8 The Environment for Early Childhood
Education 10
1.2.9 Child Caregivers and Early Childhood
Educators 10
1.2.10 Management and Administration of Early
Childhood Care and Education Centres 10
1.2.11 Health and Safety 11
1.3 Who is an Early Childhood Professional? 12
Summary 15
Key Terms 15
References 16

Topic 2 Ideas and Theories that Influence ECE 18

2.1 Great ECE Educators ă Their Philosophy and
Influence 19
2.1.1 Martin Luther (1483ă1546) 19
2.1.2 John Amos Comenius (1592ă1670) 20
2.1.3 John Locke (1632ă1704) 22
2.1.4 Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712ă1778) 23
2.1.5 Johann Heinrich Pestalozzi (1746ă1827) 25
2.1.6 Robert Owen (1771ă1858) 26
Copyright © Open University Malaysia (OUM)

2.1.7 Friedrich Wilhelm Froebel (1782ă1852) 27

2.1.8 Maria Montessori (1870ă1952) 29
2.1.9 John Dewey (1859ă1952) 30
2.1.10 Other Pioneers and Philosophies of ECE 31
Summary 32
Key Terms 32
References 32

Topic 3 Theories of Learning and Development 34

3.1 The Definition of Learning and Theory 35
3.1.1 Learning 35
3.1.2 Theories 36
3.2 Constructivism 37
3.2.1 Jean PiagetÊs Theory of Learning 37
3.2.2 Lev Vygotsky and Sociocultural Theory 41
3.3 Behaviourism 43
3.3.1 John Locke (1632ă1704) 43
3.3.2 Burrhus Frederic Skinner 44
3.4 Humanistic Theory 44
3.4.1 Abraham Maslow and the Theory of
Self-actualisation 45
3.5 John Bowlby and the Theory of Attachment 48
3.6 Erik Erikson and Psychosocial Development 49
3.7 Howard GardnerÊs Multiple Intelligences 52
3.8 Urie Bronfenbrenner and the Ecological Theory 54
Summary 56
Key Terms 58
References 58

Topic 4 Programme Models 60

4.1 The Montessori Model 61
4.1.1 The Montessori Curriculum 62
4.1.2 The TeacherÊs Role in the Montessori Classroom 67
4.2 Reggio Emilia (1859ă1952) 69
4.3 The Highscope Programme 71
4.4 Waldorf Early Childhood Curriculum 72
Summary 73
Key Terms 74
References 74

Copyright © Open University Malaysia (OUM)


Topic 5 Creating an Environment for Learning 75

5.1 Planning the Physical Environment 76
5.2 Preparing the Classroom as the Indoor Environment 78
5.3 Outdoor Learning Environment 85
Summary 88
Key Terms 88
References 89

Topic 6 Observing and Assessing Young Children 90

6.1 Assessment and Its Purpose 92
6.1.1 Formal Assessment 93
6.1.2 Informal Assessment 94
6.2 Authentic Assessment 94
6.2.1 Characteristics of Authentic Assessment 95
6.2.2 Guidelines for Authentic Assessment 95
6.2.3 Methods of Authentic Assessment 96
6.3 Observation and Its Purpose 97
6.3.1 Steps for Conducting Observation 98
6.3.2 Assessment of Children with Disabilities 100
6.3.3 How Children are Identified for Disabilities
Assessment 101
6.4 Critical Assessment Issues 101
6.4.1 The Risks of Assessing Young Children 102
6.4.2 Misuses of Test Data 102
Summary 103
Key Terms 104
References 104

Topic 7 Guiding ChildrenÊs Behaviour 105

7.1 Behaviour Guidance 106
7.2 Theories of Guiding ChildrenÊs Behaviour 107
7.3 Ten Steps to Guiding Behaviour 110
7.4 TeachersÊ Role to Promote the Development of
Autonomous Behaviour 116
7.5 Physical Punishment 116
Summary 117
Key Terms 118
References 118

Copyright © Open University Malaysia (OUM)


Topic 8 Multiculturalism 119

8.1 Culture Revisited 120
8.2 Multicultural Awareness 121
8.3 Cultural Competence 122
8.4 Cultural Infusion 124
8.5 Culturally Appropriate Practices 125
Summary 126
Key Terms 126
References 127

Topic 9 Children with Special Needs 128

9.1 Children with Disabilities 129
9.1.1 Congenital Abnormalities 129
9.1.2 Developmental Delay 131
9.1.3 Physical Disabilities 131
9.1.4 Learning Disabilities 132
9.2 Children with Special Needs in Malaysia 132
9.3 Symptoms and Types of Learning Disabilities and
Disorders 133
9.3.1 Motor, Maths, Language and Reading
Difficulties 133
9.3.2 Auditory and Visual Processing: The
Importance of the Ears and the Eyes 135
9.3.3 Common Types of Learning Disabilities 136
9.4 Gifted and Talented Children 136
9.4.1 Highly Gifted Children 139
Summary 140
Key Terms 140
References 141

Topic 10 Parents, Family and Community Involvement 142

10.1 Children with Disabilities 143
10.1.1 Benefits of Parent Involvement 143
10.2 Changes in Families 144
10.3 Barriers to Family Involvement 146
10.3.1 Breaking Down Barriers: Reaching Out to All
Parents 146
10.4 Involving Families Electronically 147
10.5 Types of Parent Involvement and Its Purpose 148
10.6 Community Involvement 149
Summary 149
Key Terms 150
References 150

Copyright © Open University Malaysia (OUM)


Copyright © Open University Malaysia (OUM)

Copyright © Open University Malaysia (OUM)


You must read this Course Guide carefully from the beginning to the end. It tells
you briefly what the course is about and how you can work your way through
the course material. It also suggests the amount of time you are likely to spend in
order to complete the course successfully. Please keep on referring to the Course
Guide as you go through the course material as it will help you to clarify
important study components or points that you might miss or overlook.

HBEC1103 Introduction to Early Childhood Education is one of the courses
offered by Faculty of Education and Languages at Open University Malaysia
(OUM). This course is worth three credit hours and should be covered over
15 weeks.

This is a core course for all learners undertaking Bachelor of Early Childhood
Education (with Honours) programme.

As an open and distance learner, you should be acquainted with learning

independently and being able to optimise the learning modes and environment
available to you. Before you begin this course, please ensure that you have the
right course material, and understand the course requirements as well as how the
course is conducted.

It is a standard OUM practice that learners accumulate 40 study hours for every
credit hour. As such, for a three-credit hour course, you are expected to spend
120 study hours. Table 1 gives an estimation of how the 120 study hours could be

Copyright © Open University Malaysia (OUM)


Table 1: Estimation of Time Accumulation of Study Hours

Study Activities
Briefly go through the course content and participate in initial discussion 3
Study the module 60
Attend 3 to 5 tutorial sessions 10
Online participation 12
Revision 15
Assignment(s), Test(s) and Examination(s) 20

By the end of this course, you should be able to:

1. Explain the basic concepts in early childhood education and the importance
of the past to early childhood professional;

2. Compare models of early childhood education;

3. Plan effective teaching and learning approaches, strategies, and tools

appropriate to young children development;

4. Demonstrate understanding and application of assessment procedures

appropriate for young children (ages 3 to 5); and

5. Demonstrate understanding and application of assessment procedures

appropriate for young children (ages 3 to 5).

This course is divided into 10 topics. The synopsis for each topic can be listed as

Topic 1 discusses the meaning of professionalism, the dimensions of

professionals and how to prepare for a career in early childhood education.

Topic 2 discusses the importance of the past and some historical figures as well
as their influence on early childhood education.

Copyright © Open University Malaysia (OUM)


Topic 3 discusses the meaning of learning and explores the major theories of
learning and development.

Topic 4 discusses on four distinguish models in early childhood education:

Montessori method, High/Scope Approach, Reggio Emilia and Waldorf

Topic 5 discusses the three aspects of planning – planning for physical

environment, planning for teaching and planning for daily schedule..

Topic 6 discusses the importance of assessment and observation, several

components of assessment, assessment guideline by NAEYC and NAECS/SDE
(1991), the purpose and uses of observation, steps for conducting observation
and critical assessment issues.

Topic 7 discusses teacherÊs role in changing children behaviour from negative to

prosocial and autonomous behaviour.

Topic 8 discusses the importance of understanding cultural diversity and how it

can maintain stability in the society.

Topic 9 discusses some aspects relating to children with special needs including
children with disabilities which cover physical disabilities and learning
disabilities, gifted and talented children.

Topic 10 discusses certain aspects relating to parents, family and community

involvement in childrenÊs education such as benefits of parents involvement,
barriers to parent and family involvement, types of involvement, guidelines for
involving parent and families and community involvement.


Before you go through this module, it is important that you note the text
arrangement. Understanding the text arrangement will help you to organise your
study of this course in a more objective and effective way. Generally, the text
arrangement for each topic is as follows:

Learning Outcomes: This section refers to what you should achieve after you
have completely covered a topic. As you go through each topic, you should
frequently refer to these learning outcomes. By doing this, you can continuously
gauge your understanding of the topic.

Copyright © Open University Malaysia (OUM)


Self-Check: This component of the module is inserted at strategic locations

throughout the module. It may be inserted after one sub-section or a few sub-
sections. It usually comes in the form of a question. When you come across this
component, try to reflect on what you have already learnt thus far. By attempting
to answer the question, you should be able to gauge how well you have
understood the sub-section(s). Most of the time, the answers to the questions can
be found directly from the module itself.

Activity: Like Self-Check, the Activity component is also placed at various

locations or junctures throughout the module. This component may require you to
solve questions, explore short case studies, or conduct an observation or research.
It may even require you to evaluate a given scenario. When you come across an
Activity, you should try to reflect on what you have gathered from the module and
apply it to real situations. You should, at the same time, engage yourself in higher
order thinking where you might be required to analyse, synthesise and evaluate
instead of only having to recall and define.

Summary: You will find this component at the end of each topic. This component
helps you to recap the whole topic. By going through the summary, you should
be able to gauge your knowledge retention level. Should you find points in the
summary that you do not fully understand, it would be a good idea for you to
revisit the details in the module.

Key Terms: This component can be found at the end of each topic. You should go
through this component to remind yourself of important terms or jargon used
throughout the module. Should you find terms here that you are not able to
explain, you should look for the terms in the module.

References: The References section is where a list of relevant and useful

textbooks, journals, articles, electronic contents or sources can be found. The list
can appear in a few locations such as in the Course Guide (at the References
section), at the end of every topic or at the back of the module. You are
encouraged to read or refer to the suggested sources to obtain the additional
information needed and to enhance your overall understanding of the course.

No prior knowledge required.

Copyright © Open University Malaysia (OUM)


Please refer to myINSPIRE.

Azizah Lebai Nordin. (2007). Pendidikan awal kanak-kanak teori dan amali
(3th ed.). Kuala Lumpur: University of Malaya.

Morrison, S. G. (2001). Early childhood education today (8th ed.). Upper Saddle
River, NJ: Prentice-Hall.

Morrison, S. G. (2009). Early childhood education today (11th ed.). Upper Saddle
River, NJ: Prentice-Hall.


The TSDAS Digital Library has a wide range of print and online resources for
the use of its learners. This comprehensive digital library, which is accessible
through the OUM portal, provides access to more than 30 online databases
comprising e-journals, e-theses, e-books and more. Examples of databases
available are EBSCOhost, ProQuest, SpringerLink, Books247, InfoSci Books,
Emerald Management Plus and Ebrary Electronic Books. As an OUM learner,
you are encouraged to make full use of the resources available through this

Copyright © Open University Malaysia (OUM)


Copyright © Open University Malaysia (OUM)

Topic  Introduction
1 to Early
By the end of this topic, you should be able to:
1. State the basic concepts of early childhood education;
2. Explain the key terms used in early childhood education; and
3. Describe the role of professionals of early childhood education.

A child is generally defined as a person who has yet to attain adulthood, and
who has a set of characteristics that distinguishes them from adults. The Child
Act 2001 (Act 611) in Malaysia categorises a child as a person who is under the
age of 18, placing them below the legal age of majority.

The development of a human individual is divided into various stages. In the

context of early childhood development, this would encompass the stage from
the birth of the child to up to eight years of age. Additionally, the early stages of
development are further divided into two:

(a) In the first stage, from birth to three years of age, the child is called a
„baby‰ and thereafter „toddler‰.

Copyright © Open University Malaysia (OUM)


(b) The second stage, is from three years onwards, and the child is called a
„preschooler‰. However, the extent of this stage, whether to the age of
five years or seven years varies from country to country, depending on the
age when formal schooling commences (Gordon & Browne, 2004 ).

Nevertheless, the globally accepted and adopted definition of the early stages of
childhood encompasses the first eight years of life (Morrison, 2007). Now that
you are able to identify children and their basic stages of development, in this
first topic we will begin learning about Early Childhood Education. You will read
about its concept, some key terms in Early Childhood Education and the role of
professionals of early childhood education.


Early Childhood Education refers to educational programmes and strategies
tailored specifically for children from birth to the age of eight years old. This is a
stage during which the young mind is most vulnerable and impressionable, and
thus is considered a crucial stage of oneÊs life, especially in the cognitive and
learning arena.

The term „education‰ has a wide connotation. A number of images can come to
mind when this word is heard. It could be a picture of children sitting diligently
at desks in a classroom, or sprawled across the floor writing in journals or
furiously colouring pictures. What comes to your mind when you hear the word
„education‰? Children happily traipsing outdoors collecting plants for a science
project, or looking up at the sky? Or do you see a baby chewing on a toy or
curiously crawling about and experiencing his or her surroundings? Each and
every picture would be correct as all these experiences can and in fact are a part
of a childÊs education.

Copyright © Open University Malaysia (OUM)


According to Ball and Forzani (2008) education is „the deliberate activity of

helping learners to develop understanding and skills.‰ In their view, education is
not merely a matter of teaching and learning. It is a holistic approach
encompassing the interaction of teaching, learning, content and the environment,
which all come together to contribute how the mind derives meaning and
interprets what they see and learn. This being so, teaching is certainly a crucial
component but what the children themselves bring to their education process is
equally important.

Take for example the rapt fascination of the infant with a simple ray of light, the
intent focus of a toddler when transferring water from one container to another
(Figure 1.1), the determination of the preschooler in completing a jigsaw or the
diligence of the elementary child to replicate a bridge or structure. With these,
one can also envision the childÊs motivation, struggles and persistence. All these
elements together with focus, determination, commitment, and interest are
essential for learning, which sometimes is not easy.

Figure 1.1: Intent focus of a toddler when transferring

water from one container to another

Thus, education cannot merely be a process of formulating and implementing a

set of ideas and methods and content. It must be a continual developmental
process of exploration, whereby the teacher takes cues from the children, their
families and home backgrounds and environments. It also requires pacing
learning activities according to the needs of the children, while simultaneously
projecting expectations that stretch the children beyond their current abilities at
any given moment.

Copyright © Open University Malaysia (OUM)


1.1.1 Care and Education

Although inseparable, care and education are two entirely different aspects,
which are both equally crucial. Most people associate caring with feelings,
however, the various acts of caring also presents opportunities for intellectual
activity (McNamee, Mercurio, & Peloso 2007). For example, changing a diaper
offers the opportunity to pay close attention to the baby, gather information
about his current interests and curiosity and develop new ideas for learning from

Caring is both a feeling and a set of actions (Tronto, 2001). Human beings have a
strong sense, feeling and caring about self, others, places and things. This sense
of caring extends to action and as such caring for young children involve both
feeling and action. The norm is that fondness, feelings and care grow as we take
care of babies and children.

People need to care to retain their humanity (Jones, 2007). However, the majority
consider the acts of caring to be „womenÊs work‰. Very often, such work,
whether it be caring for children, the elderly or the sick, is grossly underpaid and
undervalued. The care of young children should in fact be in the hands of
qualified and trained men and women who also deserve fair wages for all this
important work.

In Malaysia, child care centres are governed by the Child Care Centre (Act 308)
which generally revolves around the aspects of caring for the young child.
Meanwhile, preschool education is defined under the Education Act 1996:
Section 2 which states that preschool education consists of educational
programmes for children between four to six years old. Compared to this,
developed countries place both child care programmes and early childhood
education (prior to the commencement of formal schooling) together as one
under Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) or Early Childhood
Education and Care (ECEC).

Mastura (2006) wrote that:

„⁄. For young children, ÂcareÊ and ÂeducationÊ are interdependent and
inseparable. In order to encourage and facilitate an increased educational
component of childcare, there should be a securing of greater interaction and co-
ordination between the education, care and health sectors. Children should be
brought up and nurtured in provisions that fully integrate care and education‰.

Copyright © Open University Malaysia (OUM)


This is affirmed by Penn (2003) who stated that children who have had
educational input in their care tend to show cognitive gains when they get to
school as cited in Evans (2003). The educational component in their care appears
to be beneficial.

Arguing and emphasising on the need for provisions that fully integrate care and
education in the UK, Ball (1994) lamented, „Those whose primary concern is the
health of the child need to understand that good early learning is a critical part of
healthy growth; those whose primary concern is education need to understand
that good teachers should know, but must care. Education without care doesnÊt

It is unfortunate that some people consider care and education as separate

entities. Care is seen as the responsibility and domain of the mother,
predominantly at home, while education is viewed as a simple „transmissive‰, or
didactic, „telling them‰ process and is not connected with the rate of
development, choice, opportunity or self esteem (Gammage, 1999). Seen this
way, there is a distinct divide between the responsibilities of health, care and
education providers, particularly in Malaysia, at both local and national levels
(Miller, 1999).

1.1.2 Learn Through Play

The focus of early childhood education is more often than not guiding children to
learn through play. Play is an integral part of childhood and is a natural tendency
of a child. A fun thing, play is an ideal way for children to learn, about
themselves, their environment, and the people and the world around them.
Children learn to solve problems and interact with each other as they play.
Creativity is enhanced, leadership skills are developed and social interaction
improved while developing healthy personalities. Play helps children develop
the skills they would require to learn how to read and write.

The best foundation for learning and for success in school is play in early
childhood. Physically, a childÊs gross motor skills are developed as he learns to
reach, grasp, crawl, run, climb and balance. Fine motor skills and dexterity are
honed when he handles toys and other objects. As he interacts and plays with
other children, and even adults, language capacity expands. Cooing games with
parents and other adults eventually evolve into language ability and the sharing
of stories.

Copyright © Open University Malaysia (OUM)


Learning to cooperate, negotiate, take turns, and play by the rules, all of which
are fostered by play, are all important lifetime skills. All in all, positive play
experiences are instrumental in the development of the childÊs emotional well-
being. Through play and imagination, a child can fulfil wishes and overcome
fears of unpleasant experiences. Play helps the child to master his or her
environment. When children feel secure, safe, successful and capable, they
acquire important components of positive emotional health. Sharing play
experiences also can create strong bonds between parents and children.

1.1.3 The Importance of Early Childhood Education

It is clear that the importance of early care and education cannot be over-stressed.
A report compiled in 1996 showed that OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-
operation and Development) countries such as Japan, Korea, Europe, Canada
and others had made wide strides in the study of quality initiatives regarding the
importance of a good early childhood education. In the United States of America,
in its efforts to obtain the provisions of the National Congress, the US State
Legislative Council said that (quote) „early childhood education is critical to the
nationÊs economic position because it provides members of the next generation of
workers with a solid foundation of skills, competencies, attitudes and behaviours
that will ensure their success in a more technology-based and competitive future
economic environment‰ (State Legislature Council USA, 2004).

Another issue that needs to be taken into consideration is the important fact that
child development experts and child psychologists have determined that the first
six years of a childÊs life is the most crucial and rapid stage of development in the
life of a human person. Child psychologists believe that the years between birth
and four years of age is the time when more than half of the intellectual
development of children takes place with a further one-third completes the
development of the child upon reaching the age of eight. Additionally,
neuroscience research of childrenÊs brains showed that intelligence develops
from birth as quoted by Bredekamp and Copple:

„In the first 3 years of life, children learn, or fail to learn, how to get along with
others, how to resolve disputes peacefully, how to use language as a tool of
learning and persuasion, and how to explore the world without fear. Brain
research reveals that most of the connections that will be maintained
throughout life are formed during childhood.‰
(Bredekamp & Copple,1997)

Copyright © Open University Malaysia (OUM)


The complex connection or the network of neurons in the brain of the human are
patterned through and by the collection of each and every experience gained.
When the child interacts with his environment and with people, every experience
creates new patterns towards the formation of the network of synapses in the
brain. It is this network that absorbs and interprets new experiences and feelings
and forms the foundation and basis of the mind that can think and remember.
The more stimulation the child receives, the wider and more complex the
network and connection of neurons in the brain. Simultaneously, the more a
particular synapse is stimulated, the faster it will be for the neuron to transmit
impulses across and recall information, thus creating a permanent pathway.

1. What do you understand by the term „Early Childhood
Education‰? Discuss the answer with your classmates.

2. List some of the reasons you think, a society should educate its
children. Discuss in a group.


1. What is involved in the process of caring for and educating young


2. Why canÊt the care and education of children be separated?


In the study of early childhood education, there are important terms and phrases
which must be properly learned and understood in its entirety.

1.2.1 The Philosophy of Early Childhood Education

The philosophy of early childhood education effectively comprises a set of beliefs
about how children develop and learn and what and how they should be taught
(Morrison, 2009).

Copyright © Open University Malaysia (OUM)


Each and every child care service or learning centre should have its own mission
statement or philosophy to abide by. Individual centres would most likely adopt
different approaches to childrenÊs learning but there would undoubtedly be
common elements in the overall philosophy.

This philosophy can be developed through reading, reflection, discussion and

evaluation. Early childhood educators should be able to describe how this
philosophy guides the processes of learning in children as well as other practices
the centres adopt such as daily routines and other events.

1.2.2 Family and Community Partnership

The primary educators of children are first and foremost the parents themselves.
Thus, early childhood education should rightly be a complementary partnership
between the home and the care and/or education centre. This said, caregivers
and educators at such centres for child care and early childhood education need
to know the children they work with and be aware of their backgrounds, family,
culture and community.

1.2.3 Outcomes for Children

With reference to care and education, outcomes for children should includes the

(a) Dispositions ă This refers to the combinations of the childrenÊs emerging

knowledge, skills and attitudes to learning. The childÊs disposition towards
learning is crucial as it is the basis for the development of courage and
curiosity, trust and playfulness, perseverance, confidence and responsibility.

(b) Empowerment ă Empowering the child will help him or her to develop a
strong and healthy sense of self as capable and confident learners.

(c) Engagement ă Drawing the child into the lesson and engaging their
attention and participation is important for a meaningful learning
experience. This will also result in a higher probability to lead to further
experimentation and new learning outcomes. This can be easily and
effectively accomplished through child-initiated play that is interesting and
satisfying. The educators must also play alongside the children to stimulate
their thinking while enhancing creativity.

Copyright © Open University Malaysia (OUM)


1.2.4 Holistic Development

All aspects of a childÊs learning and development are interrelated and
interconnected. Encouraging and nurturing the development of a child should be
a holistic endeavour that addresses the physical, emotional, social, intellectual,
and spiritual aspects. As such, each child must be seen as a whole person, a
separate and unique individual living within context of family, community and

1.2.5 Quality Early Care and Education

Early childhood care and education programmes of high standards and quality
would inevitably and naturally create a safe and nurturing environment. It
would also promote and foster the physical, social, emotional and intellectual
development of the young child. Observation, documentation and assessment
are key approaches to supporting and encouraging such development.

1.2.6 Early Childhood Education Curriculum

The curriculum of early childhood programmes should include the experiences,
learning opportunities and activities that are offered to children at the care and
education centres to nurture their development. First and foremost, there must
be clearly defined goals and objectives which are supported by a set list of
activities. These would form the framework for decision-making and the
sourcing of supporting learning materials and it can also be the basis of a
comprehensive approach for fostering the holistic development of the child.
(Mastura, 2006).

1.2.7 Children with Diverse/Special Needs

A diverse or special needs child can be identified as those children who have
physical, or intellectual disabilities, or behavioural or learning problems. Such
children would likely require extra attention, support and assistance to fully
participate in the programmes offered by the care and education centres. These
children have equal rights to good and quality education. Child care and
education centres therefore need to incorporate methods to include and cater for
these children in their programmes and services.

Copyright © Open University Malaysia (OUM)


1.2.8 The Environment for Early Childhood Education

The physical setting, learning resources and materials, relationships between the
children and the care givers as well as the dynamics and relationships among
family members themselves all form the environment for early childhood
education. As a formal care and education service provider, these centres should
be a welcoming place, in both look and feel, for all children while also reflecting
the diverse world in which we live. A good, welcoming and comfortable
environment offers challenges and avenues for growth as well as the opportunity
to explore outdoor and indoor environments.

1.2.9 Child Caregivers and Early Childhood Educators

Child caregivers and educators are service providers and teachers who handle
the daily activities of looking after young children and teaching them. They are
responsible for planning and implementing lessons, and providing guidance and
teaching. They also assess the progress of the children, evaluate their learning
and create a nurturing learning environment to pave the way for meaningful
learning experiences.

1.2.10 Management and Administration of Early

Childhood Care and Education Centres
The effective management and administration of centres for early childhood care
and education contribute significantly to the positive experience and efficacy of
childhood learning and development.

Administrators in this field are responsible for the overall operation and
implementation of the programmes. With diverse roles and responsibilities
ranging, they are responsible for ensuring that all aspects of the centre, from the
programmes itself, the staff, the health and safety issues and everything else are
carried out according to regulations and standards. Effective management also
includes good governance.

Copyright © Open University Malaysia (OUM)


1.2.11 Health and Safety

In running and offering early childhood education programmes, the health and
safety of the children is a vital component of the services. The centres are
effectively responsible for the health and safety of all the children while they are
within the facilities of the centre. As such, there are regulations which define the
minimum standards required for health and safety.

In Malaysia, all centres for early childhood care and education must operate
under a license from the Department of Social Welfare of the Ministry of Women,
Family and Community Development whereas kindergartens or preschools must
be licensed by the Ministry of Education. These licences are only granted to
persons who are deemed fit to deal with children while the centres must meet the
regulation guidelines for early childhood care and education.


List all the terms used in Early Childhood Education that you have
learned in this section. What does each term or phrase mean to you?
Can you include your own ideas into a definition? Write it down. Find
the terminology and its meaning from the internet. Present your


1. Define what is meant by the philosophy of early childhood


2. Why do we need to study the holistic development of children?

Copyright © Open University Malaysia (OUM)



An early childhood education professional is a person who teaches young
children, has high personal standards and continually expands his or her skills
and capabilities.

Professionalism, knowledge and skills are necessary components to be able to

teach and conduct programmes for these young minds. These educators must
also be responsible persons who would be able to raise issues about the needs of
the children whenever necessary.

Professionals maintain high standards for themselves and also promote such
standards to their colleagues and students. Continued improvement, expansion
of skills and knowledge are part of their daily life. A multi-dimensional, qualified
teacher who embodies these characteristics and qualities is a key component of
quality programme (NAEYC, 2013).

Various empirical researches have revealed that the key to producing good
outcomes for children within the setting of early childcare and education is the
knowledge and skill of their educators (Russell, 2012).

Thus, early childhood care practitioners and educators must be well-prepared

and be continually developing and growing professionally. On the other side of
the coin, good compensation for these personnel is also an important factor and
should commensurate with qualifications and experience.

Caregivers and educators who have completed more years of formal education
and undergone specialised training in early childhood education or child
development are able to provide a richer and more meaningful experience to the
young children (Connor, Morrison, & Slominski, 2006).

Highly trained and qualified practitioners providing high quality early learning
and developmental experiences for children translates into long term economic
and social benefits. These children are also less likely to be involved in crimes as
they grow into adulthood (Schweinhart et al., 2005).

However, it must be said that experience alone is not enough to provide effective
care. The formal education and specialised training of a practitioner are among
the most critical elements to ensure positive outcomes for the children.

Copyright © Open University Malaysia (OUM)


Also, for any professional development system to be effective and productive in

any given field, it must have a bank of core knowledge from which the
practitioners can draw on. This bank of knowledge is a key component that
would identify a set of content areas that help define the knowledge expectations
of the said practitioners.

The programmes should be built on the best of traditions in early childhood

pedagogy. This would encompass respect for the childÊs natural leaning
propensities coupled with strong theoretical foundations. Also to be taken into
consideration would be the field experience of the practitioners, and their
training in working with parents, local schools and communities.

With these in mind, core knowledge that enhances the necessary skills (see
Figure 1.2) must be included in the content of training for early childhood
education practitioners.

Figure 1.2: Necessary skills of an early childhood professional

Source: Hevey & Curtis (2010)

The necessary skills are described as follows:

(a) Personal and social skills should be reflected in the educators and
caregivers of young children. They should be:

(i) Well-adjusted and have a positive self-image;

(ii) Well-educated;

(iii) Aware of and sensitive to the need of others;

(iv) Committed and non-judgmental;

(v) Interested in and respectful of the autonomy of the child;

Copyright © Open University Malaysia (OUM)


(vi) Have an inquiring mind and be cognizant of the need for further
personal and professional development; and

(vii) Be able to communicate effectively through various means and


(b) In terms of professional skills, early childhood professional practitioners

should have:

(i) A sound knowledge of child development and educational theory;

(ii) A knowledge of the law relating to families;

(iii) A knowledge of and respect for cultural differences;

(iv) A knowledge of policies and their underlying philosophies;

(v) The ability to develop strategies which facilitate the transmission of

knowledge to others;

(vi) The ability to act as an advocate for children;

(vii) The ability to observe ă assess and evaluate programmes; and

(viii) A deep understanding of the value of play in child education and


(c) Practical skills also include the ability to:

(i) Plan programmes that ensure both continuity and progression;

(ii) Understand the opinions of others in the management of programme

delivery within various settings;

(iii) Encourage the team of workers to adopt common strategies; and

(iv) Encourage the personal development of team members.


Think of a teacher who had a great influence on you. Write a one page
statement describing the characteristics of this teacher and some
examples of how he or she was a role model. Share your story with
your classmates in a small-group discussion.

Copyright © Open University Malaysia (OUM)



1. Do you think that academic knowledge is important for someone

working in early childhood care or education organisations?

2. What do you think are new roles for early childhood professionals

 Early childhood education refers to educational programmes and strategies

geared toward children from birth to the age of eight.

Ć Early childhood education often focuses on guiding children to learn through


Ć For young children, „care‰ and „education‰ are interdependent and

inseparable. To encourage and facilitate an increased educational component
in the area of childcare, there should be greater interaction and co-ordination
between the education, childcare and health sectors.

Ć There are some terminologies of early childhood education that need to be

defined and understood by early childhood educators.

Ć To be a professional in early childhood education, a teacher should

understand the basic concepts of early childhood education and master the
relevant knowledge and skills relating to early childhood education.

Child Act 2001 Early childhood professionals

Child Care Centre (Act 308) Education Act 1996
Early childhood care and education Holistic development
Early childhood care and development Preschool education
Early childhood education Quality early care and education
Early childhood philosophy

Copyright © Open University Malaysia (OUM)


Ball, C. (1994). Start right: The importance of early learning. London: RSA.

Ball, D. L., & Forzani, F. M. (2008). Challenges and contexts of teaching practice.
Panel paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Educational
Research Association, New York, NY.

Bredekamp, S., & C. Copple, eds. (1997). Developmentally appropriate practices

in early childhood programs. Rev.ed. Washington, DC: NAEYC.

Casper, V., & Theilheimer, R. (2010). Early childhood education: Learning

together, bank street. New York: McGraw-Hill.

Connor, C. M., Morrison, F. J., & Slominski, L. (2006). Preschool instruction and
childrenÊs emergent literacy skill growth. Journal of Educational
Psychology, 98, 665ă689. doi:10.1037/0022-0663.98.4.665

Evans, M. (2003). Put in the shade. Nursery World, 103(3861), 10ă11.

Gammage, P. (1999). Early childhood education in the postmodern world. In

Abbott, L., & Moylett, J. (Eds) Early Education Transformed. pp. 153ă163,
London: Routledge Falmer.

Gordon, & Browne, (2007). Beginning essentials in early childhood education.

Canada: Thomson Demar Learning.

Hevey, D., & Curtis, A. (2010) Training to work in the early years. In Pugh, G.
(Ed.) Contemporary Issus in the Early Years: Working Collaboratively for
Children. London: Paul Chapman Publishing.

Mastura Badzis (2006). Child education: What should be optimal. Jurnal

Pendidikan Islam, 12(1), 77ă90.

McNamee, A., Mercurio, M., & Peloso, J. M. (2007). Who cares about caring in
Early Childhood Teacher Education Program. Journal of Early Childhood
Education, 28(3), 277ă288.

Miller, L. (1999). Teaching and learning about play, language and literacy with
preschool educators in Malaysia. International Journal of Early Childhood,
31(2), 55ă64.

Copyright © Open University Malaysia (OUM)


Morrison, S. G. (2007). Early childhood education today (10th ed.). Upper Saddle
River, NJ: Prentice-Hall.

Morrison, S. G. (2009). Early childhood education today (11th ed.). Upper Saddle
River, NJ: Prentice-Hall.

Russell-Bowie, D. E. (2012). Developing preservice primary teachersÊ confidence

and competence in arts education using principals of authentic learning:
Australian Journal of Teachers Education, 37(1). http://dx.doi.org/

Schweinhart, L. J., Montie, J., Xiang, Z., Barnett, W. S., Belfield, C. R., & Nores, M.
(2005). Lifetime effects: The High/Scope Perry Preschool Study Through
Age 40. Ypsilanti, MI: High/Scope Press.

Copyright © Open University Malaysia (OUM)

Topic  Ideas and
2 Theories that
Influence ECE
By the end of this topic, you should be able to:
1. Explain the importance of the past on the idea of early childhood
education; and
2. Discuss ideas and theories of great educators who have influenced
the field of early childhood education.

Just as history helps us to shape the future, it would be ideal to look at the history
of early childhood education to help us understand the current early childhood
education development. There is so much to learn from the past. The ideas,
practices, philosophies and principles can be a base for todayÊs context. The
applications used in the past can also help todayÊs early childhood educators in
the implementation of teaching strategies.

Theories related to the growth and development of children, which form the
basis of educational practices are learned from history. The ideas of famous
educators, philosophers and thinkers of the past offer valuable insights into how
we can best implement todayÊs modern practices. The history, development and
theories of early childhood education have great influence on the present
curriculum, teaching strategies and methods (Brewer, 1992). For the Muslim
community, Islamic influence in early childhood education also needs to be given
emphasis and priority in the curriculum and teaching strategies (Islamic
Foundation for Education and Welfare, 1997; Ibn Khaldun Centre for
Development Studies as cited in Nor Hashimah Hashim & Yahya Che Lah, 2003).

Copyright © Open University Malaysia (OUM)


In this topic, we will return to the past to learn from great educators of the past,
exploring their ideas and theories that shaped early childhood education as we
know it today.


In this section, you will get to know some important figures in Early Childhood
Education (ECE) exploring in depth into their philosophy and influence to ECE.

2.1.1 Martin Luther (1483–1546)

Martin Luther was a famous religious reformist from Germany (see Figure 2.1).
He said that education should be universal and compulsory. Considered the first
humanist educator, he advocated that basic education should be given to all
children, including girls as well as the poor. He encouraged parents to educate
their children by teaching them morals and catechism.

Figure 2.1: Martin Luther, a German religious reformist

Source: http://www.vebidoo.de/martin+bost

Luther stressed on the need to build schools to teach children to read. For him,
the main purpose of school was to teach religion and faith. Although the main
focus of most schools eventually moved away from the focus of religion, LutherÊs
two main purposes of schooling, namely reading and religion, still influence the

Music and physical education were two areas he asserted must be part of the
curriculum. His belief and conviction that the family was the most important
institution of childhood education was accepted by most educators. To him, the
primary goal of education and schooling was to teach socialisation, religion and

Copyright © Open University Malaysia (OUM)


2.1.2 John Amos Comenius (1592–1670)

More than 100 years after Luther, John Amos Comenius proposed certain
reforms in education (see Figure 2.2). Supporting the fact that children should go
to school, he also added that education and schooling should be a positive
learning experience. School should be a happy place of freedom and joy.

Figure 2.2: John Amos Comenius

Source: http://declarationofconsciousness.com/masters-3/john-amos-comenius/

Comenius believed that education should be a natural progression which abides

by age and readiness. He was against learning by force. This tenet is closely
adhered to in the Montessori concept which matches PiagetÊs time-sensitive
stages of development to methods and practices of childhood education. The
stages that Comenius recommended fall in line with the pattern of formal
education stages today:

(a) Mother school before the age of six years old;

(b) Vernacular school from the age of 6 to 12 years old;

(c) Latin school from the age of 12 to 18 years old; and

(d) University from age of 18 to 24 years old.

The first book written by John Amos Comenius was a picture dictionary called
Orbus Pictus (The World of Pictures, 1658) to help teach children. This was a
guideline for teachers that included training of the senses and the study of nature
(see Figure 2.3).

Copyright © Open University Malaysia (OUM)


Figure 2.3: The book, OrbusPictus, written by John Amos Comenius


Encouraging curriculum interaction, he was certain that learning should be active

and interactive and believed that children should learn how to write by writing
and how to talk by talking. The progression of good learning should be from
general to specific and from easy to difficult. „Learning by doing‰ he stressed,
enhanced sensory skills and so he encouraged play among children of the same

Comenius believed that each and every one of the senses should be involved in
the process of learning for maximum effect; for example both showing an object
and explaining what it is.

Montessori, Piaget and other contemporary programmes adapted and refined

these principles, adding in the manipulation of concrete objects, project
approaches and active learning.

Comenius also believed that learning activities are crucial and hence a school is a
childÊs workshop where he can work with complete attention and rapt interest.

Copyright © Open University Malaysia (OUM)


2.1.3 John Locke (1632–1704)

The English philosopher John Locke is recognised as the founder of modern
educational philosophy (see Figure 2.4). He is the philosopher who coined the
well-known concept of tabula rasa, otherwise known as blank slate. This concept
views the childÊs mind as a clean slate on which the experiences provided by
parents, society and education would paint on. From this came LockeÊs theory of
environmentalism which opines that it is the environment and not innate
characteristics that determines who the child becomes. This idea had great
influence on modern early childhood education practices which stated that
children should be given opportunities to experience and acquire knowledge
through their senses and experiences.

Figure 2.4: John Locke

Source: http://users.uoa.gr/~abelis/taught-courses.html

Locke assumed that there were no innate ideas in the process of human learning.
This belief formed the basis of his theory of the mind as a blank tablet, or „white
paper‰. As Locke explains:

Let us suppose the mind to be, as we say white paper void of all characters,
without ideas. How comes it to be furnished? Whence comes it by that vast
store which the busy and boundless fancy of man has painted on it with an
almost endless variety? Whence has it all the materials of reason and
knowledge? To this I answer, in one word, from experience; in that all our
knowledge is founded, and from that it ultimately derives itself.
Morrison (2009)

Using this idea, Morrison (2009) expounded that the primary role of influencing
environmental factors is evident in programmes in which early education is
encouraged and promoted as a way to overcome or compensate for a poor or
disadvantaged environment. Partly founded on the assumption that everyone is
born with the same general capacity for mental development and learning,
Copyright © Open University Malaysia (OUM)

programmes such as these attribute the differences in learning achievement and

behaviour to environmental factors, including home and family conditions,
socioeconomic situations, early education and experiences.

Early schooling programmes, especially the current move which introduces

formal public schooling for three and four-year old children, are based on the
premise that some children are not ready for experiences in kindergarten and
first grade and as such are risk for failure in school. Public funding to facilitate
early schooling for those who are considered disadvantaged is very common
today and such programmes are specially designed.

In view of LockeÊs belief that experiences determine the nature of the individual,
sensory training became a prominent feature in the application of this theory to
education. LockeÊs theories and beliefs had a strong influence on others,
especially on Maria Montessori, who formulated her system of early education
based on sensory perceptions.

2.1.4 Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712–1778)

Jean-Jacques Rousseau (see Figure 2.5) wrote a book titled Emile that earned him
his spot of fame. In this book, he „raises‰ a hypothetical child from birth to
adolescence, tracking his progress and development. The bookÊs opening lines
are „God makes all things good, man meddles with them and they become evil‰
(Morrison, 2009). This line reflected both RousseauÊs educational and political
views, which were in fact quite radical for his time.

Figure 2.5: Jean-Jacques Rousseau

Source: http://www.lemoni.gr/

RousseauÊs theory advocated that education should reflect this natural goodness,
allow and provide for the spontaneous interests and activities of the children
because their inherent nature is good.

Copyright © Open University Malaysia (OUM)


He promoted the idea of naturalism, an approach to educating children by a

return to nature. His idea of naturalism referred to abandoning societyÊs artifice
and pretence, stating that natural education allows for growth without undue
interference or restrictions. It promotes and encourages the qualities and
characteristics of children such as happiness, spontaneity and inquisitiveness. As
such, this learning method encourages parents and teachers to allow children to
develop according to their individual natural abilities, and not interfere with
development by forcing education upon them. Children should also not be over-
protected from the influences of society around them. Therefore, he advocated
that the environment of the school should be flexible in meeting the needs of the
children, with less restraints and includes the concepts of autonomy and self-
regulation. He wrote:

All that we lack at birth and need when grow up is given to us by education.
This education comes to see us from nature, from men or from things. The
internal development of our faculties and organs is the education of nature⁄ It
is not enough merely to keep children alive. They should learn to bear the
blows of fortune; to meet either wealth or poverty, to live if need be in the
frosts of Iceland or on the sweltering rock of Malta.
Morrison, 2009

His ideas and beliefs about childhood education include the following:

(a) The true goal of education should not be primarily a vocational one;

(b) Children only really learn from first hand information;

(c) ChildrenÊs view of the external world is quite different from that of adults;

(d) Based on his belief in the inherent goodness of children and their ability to
choose what they need to learn, free play is an important part of childhood

(e) The use of concrete rather than abstract materials should be used in the
teaching of young children;

(f) The various stages of education should coincide with the distinct phases of
development of a childÊs mind; and

(g) Teachers should be encouraged to be aware of the stages of development of

a child and coordinate and tailor instructions and lessons accordingly.

Copyright © Open University Malaysia (OUM)


2.1.5 Johann Heinrich Pestalozzi (1746–1827)

RousseauÊs naturalism concept really impressed Johann Heinrich Pestalozzi (see
Figure 2.6) that he started a school based on this idea. In 1774, he purchased a
farm and started a school called Neuhof where he developed and promoted his
ideas about the integration of home life, vocational education, and education for
reading and writing.

Figure 2.6: Johann Heinrich Pestalozzi

Source: http://loscineastasdepuertoreal.blogspot.com/

Greatly influenced by Rousseau, Pestalozzi also held strongly to the conviction

that education should go abide with the nature of the child. He raised his own
child based on Jean-JacquesÊs idea, using the book Emile as a guide, using
methods that harmonised nature with educational practices (Morrison, 2009).

Believing that education meant the development of the senses, part of

PestalozziÊs curriculum was based on the study of nature, while also
emphasizing on the importance of play and sensory experiences. His pragmatism
extended to including principles on how to teach basic skills and the idea of
caring as well as educating the child. Love, respect, patience and understanding
were very crucial elements to be included while teaching children and he
strongly believed that the senses could be sharpened or cultivated by practice.

Casper and Theilheimer (2010) mentioned that three assumptions underlie

PestalozziÊs theory:

(a) First, PestalozziÊs child development theory was grounded in his

fundamental belief in a childÊs innate goodness, which he illustrated using
the metaphor of a developing plant;

(b) Second, he said that education could only properly happen in an

environment in which a child felt and experienced love and care; and

Copyright © Open University Malaysia (OUM)


(c) Third, Pestalozzi felt that education was meant to stimulate the childÊs
potential through experiences that could meaningfully enhance his or her
innate intellectual, moral, and physical capacities.

Pestalozzi shared and expounded on his ideas in education in 1801 in the book
„How Gertrude Teaches Her Children‰. Using the method of moving from the
easy to the more difficult, he also emphasised the importance of an integrated
curriculum that would holistically develop the child and promote that education
had to be of the hand, the head and the heart. PestalozziÊs theories on education
and caring have stood the test of time and are in fact the basis of many common
teaching practices of early childhood education right till today.

2.1.6 Robert Owen (1771–1858)

Robert Owen (see Figure 2.7) was an entrepreneur who managed a model mill
town called New Lanark in Scotland. His experience in industry had an influence
on his ideas on education. OwenÊs education philosophy was based on
environmentalism. He felt that the environment in which children are raised
predominantly influenced their beliefs, behaviour and achievements.
Consequently, he upheld the idea that society and persons acting in the best
interests of society had the power to shape the individual characters of children.

Figure 2.7: Robert Owen

Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_Owen

Believing that a personÊs character was formed by his environment, he was

certain that by creating the right environment, he could produce rational, good
and humane people. People, he said, were naturally and inherently good.
Unfortunately, they were corrupted by the harsh way they were treated. As such,
Owen strongly opposed physical punishment in schools and factories and he
completely banned such punishment in New Lanark.

Copyright © Open University Malaysia (OUM)


In 1816, he opened a school for infants in New Lanark. This school was intended
as a care centre for about a hundred children, aged between 18 months to 10
years old, belonging to the workers in his cotton mills. Following this, a similar
school was opened in London in 1818. The opening of these infant schools was
partly motivated by OwenÊs intention to differentiate the children from their
parents who were largely uneducated. Consequently, he also set up a night
school for his workers to educate and transform them into „rational beings‰.

And so the young children went to his nursery and infant schools. The older
children who worked in the factory also had, for most part of the day, to attend
his secondary school which Owen called the Institution for the Formation of

At school, the programme included dance, song and outdoor play and also
covered reading, writing, arithmetic, sewing, geography, natural history, modern
and ancient history. Owen left this legacy on the infant schools in England and
they eventually developed into the kindergartens of today.

2.1.7 Friedrich Wilhelm Froebel (1782–1852)

The field of early childhood education is credited to the ideas of Friedrich
Wilhelm Froebel (see Figure 2.8) who devoted his life to developing a system for
educating young children. He effectively created the kindergarten, a place where
he envisioned children learning through play.

Figure 2.8: Friedrich Wilhelm Froebel

Source: http://studentzone.roehampton.ac.uk/library/digital-collection/froebel-

Copyright © Open University Malaysia (OUM)


This idea that children learn through play was as radical a notion during
FroebelÊs time as the idea that children do not need to play to learn today. From
his close relationship with Pestalozzi and his readings of Rousseau, came his
decision to open a school to implement his ideas. As a result of his close
relationship with Pestalozzi and his reading of Rousseau, Froebel decided to
open a school where he could implement his ideas. In the process, he earned the
title of Father of the Kindergarten.

FroebelÊs primary contributions to educational thought and practice are in the

areas of learning, curriculum, methodology, and teaching training. He was the
first educator to develop a planned, systematic programme for educating young
children. He based his concept of children and how they learn on the idea of
unfolding, the same idea which was advocated by Comenius and Pestalozzi
before him. This idea places the educator, parent or teacher, in an observatory
position, watching the natural unfolding of the childÊs mind and providing
opportunities and activities that will lead the children toward learning when
they are ready. The role of the teacher then is to assist and guide the children
toward developing their own inherent qualities and readiness for learning. The
teacher becomes the designer of experiences and activities (Morrison, 2009).

Froebel left a significant mark and influence through his formula for the
„kindergarten system‰ through which he stressed the importance of play and the
use of „gifts‰ (play materials) and „occupations‰ (activities). Kindergarten
paraphernalia comprised the things which attracted children such as pets, blocks
and finger plays. His observance of children led to his understanding of how
they learn and what they are attracted to and like to do.

His main theories and ideas include the following fact (Tassoni & Hucker, 2000):

(a) Both the outdoors and the indoors are good learning environments for
children. Outdoor activities should be used to encourage an interest in
natural sciences;

(b) Children should be allowed to move around freely;

(c) Symbolic and imaginative play are important elements and show a high
level of learning and cognitive development; and

(d) Relationships, positive feelings and being part of a community were

important to the development of a child.

Copyright © Open University Malaysia (OUM)


2.1.8 Maria Montessori (1870–1952)

Following in the footsteps of Froebel, Maria Montessori (see Figure 2.9) was
equally passionate about children and their education. Her system for educating
young children has made a great impact on and influenced virtually every
programme for early childhood education.

Figure 2.9: Maria Montessori

Source: http://it.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maria_Montessori

Montessori was the first female physician in Italy and she worked in the slums of
Rome with children who were poor and children who were mentally retarded.
This experience piqued her interest in looking for educational solutions for
children who were deaf, paralysed and termed as „idiots‰. As time passed, her
belief that these mentally impaired children could be trained and taught to
become more competent and be able to live fuller lives instead of just being „kept

She set out to gather the thoughts and ideas of others to find the key to unlock
and develop the right educational programmes for handicapped children. In
1907, Montessori established a pre-school Casa de Bambini or ChildrenÊs House,
and her first class comprised of 50 children aged between two to five years old.
This school stemmed from the invitation of the director general of the Roman
Association for Good Building to organise schools for the young children of
families who occupied the tenement houses constructed by the association. Her
school had one employee, a young woman with no training or background on
educating children.

Copyright © Open University Malaysia (OUM)


Both a concept and a philosophy of child development and a plan for guiding
growth, MontessoriÊs method is founded in the belief that education begins at
birth and the early years are of the utmost importance. The most crucial period of
life is the initial time from birth to the age of six years old, it is the period when a
personÊs intelligence, his greatest asset, is formed and developed. This being so,
the founding principle which should be the ultimate basis of early childhood
education is to assist the natural development of the child.

MontessoriÊs ideas included the notion that natural mental development

encompassed several „sensitive periods‰. Children go through each of these
periods with a curiosity level that makes them ready and open to the acquisition
of a certain set of skills and knowledge. These sensitive periods allow the child to
relate to the external world with intensity. It is during these periods that
everything appears to be easy and everything is seen vivaciously and with
enthusiasm and every effort marks increase in power.

2.1.9 John Dewey (1859–1952)

For a truly American influence on education in the US, people look to John
Dewey (see Figure 2.9). For his contribution in the redirection of education in the
US through his positions as professor of philosophy at the University of Chicago
and Columbia University, his extensive writings, and the educational practices of
his many followers, is second to none (Morrison, 2009).

Figure 2.9: John Dewey

Source: http://dewey.pragmatism.org/

A philosopher, social reformer and educator, Dewey brought fundamental

change to the approaches to teaching and learning. His education philosophy
had its roots in pragmatism and were played a central role in the Progressive
Movement in schooling which maintained that students must be have a vested
interest in what they were learning.

Copyright © Open University Malaysia (OUM)


DeweyÊs educational philosophy placed great emphasis on the need for

meaningful activity in learning and participation in a democratic classroom. For
him, a classroom is a place where children are involved in physical activities,
intellectual pursuits, the utilisation of things and social interaction. This idea
promotes and supports the concept that learning is active and schooling is often
unnecessarily long and restrictive. He opined that school was a place where
children came to do things and experience and interact in a community; where
they had real, guided experiences that cultivated and developed their capacity
and abilities to contribute to the society. The growing and developing child had
to use tools and materials to do hands-on activities such as doing daily living
activities or occupations like cooking and carpentry.

2.1.10 Other Pioneers and Philosophies of ECE

The period between the 19th and 20th centuries, we saw numerous emergence of
pioneers in the field of early childhood education. Some of them are as follows:

(a) Rudolf Steiner (1861ă1925), a German educator who introduced what is

today known as the Waldorf School of Education;

(b) Margaret McMillan (1860ă1928) is considered as a champion for early

education issues with reference to the effects of poverty in young children.
She advocated the importance of fresh air, bathing and sleeping; and was
convinced that health was the „handmaiden of education‰; and

(c) Susan Isaacs (1885ă1948) is highlighted for her substantial contribution to

nurseries and the progressive schools of her time in the early 20th century.
She promulgated the role of the teacher as a force of love, as the good but
regulating parent who allows the opportunity to express aggression but in a
modified form. The teacher should not bow to the negative sentiments of
hatred and oppresion. Isaacs placed importance on hearing and
acknowleding a childÊs point of view and supported the notion of play
being the childÊs work.


Think about an early childhood education provision in your area. Can

you identify in the provisions any of the influences from the great ECE

Copyright © Open University Malaysia (OUM)



Look at the list of the ECE thinkers and philosophers. Discuss the
contributions of each one of them. Cite at least one example of how each
viewpoint can be applied in the classroom for early childhood
education today.

Ć The programmes of early childhood education which are used today are
based on the ideas and philosophies of the past.

Ć Early childhood education is widely recognised today and the importance of

play in a childÊs development and learning process is firmly acknowledged.
The attitude towards children, their role in the family and their needs have
changed over the years.

Ć How children are taught and how society responds to their needs is
dependent on how they are seen and viewed.

Blank slate Infant schools

Environmental education Sensitive periods
Father of kindergarten Sensory education
Growing plants

Brewer, J. (1992). Introduction to early childhood education: Preschool through

primary grades (1st ed.). Boston, MA: Allyn and Bacon.

Casper, V., & Theilheimer, R. (2010). Early childhood education: Learning

together. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill.

Copyright © Open University Malaysia (OUM)


Gordon, & Browne. (2007). Beginning essentials in early childhood education.

Canada: Thomson Demar Learning.

Morrison, S. G. (2009). Early childhood education today (11 ed.). Boston, MA:
Pearson Education.

Nor Hashimah Hashim, & Yahya Che Lah. (2003). Panduan pendidikan
prasekolah. Malaysia: PTS Professional.

Tassoni, & Hucker. (2000). Planning play and the early years. Oxford, England:
Heinemann Child Care.

Copyright © Open University Malaysia (OUM)

Topic  Theories of
3 Learning and
By the end of this topic, you should be able to:
1. State the meaning of learning and theory;
2. Discuss the major theories of learning and development; and
3. Explain the important concepts related to theories.

Learning. We use this word every so often, but do we really know and
understand what it means? Human beings take learning for granted, as a given
ability, but more often than not, we are not aware of how learning occurs. This
said, as early childhood education professionals, your beliefs and understanding
about how children learn will greatly influence your teaching and the curriculum
you choose.

Stop for a while, and think about learning and what it is all about. Some associate
the ability to learn as a sign of intelligence while others think it is all about school
children bringing home sterling report cards. Very often, for a lot or parents, the
question on their lips is „What did you learn at school today?‰ (Morrison, 2009).

Copyright © Open University Malaysia (OUM)



Before we start to delve deeper into learning theories, it is important to first be
able to understand what is learning and theory. When we talk about learning do
you and I have the same idea? Thus, let us begin from the same starting point
and define what is learning, and what is theory.

3.1.1 Learning
Learning refers to cognitive and behavioural changes that result from
experiences. So we can deduct that learning occurs when there are changes in
behaviour resulting from experiences and interaction with the environment.
Thus the experiences that are planned and provided for children within a certain
curriculum should rightly be based on the core definition of what learning is all
about and on theories of how children actually learn.

Woolfolk (2005) stated that we can generally say that something has been learned
when experiences cause a relatively permanent change in the behaviour patterns
or the state of knowledge of an individual. These changes must have been
brought about through experiences and interaction with the environment to
qualify and be defined as learning.

This brings about another question. Is there a difference between learning and

Bruce and Meggit (1999) stated that development refers to the general way in
which a child progresses, often in relation to time. To cite an example, a two-year
old boy can run and jump but he would usually not be able to hop and skip yet.
This adheres to what we know of the physical development stages of a child,
which we can say, is somewhat naturally ordained.

In comparison, learning stems from provocation, as it were. This is because

learning occurs in a specific situation, at a specific moment or when a specific
problem needs to be tackled. It is relatively easy to determine if a child has
learned something. This can be done in various ways such as observing how a
child interacts with other children, what he or she does, interpreting the results of
achievement tests and also by reading stories written by the child. All these
would indicate a change of thought pattern, behaviour or knowledge which
would indicate learning has taken place.

Copyright © Open University Malaysia (OUM)


3.1.2 Theories
Now, let us talk about theory. What exactly is „theory‰? Broadly defined, a
theory is a set of assumptions or principles that organise, analyse, predict, or
explain specific events, behaviours or processes. Functionally, theories are used
to explain a particular phenomenon. For example, with reference to human
development, theories are used to explain human behaviour from birth through
old age. Theories offer insights into the nature and behaviour of children at
different stages of development and growth, helping us to understand how they
think, and why they act as they do. Knowing and thoroughly understanding
these theories provides early childhood education professionals to better work
with these young children and their parents as well.

In early childhood education, the specifics of every classroom, curriculum and

child are classified as data. These data are meant for professionals to analyse and
understand. We can use theories as the basis to look for particular sets of data,
and to interpret the information. In this context, we look at theory as a set of
explanations to define and illustrate how children learn.

In Early Childhood Education context, a theory is a set of explanation to

elaborate how children learn. The curriculum and teaching practices of many
professionals are based on PiagetÊs theory of cognitive development. A highly
influential theory, PiagetÊs theory is the most popular theory that is used to
explain how children learn and think and it is in fact applied to numerous early
childhood programmes.

In education field, for a long time, educators and students of education are
exposed to numerous learning theories. These theories are rooted from
paradigms or categorisation such as constructivism, cognitivism, behaviourism,
maturational theory, humanism and other paradigms. In the following sections,
we will discuss some learning theories related to early childhood education
based on the different paradigms.


Look back and think about situations and experiences which helped
you learn something. Was there anything that made learning a difficult
thing? Make a list of your thoughts and ideas, and then compare your
list with others. Discuss.

Copyright © Open University Malaysia (OUM)



In early childhood education context, how do you determine if a child

has learned something? What roles do theories play in an early
childhood education?

Based on the ideas of John Dewey, Jean Piaget and Lev Vygotsky, constructivism
is a cognitive theory of learning and development. This theory of knowledge
states that the human brain accumulates knowledge and meaning from an
interaction between the experiences they encounter and the ideas they already
have. Both surrounding and natural factors play a significant role in influencing
human development. This belief is also evident in the behaviourist and the
maturational theories.

The constructivism philosophy of education places the learner in the centre of

things and assigns the teacher the role of providing experiences that link prior
knowledge to what they are currently studying. According to Raines (1997 as
cited in Eliason & Jenkins, 2008), the constructivist teacher organises the
classroom, bearing in mind the developmental stages of the children.

3.2.1 Jean Piaget’s Theory of Learning

A Swiss psychologist, Jean Piaget made great contributions to how we
understand the way a childÊs intellect develops. He studied children ă including
his own ă in great depth and one of the ways he employed was observing them
as they answered questions during an unstructured interview. He realised that
children are actively involved in developing their own knowledge in order to
understand the world around them. Piaget believed children used a number of
thinking processes to allow them to adapt to their environment. This is what is
known as „cognitive development‰.

Children, he said, are actively engaged in their own development and

fundamentally think differently from adults. Where many had ideas that the
development of thinking was either intrinsic (nature) or extrinsic (nurture),
Piaget felt the amazingly complex behaviours of children could not be explained
by either of these explanations. Instead, he included both maturational and
environmental factors.

Copyright © Open University Malaysia (OUM)


The maturational concept states the prevalence of a sequence of cognitive

(thinking) stages governed by heredity. The biological structures of the body and
mind, the automatic or instinctive behaviour we exhibit all influence learning.

PiagetÊs theory is also considered environmental because the experiences that

children have also directly influence their learning and development process.
Thinking and learning is the result of interaction between an individual and his
or her environment. This theory is called constructivism as children constantly
develop and revise their own learning. Piaget was confident that children learn
best when they initiate the work or play themselves rather than being told or

On another note, Piaget theorised that humans develop what is known as

schemas, or mental concepts. This refers to a general way of thinking about, or
interacting with ideas and objects in the environment. As they taste and feel,
young children develop perceptual schemas; preschool children use language
and pretend play to create their understanding of the world and older children
develop more abstract schemas that guide them in their actions. Through all
these experiences, the brain uses three basic adaptive processes which are
assimilation, accommodation and the balancing process of equilibration
(Morrison, 2009).

The following are the descriptions of PiagetÊs theory:

(a) Basic Principles of PiagetÊs Theory

Children are very curious by nature. Their curiosity leads them to explore
and experiment, much like scientists do. Actively involved in their own
learning process, one of the important skills they need to learn is to develop
an ability to organise their experiences and learn from it, in the process of
making sense of the world (OÊHagan & Smith, 1999).

Piaget said children understand the world through psychological structures

that organise experiences which are called schemas (Kail, 2002). As Bruce
and Meggit (1999) define it, schemas are a chain of connected behaviour
patterns that children can generalise and apply to a wide variety of
situations. The child has the capacity to modify a particular schema or
mental concept via the process of assimilation, accommodation, adaptation
and organisation as he grows. Piaget describes other mental structures
called operations. These operations enable the human mind to combine and
connect schemas in a logical manner and make links between different
experiences (OÊHagan & Smith, 1999).

Copyright © Open University Malaysia (OUM)


(i) Active Learning

The active learning viewpoint states that children develop knowledge
and learn through physical and mental engagement in learning
activities. This direct involvement means that they are actively
involved in problem-setting and problem-solving activities.

For example, if you give six-month-old Lily some blocks, the first
thing she would probably do with them would be to put them in her
mouth. However, if you give to a three-year old Amina the same
blocks, this toddler will attempt to stack them up. Both Lily and
Amina would display their active involvement as learners with
objects and people. Hence we see that active involvement is a natural
phenomenon for all children.

(ii) Adaptation
The process of building schemes through direct interaction with
environment is known as adaption (Morrison, 1999), which basically
is the organisation of senses and experiences. This means that the
quality of the environment and the nature of the experiences
themselves play a significant role in the development of intelligence in

(iii) Assimilation
The meaning of assimilation is the taking in and understanding of
new information. How much new information a child can assimilate
depends on his or her current level of understanding. New
information must be connected to or be attached to something a child
already knows in order to be assimilated.

Through this process of assimilation children use existing experiences

and knowledge to understand or make sense of new information and
experiences. As an example, a three-month-old baby would soon
realise that when she puts a block in her mouth, that this block would
be fine for sucking but would not be edible.

(iv) Accommodation
Accommodation takes place when the absorption of new information
leads to a change in an existing schema. To a child who has always
been given juice in a green plastic cup, all green plastic cups would
contain juice. If this is changed and you offer him water in the same
green plastic cup, the child would accommodate this new experience
and realise that green plastic cups do not always contain juice.

Copyright © Open University Malaysia (OUM)


(v) Equilibrium
The balance between assimilation and accommodation is termed as
equilibrium, and it happens when all pieces of the information fit in
the schemas a child has developed. On the contrary there will be
disequilibrium when the pieces do not add up. According to Piaget
this could happen when a child moves from one stage to another, and
more significant reorganisation of schemas occur. This could lead to a
child abandoning an old idea which no longer fits, for a new one.

(b) PiagetÊs Stages of Intellectual Development

In PiagetÊs theory, childrenÊs intellectual develops in accordance to the
following stages:

(i) Sensory-motor Stage (0 to 2 years)

The sensory-motor stage of development starts from birth and lasts
for about two years. This is when babies explore and recognise people
through their senses and their own activities and movements. Babies
use schemas which they have developed by trial and error. One
example is how babies explore objects by sucking on them. This phase
is a process of learning to control movements and as such, play
comprises the repetition of various movements to acquire more

Making things happen and observing cause and effect is also highly
enjoyable for babies. Not understanding object permanence, a baby
will get upset if it seems that something has gone away if he or she
can no longer see it. For example, when playing ball with a baby, if
you hide the ball, she would think it is „gone‰.

Piaget said that babies and toddlers are extremely egocentric in this
phase; they can only see things from their own point of view.

(ii) Pre-operational Stage (2 to 7 years)

During this phase, a child uses symbols to represent experiences.
Children begin to bring imagination into their play and such as
pretending a broom is a horse. This is a stage when memory begins to
develop and a child will speak about absent people and things (object
permanence has developed). The concepts of past and future are
slowly forming and children will also attempt to share knowledge
and experiences. However, PiagetÊs experiments show that a child in
this stage is still egocentric, and is unable to put himself in someone
elseÊs shoes.

Copyright © Open University Malaysia (OUM)


At this stage, children also tend to assume that objects have

consciousness (animism), for example they get cross with a door for
slamming shut. They judge things on how they look and do not have
the operational intelligence or the ability to think logically as yet.

(iii) Concrete Operation Period (Around 7 to 12 years)

At this stage, children start to think in a more rational manner. They
begin to understand concepts like the conversation of mass, number,
area, quantity, volume, weight and start to realise that things are not
always how they look. Mental images and symbols are used in the
thinking process and children can reverse operations (Morrison,
2009). They will be able to use symbols in writing, reading, notation in
music, drawing, mathematics, and dance if they are introduced to the
symbols however, abstract concept is still not quite within their
ability. Children at this stage would need practical work in the
understanding of some mathematical concepts such as number and
time (Bruce & Meggitt, 1999).

Although at this stage children would be able to see things from

someone elseÊs point of view, they would nevertheless try to fit ideas
to their way of thinking. According to Favell (1985), the concrete
operational youngsters takes „an earth-bound, concrete, practical
minded sort of problem-solving approach, one that persistently
fixates on the perceptible and inferable reality right there in front of
him‰ (as cited in Kail, 2002).

This is a stage where children can appreciate and enjoy games and
understand what rules mean.

(iv) Formal Operations (12 Years of Age to Adulthood)

The final stage of cognitive development is called the formal
operation stage. Grown-up children can now easily grasp abstract
concepts and understand that reality is not the only possibility.

3.2.2 Lev Vygotsky and Sociocultural Theory

Lev Vygotsky was a Russian theorist whose ideas have had great influence in the
1990s. Educated in Moscow, he worked at the Institute of Psychology, and he
focused on the problems of educational practice, particularly those pertaining to
handicapped children. He was an avid student of the works of Freud, Piaget and

Copyright © Open University Malaysia (OUM)


VygotskyÊs work is classified as sociocultural as it focuses on how values, beliefs,

skills and traditions are taught top and assimilated by the next generation. His
basic belief was that a child is entrenched in the culture of the family unit and the
community he is brought up with, and that much of a childÊs development is
culturally specific. In opposition to PiagetÊs theory that a child moves from stage
to stage in sequence, Vygotsky said childrenÊs mastery and interaction differ
from culture to culture. Children are taught socially valued skills from a very
tender age and learning is significantly influenced by the values and priorities of
the family.

Vygotsky and Piaget, differ in their beliefs regarding the importance and nature
of interaction. According to Piaget, although children need to interact with
people and objects to learn, the stages of thinking were still bound by maturation.
On the other hand, Vygotsky claimed that interaction and direct teaching were
critical aspects of a childÊs cognitive development and that a childÊs level of
thinking could progress just by interaction. And so, he theorises that language
had a special role to play in development as the acquisition and use of language
was pivotal to the intellectual development and abilities of children.

(a) Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD)

One of VygotskyÊs most important concepts is the zone of proximal
development (ZPD). This proximal or potential development is equally
important to actual development. It is a method of understanding how
childrenÊs intellectual development happens, namely through social
interaction with more sophisticated partners.

(b) Scaffolding
Scaffolding is another important concept which is the process of providing
various types of support, guidance, or direction during the course of a
particular activity. Essentially, during the instructional process, the amount
and type of support offered to a child could be suited to his or her personal
level of development.


Look at play things in your early childhood education setting. How do

they support childrenÊs learning? Discuss with your classmates.

Copyright © Open University Malaysia (OUM)



1. Explain what Piaget meant when he referred to children as


2. PiagetÊs theory provides some useful guidelines to effective

learning programmes for children aged between two to seven years
old. What guidelines can you derive from VygotskyÊs theory?

In behaviourism, learning occurs when a reward is given for a particular action
or attitude, or stimulus-based reaction. Children learn through and by the
conditions and environments that adults have determined for them. The
fulfilment or non-fulfilment of their needs also teach them things. Hence learning
is the result of an interaction between the natural characteristics and factors in
children and the stimulus or the influence of their surroundings.

3.3.1 John Locke (1632–1704)

John Locke (1632ă1704) said that humans are passive and accept things easily.
Learning results when the mind receives stimulus from other people and from
the environment. He likened the minds of children to a piece of white cloth. The
writings on this cloth should ideally be done by the person educating the child
through a series of rewards and punishments. According to Eliason and Jenkins
(2008, pp. 40) the behaviourist theory emphasises the rules of environmental
condition (stimuli) and overt behaviours (responses) in learning. The teacher
who employs the behaviourist philosophy tries to create an environment to
structure the childrenÊs learning. Pavlov, the well-known psychologist
introduced the idea of classical conditioning. Everyone is aware of the
experiment based on the behaviour of dog which revealed that learning is based
on the association of events which in turn results in the related reflex actions.

Copyright © Open University Malaysia (OUM)


3.3.2 Burrhus Frederic Skinner

On the other hand, another well-known psychologist B.F. Skinner also adheres to
the behaviourist school of thought. He believed that learning takes place through
conditioning or by observing role models. He asserts that the concept of operant
conditioning is more relevant. This idea also promotes learning by association.
But the association of behaviour and consequence suggests that learning takes
place as either reward or punishment is given as subjects respond to various
stimuli (OÊHagan & Smith, 1999).

When a dog is trained to roll over by rewarding it with meat, or when a
monkey is trained to climb a tree by rewarding it with a banana, is it
classical conditioning or operant conditioning? Discuss in pairs and


1. Explain behaviourism.

2. What makes operational conditioning different from classical



Humanists see education as creating a need within the child, or instilling self-
motivation. Humanistic theory presupposes that a child is motivated to learn if
the learning materials are personally meaningful and the environment is
conducive to their learning. A positive start to this learning process is the child
feeling good about him or herself, in other words, this is good self-image and
self-confidence. This translates loosely to having an understanding of oneÊs
strengths and weaknesses, and a belief in oneÊs ability to improve.

Copyright © Open University Malaysia (OUM)


The humanist approach directs early childhood educators to identify the

potential of each child. It highlights how this conscious relationship promotes
learning between teachers and children (Morrison, 2009). A significant role of the
teacher would be to strive for the development of the childÊs self-esteem as this
was critical for learning. The belief is that children with high self-esteem and
confidence would be able to set and achieve appropriate goals for themselves
(high self-efficacy). This theory of education is known as child-centred, and is
exemplified by the child taking responsibility for their education and owning
their own learning.

3.4.1 Abraham Maslow and the Theory of

„Human beings have a specific hierarchy of needs,‰ said Abraham Maslow
(1908ă1970). These needs are fundamental, regardless of race, gender, age or
socioeconomic status. According to Maslow, the academic and personal growth
of a child is enhanced when these various needs are met (Snowman & McCown,
2012). Children who are satisfied and have their needs met can function well.

Maslow developed a theory of motivation known as self-actualisation based on

this hierarchy of needs. The capacity to reach oneÊs fullest potential is present in
everyone, conditional to the fulfilment of other basic needs such as food and
water, safety and security, belonging and love, achievement and prestige; and
aesthetic need (Morrison, 2009).

In a nutshell, human beings strive for the fulfilment of their needs in order of a
proponent hierarchy. They would naturally and inevitably seek to satisfy a more
pressing requirement before moving on to the next level of needs. To cite an
example, a hungry or frightened child would need to be comforted and feel
secure before he could be in a position to learn. Thus, any education programme
for children must address the basic needs of children before directing them to
explore the world and to learn about new things (Casper & Theilheimer, 2010).
MaslowÊs Hierarchy of Needs is illustrated in Figure 3.1.

Copyright © Open University Malaysia (OUM)


Figure 3.1: MaslowÊs Hierarchy of Needs

Source: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Maslow’s_hierarchy_of_needs.png

As illustrated in earlier examples, the needs listed at the bottom of the pyramid,
namely the physiological needs, must be fulfilled before an individual would
think of the second level of needs. In other words, the needs listed in the second
stage ă safety ă would not be important and would not require attention if the
needs at the first stage are not met to perfection.

Five Levels of Human Needs

According to Maslow, there are five levels of human needs. The five levels are as

(a) Physiological or Essentials of Living

This is the fundamental need of all human beings. As humans we require
air, water, food and shelter. Meeting these needs would help to fulfil the
other important stages of needs. Focus will not be given to any other needs
until these basic needs have been and are continued to be fulfilled.

(b) Safety
Once the physiological basic needs are met, the next would be to achieve a
sense of security and safety. The absence of this feeling of safety and
security will result in fear and a lack of self-confidence. This would
translate to children not doing well in school and not being able to cultivate
strong and meaningful relationships.

Copyright © Open University Malaysia (OUM)


(c) Social
No man is an island and humans need to have meaningful relationships
with each other. A feeling of being loved is a very powerful motivator and
a boost to self-confidence and self-image. Every person needs to be loved
and have a sense of belonging. For children, the fulfilment of these needs
would enable good learning experiences. This need can be fulfilled by both
parents and teachers through smiles, hug, eye contact, closeness and words
of affirmation as well.

(d) Self-esteem
Man has a need for the sense of power, if not on others, at least over
themselves and so do children. Simultaneously there is a need for
achievement and prestige which leads to respect and recognition. All these
collectively lead to self-esteem.

(e) Self-actualisation
The highest on the hierarchy of needs is self-actualisation. All the preceding
stages of needs must be fulfilled before any self-actualisation can be
achieved. This will lead to a sense of satisfaction, enthusiasm and eagerness
to learn, progress and grow (Morrison, 2009).

Do you remember any teacher who adopted the humanistic
philosophy? Did you like these teachers? Did you feel you learn as
much from them as from other teachers? Would you model yourself
after such teachers? Share your feeling and stories with your classmates.


1. How do humanist theories explain children development and

learning process?

2. Explain MaslowÊs Hierarchy of Needs.

Copyright © Open University Malaysia (OUM)



Babies form close bonds with parents or their care givers. Enduring emotional
ties are developed and strengthened as the process of feeding, holding, cuddling,
bathing and other caring and nurturing activities are carried out (Bruce &
Meggitt, 1999). This bond is termed as attachment especially if it lasts over time.

This early attachment is crucial said John Bowlby (1907-1990), whose main
assumption was that babies thrive if they received consistent care from one adult
care giver. This more often than not would be the mother as she was the one who
tended to the baby at home (during earlier days). However, today we realise that
it is possible for babies to form deep relationships with several people aside from
the mother, such as the father, brothers and sisters, care givers and grandparents

This said, the first priority of early childhood care and education programmes is
to support the development and attachments of babies and young children
(Casper & Theilheimer, 2010). Research has shown that a child who suffers from
a lack of such attachments will also lack emotional development which could
lead to a higher potential of delinquency later in life.

Another psychologist, Mary Ainsworth (1913ă1999) developed what she called

the strange situation. This is an observational measure to assess whether infants
are securely attached to their caregivers. She classified attachment into four

(a) Secure attachment;

(b) Avoidant attachment;

(c) Resistant attachment; and

(d) Disorganised attachment.

She cited individual differences for each category. Her research revealed the
importance of knowing and recognising the different classifications of
attachment, and the crucial need for the growth of secure attachments.

Copyright © Open University Malaysia (OUM)


Research the role of caregivers in promoting childrenÊs secure
attachment. Discuss this in the forum in MyVLE.


1. How does an attachment relationship develop between an infant

and primary caregivers?

2. Why is attachment important and how do teachers and caregivers

support it?


The theory of psychosocial development was developed by Erik Erikson (1902ă
1994). This approach is one of the best-known theories that explain personality in
psychology. Erikson is most likely the most influential psychoanalyst and one of
the key figures in the study of children and development.

Erikson saw life as a series of stages through which each individual goes through
and growth occurs at each stage. He suggested that there are eight stages of
psychosocial development, and each one represents a crucial period for the
development of critical strength. Positive growth enabled the integration of an
individualÊs physical and biological with the challenges presented by social
institutions and culture. In this instance, parents and teachers take on key roles in
creating a positive environment for the child as it is this environment which will
either help or hinder the childÊs personality and cognitive development.

Erikson theorises that social experiences have an impact on the entire lifespan of
the individual. Hence what a child achieves in each of his 8 stages of
psychosocial development would be dependent on the developments of the
preceding stages. Each stage presents the child with its own range of problems to
be solved and when the child successfully solves these problems, he goes on to
face new problems and grows through solving them. Table 3.1 illustrates
EriksonÊs theory of the psychological stages of development from birth up to
primary school.

Copyright © Open University Malaysia (OUM)


Table 3.1: EriksonÊs Theory of the Psychological Stages of

Development (Up to Primary School)

Aspect of
Age Personality Common Characteristics Of The Stage
Infancy Basic trust
(Birth to 1 versus mistrust

The development of attachment and trust in parents

or primary caregivers will help a child develop
relationships later in life. Children who have not been
able to develop trust at this stage have difficulties in
forming deep and lasting relationships later in life.
Toddlers Autonomy
(1 to 3 versus shame
years) and doubt

Preschool Initiative versus

(3 to 5 guilt

If children are told off for trying out their own ideas,
they may feel guilty and not do so as often.

Copyright © Open University Malaysia (OUM)


School Age Industry versus

(5 years to 8 inferiority

During this stage, children are trying to meet the

demand to learn basic skills and to work with others
and if they do not do so, they will feel they have not
reached the required standard.


Observe how a child aged between three to five years old interacts with
his or her caregiver. Identify situations in which this child may face a
crisis as illustrated by EriksonÊs theory.


1. There are eight stages in the psychosocial theory. Discuss the crisis
that occurs in each stage of this theory up to the age of five years

2. What role does this theory play in early childhood education?

Copyright © Open University Malaysia (OUM)



A professor of human development at the Harvard Graduate School of
Education, Howard Gardner, has greatly influenced the ongoing debate
regarding the nature of intelligence. He suggests that there are multiple
intelligences, or capacities, that indicate how intelligent a person is.

GardnerÊs theory of multiple intelligences projects that there are at least eight
basic different intelligences among human beings. This is strongly evidenced by
both brain-based research and the study of genius. The key point here is the
definition of intelligence which is outlined as the ability to solve a problem or to
create a product that is acceptable in a particular culture. Solving a problem
includes the ability to do so in a particular cultural setting or community and the
skills that are required very much depends on the context in which the child

The Eight Multiple Intelligences of Gardner

The following are the eight multiple intelligences as stated by Gardner:

(a) Verbal-linguistic Intelligence („Word Smart‰ or „Book Smart‰)

The traditional classroom has always placed a high value on this form of
intelligence as well as in the traditional assessment of intelligence and
achievement. This intelligence encompasses understanding the order and
meaning of words in both reading and writing abilities and how to
properly use language in speech. Sociocultural nuances of a language,
including idioms, play on words and linguistically-based humour is also
part of this intelligence.

(b) Mathematical-logical Intelligence („Math Smart‰ or „Logic Smart‰)

The ability to use numbers, math and logic to find and understand the
various patterns that occur in life is what Gardner called mathematical-
logic intelligence. These patterns include thought, number, visual, and
colour patterns, among others, and the list goes on. The highly valued
classroom abilities to learn through reasoning and problem solving are also
considered to be within this type of intelligence.

(c) Visual-spatial Intelligence („Art Smart‰ or „Picture Smart‰)

This intelligence is all about understanding the environment through
shapes, images, patterns, designs, and textures that can be seen with the
naked eye. It also however, includes all the images one is able to „see‰ or
imagine or conjure inside his or her head. In other words, this is about
being able to learn visually and by spatially organising ideas.

Copyright © Open University Malaysia (OUM)


(d) Intrapersonal Intelligence („Self-smart‰ or „Introspection Smart‰)

Humans also have the ability to be self-reflective. They can take a step back,
or step outside of themselves to evaluate their own lives. This is known as
introspective intelligence and involves learning through feelings, values
and attitudes.

A child who has this intelligence or ability can be seen as being self-
reflective and self-aware; he or she is more often than not attune with his or
her inner feelings, values, beliefs, and thinking processes.

(e) Bodily-kinaesthetic Intelligence („Body Smart‰ or „Movement Smart‰)

„Learning by doing.‰ This type of intelligence is literally developed by
doing and occurs through physical movement and through the knowing of
the physical body. The body appears to „know‰ countless things that are
not necessarily known or identified by the conscious, logical mind. This
would include abilities such as riding a bicycle, parallel parking, balancing
well while walking, waltzing or catching something or even instinctively
knowing where the alphabet keys are on the computer keyboard. This
intelligence is not the domain of „overly active‰ learners but it promotes
understanding through concrete experience.

(f) Interpersonal („People Smart‰ or „Group Smart‰)

In any social setting, we can often identify people who are „talkative‰ or
„very social‰. This also applies to children. This type of intelligence is
developed when individuals or children in this instance, often work with
and relate to people as part of a team. These situations often demand that
they develop a wide range of social skills that are necessary for effective
interpersonal communication. Developing this sense of knowing in a child
will strengthen his or her interpersonal skills and interaction abilities and
lead to good social skills later.

(g) Naturalist Intelligence („Nature Smart‰ or „Environment Smart‰)

Naturalist intelligence encompasses the full range of learning that occurs in
and through encounters with the natural world including the recognition,
appreciation, and understanding of the natural environment. It involves the
capacity to discern species types, communion with the natural world and
its phenomena, and the ability to recognise and classify various flora and
fauna. A child with this talent or capacity can easily pick up the subtle
differences in meaning, not only in the study of nature but also in various

Copyright © Open University Malaysia (OUM)


(h) Musical-rhythmic Intelligence („Music Smart‰ or „Sound Smart‰)

Information through sound and vibration is at the core of this intelligence.
The original research on the theory of multiple intelligences termed this as
musical-rhythmic intelligence. Children with this ability have a preference
for learning through patterns, rhymes and music. However, it is not limited
to auditory learning but the identification of patterns through all the senses.


Think about a time that you learned something significant. Which of

GardnerÊs intelligences did you use? Discuss with your classmates who
may have had different experiences.


Explain how the theory of multiple intelligence theory helps you

understand the characteristics and needs of children.


Urie Bronfenbrenner was a professor at Cornell University who is passionate
about the study of psychology and developmental science since the late 1930s. He
was the one who developed the Ecological Systems Theory, and he was also the
co-founder of the Head Start programme in the US which catered for
disadvantaged preschool children.

This ecological systems theory places great emphasis on the quality and context
of the child´s environment and surroundings. The science of ecology has always
taken a holistic approach to nature, stressing on the connectivity between
communities and systems. According to Bronfenbrenner, as the child develops,
his interaction with the environment becomes more complex in nature. The
theory is that there are five systems that influence human development ă these
are the microsystem, mesosystem, exosystem, macrosystem and chronosystem
(see Figure 3.2).

Copyright © Open University Malaysia (OUM)


Figure 3.2: Five systems that influenced human development according to Ecological
Systems Theory
Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ecological_systems_theory

(a) The Microsystem

The microsystem is the environmental setting in which children spend
a lot of time. It would include parents, the family, peers, the childcare
environment, schools, the neighbourhood, religious groups, parks and so
forth. The child derives experiences and is influenced by each one of the

Copyright © Open University Malaysia (OUM)


(b) The Mesosystem

The mesosystem is the link or interaction between microsystems.
Interactions and influences there relate to all the environmental influences
in the microsystem. For example, the familyÊs support of or lack of attention
to literacy will influence the childÊs school performance.

(c) The Exosystem

This is the environment of setting in which the children do not play an
active role but which nonetheless influences their development. It
encompasses events that although do not directly interact with children but
has an influence in their lives. For example, when a school board enacts a
policy that ends social promotion, this action can and will influence
childrenÊs development.

(d) The Macrosystem

Culture, customs and values which surround children make up what is
called the macrosystem. Take for example contemporary social violence
and media violence which has an influence on the development of children.
Many children are becoming more violent, while many are becoming
fearful of and feel threatened by violence.

(e) The Chronosystem

This system includes environmental influences over time and the way they
impact development and behaviour. For example, todayÊs children are
technologically adapt and are comfortable using technology for both
education and entertainment.


Briefly explain each system in BronfenbrennerÊs ecological theory and

give examples.

 There are many different theories of childhood learning and development.

Theories play important roles in understanding how children learn.

 Behaviourism is the science of observing behaviour when children are placed

in a particular environment. Learning occurs when there are changes in

Copyright © Open University Malaysia (OUM)


 Classical conditioning involves involuntary behaviour while operant

conditioning pertains to voluntary behaviour.

 The constructivist view of learning holds that meaningful learning occurs

when people use existing knowledge schemes and the viewpoints of others to
interpret the world around them.

 A key point in PiagetÊs Cognitive Developmental Theory is that children

actively construct knowledge as they assimilate new information with
existing mental structures or accommodate those mental structures to fit new
information. This process results in cognitive balance or equilibrium.

 The principles of VygotskyÊs theory such as scaffolding in the zone of

proximal development (ZPD) can be applied to all age groups.

 According to Gardner there are multiple intelligences ă linguistic, logical-

mathematical, spatial, musical, kinaesthetic, natural, interpersonal and

 Children with secure attachment are readily soothed, emotionally open, and
able to use their attachment figure as a secure base for exploration. Security of
attachment predicts social competence, academic achievement and many
other characteristics.

 What the child acquires at a given psychosocial stage of development is a

certain ratio between the positive and negative, which if the balance is
toward the positive, will help him to meet crises later in life, with a better
chance for unimpaired total development.

 MaslowÊs humanistic view of motivation is based on the idea that a person

must satisfy a hierarchical sequence of deficiency needs (physiological, safety,
belongingness and love, and self-esteem) before satisfying the growth need
for self-actualisation.

 The very important aspect in BronfenbrennerÊs Ecological Theory is the child-

centredness feature. This approach is important to meet the purpose of
ensuring that all children have all that they need.

Copyright © Open University Malaysia (OUM)


Attachment theory Hierarchical needs

Behaviourism Multiple intelligences
Classical conditioning Operant conditioning
Cognitive developmental Psychosocial stages of development
Constructivism Sociocultural theory
Ecological theory Theory
Humanistic theory

Bergin, C. C., & Bergin, D. A. (2012). Child and adolescent development in your
classroom. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth Cengage Learning.

Bruce, T., & Meggitt, C. (1999). Child care and education. Oxon, England: Hodder
and Stoughton.

Casper, V., & Theilheimer, R. (2010). Early childhood education: Learning

together, bank street. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill.

Gordon, M. A. & Brown, W. K. (2007). Beginning essentials in early childhood

education. Clifton Park, NY: Thomson Delmar Learning.

Eliason, C., & Jenkins, L. (2008). A practical guide to early childhood curriculum.
(8th ed.). Upper Saddle River. NJ: Pearson Merrill Prentice Hill.

Kail, R. V. (2002). Children and their development. Upper Saddle River, NJ:
Pearson Education.

Morrison, S. G. Early childhood education today (11th ed.). Boston, MA: Pearson

OÊHagan, M., & Smith, M. (1999). Early years child care and education: Key
issues. London, England: Bailliere Tindall.

Snowman, J., & McCown, R. (2012). Psychology applied to teaching (13th ed.).
Belmont, CA: Wadsworth Cengage Learning.

Copyright © Open University Malaysia (OUM)


Howard GardnerÊs Theory of Multiple Intelligences. (n.d.) Retrieved from


Some principles of the ecology of child development. (2011). Retrieved from


Copyright © Open University Malaysia (OUM)

Topic  Programme
4 Models

By the end of this topic, you should be able to:
1. Explain the basic principles of Montessori, Reggio Emilia,
HighScope and Waldorf programme models;
2. Compare the four models of Early Childhood Care and Education
(ECCE) programme;
3. Discuss the strength and weaknesses of each model and how it can
be implemented in Malaysia; and
4. Discuss how these four models support children development.

Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) programmes can produce positive
and lasting effects on children. Research spanning several decades clearly
illustrate that early intervention through high-quality and developmentally
appropriate ECCE programmes result in both short- and long-term positive
effects on the cognitive and social development of children. The National
Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) successfully and is
continuing to work to increase the professionalism of early childhood educators
and the quality of early care and education (Casper & Theilheimer, 2010).

There are a number of models of early childhood programmes that are good
references when it comes to implementing theories and principles of how
children learn into curriculums. These models can be seen as exemplary
approaches to early childhood education and can serve as a guide for best
practices. In this topic, we will study the four models of early childhood
programmes that are used worldwide as early childhood curriculum which are,
Montessori High/Scope, Reggio Emilia and Waldorf models.
Copyright © Open University Malaysia (OUM)


Based on Dr. Maria MontessoriÊs (1870ă1952) ideas about early childhood
education, the key goals highlighted by the well-known Montessori Method are:

(a) The facilitation of the development of each childÊs unique personality;

(b) The emotional and social adjustment of the child to promote and support
development into a psychologically strong and happy person;

(c) To create possibilities for the child to develop his full intellectual capacity.

Montessori believed that the child is the architect of the adult and has an inbuilt
capacity and tendency to seek out learning by himself. She was of the opinion
that children below the age of six have the most receptive and powerful minds
that provides them a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to learn. She called the mind
of a child aged between three to six years old the Absorbent Mind because it is
during this period that a child literally absorbs everything surrounding her
through sensorial exploration.

This being so, the Montessori Method encourages children to learn about the
world around them through exploration and they are allowed the freedom to
move around, manipulate and touch. This is because Montessori affirmed that
children learn best within a child-sized environment that stimulates and invites
learning. Wortham (2006) describes the Montessori classroom as an environment
prepared with carefully sequenced and structured materials for introduction by
the teacher. This is followed by opportunities to self-select materials in
independent work.

„A basic premise of the Montessori philosophy is that the child copies reality
rather than constructs it. From watching and then doing activities, the child
organise the world and her own thinking.‰
Brewer (1998) as cited in Jackman (2001)

Montessori also developed a number of educational toys and activities to support

this process. Designed to help a child acquire skills, competence and confidence
as well as the basic foundation for academics, these materials are self-correcting,
didactic, designed to teach a specific lesson, encourage children to learn through
sensory perception and focus on daily practical tasks.

Copyright © Open University Malaysia (OUM)


4.1.1 The Montessori Curriculum

The Montessori curriculum is generally divided into three areas of learning:

(a) Practical Life Skills or Motor Education

Aligning to the goal that education is the parent of the childÊs character, this
portion of practical life or motor education is designed to teach children life
skills. This is done via the activities of „Exercises in Practical Life‰. These
include activities that would help children function as independent
individuals. They include dressing oneself, as well as cleaning and caring
for oneself and oneÊs surroundings. Each skill is imparted with a prescribed
sequence of activities ă also called sequential steps of learning.

For example, children would learn how to sweep the floor (see Figure 4.1),
dress themselves or pour water from a teapot into a cup. When they see
adults doing these activities, they are instinctively drawn to perform such
actions themselves. This is the reason why Montessori emphasised on the
importance of a prepared environment as it would make it possible for the
child to do things such as polishing, washing-up or sweeping as often as he
wanted, and for as long as he wanted.

Figure 4.1: One of the activities in MontessoriÊs Exercises in practical life is for a
child to learn how to sweep the floor

Copyright © Open University Malaysia (OUM)


In this prepared environment, all the paraphernalia and furniture would be

child-sized so the children can use them easily and effectively. Following
this, all Montessori settings introduce children to practical life exercises that
are appropriate to their age group.

(i) Practical life exercises fall into four main groups, namely:

(ii) Exercises for the care of the person;

(iii) Exercises for the care of the environment;

(iv) Exercises for social relations; and

(v) Exercises for analysis and control of movement.

Each group comprises a set of exercises that progress from the relatively
easy to more difficult ones that involve longer and more complex patterns
of movement. The easier exercises in each group are naturally designed for
children at an earlier stage. At what point each exercise will be suitable for
particular child will depend on the childÊs individual development and
interest, thus making it possible to only provide a very general indication as
to whether an exercise is „early‰, „later‰ or „late‰.

(b) Sensory Education

For sensory education, the range of manipulative or didactic materials that
are used includes numerous sets of materials that promote seriation,
classification and conservation activities through a variety of media.
Chattin McNichols (1992) mentioned that these materials are sequenced
according to difficulty with the primary objective being the control of error.
These sensorial materials include a set of cylinders that vary in dimension
and height, the cube tower, broad stairs, long rods, colour tablets, binomial
and trinomial cubes and constructive triangle (as cited in Wortham, 2006).

Copyright © Open University Malaysia (OUM)


Figure 4.2: Example of Montessori materials

Source: http://www.infomontessori.com/mathematics/introduction.htm

(c) Language or Intellectual Education

The Montessori programme provides children with ample opportunities to
speak and practice new words they learn to listen and hear language in all
of its stirring forms. During lessons about the use of concepts or materials,
the teacher consistently uses words which describe physical dimensions
such as large, small, thick, thin using the didactic materials provided.
Montessori programmes also have materials which can be used for the
teaching and learning of reading and writing and these include items such
as sandpaper, alphabet letters, movable alphabets for spelling and others.

In implementing the curriculum, Montessori Method incorporates the following

four main elements:

(a) Respect for the Child

„Never help a child with a task at which he feels he can succeed.‰

ă Maria Montessori

The goal of the Montessori classroom is always to develop independence in

a child and enable him to do things for himself. Towards this, children are
provided numerous opportunities to move, to dress themselves, to choose
what they want to do and to help the adults with tasks. Being able to do
things for themselves increases self-belief, self-confidence and self-esteem ă
all important characteristics which will carry them through life.

Copyright © Open University Malaysia (OUM)


(b) The Absorbent Mind

Observing how children learn language without anyone actually teaching
them sparked in Montessori the idea of the „absorbent mind‰. This concept
suggests that children under the age of three years old do not need actual
lessons per se to learn things ă they simply absorb everything in the
environment like a sponge merely by experiencing it and being a part of it.

Therefore it is imperative the environment is a good and positive one as the

child will absorb what he experiences involuntarily. Children also will pick
up the language and words used around them, so caution must be
exercised when speaking around impressionable young minds. They may
seem as if they are not listening and may not be able to express themselves.
Whatever the case may be, you would not want them swearing when they
can speak! For this very reason, one should try to abstain from saying „No‰
to a child. We would not want them to rudely say „No‰ to us later on.
Instead we should try to use the word „Stop‰ to tell them what they are
doing is not right.

(c) Sensitive Period

Montessori children will go through what she called sensitive periods when
they will be more susceptible to certain behaviours and can learn specific
skills more easily.

A sensitive period refers to a special sensibility which a creature acquires

in its infantile state, while it is still in a process of evolution. It is a
transient disposition and limited to the acquisition of a particular trait.
Once this trait or characteristic has been acquired, the special sensibility
Montessori (1966)

Although all children go through the same sensitive periods (for example, a
sensitive period for hearing), the sequence and timing vary for each child.
So to help children learn about sounds, Maria Montessori created a set of
boxes. Although the boxes look alike, each contains a different material
which produces its own unique sound when shaken. The sound made by
the different boxes can be compared to each other and the boxes could be
arranged according to the volume of the sound. The sounds could also be
matched with boxes in another set. She devised similar activities to train
and develop the other senses of touch, sight, smell, and taste. In this
instance, the role of the teacher would be to use observation to detect times
of sensitivity and provide the setting for optimum fulfilment.

Copyright © Open University Malaysia (OUM)


(d) The Prepared Environment

Children learn best in a prepared environment, in a place where they are
allowed to do things for themselves. Freedom is the essential characteristic
in this environment. With its carefully chosen materials, this prepared
environment makes available learning materials that can be used in an
orderly fashion. Every activity has its own set of materials which are to be
used in specific ways. These materials are all clearly defined and ready for
use. Children are taught to return the materials for the use of others when
they are done with them. They are also encouraged to use the self-
correction materials independently. So at the end, the Montessori classroom
provides child-centred education and active learning (see Figure 4.3).

Figure 4.3: Example of Montessori classroom environment

Source: http://creativitytheories.wikispaces.com/

„The teacherÊs first duty is to watch over the environment, and this takes
precedence over all the rest. ItÊs influence is indirect, but unless it be well
done there will be no effective and permanent results of any kind,
physical, intellectual or spiritual.‰
ă Maria Montessori

Copyright © Open University Malaysia (OUM)


Other features of a Montessori classroom include child-sized furniture and

materials. This design which adheres to the smaller sizes of children are
purposely designed such to allow children freedom of movement and choice at
their levels. A safe and welcoming environment, it is inviting for children,
encouraging them to „work‰. Montessori was convinced that the work of
children is play and they enthuse in it. So then, the role of the adult is to create
the environment for learning. Therefore the development of the child is
dependent on his or her environment, which incidentally also encompasses the

4.1.2 The Teacher’s Role in the Montessori Classroom

A Montessori teacher often takes a step back when children are working, giving
them space and allowing them to learn from their own discoveries and draw
their own conclusions. Instead of supplying children with answers, they
encourage them to think about how they would solve the problem, thus actively
engaging children in the learning process and enhancing critical thinking skills.
More often than not, children learn directly from the environment and other
children, rather than the teacher.

Montessori teachers are trained to focus on the child as a person rather than place
priority on the daily lesson plans. So, although the Montessori teacher does
indeed plan lessons for each day and each child, she must be sensitive and alert
to changes in the childÊs interest, progress, mood and behaviour. Additionally,
the teacher must be able to simplify the presentation and teaching of history art,
music, math, astronomy, botany, zoology, chemistry, physical geography,
language, physics, geometry and practical life works as all these subjects are
interwoven. One of the critical requirements of the Montessori teacher is the skill
to scientifically observe children, and to ensure that they never criticise or
interfere in a childÊs work.

In The Absorbent Mind (pp. 277ă81), Maria Montessori offered some general
principles of behaviour for teachers in the Montessori classroom:

(a) The teacher as the keeper and custodian of the environment constantly
attends to the upkeeping of the environment. All the apparatus are to be
kept meticulously in order, beautiful, shining and in perfect condition. This
would include the teacher who would need to be tidy, clean, calm and
dignified. The teacherÊs first duty is ensure that the environment is always
in perfect condition and this takes precedence over all the rest. Although
the influence is indirect, it needs to be done well to be effective and for any
permanent results to occur.

Copyright © Open University Malaysia (OUM)


(b) Teachers must entice children at the beginning of school year even before
childrenÊs concentration has shown itself. She must be warm, lively and
inviting. The Montessori teacher or better known as the directress may
interfere with the childrenÊs activities as she deems necessary before the child
has built in the ability to concentrate. The directress can use many ways to
attract childrenÊs attention by telling stories, playing games, singing, using
nursery rhymes or poetry. The teacher could charm the children using
various exercises which might not have any educational value but are useful
in calming them. A lively teacher attracts children more than a dull one. If
there are some children who persistently annoy the others, then the most
practical thing to do is to interrupt him to break the flow of the disturbing
activity. The interruption may be any kind of exclamation, or showing a
special and affectionate interest in the troublesome child.

(c) Finally the time comes in which the children begin to take an interest in an
activity. Usually the exercises of practical life is given first as it is useless
and harmful to give the children sensorial and cultural apparatus before
they are ready to benefit from it. Sensorial and cultural apparatus are only
given when the child is able to concentrate on an activity. This will
normally occur with repeated exercises of exercise of practical life. At this
stage teachers should not interrupt children as the activity builds on their
interest. Once concentration has developed in a child, the teacher can
slowly disappear into the background.


1. Interview a Montessori teacher and ask her to describe the

philosophy of her school, how she develops the curriculum to
meet the activities, interests, and needs of children.

2. List some of the reasons you think, a society should educate its
children. Discuss this issue in groups.

Define the following terms:

(a) Sensitive period;

(b) Absorbent mind; and

(c) Prepared environment.

Copyright © Open University Malaysia (OUM)


4.2 REGGIO EMILIA (1859–1952)

The Reggio Approach has its roots in Reggio Emilia in Italy at the end of the
Fascist dictatorship and the Second World War. Reggio Emilia was as an early
education programme that is commanding international attention as a model
environment for young children. Italy has a long history and tradition of
cooperative work done in all areas of the economy and organisation: agriculture,
food processing, unions, entrepreneurship, and so forth.

Teachers using Reggio Emilia approach worked diligently to develop new ways
of teaching, which would support the new democratic society. This educational
system founded by Loris Malaguzzi was formed on a structure of education
based on relationships and partnerships, in which the schools are intricately
connected with their surrounding community which included parents and
community leaders. This approach of a provision of an environment where
children from infancy to six years of age can learn in community with others has
stimulated much international interest.

The schools of Reggio Emilia promote a healthy respect for the investigative
natural ability of the child and his or her natural abilities to think, plan, criticise,
collaborate, and learn from all they do. This model holds fast to the idea that
education stems from an environment that invites children to explore and learn
through actual experience, inquiry and dialogue in the classroom and in the
community. Some of the key components of this approach include a materials-rich
environment that is aesthetically appealing (see Figure 4.4), a community-based
attitude involving the entire city, a family support system and a commitment to
process (Gordon & Browne, 2011).

Figure 4.4: One of the key components of Reggio EmiliaÊs approach is materials-rich
environment that is aesthetically appealing
Source: http://www.reggioexperience.com/about-the-reggio-emilia-method/

Copyright © Open University Malaysia (OUM)


The child must be surrounded by an environment that is both beautiful and

functions as a primary resource which offers infinite opportunities for learning.
The environment provides children with other ways to discover and define
themselves, for example through constructive play, collaborative interaction,
cooperative learning, writing, in depth projects and through the strong sense of
community that is always present to reaffirm and reinforce the child.

The cornerstone of the Reggio Emilia approach to early education is the

responsive relationship between children and adults. The central role of the
teacher is to activate the competencies and creative energy of the child. The goal
of the teacher then is not to teach, but to instil in the children a firm belief in
themselves and to create in them an awareness of their own potential. Arce
(2013) said that the teacher in Reggio Emilia school is looked upon as co-learner
and collaborator with the child, not merely functioning as their instructor.

The readiness of the child can be nurtured by seizing moments of interest and
inquiry and taking the opportunity to elaborate and interpret the thoughts that
are already within the childÊs mind. Then, the teacher facilitates the childrenÊs
learning through lessons based on their interests and responding to
questions while actively engaging in the activities together with them. Learning
opportunities are provided across the curriculum to feed interest shown in any

Teachers and parents also have to work hand-in-hand, maintaining a mutual

respect for each other and for their common goal and environment. Parents
therefore can be frequently seen in classrooms, collaborating with the teachers
and children in the entire learning process.

As for the assessment of the child, this is done via documentation in the form of
photographs, videotapes, tape recordings and written documentation.

Cadwell (1997) as cited in Gordon and Browne (2011), underscored eight

fundamentals of the Reggio Emilia approach:

(a) The child as protagonist;

(b) The child as collaborator;

(c) The child as communicator;

(d) The environment as third teacher;

(e) The teacher as partner, nurturer and guide;

Copyright © Open University Malaysia (OUM)


(f) The teacher as researcher;

(g) The documentation as communication; and

(h) The parents as partner.


Find a centre that employs the Reggio Emilia approach. List down the
activities that the children are involved in and how the centre was set


1. Explain the importance of the childÊs role in Reggio Emilia model.

2. What is defined as documentation in Reggio Emilia and how is

documentation used?


David Weikart (1931-2003) began his career in special education in 1962 in the
Ypsilanti Public Schools, where he was special education director (Schweinhart,
2002). He devised the HighScope Model, an active learning programme planned
by adults and initiated by children. Its emphasis is on adult-child interaction.
This model employed teaching techniques to help children plan, initiate and
implement their ideas and then review and reflect on their own learning
activities. The core premise of this approach is that children are active learners
who can plan their own learning. In this approach, the growth of each child is
enhanced in the foundations of academics as well as in social-emotional, physical
and creative areas.

The ideal and carefully designed learning environment also plays a pivotal part
in this model. It incorporates a plan-do-review process that strengthens the
childrenÊs initiative and self-reliance. It creates a situation whereby teachers and
students are active partners in shaping the complete educational experience.

Copyright © Open University Malaysia (OUM)


As for the content of learning, the High Scope Curriculum has special emphasis
and focus on the initiatives of the children and in them expressing their choices
and engaging in complex play. Creative presentations, social relationships, music
and movement, language and literacy and logic and mathematics are all part of
this curriculum.


Discuss the differences and similarities between the Reggio Emilia

Approach and the High Scope practices in your class MyVLE forum.


Summarise what High Scope model employed in its program.


In 1919, Rudolf Steiner, a philosopher and thinker proposed the Waldorf
Curriculum. The core of this model is the basic belief that young children learn
primarily through observation, imitation and experiences, especially during the
first phase of early childhood development. Thus the curriculum focuses on the
three developmental phases of childhood:

(a) From birth to six or seven years of age;

(b) From 7 to 14 years of age; and

(c) From 14 to 18 years.

Schools which employ the Waldorf principles predominantly emphasise on

learning through play, devoting significant time to creative play. In this model:

(a) The teacher demonstrates practical, domestic and artistic activities for the
children to imitate;

(b) Imagination is encouraged through storytelling and dramatic play;

(c) The toys used in the classroom are mainly made from natural materials;

Copyright © Open University Malaysia (OUM)


(d) Children often bring items from nature for play and classroom exploration;

(e) The classroom environment nourishes the childrenÊs senses;

(f) There are strong rhythmic elements that are based on the cycles of life and
nature; and

(g) The childrenÊs sense of reverence and wonder is enhanced.


Compare the four ECCE models by filling up the following table:

Main ChildrenÊs TeacherÊs Learning
Model of
characteristic Role Role Environment
Reggio Emilia

If you are to open an Early Childhood Education Centre, which of the

four models would you prefer to employ in your centre? Why?

 The four approaches currently being used worldwide are Montessori,

Waldorf, Reggio Emilia and High Scope.

 Montessori believes that children learn through their senses hence she
encourages children to learn about the world around them through
exploration and they are allowed the freedom to move around, to manipulate
and touch.

 In a Montessori school, the teachers act as directress. They do not supply

children with answers, they encourage them to think about how they would
solve problems, thus actively engaging children in the learning process and
enhancing critical thinking skills. More often than not, children learn directly
from the environment and other children, rather than the teacher.

Copyright © Open University Malaysia (OUM)


 Reggio Emilia which was founded by Loris Malaguzzi was formed on a

structure of education based on relationships and partnerships, in which the
schools are intricately connected with their surrounding community which
includes parents and community leaders.

 HighScope Model emphasises on adult-child interaction. It is an active

learning programme which is planned by adults but initiated by children.
This model employs teaching techniques to help children plan, initiate and
implement their ideas and then review and reflect on their own learning

 Schools which employ the Waldorf principles predominantly emphasise on

learning through play, devoting significant time to creative play.

Absorbent mind Plan-do-review

Co-learner Prepared environment
Complex play Reggio Emilia Model
HighScope Model Sensorial
Montessori Model Waldorf Model

Arce, E. M. (2013). Curriculum for young children: An introduction. Belmont,

CA: Wadsworth Cengage Learning.

Casper, V., & Theilheimer, R. (2010). Early childhood education: Learning

together. New York, NY: Mc Graw-Hill Ryerson.

Gordon, & Browne. (2011). Beginning and beyond: Foundations in early

childhood education. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth Cengage Learning.

Schweinhart, L. J. (2002). How the HighScope Perry Preschool Study Grew:

A ResearcherÊs Tale. In Phi Delta Kappa Center for Evaluation,
Development, and Research Retrieved from http://www.highscope.org/

Wortham, S. C. (2006). Early childhood curriculum: Development bases for

learning and teaching. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Merrill.
Copyright © Open University Malaysia (OUM)
Topic  Creating an
5 Environment
for Learning
By the end of this topic, you should be able to:
1. Explain the importance of learning environment for young
2. Plan the physical environment that support effective learning for
3. Plan lessons which enhances child development; and
4. Plan the daily schedule for young children.

The environment a child grows up in plays a very important role in his or her
development. It is in this environment that their interests, triumphs, problems
and concerns evolve, emerge and develop. According to Jackman (2005) as cited
in Jalongo and Isenberg (2008), the environment encompasses all the influences
that create an impact and has an effect on children during their early and
formative years. Research has documented the effect the environment has on
children (Bronfrenbrenner, 1994; Harms & Clifford, 1993; Burchinal et.al., 2000).
An environment for children includes all the conditions that affect their
surroundings and also the people in it. These physical and human qualities come
together to create a space in which children and adults work and play. A good
environment is a key to professionalism in working with young children.

Copyright © Open University Malaysia (OUM)


The first few years of a childÊs life are crucial in that it becomes the foundation
for the future. Therefore, proper planning of a well-thought out environment and
programmes which include play and various learning opportunities are very
important for the early years.


One of the components with reference to the environment for early childhood
education is the physical features. This physical environment is especially
important in the setting of a childcare facility. It refers to space, room
arrangement, equipment and materials. This physical environment does not by
itself influence the quality of childcare. It is inter-related and connected to the
programmes and the human element that collectively form the entire concept of
environment. For example, materials and equipment available in a childcare
centre has no meaning whatsoever unless it is actually used by someone (be it a
child or the caregiver) specifically as part of the programme (Jalongo & Isenberg,

Caring for children encompass creating a good environment for them to grow
and thrive in. This translates to a safe and hygienic environment, with the
availability of equipment and activities that are suitable for and meet the needs of
the children. Safety is an all-important feature at all age levels, as is a pleasant
and welcoming atmosphere. A good environment would be located in a safe
neighbourhood that is free from traffic or environmental hazards, and have a
fenced-up play area with well-maintained equipment, child-sized equipment and
facilities (such as toilets and sinks), and areas for displaying childrenÊs work,
such as finger paintings and clay models. The entire environment should be
attractive, cheerful and pleasant, with clean, well-lit and well-ventilated indoor
spaces (see Figure 5.1).

Figure 5.1: A good learning environment for young children should be attractive,
cheerful and pleasant, with clean, well-lit and well-ventilated indoor spaces.
Source: http://www.blogto.com

Copyright © Open University Malaysia (OUM)


Providing an Assuring Environment

Many children when they first come into a centre normally feel nervous and
afraid. Some even experience separation anxieties, especially if it is their first
time at such a facility or if they have been away from the setting for a certain
period. As the physical environment plays a very important role in the
experiences of a child, the environment of the childcare or education facility must
be one of comfort and safety, for a start. This must be complemented by
caregivers or early childhood educators who can assure the children and settle
them in. Child caregivers and early childhood educators play several roles
pertaining to this matter such as:

(a) Ensuring a Safe Environment

Early childhood educators or child caregivers must make sure that the
environment is safe for babies and young children to be in. Stringent checks
must be made periodically to ensure that there are no potential dangers in
all areas and aspects of the facility. The children must be closely supervised
at all times, the equipment and materials appropriate for age, ability and
development levels. Safe and good quality care requires good adult
supervision, safe toys, equipment and furnishing.

(b) Keeping the Environment Tidy and Hygienic

Children thrive in environments that are tidy and hygienic. Equipment and
materials must be kept away in the correct places after play and after use to
prevent accidents and to keep the environment tidy and neat. Tidying up
can be incorporated into the lesson and be part of the activities for older

Maintaining a hygienic environment is a great responsibility. Although

cleaners are employed, the ultimate responsibility for keeping the facility
and equipment clean lies in the hands of the educators and caregivers.
Mopping up spills and cleaning up messes may not be pleasant tasks, but
they are very necessary ones.

Also, as children learn through observation, imitation and association,

educators and caregivers are role models for cleanliness and hygiene.
Presenting a good, clean and tidy appearance and washing hands are good
examples which the children can emulate.

(c) Creating a Comfortable Environment

It is very important to stimulate the emotional growth of each child. The
healthy emotional development of children is partly associated with an
environment that encourages children to be independent, cooperative,
secure and competent. The environment for infants, toddlers and young
children should always be comfortable and wherever and whenever
Copyright © Open University Malaysia (OUM)

possible the fittings and furniture need to be child sized. This would result
in lower incidences of accidents and also children would have more
autonomy over their environment.

Lighting and temperature also contribute to comfort and the right settings
for both are a necessity, especially if air-conditioning is part of the facility.

(d) Organising Spaces

The environment of an early childhood care or education facility can be
organised in a myriad of ways. Many facilities are divided into interest,
learning or activity areas. There should also be a portion dedicated to
housekeeping and a wide space for group activities. At the same time, the
environment must be flexible enough to respond to the developing needs
and interests of the children.

Simply put, a room, a playground or yard that is organised well and which
has enough interesting materials will expand the childrenÊs experiences,
provide more opportunities and enhance creativity.

General Requirements
Young children should be placed at ground level to facilitate easier entry and
also for safety reasons. Soundproof walls and ceilings are highly advisable for
noise reduction. Carpets, drapes and other fire-proof fabrics can help in sound
absorption. Floors should be non-slip (if not carpeted), durable, sanitary and
easily cleaned. Carpets and rugs should be vacuumed daily.

Figure 5.2: Roles of children caregivers or early childhood educators in providing an

assuring environment


To enhance the indoor learning environment, the most important consideration
should be its feasibility for infants, toddlers and preschoolers to learn through
play in accordance with the developmental stages of the child. Naturally the
physical environment for babies, toddlers and preschoolers would have
significant differences (see Figure 5.3 and Figure 5.4).
Copyright © Open University Malaysia (OUM)

Figure 5.3: Physical environment for babies, toddlers and preschoolers should have
significant differences
Source: http://www.milestonescdc.com

Figure 5.4: An example of an early childhood care centre layout

Copyright © Open University Malaysia (OUM)


In early childhood care centre, typically there are specified areas either for
utilisation of the children or caregiversÊ facilities (see Figure 5.5). Each area is
prepared to provide for the best interest of childrenÊs care and education and
supporting caregivers to achieve this aim. Apart from that, other things that need
to be taken into accounts are for example the food served, materials and
equipments in the centre and artistic or cosmetic outlook of the centre.

Figure 5.5: Example of a childcare centre layout showing some specific areas
Source: http://www.parentrelief.com

(a) Interest Areas

Identify the interest areas to be included in the facility and the type of space
that is needed. Sketch a basic floor plan and identify the positioning of the
interest areas. In preparing the environment for infants and toddlers, ample
space must be allocated for diapering and sleeping, as well as carpeted
areas for crawling and playing.

Copyright © Open University Malaysia (OUM)


Some examples of interest areas are:

(i) Art;
(ii) Blocks;
(iii) Dramatic play/house corner;
(iv) Library/literacy centre;
(v) Manipulative/table toys;
(vi) Science-discovery/sand and water;
(vii) Music and movement; and
(viii) Computers.

(b) Language Area

Babies are able to understand a great deal of what they hear by the end of
the first year. In their second year, they learn to use the words they heard to
express their thoughts and feelings and ideas. Therefore, an infant and
toddler care or education programme should encourage the development
of language skills as adults speak and listen to children. A language activity
area can provide additional stimulus for language development.

This language area should be in a secluded portion, away from distractions

ă for example in an enclosed room or in a quiet corner. Provide large, soft
pillows or a low couch for the children to sit on. Invest in a collection of soft
puppets and include a selection of cloth, cardboard, or plastic books that
the children can look at, feel and touch. Tape recorders, record players and
musical instruments are also excellent materials for the language corner.

(c) Bathrooms
Bathroom should be adjacent to the play and sleeping areas and easily
reached from outdoors. It is preferable to install child-sized toilets and
wash basins, however, if this is not possible, make sure there is a step or
platform so the children can access the facilities. In most early childhood
facility settings, the bathrooms are without doors so teachers can supervise
or offer assistance whenever necessary.

ChildrenÊs bathroom and toilet areas must be well-lit, airy, attractive and
large enough to meet the needs of several children at the same time. It is
desirable to include an exhaust fan while paper towels should be placed
within the childrenÊs reach and waste baskets available at all times.

Copyright © Open University Malaysia (OUM)


(d) Nap Room

Some schools or care centres provide an area for nap time (see Figure 5.6).
This area needs to be of a substantial size to cater for cots or bedding. If
provided, these cots or cribs should be correctly labelled with each childÊs
name and kept clean always. Movable screens should be considered to
allow for privacy and to reduce the noise levels.

Figure 5.6: Nap room

Source: http://www.dealtoday.pk/images/storephotos/resize/tiny-hands-n-feet-

Cots, bedding and the screens should be arranged in a constant manner to

create the feeling of safety and familiarity for the children. The setting
should be cosy and inviting to promote good rests and a feeling of security.
Do not arrange the cots in a line or in carefully delineated rows.

(e) Food Service

Early childhood classrooms are becoming more diverse and multicultural.
Therefore routines and food choices as well as toys and materials, must
take into consideration cultural practices and preferences. Each age group
also has its own unique food requirements. In an infant programme, there
is the need to store and prepare formula and milk. For toddlers, a wide
variety of food should be offered as they begin to assert independence and
want to make their own choices of food. This however, must be carefully
balanced with ensuring that the food provided is a balanced meal and
the avoidance of battles with the children over what they will eat (see
Figure 5.7). Preschoolers are influenced by a teacher who sets a good
example of eating a balanced meal with a good variety of choices while
school-going children can better understand nutritional concepts but are
more influenced by what their peers are eating.

Copyright © Open University Malaysia (OUM)


Figure 5.7: Ensure that food provided is a balanced meal

Source: http://daycareinventory.com/9-nutritious-daycare-lunch-supplies-for-

Whether in the provision of a light snack or full meal the centre must
adhere to the most rigid standards of health and safety where food is
concerned. Every precaution must be taken to ensure that hygiene is at its
maximum in the preparation, storing and serving of food. All equipment,
counters, floors and appliances must be properly cleaned daily and after
each use. Disinfecting high chairs and tables is recommended and this
would require the use of bleach at a ratio of half a cup of bleach to one
gallon of water.

During meal times, infants will of course need to be held or be seated in

high chairs near an adult. All children should be served food in disposable
tableware or on dishes that can be cleaned in a dishwasher with a sanitation
cycle. Meanwhile, food brought from home by school-going and full-
daycare children must be checked for spoilage each and every time.

As a last note, do not feed toddlers popcorn, nuts or raw carrots to avoid
any choking incidences.

(f) Wall Displays

Children respond very well to visual stimuli. Wall displays around the
facility would not only improve the environment but could also serve
educational purposes (see Figure 5.8). Displays or notice boards can be
made of hessian or cork or be just in the form of plain white boards.
Cupboard doors can also double up as display boards.

Copyright © Open University Malaysia (OUM)


Figure 5.8: Wall displays


(g) Children with Special Needs

Children with special needs can benefit from being mainstreamed into
regular child development programmes. Part-time participation will benefit
these children although some working parents may need all-day care. A
quality programme can provide the kind of activities that these children
need to optimise their development. In addition, parents will find help and
support for the sometimes difficult task of caring for their children. When a
decision is made to accept these infants or toddlers, the director should
seek out community resources and consultation before planning an
environment or programme. A basic need for all children during the first
two years, and which is especially important to children with special needs,
is to gain control over themselves and their environment.

(h) Materials and Equipment

The selection of materials is based on a number of criteria. Materials
selected should be suitable for children to use and to play with. They
should be age appropriate and facilitate the development of a wide range of
skills as children within the same age group develop at different rates.
Selecting the right equipment and toys to support development is
important because young children typically will try to play with everything
in their environment (see Figure 5.9).

Figure 5.9: Selection of toys is important

Source: http://www.howtorunahomedaycare.com/uploads/IMG_2941.jpg
Copyright © Open University Malaysia (OUM)

Toys and materials need to reflect the diversity of the families and
the communities the children come from. From the perspective of
development, materials need to appeal to the individual and varied
interests of the children while also catering to their cultural and linguistic
strengths. Materials and cultural artefacts help a child feel that the
environment is familiar and comfortable.

Children are active learners, and the materials they can access should
provide them with ways to explore, manipulate and become involved in
the learning process. Children learn through all their senses, so the
materials should be appealing to the various senses.


A well-planned outdoor space for children offers many possibilities and benefits
(see Figure 5.10). Children naturally gravitate to the outdoors where they play
vigorously, use loud voices, release excess energy, and engage in large, messy
projects. An outdoor environment will enable children to experience nature and
all its offerings of the open space, wildlife, and different landscapes such as hills,
holes, streams, and mud puddles (Greenman, 1991). This is where they can run
and jump, test and strengthen their physical skills and engage in social,
cognitive, and creative pursuits.

Figure 5.10: An example of outdoor learning environment

Source: http://www.howtorunahomedaycare.com/uploads/IMG_5494.jpg

Copyright © Open University Malaysia (OUM)


Research has shown that children who play outdoors demonstrate better visual
motor integration, imagination, and verbal and social skills compared to children
who play predominantly indoors (Yerkes, 1982). Health-wise, it is also better
playing outdoors as it presents more opportunities for physical activity and
exercise, exposure to sunlight for the production of Vitamin D and an
environment with a lower concentration of organisms such as virus and bacteria
as compared to indoor environments (American Academy of Paediatrics,
American Public Health Association, & National Resource Centre For Health and
Safety in Child Care and Early Education, 2002). All in all, the outdoors provides
invaluable learning opportunities, promotes health, and encourages lifelong
dispositions (Cuppens, Rosenow, & Wike, 2007). We need to protect this right to
outdoor experiences.

Children's outdoor play is very different from how they play indoors while also
offering a myriad of different experiences. Stimuli to the senses and the brain
differ greatly as well as different rules of play area applied. Activities which may
be frowned upon indoors can be safely tolerated outdoors where children have a
greater freedom not only to run and shout, but also to interact with and
manipulate the environment. The outdoor is an environment where children are
free to „make a mess‰ and engage in activities that are not suited for the indoors.

A natural outdoor environment has three basic qualities that are unique and
appealing to children as an environment for play:

(a) An unending diversity;

(b) A natural environment with no adult intervention; and

(c) A feeling of timelessness and space where the landscapes, trees, rivers that
are described in fairy tales and myths still exist today.

Children experience and perceive the natural environment differently than

adults. Adults typically see nature as the background for what they are doing,
whereas children experience nature as a stimulator and experiential component
of their activities. For them, the natural world is not a scene or landscape, it is
sheer sensory experience in which they delight in. Just observe a child looking in
wonderment at a butterfly on a flower, or the stars in the sky and this will be
illustrated to perfection.

Children evaluate the natural environment not by its aesthetics, but rather by
how they can interact with the environment (see Figure 5.11). They have a
unique, direct and experiential way of knowing that the natural world is a place
of beauty, mystery and wonder. This special affinity for the natural environment
is closely related to the child's development and his or her way of knowing.

Copyright © Open University Malaysia (OUM)


Figure 5.11: Children evaluate the natural environment by interacting with the
Source: http://iview.tbcvancouver.ca/wp-content/uploads/2015/01/Gardening.jpg

They seem to understand that plants, soil, sand and water provide settings that
can be manipulated and one can build a trench in the sand and dirt or a rock dam
over a stream. They also know that thereÊs not much that can be done with a
jungle gym except climb, hang or fall off it. Natural elements provide for open-
ended play that paves the way for unstructured creative exploration with diverse

The high levels of complexity and variety that nature offers provides for longer
and more complex play. For example, with their interactive properties, plants
stimulate discovery, lead to dramatic pretend play and inspire the imagination.
Plants speak to all of the senses, so it is not surprising that children closely
affiliate the environment with vegetation. Plants, in a pleasant environment with
a mix of sun, shade, colour, texture, fragrance, and softness of enclosure also
encourage a sense of peacefulness. Natural settings offer qualities of openness,
diversity, manipulation, exploration, anonymity and wildness.

Nature effectively is the best teacher. No man-made equipment, regardless of

how good it is and how well-made can compare to the experience that hands-on
engagement and interaction with nature can provide. Materials and equipment
cannot offer the same sensory experience as nature can, for nothing compares to
the sparkle of sunlight through dewy green leaves, the trickle of the stream as it
skips over rocks and stones, the whisper of the wind rustling through the trees or
the eagle soaring majestically in the blue skies above. Man is part of nature and
hence nature is manÊs best educator.

Copyright © Open University Malaysia (OUM)


 Proper planning of a well-thought out environment and programmes in early

childhood centres which include play and various learning opportunities are
very important for the early years.

 The physical environment is especially important in the setting of a childcare

facility. It refers to space, room arrangement, equipment and materials
however this does not by itself influence the quality of childcare. It should be
inter-related and connected to the programmes and the human element that
collectively form the entire concept of the environment.

 The healthy emotional development of children is partly associated with an

environment that encourages children to be independent, cooperative, secure
and competent.

 Teachers and caregivers must ensure routines and food choices as well as
resources, must take into consideration cultural practices and preferences of
all children.

 As educators and adults we need to protect childrenÊs right to outdoor

experiences. Outdoors activities can provide invaluable learning opportunities,
promote health, and encourage lifelong dispositions to children.

Hands-on engagement Physical environment

Manipulative setting Sensory experience
Open space

Copyright © Open University Malaysia (OUM)


American Public Health Association. Policy No. 2002-2. Retrieved from


Bronfenbrenner U. (1994). Ecological models of human development. In

international encyclopedia of education, Vol 3, (2nd ed.). Oxford: Elsevier.

Burchinal, M. R., Roberts, J. E., Riggins, R., Zeisel, S. A., Neebe, E., & Bryant, D.
(2000). Relating quality of centre-based child care to early cognitive and
language development longitudinally. Child Development, 71(2), 338ă357.

Cuppens, V., Rosenow, N., & Wike, J. R. (2007). Learning with nature idea book:
Creating nurturing outdoor spaces for children. Lincoln, NE: National
Arbor Day Foundation.

Gordon, M. A., & Browne, W. K. (2007). Beginning essentials in early childhood

Education. Clifton Park, NY: Thomson Delimar Learning.

Greenman, J., & Keeshan, B. (1991). Transition from cradle to classroom In

proceeding of Early childhood conference.

Harms, T., & Clifford, R. M. (1998). Early Childhood Environment Rating Scale-
Revised. M. Baillargeon, & H. Larouche (Translators), Echelle dÊ evaluation
de lÊenvironment prescolaire. Canada: Presses De LÊ Universite Du Quebec.

Jalongo, R., & Isenberg, J. P. (2008). Exploring your role: An introduction to early
childhood education (3rd ed.). New Jersey: Pearson Merrill Prentice Hall.

Yerkes, R. (1982). A playground that extends the classroom. Northern Illinois


Copyright © Open University Malaysia (OUM)

Topic  Observing and
6 Assessing
Young Children
By the end of this topic, you should be able to:
1. Describe the importance of assessment and observation;
2. Describe several components of assessment methods;
3. List the steps for conducting observation;
4. Discuss the different types of assessment for children with
disabilities; and
5. Discuss the critical assessment issues.

Have you ever tried teaching in school without any form of assessment? It is just
like trying to drive without any headlights. Assessment is like a tool that can
measure and inform you what your child can and cannot do. Your childÊs life
depends on how you assess them and how others assess them. As a responsible
early childhood educator, doing an effective assessment is one of your biggest
challenges (Food for thought: see Figure 6.1) Do you think this is a fair

Copyright © Open University Malaysia (OUM)


Figure 6.1: Do you think this is a fair assessment?

Source: http://activelearner.ca

Assessment is an integral part of early childhood programme that helps teachers

to better understand children and better plan instructions that are individualised
and developmentally appropriate. Good assessment practices assume an
understanding of children development and knowledge of observation and
assessment techniques.

This topic discusses the importance of assessment and observation, several

components of assessment, assessment guidelines by NAEYC and NAECS/SDE
(1991), the purpose and uses of observation, steps for conducting observation
and critical assessment issues.


From your current understanding, why do you think assessment is


Copyright © Open University Malaysia (OUM)



Assessment itself is a term that has been defined in many ways. According to
Heimstra and Sisco (1990), assessment is a systematic and organised method
used to collect and analyse information which is taken for the objective of
improving learning development. Morrison (2011) on the other hand gave a more
precise definition of assessment. She defined it as a series of steps that needs to
be done continuously to collect information about childrenÊs development. The
information is to be used as a means to make appropriate decisions on how to
educate them. This will give teachers and parents a good understanding of
children educational experiences which is important as it gives teachers an idea
on what subsequent steps are needed to be taken to improve childrenÊs learning.

Some Definitions of Assessment:

A systematic and organised method used to collect and analyse information
taken for the objective of improving learning development (Bass, 1990).

A series of steps that needs to be done continuously to collect information about

childrenÊs development (Morrison, 2011).

Teachers need assessment information when they are planning instructions for
teaching and learning, and to inform parents concerning the progress of their
child. This is important as it could help parents to assist their child at home.
Ultimately the objective of assessment is to benefit children. A valid and reliable
test is needed to see if the curriculum is meeting the needs of children. In
addition, some programmes use assessment for the diagnosis of disabilities or
developmental delays. Assessment of children with disabilities should be
appropriately used to determine individualised education plans (IEPs). This
would include goals and objectives and adapting the classroom environment and
activities according to their needs and abilities or to develop individual family
services plans (IFSPs) that include goals and objectives for family support and
developmental activities for infants and toddlers with disabilities. Morrison
(2009) has given a list of aims of assessment for children, families, early
childhood programmes, early childhood teachers and the public as illustrated in
Table 6.1.

Copyright © Open University Malaysia (OUM)


Table 6.1: Purpose of Assessment

Target Group Purpose of Assessment

Children  To identify prior knowledge and understanding.
 To identify their special needs.
 To determine their appropriate placement or refer
to appropriate services.
Families  To provide information on childrenÊs progress.
 To relate school activities to home experiences.
 To enable collaboration between teachers and
Teachers  To inform lesson and activity plans and
establishing goals.
 To create new arrangement in classrooms.
 To assist in selecting appropriate materials.
 To improve teaching and learning process.
Early Childhood Programmes  To group instructions according to childrenÊs
Public  To assist in establishing appropriate policies.
 To assess quality of programs.
 To ensure curriculum is relevant to children.

 To monitor children achievements.

 To provide useful statistical information.
 To provide as a basis of public policies.

Source: Morrison (2009)

6.1.1 Formal Assessment

Formal assessment usually uses standardised tests. All tests must be given
according to approved time limits, instructions, grading procedures and
administration guidelines. Grading is normally compared to normative grades.
Formal tests normally fall into the following categories:

(a) Achievement tests;

(b) Readiness tests;

Copyright © Open University Malaysia (OUM)


(c) Developmental screening tests;

(d) Intelligence tests; and

(e) Diagnostic tests.

6.1.2 Informal Assessment

Informal assessment is the opposite of formal assessment as it does not rely on
standardised test but rather on observations and work samples that are
continually done and are focused on the childÊs performance, learning processes
and products produced over a selected period of time and in a variety of

Portfolio systems are normally used for monitoring various elements of



Authentic assessment actually measures childrenÊs actual learning and activities
in which they are involved in. According to Cathy Grace, in her article, Assessing
Young Children (Grace, 2000), authentic assessment is a concept that shows that
students are given the opportunity to apply their knowledge and skills as they
are normally being used in the „real‰ world outside of school. Authentic work
samples are actually childrenÊs work that reflects real-life circumstances and
problems which are addressed in the learning environment. Therefore, it needs
to rely on informal procedures. ChildrenÊs work samples such as drawings,
writing of stories accompanied by regular recorded observations of childrenÊs
interactions and comments will show childrenÊs progress over a period of time
and in a variety of circumstances. The effective use of this information through
this approach is the teacherÊs knowledge of child development and skill as a keen


Describe the difference between formal and informal assessment.

Copyright © Open University Malaysia (OUM)


6.2.1 Characteristics of Authentic Assessment

As you examine the following characteristics of authentic assessment, think of
how you are going to use it in an early childhood classroom. Here is the list of
characteristics of an authentic assessment:

(a) It is an assessment that is ongoing throughout the whole school year;

(b) All areas of development are assessed rather than only a narrow set of skills;

(c) It uses multiple ways to assess childrenÂs achievement on what they know
and able to do;

(d) It assesses childrenÊs work using work samples, portfolios, performances,

projects, journals, experiments and teachers observation;

(e) It is part of everyday learning activities and processes that occur daily in
the classroom;

(f) It is curriculum embedded where children are assessed only on what they
are actually learning and doing;

(g) It takes into account every childÊs development, social, cultural and
language status and other needs as children matures at different rate; and

(h) It is a cooperative process that involves children, teachers, parents and

other professionals. The goal is to make assessment child-centred.

According to Morrison (2009), authentic assessment is also frequently referred to

as an assessment that is based on performance. It is very useful when teaching
children who are from different backgrounds as well as for children with
disabilities because this method gives a real picture of their abilities. Meaningless
facts and isolated information are also considered inauthentic.

6.2.2 Guidelines for Authentic Assessment

How is authentic assessment carried out? The following are the guidelines to
carry out authentic assessment:

(a) Assess children based on their work. Use work sample, exhibition,
performance, learning logs, journal, projects, presentation, experiments and
teacher observations;

(b) Assess children based on what they are actually doing and through the

Copyright © Open University Malaysia (OUM)


(c) Assess what each individual child can do or already learned, rather than
comparing one child with another or one group of children with another;

(d) Make assessment part of the learning process. Encourage children to show
what they know through presentations and participations;

(e) Learn about the child as a whole. Make the assessment process an
opportunity to learn more than just a childÊs acquisition of a narrow set of

(f) Involve children and parents in a cooperative, collaborative assessment

process. Authentic assessment is child centred;

(g) Provide ongoing assessment over the entire year. Assess children
continually throughout the year, not just at the end of a grading period or
at the end of the year; and

(h) Use developmentally appropriate assessments and techniques. Assessment

procedures are most authentic and results are most accurate when
assessments and techniques are developmentally appropriate.

6.2.3 Methods of Authentic Assessment

Authentic assessment helps teachers to understand what students can do and
what they understand. The following are some examples of method used for
authentic assessment:

(a) Observation;

(b) Anecdotal;

(c) Running record;

(d) Event sampling;

(e) Time sampling;

(f) Rating scale;

(g) Checklist;

(h) Work sample;

(i) Portfolio; and

(j) Interview.

Copyright © Open University Malaysia (OUM)



Propose how you would assess a science class of six year olds using
authentic assessment.


Observation is very useful in understanding as it is a vital tool that can be used to
investigate children as individuals. In assessment and planning, observation is
important as it is the basis of reflection. In any high-quality setting, the
practitioner plays an important role in implementing observation hence it should
be given high priority in terms of training and everyday practice.

During observation, teachers would need to observe childrenÊs actions,

expressions, gestures and behaviours and listen to their talk and interactions.
Sometimes teachers would need to join in childrenÊs play or conversations and
ask or respond to questions. Teachers would need to approach childrenÊs play in
a sensitive and respectful manner and have an attitude of openness to the
individualÊs learning agenda. Observation actually shows childrenÊs true
learning as it shows what the children actually know and are able to do
especially when it occurs in the naturalistic settings such as classroom, child care
centres, playgrounds and homes. Observation is also an intentional and
systematic act of looking at childrenÊs behaviour in a particular setting,
programme or situation. Understanding the main purpose of assessment would
help teachers to determine what kind of assessments would be most appropriate.
Assessment of individual children might serve one of the following objectives:

(a) To determine progress on significant developmental achievements;

(b) To decide placement or promotion decisions in schools;

(c) To understand and determine learning and teaching problems;

(d) To help in instruction and curriculum decisions;

(e) To serve as a basis for reporting to parents; and

(f) To assist a child with assessing his or her own progress.

Copyright © Open University Malaysia (OUM)


There are also many advantages to an intentionally, systematic observation such


(a) Provide opportunities for teachers to look for information from other

(b) It is more appropriate as children learn naturally through play;

(c) Reveals a lot on childrenÊs prosocial development and peer interaction;

(d) It is useful when children refuse to respond;

(e) Provide a good mode of assessment of what children are developmentally

able to do;

(f) Is useful to assess childrenÊs performance over time; and

(g) Provide concrete information that could be used as evidence during

conferencing with parents.

6.3.1 Steps for Conducting Observation

To do a meaningful and useful observation for assessment, proper steps need to
be taken. There are four steps for conducting observation as follows:

(a) Step 1: Plan for Observation

Planning is the important part of observation process. A good guide to
follow in planning is to ask questions such as who, what, where and how
will you observe.

Setting Goal for Observation is an important part of the planning process.

Goals will assist you to reflect on why you want to observe and thus
focusing your efforts to what you will observe. Your goal might include
objectives such as observing the physical classroom environment or
effectiveness, social interactions or improvements to childrenÊs learning
activities. Planning also involves selecting the right type of observational
tool you will use.

(b) Step 2: Conduct the Observation

There are many ways of recording your observation, such as note taking,
using a checklist, making a sketch of an indoor or outdoor environment,
videotaping or tape-recording. Refer to Table 6.2 to see an example of
recording observational data.

Copyright © Open University Malaysia (OUM)


Table 6.2: An Example of Observation Data

Day Antecedent Behaviour Consequences

What Causes the How Ellen Reacts What Causes the
Behaviour Behaviour
Monday Ellen arrives at 8.30 am. Ellen glanced at Joanne. Joanne takes EllenÊs
Mum carries Ellen in. Mum smiled and said, coat off and talks
Joanne greets them „Say hello to Joanne, quietly to her. She tells
smiling and wish, „Hi she will take care of Ellen breakfast is ready
Mrs W, how are you you while mum is at and holds her hand out
today?‰ work.‰ Ellen hesitates to take her to join her
then holds her arm out friends. Ellen hesitates
to Joanne. and looks at the
children, then at Joanne
and at her mother...
„Shall we wave bye-bye
to mummy?‰ Then we
can have breakfast.
Ellen copies Joanne.
Mum leaves quietly
and Joanne stands for a
while at the door. She
then turned and ran to
her friends.

(c) Step 3: Interpret the Data

All observations should be analysed and interpreted, as it serves several
important functions:

(i) Interpretation helps you to apply your professional knowledge to

make you understand what you have seen;

(ii) Interpretation can help you to anticipate behaviours which are

associated with normal growth and development and to recognise
what is not representative of appropriate growth, development and
learning for each child;

(iii) Interpretation provides direction for the implementation of

programmes and curriculum; and

(iv) Interpretation of data includes drawing conclusions about what you

have observed and making recommendations for the actions you will

Copyright © Open University Malaysia (OUM)


(d) Step 4: Implement a Plan

The implementation phase is the time that you act on the results of the
findings of your observations. Using the results of your observations is the
most important part of the process. The following guidelines will help you
meet the important responsibility of reporting assessment information to

(i) Be honest and realistic with parents;

(ii) Communicating and explaining results to parents so that they can


(iii) Share studentÊs work samples and portfolios with parents; and

(iv) Provide parents with ideas and information that will help them help
their children learn.


You plan to observe a child, suggest steps for conducting an


6.3.2 Assessment of Children with Disabilities

Assessment in early childhood setting is also important in determining delay or
learning problems in children. Assessment may help identify disabilities and
further benefit by having the child to have necessary arrangement for his
learning experience.

Berdine and Meyer (1987), listed five primary purposes of assessment in

education that can support children with disabilities:

(a) Screening and Identification: To screen children and identify those who
may be experiencing delays or learning problems;

(b) Eligibility and Diagnosis: To determine whether a child has a disability and
is eligible for special education services, and to diagnose the specific nature
of the studentÊs problems or disability;

(c) IEP Development and Placement: To provide detailed information so

that an Individualised Education Program (IEP) may be developed and
appropriate decisions may be made about the childÊs educational

Copyright © Open University Malaysia (OUM)


(d) Instructional Planning: To develop and plan instruction appropriate to the

childÊs special needs; and

(e) Evaluation: To evaluate learnersÊ progress.

6.3.3 How Children are Identified for Disabilities

The following lists some possible ways on how a child may be identified for
disability assessment:

(a) Firstly the school suspects there is a presence of learning or behaviour

problem. ParentÊs permission is then sought after to evaluate the student
individually. Problems could also be detected when student scores are too
far below his or her peers when doing school routine test. Alternatively, the
studentÊs classroom teacher may identify that a problem exists ă perhaps
the studentÊs work is below expectations for his or her age, or the studentÊs
behaviour is disrupting learning and so the teacher refers the student for

(b) On the other hand, parents may also call or write to the school or to the
director of special education and request that their child be evaluated. They
may suspect that the child is not progressing as he or she should be, or
notice particular problems in how the child learns or behaves. If the school
suspects that the child, indeed, may have a disability, then the school must
conduct an assessment; and

(c) If school personnel do not feel that the child has a disability, they may
refuse to assess the child, but must inform the parents in writing as to their
reasons for refusing.


In the 21st century, students need to understand not only the basics, but also to
think critically, to analyse and to make inferences. Helping students develop
these skills will require changes in the way assessment is done at school and
classroom level, as well as new approaches to large-scale, high-stakes
assessment. Policymakers hope that changes in assessment will cause teachers
and schools to do things differently. Changes in assessment is viewed as a means
of setting more appropriate targets for students, focusing staff development
efforts for teachers, encouraging curriculum change and improving instruction
and instructional materials. For the change to happen, we must first explore
Copyright © Open University Malaysia (OUM)

critical issues in assessment that will mould how and what kind of changes
should be done. In this section we will read some critical assessment issues.

6.4.1 The Risks of Assessing Young Children

Young children are known to have difficulty in taking test perhaps because they
are sometimes confused by the way the questions are asked. There is a reason to
suggest that the younger the age of the child being evaluated the more errors
they will make. With this in mind, the risk of assigning false labels to children is
great as this would mean children would then have to live with the label (a true
or false one) for a long time which makes it more difficult to discard.

All methods of assessment can make errors. The errors made by formal tests are
different from those made by informal or anecdotal records and documentation
notes. The errors made by specific checklists of behavioural items are also
different from those made by holistic impressionistic assessments. Teachers need
to be aware of the potential errors of each evaluation or assessment strategy as it
can help minimise errors in interpretation. There should be a balance between
global or holistic evaluation and detailed specific assessments for young children.

6.4.2 Misuses of Test Data

Tests alone are not adequate tools for accountability. Learning and accurate
information about the education of children cannot be fully determined by
achievement test. Therefore, test data should not be used as evidence of the
quality of the education that children receive. The public and professionals in
education alike share a common misconception that test scores are objective and
scientific. This false assumption leads to reliance on test scores for making unjust
decisions. This means that judgments about children are made on faulty data
rather than data which reflect each childÊs personal course of development.

People outside the profession often misuse tests for their own purposes.
Politicians frequently use test scores to show that a vote for them will be a vote
for better education. Test scores are often misused to justify budget requests, to
judge teachers and to determine merit pay. Schools frequently misuse tests to
compare classrooms of children and to screen out the „undesirable‰ or those
children who supposedly cannot benefit from their programme.

Copyright © Open University Malaysia (OUM)



1. The data of observation has been interpreted. Explain how to

inform the data to parents.

2. What do you understand by authentic assessment? Describe

methods of authentic assessment in detail.

 Assessment is the process of gathering information about childrenÊs

development learning, health, behaviour, academic progress and need for
special services.

 There are two types of assessment, formal and informal assessment. Formal
assessment uses standardised test whereas informal assessment relies on
observational and work sampling techniques.

 In early childhood education, authentic assessment is found to be the most

suitable as it measures all areas of development rather than a narrow set of

 Authentic assessment assesses childrenÊs work using work samples, portfolios,

performances, projects, journals, experiments and teacher observation.

 Assessment may help identify disabilities in children and initiate necessary

arrangement for the childÊs learning experience.

 Assessment can support children with disabilities.

 Observation is an authentic means of learning about children as it occurs in a

mere naturalistic setting such as a classroom.

 We as educators need to be very wary of how we assess young children as

wrong labelling of young children will cause long term detrimental effects to
the child.

Copyright © Open University Malaysia (OUM)


Anecdotal Informal assessment

Authentic assessment Portfolio
Event sampling Time sampling
Formal assessment

Berdine, W., & Meyer, S. (1987). Assessment in special education. Boston, MA:
Little, Brown.

Grace, C. (2000). Assessing young children. Retrieved from http://www.thelittle


Heimstra, R., & Sisco, B. (1990). The individualizing instruction model for adult
learners. San Francisco, CA: Jossey Bass Publishers

Katz, L. G. (1997). A developmental approach to assessment of young

children. Retrieved from http: www.kidsource.com/kidsource/content4/
assess. development.html

Morrison, S. G. (2009). Early childhood education today (11th ed.). Upper Saddle
River, NJ: Prentice-Hall.

Morrison, S. G. (2011). Early childhood education today (12th ed.). Upper Saddle
River, NJ: Prentice-Hall.

Copyright © Open University Malaysia (OUM)

Topic  Guiding
7 ChildrenÊs
By the end of this topic, you should be able to:
1. Identify the importance of guiding childrenÊs behaviour;
2. Discuss theories relating to guiding childrenÊs behaviour;
3. Describe the ten keys to guiding behaviour;
4. Identify teachersÊ role to promote the development of autonomous
behaviour; and
5. Infer the effects of physical punishment on childrenÊs behaviour.

One of the teachersÊ roles in class is to guide childrenÊs behaviour. Thus to
function effectively, teachers need to understand multiple theories of guiding
childrenÊs behaviour. Teachers themselves are the best role models to their
children. Their roles are not only to transmit knowledge in the classroom, but
also to change children behaviour from negative to prosocial and autonomous
behaviour. This topic will discuss on behaviour guidance and the theories behind
it. The ten keys used in behaviour guidance, teachers role in promoting
development of autonomous behaviour and punishment will be explored.

Copyright © Open University Malaysia (OUM)



Name some of the common misbehaviour you normally see in schools.


Guiding children behaviour is a challenging process that teaches children to take
control of their emotions and responses to become independent and self-reliant
individuals. Learning oneÊs behaviour is a lifelong learning process that involves
many useful skills. Behaviour guidance can only become effective if both families
and child care professionals work together. Appropriate strategies that are
guided by the centreÊs policies should be used so that a standardised strategy
and procedure could be explained and supported by all parties concerned. A
child is said to be self-reliant when they are able to plan, guide and monitor their
behaviour from within and flexibly according to changing circumstances. The
three elements needed in teachers and parents that are important in helping to
promote self-regulation and child care are:
(a) The use of logic verbal reasoning;
(b) The gradual removal of control; and
(c) A sense of affection.

So, what are the importance of guiding childrenÊs behaviour? The following lists
the importance of guiding childrenÊs behaviour:

(a) Children are unique and have different temperaments. Some adapt easily
while others find it difficult to adapt to change. A sensitive behaviour
guidance is needed to help children cope with their environment and
supporting them to develop positive and prosocial behaviour;

(b) At this stage in children development they are undergoing a sensitive

period for emotional control and peer social skills hence it is just as
important as teaching to read and write;

(c) Teaching children to act responsibly with good underlying behaviour lays
the foundation of a lifelong productive and responsible living. The roots of
delinquent and deviant behaviour form in the early years were found to be
precursors of adolescent problems and delinquencies such as disruptive
behaviour, over active and intense behaviour, irritability, non-compliance
and intensity in social interactions; and

Copyright © Open University Malaysia (OUM)


(d) One reason why public funds the education system is to help keep the
society strong and healthy. Parents and the public look at early childhood
professionals to help children learn to live cooperatively and civilly in a
democratic society. Getting along with others and guiding oneÊs behaviour
are culturally and socially meaningful accomplishment.


Discuss with your friend the effects of environment on childrenÊs



We are going to discuss only two theories involved in guiding childrenÊs
behaviour which are Social Constructivist and Behaviourism theories.

(a) Social Constructivist Theories

PiagetÊs and VygotskyÊs theories support a social constructivist approach to
learning behaviour. According to Constructivist theory, children build their
behaviour based on previous experiences and from previous decision
makings that lead to responsible behaviour. This means children learn as
they socially interact with competent peers and adults. Therefore, as
teachers, we need to be aware of what actually constitutes appropriate
behaviour and how teachers can use the developmental theory to guide
children towards appropriate behaviour. Thus, for a child to be able to have
appropriate behaviour he needs to self-regulate his thinking and emotions.

Bodrova (2006) stressed that delay gratification can actually control a

childÊs emotion. It is also proven that school readiness is strongly related to
the childÊs ability to self-regulate rather than IQ, reading level or maths
skills. Hence, teachers and parents need to realise the importance of
appropriate behaviour and self-regulation. Adults must also understand
that the part of a childÊs brain that is used for planning and self-regulation
is seldom utilised (Bronson as cited in Bodrova, 2006).

Copyright © Open University Malaysia (OUM)


Now, let us read more on guiding childrenÊs behaviour through specific

social constructivist approaches which are the Zone of Proximal
Development (ZPD) and Scaffolding:

(i) Guiding Behaviour in the Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD)

The ZPD is the stage of cognitive development that a child could
achieve when in social interaction with a more competent or
knowledgeable person. Teachers can guide children with the current
behavioural and social skills to increasingly higher levels of
responsible behaviour and social interactions. This can be done using
one-on-one activities or large and small group activities.

(ii) Guiding Behaviour with Scaffolding

Scaffolding is one of the ways teachers guide children to reach ZPD. It
involves informal methods such as conversations, questions,
modelling, guiding and supporting to help children learn concepts,
knowledge and skills that they might not learn by themselves.
Children are capable of far more competent behaviour and
achievements if they receive guidance and support from teachers. An
appropriate method that can be used for scaffolding children would
be classroom discussions in which teachers can guide children on how
to behave by:

 Encouraging everyone to listen to whoever is talking;

 Encouraging students who donÊt understand to ask;

 Making all children participate;

 Direct the conversation to ensure that all children are involved;

 Helping the children to try to state their thoughts clearly; and

 At the conclusion of the discussion, encouraging participants to

summarise what was discussed.

In constructivist approach, here are some strategies that can be used

to guide childrenÊs behaviour:

 Guide problem solving;

 Ask questions that help children arrive at their own solutions; and

 Model appropriate skills.

Copyright © Open University Malaysia (OUM)


(b) Behaviourism Theories

Behaviourism theories for guiding childrenÊs behaviour are discussed from
three perspectives:

(i) Respondent Learning

This theory was formulated by a Russian psychologist called Ivan
Pavlov. It is known as classical conditioning and it is based on a
stimuli-response formula.


This is a process where an occurring stimulus (S) or unconditioned

stimulus will automatically elicit a response (R) which will later be a
learned respond to the stimulus.

Example: Whenever a child misbehaves, the parent will bring out a

cane to punish the child. Later, even when a cane is taken out without
the intention of punishing the child will get scared and behave

(ii) Operant Conditioning

This theory is based on the work of B. F. Skinner, who drew on the
idea of classical conditioning, but thought individuals to be more
active in the learning process than that theory allowed. An individual
would need to be an active participant for any learning to occur. In
this theory, when learning is rewarded, the behaviour is maintained
and when punished, the behaviour is removed.

(iii) Social Modelling

This is based on the work of Albert Bandura, who thinks that most
learning is a result of copying or imitating what others do. The social
modelling theory emphasises of the importance of external reinforces,
and allows learning to occur independently of reinforcement.
Behaviourism is a powerful tool for guiding childrenÊs behaviour. It
really works. It is an effective and efficient way of modifying
behaviour. The behaviourists believe that you can guide childrenÊs
behaviour by reinforcing what is desired and ignoring what are
unacceptable. Following these principles, teachers in class can give
star stickers to children who complete their work. Those who sit
quietly or cooperate with the teacher may also be given stickers.

Copyright © Open University Malaysia (OUM)


Children can be used as models and the behaviour is more likely to be

imitated when their behaviours are reinforced rather than not
reinforced or when there is no potential for reinforcement. For
example, a teacher praised a student because she helped the teacher to
carry her books. Then, the studentÊs behaviour is likely to be modelled
because she has received praise from the teacher.

Reinforcement may also occur due to the consequences of the

behaviour. If the behaviour that is being modelled is socially
acceptable and others welcome the child because of it then it is more
likely to be repeated. The behaviour will be reinforced by its own
consequences. From this, adults can actually guide children by:

 Acting as good role models for children;

 Rewarding children for wanted behaviour and ignoring

inappropriate behaviour; and

 Having positive expectations of childrenÊs behaviour.


What do you understand by behaviourism theories? What is the effect

of reward and punishment on childrenÊs behaviour?


In studies on behaviour, researchers identify steps to guiding behaviour.
Morrison (2009) has listed ten steps to guiding childrenÊs behaviour which are as

(a) Arrange and modify the environment;

(b) Establish appropriate expectations;

(c) Model appropriate behaviour;

(d) Guide the whole child;

(e) Know and use developmentally appropriate practices;

(f) Meet childrenÊs needs;

(g) Help children build new behaviour;

Copyright © Open University Malaysia (OUM)


(h) Empower children;

(i) Use praise and encouragement; and

(j) Develop a partnership with parents, families, and others.

Let us read the elaboration of the steps in guiding behaviour:

(a) Step 1: Arrange and Modify the Environment

The classroom environment plays a big role in leading children to behave
appropriately. In child care centres and preschools, educators arrange the
environment so that it supports the purpose of the program and makes
appropriate behaviour possible. Appropriate arrangement signals to the
children that they are expected to be responsible for their own behaviour.

Here are some guidelines on how to arrange your classroom to assist

children in guiding their own behaviour.

(i) Have an open place for group meetings and activities every morning
and before going home. Class meetings allow teachers to discuss
about childrenÊs behaviour;

(ii) Make areas in centres well defined. Make boundaries low enough for
easy supervision;

(iii) Provide all kinds of activities, quiet and loud;

(iv) Have abundance of materials that are easily accessible. Having to ask
for materials leads to dependency and behaviour problem;

(v) Make sure materials are easy to store and keep away; and

(vi) Provide guidelines to children on how to use the learning centres.

(b) Step 2: Establish Appropriate Expectations

Expectations help set boundaries for desired behaviour. When children
understand and know adults expectation they can better achieve those
expectations. Just having expectation is not enough as children need to
know and understand those expectations. Sometimes you might even need
to help them such as demonstrating, explaining, encouraging and
supporting them as they learn.

Setting limits is closely related to establishing expectation and defining

what behaviour is unacceptable. Clear limits helps in consistency and
this is important as consistency gives children a clear message of what is
acceptable. A child who knows what is expected of him builds security and

Copyright © Open University Malaysia (OUM)


confidence. Plan classroom rules on the first day of school. Children should
constantly be reminded of the rules and encourage them to conform to

(c) Step 3: Model Appropriate Behaviour

We have all heard the saying „telling is not teaching‰. When it comes to
behaviour, action is louder than words. Children need to see and remember
how other people act and respond to others. After observing, the child will
try the new behaviour and see if the behaviour is rewarded. That is why
adults need to be careful with the peer that a child mixes with and the kind
of behaviour that we as adults portray as children easily model what they
see and hear.

(d) Step 4: Guide the Whole Child

With new interest in developmentally appropriate practices, a lot have been
said about teaching the whole child in all areas of development. The same
applies to guiding behaviour for the whole child where the teacher is
expected to guide the childÊs behaviour across all developmental domains
as illustrated in Figure 7.1.

Figure: 7.1: Child development domains

Source: http://bothellfamilycoop.org/classes/curriculum/

(e) Step 5: Know and Use Developmentally Appropriate Practice

A teacher can only guide the whole child when she understands where
the child is developmentally. Children cannot behave well when adultÂs
expectation of them is too high or low based on their development.
It is important to observe childrenÊs behaviour to understand what is
appropriate to children based on their needs, gender, socioeconomic
background, disposition and culture.

Copyright © Open University Malaysia (OUM)


(f) Step 6: Meeting ChildrenÊs Needs

It is important for caregivers or parents taking care of young children to
understand childrenÊs basic needs. A child who is hungry does not have the
patience to wait or be able to behave appropriately. As explained by
Abraham Maslow (2013), humanÊs growth and development is directed to
realise oneÊs own potential and this is internally motivated by five basic
needs that forms a hierarchy of motivating behaviour.

The five basic needs are:

(i) Physical Needs

A childÊs ability to guide his own behaviour depends on how well his
physical needs are met. For example, a child can only perform well in
school if he is properly fed, have sufficient resting time and is in a
quality environment that promotes learning.

(ii) Safety and Security Needs

Children who are experiencing fear cannot be expected to learn.
Hence, schools and homes need to have an atmosphere that promotes
a sense of security amongst children. Forcing children to do
inappropriate task that is not developmentally appropriate can make
children feel insecure. Children from homes with domestic violence
will not be able to progress in schools and tend to be labelled as
children at-risk.

(iii) Need for Belonging and Affection

Children need to feel that they belong or are part of a group. Teachers
can promote this need of belonging by giving children responsibilities
and opportunities to make decisions. At home, feeling of love and
affection can be satisfied when parents hug and kiss their children.
Similarly, teachers can promote this by being kind, gentle, smile,
courteous, and respect the children as well as show genuine care and
values. Personal greeting given to children when they come to school
in the morning also makes them feel wanted.

(iv) Need for Self-esteem

Children who see themselves as worthy, reasonable and competent
will act accordingly to their feelings. How children view themselves
come directly from how teachers and parents treat them. Self-esteem
is the foundation to achievement and success.

Copyright © Open University Malaysia (OUM)


(v) Self-actualisation
Children are always keen to be independent and do things by
themselves. As educators, we should give children opportunities to be
independent such as dressing themselves and helping to set tables.
Teachers and parents must guide and help children to develop
responsibilities for their behaviour by setting achievements and
behaviour goals.

(g) Step 7: Help Children Build New Behaviours

As teachers and parents we need to understand that by just modelling
good behaviour we cannot expect children to behave appropriately. This is
something that does not occur naturally and it needs to be taught and
guided. The following are two ways of helping children to build new

(i) Internal Control

Children need to be taught to be responsible for their behaviours
and the pleasure and rewards for good behaviour should come
from within. This is known as locus of control. Most children with
disabilities often develop external locus of control, this is due to the
over helping done by the adults around them. Teachers need to avoid
this from happening by fostering the attitude of capacity and

(ii) Teacher ă Child Relations in Guiding Behaviour

How a person is being treated affects him emotionally, physically and
cognitively. This applies to children as well, therefore how well a
child behaves and progress depends on how they actually relate to
their teachers. Teachers should behave in the following manner to
prevent behaviour problems amongst children:

 Respond to children promptly;

 Anticipate studentsÊ needs and emotion;

 Always give feedback; and

 Provide good academic and social support in class.

A class with close teacher-child relationship can reduce misbehaviour

in the classroom.

Copyright © Open University Malaysia (OUM)


(h) Step 8: Empower Children

Children who always receive responsibilities develop greater self-direction,
which means they are easily guided to the next level in their ZPD. Children
without responsibilities become bored and frustrated and this leads to
discipline problems. To empower children, teachers can do the following;

(i) Give children responsibilities;

(ii) Give children choices; and

(iii) Assist them to succeed.

(i) Step 9: Use Praise and Encouragement

Encouragement is important as it brings children to a greater level of self-
motivation which allows children to improve and grow. With
encouragement and suggestions on how to develop new skills and
behaviour, children will learn to behave appropriately. These are a few
reasons why we need to use encouragement on children.

(i) We acknowledge the childÊs effort to improve or change;

(ii) We recognise their little successes; and

(iii) We assist them to self-evaluate their effort.

(j) Step 10: Partnership with Parents, Families and Others

Working with parents and families is a good way to gain valuable insights
about childrenÊs behaviour. The more you understand the child, the easier
it is to guide his behaviour. There are different ways teachers can
collaborate with parents to gain information such as: home visit, email,
communicating through phone and parent conference.

Teachers can also support parents by sharing your belief and developing a
philosophy concerning child rearing and behaviour guidance.


Study and discuss the ten keys to guiding behaviour.

Copyright © Open University Malaysia (OUM)



In education the ultimate goal is to develop autonomy in children, which means,
„being governed by oneself‰. Children need to regulate their own behaviour and
be able to make good choices about what is good and bad, right and wrong and
the correct way to behave in relation to themselves and others. Teachers can
assist children develop autonomous behaviour by:

(a) Giving sufficient time and opportunities for children to perform tasks
independently by themselves;

(b) Allow children to make mistakes and use problem-solving techniques and
learn from their mistakes; and

(c) Practice sanction, where children are excluded from the group when they
misbehave. Materials or privileges can be taken away from children who
abuse materials but given the option of using it again when they express
desire to use them appropriately. Help children fix things they have broken
and clean up after themselves.


National Association of Social Workers (NASW) opposes the use of physical
punishment in homes, schools and all other institutions where children are cared
for and educated. Effective discipline does not involve physical punishment
of children which brings negative developmental outcome to children as
demonstrated by research such as physical injury, increased aggression,
antisocial behaviour, poorer adult adjustment and greater tolerance of violence.
Research has also shown that physical punishment poses a risk to the safety and
development of children.

Parents should understand that physical punishment can easily cross the line
into child abuse and might result in death hence other alternatives need to be
used when disciplining young children. Many death cases of children have been
reported as a result of physical abuse. Children have rights to be protected from
physical abuse. There are several problems with spanking and other form of
physical punishment such as:

Copyright © Open University Malaysia (OUM)


(a) Generally, research found that physical punishment is ineffective in

developing appropriate behaviour in young children as it does not show
any form of adult expectation or teach them what to do or provide them
with alternative ways to behave;

(b) Adult who uses physical punishment are not only modelling physical
aggression but also giving a clear message that aggression is permissible in
interpersonal relationship. Children who are being spanked are more likely
to use aggression with the peers;

(c) Spanking and any form of physical punishment will increase the risk of
physical injury to the child. This is because spanking involves an
emotionally charged situation hence the spanker can become too aggressive
and hit the child in vulnerable places; and

(d) Parents, caregivers and teachers are childrenÊs sources of security. Physical
punishment erodes the sense of security that children must have to function
confidently in their daily lives.

The best advice regarding physical punishment is to avoid it. Use non-violent
means for guiding childrenÊs behaviour. Helping children develop an internal
system of control benefits them more than system that relies on external control
and authoritarianism. Developing self-regulation in children should be a primary
goal of all professionals.


What are the effects of physical punishment on children behaviour?

 Guiding childrenÊs behaviour is a challenging process as it teaches children to

take control of their emotion and responses to become independent and self-
reliant individuals.

 According to Constructivist theory, children build their behaviour based on

previous experiences and decision makings made during social interactions
with peers and adults.

Copyright © Open University Malaysia (OUM)


 Behaviourists believe that behaviour can be maintained or removed through

punishment and rewards.

 Behaviourists also believe that children like to imitate behaviour and it can be
repeated when reinforced.

 Behaviour can be guided using 10 steps introduced by Morrison (2009).

 Teachers have an important role in guiding children to develop autonomous


 Physical punishment in homes, schools and all other institutions where

children are cared for and educated brings negative developmental outcome
to children such as physical injury, increased aggression, antisocial
behaviour, poorer adult adjustment and greater tolerance of violence.

Autonomous behaviour Prosocial behaviour

Classical conditioning Self-regulation
Gratification Social modelling
Operant conditioning Temperament

Bodrova, E. (2006). Developing self-regulation: The Vygotskian view. Retrieved

from http://www.thefreelibrary.com/Developing self-regulation: the
Vygotskian view.-a0159921038.

Maslow, A. (2013). A theory of human motivation. CreateSpace Independent

Publishing Platform.

Morrison, G. S. (2009). Early childhood education today (11th ed.). Upper Saddle
River, NJ: Prentice-Hall.

Copyright © Open University Malaysia (OUM)

Topic  Multiculturalism
By the end of this topic, you should be able to:
1. Define culture;
2. Explain the importance of infusing multiculturalism into the
3. Plan classroom activities that are infused with culture; and
4. Apply culturally appropriate practices in classroom.

The presence of many cultures in the Malaysian society is not a new phenomena,
it began as far back as the Melakan empire. This means that there is a continuum
of similarity and dissimilarity between the communities in Malaysia. Some
communities that have existed together longer have assimilated many cultural
and linguistic elements from each other. Good examples of this are the Baba-
Nyonya community of Melaka and the Melakan Malays: both communities bear
many similarities that exist at many levels, from the food culture to clothing to
linguistics and non-linguistic behaviour. On the other hand, there are also
communities that have not been here long, for example refugee communities,
whose language and cultures have yet to be familiar to the locals and vice versa.
Therefore, multicultural society is not a new or strange concept in Malaysia.

Copyright © Open University Malaysia (OUM)


In educational environment, multiculturalism is one aspect to be considered in

lesson and activity planning. It is important to ensure multicultural concept is
considered for positive outcomes and to avoid any negative ones. There are
several points that you need to remember when considering the multicultural
issues in your institution or even in your class. In this topic, we will study about
multiculturalism in early childhood education context.


Why do you think it is important to take into account childrenÊs culture

when planning for a lesson?


Culture refers to the cumulative deposit of knowledge, experience, beliefs,
values, attitudes, meanings, hierarchies, religion, notions of time, roles, spatial
relations, concepts of the universe and material objects and possessions acquired
by a group of people in the course of generations through individual and group
experiences, trials and tribulations. It is important to remember that culture is a
system of knowledge shared by a relatively large group of people. Following are
the many definitions and descriptions of culture that are to be considered in this

(a) Culture affects communication, communication affects culture;

(b) Culture in its broadest sense is cultivated behaviour; it is something that a

person learns and forms through his or her experiences living in society.
This accumulated experience is also socially transmitted: in short, it is the
way we behave that we acquired through social learning;

(c) Culture is a way of life of a group of people: it encompasses their

behaviours, beliefs, values and symbols that they accept generally without
thinking about them, and they pass along through communication and
imitation from one generation to the next;

(d) Culture is symbolic communication. Some of its symbols include groupÊs

skills, knowledge, attitudes, values, and motives. The meanings of these
symbols are learned and deliberately perpetuated in a society through its

Copyright © Open University Malaysia (OUM)


(e) Culture consists of patterns, explicit and implicit, of behaviour acquired

and transmitted by symbols. Culture also constitutes the distinctive
achievement of human groups, including their embodiments in artefacts.
The essential core of culture consists of traditional ideas and especially their
attached values. Culture systems may be considered both products of
action and conditioning influences upon further action;

(f) Culture is the sum total of the learned behaviour of a group of people and it
is generally considered to be the tradition of those people. More
importantly, it is transmitted from generation to generation; and

(g) Culture is shared: it is a collective programming of the mind of a group or

community which then distinguishes the members of one group or category
of people from another.
(Morrison, 2014)


Discuss with a friend what is meant by „culture affects communication,

communication affects culture‰.


An important aim of our classroom is to build multicultural awareness which is
defined as:

„An appreciation and understanding of other peopleÊs socioeconomic status and

gender, including [your] own‰ (Morrison, 2014).

This entails making it important that we try to instil a greater understanding,

sensitivity and appreciation of the history, values, experiences and lifestyles of
groups that include, but, are not limited to:

(a) Race;

(b) Ethnicity;

(c) Gender;

(d) Sexual orientation;

Copyright © Open University Malaysia (OUM)


(e) Religious affiliation;

(f) Socio-economic status; and

(g) Mental/physical abilities.

(Multicultural Awareness, n.d.)

The question is, how do we create cultural awareness? Table 8.1 illustrates some
ideas to help you get started on this path.

Table 8.1: Ideas to Create Cultural Awareness

Being Fair and Just If you are teaching culture to your pupils, teach a few cultures
and not only one or two while excluding others. You can take
the cultures in turn or even by handling more than one culture at
one time. What is important is that you give each culture the
respect it is due.
Content of Activities Use activities that focus on the content, nature and richness of
the pupilsÊ own cultures and the cultures of their peers. This will
open your pupilsÊ eyes to the value of their own culture and that
of their peers.
Finding Common Find and discuss commonalities between the cultures that you
Ground discuss. You need not take complicated aspects of the culture.
Start with something simple, perhaps a dish or delicacy.


Being culturally aware also needs to be accompanied by cultural competence
which is described as, „the ability and confidence to interact effectively with
children, families, and colleagues of different cultures‰ (Morrison, 2014). In the
teaching context, gaining cultural competence generally means getting involved
with the community and parents. Morrison goes on to say that, „the process of
developing proficiency in effectively responding in a cross-cultural text. It is the
process by which individuals respond respectfully and effectively to diverse
cultures‰. To gain cultural competence, you need to create strong home ă school
relationships. Here is how you establish this relationship:

(a) Keep in touch with parents and families;

(b) Learn and understand their hopes, goals, expectations; and

(c) Get them involved.

Copyright © Open University Malaysia (OUM)


Cultural Competence
The ability and confidence to interact effectively with children, families, and
colleagues of different cultures.
(Morrison, 2014)

Cross, Bazron, Dennis, and Isaacs (1989) defined cultural competence as a set of
congruent behaviours, attitudes and policies that come together in a system,
agency or among professionals and enable that system, agency or those
professionals to work effectively in cross-cultural situations. In other words,
cultural competence refers to the things and faculties that enable us to live and
function together in a multicultural community. The word „culture‰ is used
because it implies the integrated pattern of human behaviour that includes
thoughts, communications, actions, customs, beliefs, values and institutions of a
racial, ethnic, religious or social group. The word „competence‰ is used because
it implies having the capacity to function effectively.

The five essential elements that contribute to a systemÊs, institutionÊs, or agencyÊs

ability to become more culturally competent include:

(a) Valuing diversity;

(b) Having the capacity and ability for cultural self-assessment;

(c) Being conscious of the dynamics inherent when cultures interact: in other
words, being aware of intercultural communication;

(d) Having institutionalised culture knowledge: in other words, having the

ability for cross-cultural communication; and

(e) Having developed adaptations to service delivery reflecting an

understanding of cultural diversity: this can also be said to be able to think
(NCCC: Curricula Enhancement Module Series, n.d.)

These five elements should be manifested at every level of an organisation

including policy making, administrative, and practice. Moreover, these elements
should be reflected in the attitudes, structures, policies and services of the
organisation, and manifested in every level of the service delivery system.

Copyright © Open University Malaysia (OUM)



In a group of three, discuss how do we as preschool teachers get our

children to be culturally competent. Create the discussion forum in


One way to ensure that you and your pupils are culturally aware and that you
are heading towards better understanding between cultures is to ensure that
there is cultural infusion.

Culturally aware and culturally sensitive education permeates the curriculum

to alter or affect the way young children and teachers think about diversity
(Morrison, 2014)

How do we actually infuse cultural diversity concepts across the curriculum?

Figure 8.1 shows some general ways to infuse cultural diversity concept across

Figure 8.1: Ways to consider to infuse cultural diversity concept across curriculum

Copyright © Open University Malaysia (OUM)



A key element to working multiculturalism in your classroom is using culturally
appropriate practices. Using culturally appropriate practices is defined as:

An approach to education based on the premise that all peoples ⁄ should

receive proportional attention in the curriculum.
(Morrison, 2014)

Generally this simply means that when you choose material from particular
cultures to use in your classroom, you would need to make sure that the material
presents accurate information about the culture and its practices, that the
material is not sensitive to those from the culture in question and most
importantly, the material is relevant to your syllabus.

Now that you have chosen culturally appropriate material, you need to know
how to react to the cultural material that your pupils bring into your classroom:
you need to acknowledge multicultural accomplishments. To do this you need to
acknowledge your pupilsÊ efforts:

(a) When they represent their cultures accurately and fairly;

(b) When they represent the cultures of their peers accurately and fairly;

(c) When they provide and use accurate and non-discriminatory historical

(d) When they do not use stereotypes in class: this includes, language, material
and actions; and

(e) Simply acknowledge their efforts when they exercise any and all forms of

A final and essential consideration is always make sure that the material and
practices that you use are in line with the syllabi, the curriculum and policies of
the school. In short, you need to be culturally aligned, „The process of making
sure that what is taught matches the standards‰ (Morrison, 2014).

Copyright © Open University Malaysia (OUM)



Think of an activity that you can do in class that is culturally and

developmentally appropriate for preschoolers.

 It is important to teach children about different cultures so that they

understand about other cultures, respect and able to communicate and
interact effectively.

 As a teacher, we can be culturally competent by creating a strong home-

school relationship. This would help us in understanding the different
children in our classroom.

 A lack of understanding about cultural differences could lead to intolerance,

suspicion and even violence.

 As a teacher it is our duty to integrate all cultures, genders, and abilities

throughout the curriculum as part of your everyday teaching.

 Use culturally suitable materials that emphasises on peopleÊs habits, customs

and general living.

 Children in schools using anti-bias curriculum learn to be comfortable with

diversity and stand up for themselves and others against injustice.

Anti-bias curriculum Cultural diversity

Cross-cultural Cultural infusion
Culturally competent

Copyright © Open University Malaysia (OUM)


Cross T., Bazron, B., Dennis, K., & Isaacs, M. (1989). Towards a culturally
competent system of care, volume I. Washington, D.C.: Georgetown
University Child Development Center, CASSP Technical Assistance Center.

Morrison, G. S. (2014). Early childhood education today. Upper Saddle River, NJ:
Pearson Education.

Multicultural Awareness. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://ucc.nd.edu/self-help/


NCCC: Curricula Enhancement Module Series. (n.d.). Retrieved from


Copyright © Open University Malaysia (OUM)

Topic  Children with
9 Special Needs

By the end of this topic, you should be able to:
1. Describe the concept of children with learning disabilities and
gifted children;
2. Explain the different types of physical disabilities;
3. Name three federal laws that apply to children with special needs;
4. Identify the different types of learning disabilities; and
5. List out strategies to help children with learning disabilities.

Children with special needs are those who suffer from disabilities which
handicap their development by interfering with growth or the normal
functioning of the body or the ability to learn. These can be the result of accidents
or infection or they can be congenital. This topic discusses some aspects relating
to children with special needs including children with disabilities which cover
physical disabilities and learning disabilities, gifted and talented children and
abused and neglected children.


Name some of the common disabilities that you are aware of.

Copyright © Open University Malaysia (OUM)



We are going to discuss the different types of disabilities in the following

9.1.1 Congenital Abnormalities

According to World Health Statistics (2009), about 6 per cent of total birth
worldwide have serious congenital disorder that could affect the way babies
look, develop or function. This is due to genetic or environmental causes.
Congenital abnormalities normally occur during foetal development before
birth, hence it is very important that parents take good medical care during
pregnancy to reduce risk of congenital abnormalities. New diagnostic test such
as amniocentesis can detect chromosomal and genetic related congenital
abnormalities. The five categories of congenital abnormalities are:

(a) Chromosomes abnormalities;

(b) Single-gene abnormalities;

(c) Condition during pregnancies that affect the baby;

(d) Combination of genetics and environmental problems; and

(e) Unknown causes.

Now, let us look into the five categories of congenital abnormalities in greater

(a) Chromosome Abnormalities

Chromosomes are special structures that carry genes or genetic materials
which we inherit from our parents; 23 of these chromosomes come from
our father and the other 23 from our mother. The genes will determine how
the baby will grow and look like. A child should have 46 chromosomes in
total. However, when there is a missing or duplicated chromosome, the
child will then tend to look and behave differently from their other peers
and will develop serious health problems such as Down Syndrome.

Copyright © Open University Malaysia (OUM)


(b) Single-gene Abnormalities

Sometimes the number of chromosomes does not change but the gene on
the chromosome is abnormal such as:

(i) Autosomal Dominant Inheritance

The genetic abnormality is originated from one of the parent.

(ii) Autosomal Recessive Inheritance

The genetic abnormality is originated from both parents who have the
same defective recessive genes.

(iii) X-Linked Condition

This is a genetic abnormality that occurs in male children. The female
parents are carriers of the recessive gene but they may not show the
actual disease such as haemophilia.

(iv) X-Linked Dominant Condition

This genetic abnormality occurs in both male and female. However, it
is more severe in males such as skin disorders.

(c) Conditions During Pregnancy that Affects the Baby

There are a few conditions such as:

(i) Certain Illness

The expecting mother suffered from certain illness during pregnancy
during the first nine weeks that can cause serious congenital
abnormalities such as rubella.

(ii) Chronic Maternal Conditions

Conditions such as diabetic or hypertension can negatively affect the
developing foetus.

(iii) Alcohol Consumption and Certain Drugs

This consumption can increase the risk of the baby born with

(iv) Raw and Uncooked Food

Eating raw and uncooked food can be dangerous to the mother and
the foetus.

(v) Certain Medication

Certain medication can cause permanent damage.

Copyright © Open University Malaysia (OUM)


(d) Combination of Genetic and Environmental Problems

Sometimes abnormalities may occur when there is genetic tendency for the
condition combined with certain environment influence within the womb
such as cleft lips and hole in the heart.

(e) Unknown Causes

Majority of congenital abnormalities have no known cause. This could be a
problem as parents who would like to have more children cannot predict if
it will occur again.

9.1.2 Developmental Delay

A childÊs development can be delayed by disabilities such as a child who lacks
the ability to move will not be able to explore his environment freely, hence
this would inhibit him to communicate easily and understand the necessary
information for cognitive development. A child with special needs may have
only one disability such as blindness, however many a times there is a
combination of conditions such as physical disability and learning difficulties.

9.1.3 Physical Disabilities

Physical disability is a total or partial loss of a personÊs bodily function such as
walking or bladder control and a total or partial loss of a part of a body. Normal
growth and development is also prevented as a result of this disability. Some
examples of physical disabilities are:

(a) Cerebral palsy occurs due to the damage of the part of the brain that
controls the muscle coordination. It could range from mild stiffness of one
arm and leg to movement problems in all four limbs together with learning,
vision and hearing difficulties.

(b) Muscle dystrophy (MD) is a genetic disorder that causes the body muscle to
weaken as the body is unable to make the proteins needed to build and
maintain healthy muscles. A child with MD will gradually lose his ability to
do things and this increasing weakness will lead to other health problems
(Gupta, 2014).

(c) Spina bifida is a disorder that is caused by the incomplete development of

the spinal cord or its coverings. Part of the spinal cord was left unprotected
and became damaged. Children with spina bifida can walk only with the
aid of crutches.

Copyright © Open University Malaysia (OUM)


9.1.4 Learning Disabilities

Children with learning disabilities need a lot of assistance from teachers as they are
unable to try harder, pay closer attention or improve motivation on their own.
These children have problems with learning not because they have problems with
intelligence but by the difference in the way the brain receives, processes or
communicates information.

Children and adults with learning disabilities have problem processing sensory
information because they see, hear and understand things differently from normal
children. Hence these children experience difficulties in schools which could range
from concentration and learning to behaviour problems and keeping friends.
These difficulties could be due to physical, psychiatric, emotional and even
behavioural problems. This group of children are entitled to receive special
services or accommodations through the public schools.

Federal law mandates that every child will receive a free and appropriate
education in the least restrictive environment. To support their ability to learn in
school, three federal laws apply to children with special needs:

(a) The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) (1975);

(b) Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973; and

(c) The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) (1990).


What is your understanding of disabilities caused by autosomal

dominant inheritance and autosomal recessive inheritance? Which has a
higher probability of occurring?


Special needs children in Malaysia have been protected by the Government.
Oomar (2008) has stated:

„While the Government has ensured that your basic needs are met so that you will
not starve or be abandoned on the streets, they cannot work alone to protect you
from the stigma of discrimination. While the Government can legislate that the
children will receive education, healthcare and shelter, they cannot work alone to

Copyright © Open University Malaysia (OUM)


legislate peopleÊs beliefs and prejudices against special needs children. Yet you do
not deserve to be treated with discrimination. Whether it was GodÊs will or a
genetic anomaly that made you different from other children, you are still a child
with possibilities and potential. With your unique abilities and capacities, you
embody the promise of our future.‰


It is important for educators to understand and be aware of the common
symptoms of learning disabilities and learning disorders as it will help teachers
to detect the disability early and take appropriate measures. Teachers need
to have the knowledge of normal developmental milestones for toddlers and
preschoolers to be able to detect the differences as these early signals of learning
disability and problems can be easily spotted and corrected. Teachers and
adults must keep in mind that not all developmental lags in young children are
necessarily a symptom of a learning disability until the child is older. However, if
you are able to recognise it when the child is young, early intervention can take
place. No one would know a child better than a parent, if there is any suspicion
of a problem then it does not hurt to get an evaluation.

You could actually request for a developmental milestone chart from the
paediatric clinic. Diagnosing the type of learning disability can be very time
consuming and overwhelming, hence it is best not to waste too much time in
labelling the child but rather how best to provide support to the child.

9.3.1 Motor, Maths, Language and Reading

The different types of disabilities are normally grouped according to school, area
of skill set or cognitive weaknesses. If the child is still in school then obviously it
would be apparent when the child is struggling with reading, writing or maths.
This would make the task of narrowing down the type of disability easier. The
following elaborates the types of disabilities:

(a) Motor Difficulties and Learning Disabilities

Motor difficulties refer to problems with movement and coordination of
fine and gross motor skills. A motor disability is also referred to as an
„output‰ activity as it relates to the output of information from the brain. In
order for a child to do any physical movements, the brain must be able to
send messages to the necessary limbs to complete the action. Children who

Copyright © Open University Malaysia (OUM)


have difficulties with motor coordination would also have problems with
physical abilities that require hand and eye coordination such as the ability
to write or pour water.

(b) Maths Difficulties and Learning Disabilities

Learning disabilities in doing mathematics can vary greatly depending on
the childÊs other areas of strengths and weaknesses. A childÊs inability to do
a mathematical problem will depend on her other disabilities such as
language learning disability, visual disorder or difficulty with sequencing,
memory and organisation. Whereas a child with a maths-based learning
disorder may struggle with memorisation and organisation of numbers,
operation signs and number „facts‰ such 5 + 5 = 10. Children with this
problem might also have trouble counting in twoÊs and fiveÊs and in telling

(c) Language Difficulties and Learning Disabilities

Children who have language and communication learning disability will
have difficulties in understanding and spelling. Language is also
considered as output activity as reorganising of thoughts and recalling of
words require the function of the brain. A child with a language based
disorder will have problems with language verbal skills, fluency,
comprehension, part of speech, recalling stories and the ability to tell

(d) Reading Difficulties and Learning Disabilities

There are two types of learning disabilities in reading which are basic
reading problems and understanding what you read or comprehension.
Basic reading problems involve the childÊs difficulty in understanding the
relationship between sounds, letters and words. Reading comprehension
problems occur when the child is not able to understand the meaning of
words, phrases and paragraphs.

Signs of reading difficulty include problems with the following:

(i) Recognising letters and words;

(ii) Understanding words and ideas;

(iii) Ease and speed in reading; and

(iv) Simple vocabulary skills.

Copyright © Open University Malaysia (OUM)


(e) Writing Difficulties and Learning Disabilities

Learning disability in writing can be identified as two distinct problems.
Firstly is the childÊs inability to do the physical part of writing such as
forming words and letters. The other is the childÊs inability to organise
thoughts into writing or what we say as expressive writing. Symptoms of a
written language learning disability revolve around the act of writing and

(i) The ability to write neatly in a consistent manner;

(ii) The ability to copy letters and words accurately;

(iii) The ability to be consistent in spelling; and

(iv) The ability to be coherent and organised in writing.

9.3.2 Auditory and Visual Processing: The Importance

of the Ears and the Eyes
The ears and the eyes deliver information to the brain, a process sometimes
called „input‰. If however either the eyes or the ears are not functioning
properly, learning can suffer and there is a greater risk of a learning disability.

Professionals may refer to the ability to hear well as „auditory processing skills‰
or „receptive language‰. The ability to read, write and spell greatly depends on
how well they hear things correctly. When children are unable to differentiate
sounds or hear them at the wrong speed, they will have difficulties in sounding
out words. This will cause the affected children experience difficulties in
understanding the basic concepts of reading and writing.

Children with problems in visual perception will have difficulties in detecting

obvious differences in shapes, tend to reverse letters or numbers, skip words and
lines, misperceiving depth or distance or have problems with eye-hand
coordination. Professionals refer to the work of the eyes as „visual processing‰.
Visual perception can affect gross and fine motor skills, reading comprehension
and maths.

How does auditory and visual processing affect learning?

Copyright © Open University Malaysia (OUM)


9.3.3 Common Types of Learning Disabilities

There are many types of learning disabilities in children. However, some
common types of learning disabilities are described in Table 9.1.

Table 9.1: Common Types of Learning Disabilities

Dyslexia Difficulty processing Problems reading, writing,

language spelling, speaking
Difficulty with Fine Motor Difficulty with math Problems doing math
Skills problems, understanding
time, using money
Difficulty Hearing Difficulty with writing Problems with
Differences between handwriting, spelling,
Sounds organising ideas
Dyspraxia (Sensory Difficulty with fine motor Problems with handăeye
Integration Disorder) skills coordination, balance,
manual dexterity
Auditory Processing Difficulty hearing Problems with reading,
Disorder differences between sounds comprehension, language
Visual Processing Disorder Difficulty interpreting Problems with reading,
visual information maths, maps, charts,
symbols, pictures

Source: Kemp, Smith & Segal (2015)


McClellan (1985) cited three types of characteristics of gifted children based on
general behavioural, learning and creative characteristics:

(a) General Behaviour Characteristics

Gifted children's behaviours are different from their peers in many ways
such as the following:

(i) Many gifted children learn to read early even before entering school
and they have better comprehension of the nuances of language;

(ii) Gifted children often read a lot with more intense and speed, hence
they have a large collection of vocabularies;

(iii) Gifted children easily learn basic skills with hardly any practice;

Copyright © Open University Malaysia (OUM)


(iv) They are better in constructing and handling abstractions;

(v) They pick up and interpret nonverbal cues easily and able to draw
inferences that other children need to have spelled out for them;

(vi) They donÊt take things for granted and always seek the „hows‰ and

(vii) They can work independently at an earlier age and can concentrate
for longer periods;

(viii) They are very intense in their interest and will look for information
from diverse sources;

(ix) They often have boundless energy that sometimes they are being
misdiagnosed as hyperactive children;

(x) They usually respond and relate well to parents, teachers and other
adults. They may prefer the company of older children and adults
compared to their peers;

(xi) They like to learn new things and are very inquisitive. They like to
examine the unusual;

(xii) They tackle tasks and problems in a well-organised, goal-directed

and efficient manner; and

(xiii) They exhibit an intrinsic motivation to learn, explore and are often
very persistent. They prefer to do things by themselves.

(b) Learning Characteristics

Gifted children are natural learners who often show many of these

(i) They are very observant and have a sense of significance. They have
an eye for important details;

(ii) They like reading and prefer books and magazines for older children;

(iii) They like intellectual activities;

(iv) They are very good at abstraction, conceptualisation and synthesis;

(v) They easily see cause-effect relationships;

(vi) They like asking questions and seek information for their own interest
or for its usefulness;

Copyright © Open University Malaysia (OUM)


(vii) They are very sceptical, critical and evaluative. They easily spot

(viii) They have a lot of knowledge on a variety of topics, which they can
easily recall any information on any topics;

(ix) They easily understand underlying principles and can often easily
make generalisations about events, people or objects;

(x) They can easily detect similarities, differences and anomalies; and

(xi) They easily break complicated material into separate components

and analyse it systematically.

(c) Creative Characteristics

Gifted children's creative abilities often set them apart from their peers.
These characteristics may take the following forms:

(i) Gifted children are good thinkers, able to generate possibilities,

consequences or related ideas;

(ii) They easily use information and turn it into new, unusual or
unconventional associations and combinations;

(iii) They are divergent thinkers and can solve problems using different
alternatives and creative approaches;

(iv) They can make relationships or patterns among unrelated objects,

ideas or facts;

(v) They can elaborate on basic ideas to produce new steps, ideas,
responses or other embellishments;

(vi) They easily solve complex problems and thrives on problem solving;

(vii) They are good guessers and can readily construct hypotheses or
„what if‰ questions;

(viii) They are aware of their own impulsiveness and irrationality, and
they show emotional sensitivity;

(ix) They are extremely curious about objects, ideas, situations or events;

Copyright © Open University Malaysia (OUM)


(x) They often display intellectual playfulness and like to fantasise and

(xi) They can be less intellectually inhibited than their peers are in
expressing opinions and ideas and they often disagree spiritedly
with other peoples statements; and

(xii) They are sensitive to beauty and are attracted to aesthetic values.

9.4.1 Highly Gifted Children

Highly gifted children tend to demonstrate asynchronous development. They are
able to relate to the world in unique ways as they have the capacity for high
cognitive abilities and high intensive experience. These children are often found
to have very high IQ scores, generally above the 140 IQ range. Some may be
prodigies in areas such as maths, science, language and arts. Profoundly gifted
children can score in excess of 170 IQ.

Highly gifted children demonstrate the extreme need to:

(a) Learn at a much faster pace;

(b) Process material to a much greater depth; and

(c) Show incredible intensity in energy, imagination, intellectual prowess,

sensitivity and emotion which are not typical in the general population.

The child of 160+ IQ is different from the child of 130 IQ as that child is different
from the child of average ability. Current research suggests that there may be
higher incidence of children in this high range than previously thought. Due to
their unique characteristics, these children are particularly vulnerable. Highly
gifted children need a specialised advocacy because very little has been done to
develop appropriate curriculum and non-traditional options for these children.


Plan the strategies that you would use to suit the gifted children in your
classroom. Discuss with your friends in myVLE forum.

Copyright © Open University Malaysia (OUM)


 Children with special needs are those who suffer from disabilities which
handicap their development by interfering with growth or the normal
functioning of the body or the ability to learn.

 Congenital abnormalities normally occur during foetal development before

birth hence it is very important that parents take good medical care during
pregnancy to reduce risk of congenital abnormalities.

 Children with learning disabilities have problems with learning not because
they have problems with intelligence but by the difference in the way the
brain receives, processes or communicates information.

 Teachers need to have the knowledge of normal developmental milestones

for toddlers and preschoolers to be able to detect the differences as these
early signals of learning disability and problems can be easily spotted and

 There are three types of gifted children which are based on their behaviour,
learning and creative characteristics.

Auditory processing Muscle dystrophy

Autosomal dominant inheritance Physical disabilities
Autosomal recessive inheritance Receptive language
Congenital X-linked condition
Gifted children

Copyright © Open University Malaysia (OUM)


Gupta, R. (2014). Muscular dystrophy. Retrieved from http://www.kidshealth.


Kemp, G., Smith, M., & Segal, J. (2015). Learning disabilities and disorders:
Types of learning disorders and their signs. Retrieved from http://www.

McClellan, E. (1985). Defining giftedness. 1985 Digest. Reston, VA: ERIC

Clearinghouse on Handicapped and Gifted Children. Retrieved from
files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/ ED262519.pdf

Oomar, Y. (2008). Health and education for vulnerable children. Retrieved from

World Health Statistics. (2009). World Health Organization: WHOLibrary

Cataloguing-in-Publication-Data. Retrieved from http://www.who.int/

Copyright © Open University Malaysia (OUM)

Topic  Parents, Family
10 and Community
By the end of this topic, you should be able to:
1. State the benefits of parent involvement for children;
2. Discuss the barriers to parent and family involvement;
3. Describe the types of parent involvement in education; and
4. List the strategies to involve parents and community in childrenÊs

Research found that kindergarten children whose parents were involved in their
learning evidenced high levels of social skills and was observed to be more
cooperative, self-controlled and prosocially engaged in both home and school
environments (McWayne, Hampton, Fantuzzo, Cohen, & Sekino, 2004). These
students also performed better academically than students whose parents were
not as involved in their education. This topic, will discuss certain aspects relating
to parents, family and community involvement in childrenÊs education such as
benefits of parent involvement, barriers to parent and family involvement, types
of parent involvement and guidelines for parent, family and community


In your opinion, why is parental involvement important?

Copyright © Open University Malaysia (OUM)



Stewart (2008) claimed students whose parents are actively involved in schools
tend to have fewer behavioural problems, increase regards of themselves as
learners and a higher self esteem. Parental involvement also allows parents to
closely monitor school activities and increase teacher and parent working
together to ensure better academic performance in children.

Teachers who are more open to parental involvement normally appreciate

parents as important partners. Teachers also tend to give more focus to children
whose parents are actively involved in schools and are able to detect learning
problems earlier. Parental involvement has been found to give positive impact on
teachersÊ work satisfaction and self-perception.

Previous research has shown that active parent participation in schools frequently:
(a) Enhances a childÊs self-esteem;
(b) Improves the childÊs academic achievements;
(c) Improves parent-child relationships; and
(d) Equips parents with a better understanding of the school philosophy and
procedures, hence creating a more positive attitude towards schools.
(Brown, 1989)

10.1.1 Benefits of Parent Involvement

We will look at the benefits of parent involvement from three different angles, for
students or children, for parents and community and for teachers and school.

(a) Benefits of Parent Involvement for Students or Children

The benefits for students or children are:
(i) They possess a more positive attitude toward learning and schooling;
(ii) They become better readers;
(iii) They receive a higher quality and developmentally appropriate
homework from teachers;
(iv) Completion of more homework on weekends; and
(v) Able to identify more similarities between home and school.
(Epstein, 1991)
Copyright © Open University Malaysia (OUM)

(b) Benefits of Parent Involvement for Parents and Community

The benefits for parents and community are:

(i) Receive ideas and support from schools on how to help children in
their school work;

(ii) Learn more about educational programmes and how the school

(iii) Become more confident about ways to help children learn; and

(iv) More positive views of teachers.

(Epstein, 1992; Henderson, 1987; Liontos, 1992)

(c) Benefits of Parent Involvement for Teachers and Schools

The benefits for teachers and schools are:

(i) TeacherÊs morale and motivation improves;

(ii) Parents rate teachers higher as they get to interact more;

(iii) Teachers rate parents as more helpful;

(iv) Student achievement improves; and

(v) Parents support schools and easily solve bonding issues.

(Davies, 1988; Epstein,1992; Liontos, 1992)


As a teacher in a preschool, suggest suitable activities that you can do

with parents that can benefit the children.


As migration of families intensify from rural to urban living and women joining
workforce, the structure of families has changed tremendously. Parents are
facing increasing pressure due to lack of support for the nuclear family. They do
not have the luxury of getting support from the extended family like in the past
generations. Many parents are isolated and have no one to assist them to cope
with the demand of caring for their children. In Malaysia, the national survey
(Heaton & Call, 1995) found that some single mothers had to do multiple jobs to

Copyright © Open University Malaysia (OUM)


make ends meet for the family as their husbands do not pay for the children after
divorce proceedings are finalised. Given that situation, policies and programmes
that can assist single mothers, particularly in children and education, are
urgently needed.

Morrison (2009) suggested a few steps that schools could take to ensure that
single parent families are involved in their childrenÊs school. The suggested steps

(a) Accommodating to family schedules by changing time to suit the family

such as early mornings, noon, late afternoon or early evenings. Sometimes
employers do not give release time for parents to attend events hence the
school should try to accommodate for all parents;

(b) Schools need to be aware that single parents have a limited number of time
to spend on involvement in their childrenÊs school and spend time with
them at home;

(c) Suggest creative ways in which single parents can make time with their
children meaningful. Such as if children are having problems in telling
time, provide them with suggestions on how the parents can help them
overcome this problem at home;

(d) Getting to know family lifestyle and living conditions. This is important as
professionals we should be able to advise them based on their situation and

(e) Help develop support groups for single parents by considering them when
organising activities and programmes; and

(f) Be creative and offer non-traditional activities so that this would create
opportunities for single parents to volunteer time or services. For example,
teaching children about gardening and vegetables.


Discuss with your classmates on how you can get majority of parents in
your school to participate in school activities and learning in the
classroom. Create the discussion thread in the myVLE forum.

Copyright © Open University Malaysia (OUM)



In the process of building relationships with families, teachers sometimes forget
to re-examine their own attitude and beliefs about family involvement hence this
could form invisible barriers to building a bridge with families. Self-assessment
and reflection could be a way to reduce these barriers. A survey was done by the
National PTA (1992) on barriers faced by schools in trying to get parents
involved. The following were the findings:

(a) Parents do not have the time to spare;

(b) Parents do not know how they can contribute;

(c) Lack of childcare;

(d) Parents feel intimidated and not welcomed;

(e) School functions are scheduled at unsuitable time;

(f) Language and cultural differences;

(g) No transportation; and

(h) Other barriers.

10.3.1 Breaking Down Barriers: Reaching Out to All

Overcoming barriers is not something impossible but teachers and school
administrators need to be creative and sensitive to parentsÊ needs. The following
are some possible ways of breaking down barriers:

(a) Be flexible with timing when scheduling meetings. Meeting can be

scheduled at different times or days of the week so that parents could at
least attend occasionally. Intermittently, make a meeting a potluck to meet
working parentsÊ needs;

(b) Personally welcome all parents, especially those who appear to be

withdrawn or uncomfortable. Learn their interest and abilities. Actively
seek opportunities for hesitant parents to use their experiences and talents
to benefit the school. During meetings, get parents to share ideas and not
just inform of what has been decided, make them realise that their ideas are
important. Ensure that the school environment is welcoming and parent-

Copyright © Open University Malaysia (OUM)


(c) Not knowing how to contribute is another issue that can easily be resolved
by finding out their talents and interest. Get parents to help out and share
information in classrooms on topics such as health and occupation. Arrange
workshops such as leadership workshops, health workshop and others for
teachers conducted by parents;

(d) Not understanding the school system is another barrier that could be
overcome by updating parents with information through parental talk and
guidance or short workshops. Have parentÊs handbook covering the rules,
procedures and where to find the answers to typical problems;

(e) Parents with childcare problems need to be encouraged to bring their

children by providing space in schools for daycare and a babysitter;

(f) Have printed materials translated ă English on one side, another language
on the other. Arrange for an interpreter at meetings and conferences;

(g) Be sensitive to cultural differences. Take note of prayer times, special

cultural events and needs of other cultures and religion; and

(h) Transport problem could be resolved by organising car pools or home

visitation or a community centre at a parentÊs home or another convenient


In this modern world of technology, it would be a great shame not to use
technology as a means to get parents informed and involved in schools. Here are
some ways you can electronically get involved with families:

(a) Email is the most used mode of communication as it is fast and convenient.
For schools, email may be used to disseminate information to parents such
as dates of meetings;

(b) Most schools have a website that can provide general information to
parents and community members and let them virtually experience school
and classroom events;

(c) Use Twitter as a social-networking website to deliver short messages;

(d) Use video chat to hold convenient conferences with parents;

(e) Blogs can be used to feature lesson summaries, concept introduction and
classroom notes; and

Copyright © Open University Malaysia (OUM)


(f) Facebook can be used to invite parents and community members to be your
friends on your website. This instant online communication also allows you
to upload photos and videos.


Discuss how you could assist your school in parental involvement by

using electronic medium. Create this discussion thread in myVLE


Today, most educators and policy makers acknowledge the importance of
parental involvement and advocate different components of parent involvement.
The National PTA (1992) describes the following types of parent involvement:

(a) ParentsÊ role as the childÊs first educator in the home;

(b) ParentsÊ role as partners working in collaboration with schools; and

(c) ParentsÊ role as advocates for all children and youth in the community.

Head Start (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 1992) describes four
primary avenues for parent participation:

(a) Parents join in decision-making team on what kind of school programmes

to have and how it will operate;

(b) Parents are involved in the classroom as paid employees, volunteers and

(c) Parents participate in adult and parent-oriented activities which they have
planned; and

(d) Parents, as primary educators, work with their own children in learning
activities at home and at school, with the support of the Head Start staff.


What type of parental involvement is your school practising?

Copyright © Open University Malaysia (OUM)



The community can be a rich resource for schools to help them meet the diverse
need of parents and children. Here are some suggestions on how teachers could
use these resources to help them in their teaching in schools:

(a) Teachers can have conferences and discussions with parents and members
of the community on how to overcome barriers in childrenÊs learning;

(b) Get to know the community to help you familiarise with the different
agencies available;

(c) Teachers need to keep in mind that community members and parents are
ever so willing to give help and support if they are being invited to do so;

(d) Compile a list of people from the community who are willing to work or
spend their free time in the school; and

(e) Get involved in community-based agencies.

 Students whose parents are actively involved in schools tend to have fewer
behavioural problems, increase regards of themselves as learners and a
higher self-esteem.

 Parental involvement has found to give positive impact on teachersÊ work

satisfaction and self-perception.

 Changes in family structure has forced most families to depend on early

childhood centres to take care of their children

 All parents including single parents need to be involved in all school

activities and events.

 Constant self-assessment and reflection by teachers could be a way to

reduce barriers as they re-examine their beliefs and attitudes about family

 Parental involvement is now more defined where the roles of parents are
widened to collaborate in policy making, advocates of children, partnership
in school in collaborating with programmes and others.

Copyright © Open University Malaysia (OUM)


 The community can be another rich resource for schools to help them meet
the diverse need of parents and children.

Advocate Parental involvement

Barriers Prosocially
Family structure

Brown, P. C. (1989). Involving parents in the education of their children. Urbana,

IL: ERIC Clearinghouse on Elementary and Early Childhood Education.

Davies, D. (1988). Low-income parents and the schools: A research report and a
plan for action. Equity and Choice, 4(3) (Spring): 51ă57.

Epstein, J. L. (1991). Effects of studentsÊ achievement of teacher practices of

parent involvement. In S. Silvern (ed). Advances in reading language
research, Vol. 5. Literacy through family, community and school
interaction. Greenwich, CT: JAI Press.

Epstein, J. L. (1992). School and family partnerships. In M. Alkin (ed.).

Encyclopedia of educational research. New York, NY: MacMillan.

Henderson, A. T. (1987). The evidence continues to grow: Parent involvement

improves student achievement. Columbia, MD: National Committee for
Citizens in Education.

Heaton, T. B., & Call, V. R. A. (1995). Modeling family dynamics with event
history techniques. Journal of Marriage and the Family, 57(4), p. 1078.

Liontos, L. B. (1992). At-risk families and schools: Becoming partners. Eugene,

OR: ERIC Clearinghouse on Educational Management.

Morrison, S, George. (2009). Early childhood education today (11th ed.) Upper
Saddle River, NJ: Prentice-Hall.

Copyright © Open University Malaysia (OUM)


McWayne, C., Hampton, V., Fantuzzo, J., Cohen, H., & Sekino, Y. (2004). A
multivariate examination of parent involvement and the social and
academic competencies of urban kindergarten children. Psychology in the
Schools, 41, 363ă377.

Stewart, E. B. (2008). School structural characteristics, student effort, peer

associations, and parental involvement: The influence of school- and
individual-level factors on academic achievement.Education and Urban
Society,40(2), 179ă204.

The National PTA (1992). A leaderÊs guide to parent and family involvement.
Chicago, IL: Author.

Copyright © Open University Malaysia (OUM)


If you have any comment or feedback, you are welcome to:

1. E-mail your comment or feedback to modulefeedback@oum.edu.my


2. Fill in the Print Module online evaluation form available on myVLE.

Thank you.

Centre for Instructional Design and Technology

(Pusat Reka Bentuk Pengajaran dan Teknologi)
Tel No.: 03-27732578
Fax No.: 03-26978702

Copyright © Open University Malaysia (OUM)

Copyright © Open University Malaysia (OUM)