Essay: Learning theories for early years settings

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Jean Piaget theory
His theory was based on how children’s minds work and develop, he was enormously influ-ential, particularly in educational theory. He had a great theory where he not only focus on how children acquire knowledge but he also focuses on understanding the nature of intelli-gence. His theory of cognitive development highlights that s child move through four stages of mental development. His particular insight was the role of maturation (simply growing up) in children’s increasing capacity to understand their world. Along with Jean Piaget was also one of the first major contemporaries to develop a clear idea of what constructivism consists of. He saw children as little scientists as they try to explore and make sense of the world around them. Piaget believed that children think differently than adults, and stated they go through 4 universal stages of cognitive development. Development is therefore biologically based and changes as the child matures. Cognition therefore develops in all children in the same sequence of stages. From his observation, piaget had developed a stage theory of intel-lectual development:
The sensorimotor stage, from birth to age 2
The preoperational stage, from age 2 to about age 7
The concrete operational stage, from age 7 to 11
The formal operational stage, which begins in adolescence and spans into adulthood.
According to Piaget, children are born with a very basic mental structure (genetically inherit-ed and evolved) on which all subsequent learning and knowledge is based. He was interested in a child’s cognitive development, and how they were creating a mental model of the world. For example put yourself in a child’s shoe and imagine what it would be like if you didn’t have a mental picture of the world, it would mean that you are unable to make sense of in-formation from your past experience. And make any plans for your future. Jean Piaget was interested in how children learn and in how they thought.

John Dewey theory:
He believed that humans learn by doing and through a hands on approach. John Dewey is probably most famous for his role in what is called progressive education. Progressive educa-tion is essentially a view of education that emphasizes the need to learn by doing. From Dew-ey’s educational point of view, this means that students must interact with their environment in order to adapt and learn. Dewey felt that the same idea was true for teachers and that teachers and students must learn together. And he wanted teacher and student to work to-gether which will promote equal voice for everyone who is participating in the learning. A child-centered approach to education places the emphasis of learning on the needs and inter-ests of the child. In Dewey’s view, children should be allowed to explore their environments. He believed in an interdisciplinary curriculum, or a curriculum that focuses on connecting multiple subjects, where students are allowed to freely move in and out of classrooms as they pursue their interests and construct their own paths for acquiring and applying knowledge. The role of the teacher in this setting would be to serve more as a facilitator than an instructor. In Dewey’s view, the teacher should observe the interest of the students, observe the direc-tions they naturally take, and then serve as someone who helps develop problem-solving skills. John Dewey was one of the first major contemporaries to develop a clear idea of what constructivism consists of. According to Dewey there are two major conflicting schools of thought regarding educational pedagogy.
The first is centered on the curriculum and focuses almost solely on the subject matter to be taught. Dewey argues that the principal weakness in this methodology is the inactivity of the student; within this particular framework, the child is simply the immature being who is to be matured; he is the superficial being who is to be deepened.
The second is learner-centred. He argues that in order for education to be most effective, con-tent must be presented in a way that allows the student to relate the information to prior expe-riences, thus deepening the connection with this new knowledge.
Dewey’s influential works in the field of education philosophy include: Democracy and Edu-cation (1944), Experience and Nature (1929), Art and Education (1927), Art and Experience (1934) and Experience and Education (1938). But perhaps Dewey’s theory on progressive education and the importance of experience is his most influential contribution to the field of education. “Above all, Dewey believed in the power of actual experience” (Deblois, 2002). (Wikibooksorg, 2015).

The incorporation of Jean Piaget’s and John Dewey philosophy in contemporary Early Children settings these theorist have impacted on children’s learning.
Jean Piaget’s theory of cognitive development focuses on how learners interact with their environment to develop complex reasoning and knowledge. In today’s education system we have been making changes to how we provided education to our children, and we have had a change to our curriculum in Trinidad and Tobago and we are now focusing on the child’s need and Jean Piaget and John Dewey have made a great impact with their theory. I have worked with children and I have been able to witness the amazing growth and development of children knowledge, as children interact with their environment and explore new objects, there are learning and developing ideas and been creative, for example: take a group of chil-dren to the park or a bird sanctuary, and you would see Jean Piaget theory in action let’s talk about what their might of seen before while being outside like a bird thy would of see a dove or a robin in the garden, and can associate that animal as a bird. But at the bird sanctuary there are now able to see a lot more different types of birds which can be new to them. But they would still know without being told, that those animals are birds too. Piaget’s theories have had a major impact on the theory and practice of education (Case, 1998). His theory fo-cuses on the attention of the idea of developmentally appropriate education an education which has an environment, curriculum, materials, and instruction that are suitable for the stu-dents in terms of their physical, cognitive abilities, social and emotional needs (Elkind, 1989).
In a lot of pre-school setting we have applied his theory and ECCE CENTRES have been providing an environment which is equipment to facilitate every child’s need were teachers are focusing on the child and not on what they think is right for a child.

John Dewey Progress Education Theory is that education is based on personal experiences of the learner. And that the Teachers are the provider of education and guidance to the students to facilitate learning. Teacher’s main function is to arrange what the child would be engaging in and promote further experiences. Dewy believed that quality experiences are necessary. Quality experiences are experiences that lead to more experiences; Dewey refers to these types of experiences as the experiential continuum. Quality experiences must also lead to in-tellectual growth, which arouses curiosity and strengthens initiative. Again, Dewey criticized traditional education practices because the type of experiences promoted did not lead to the continuity of new experiences or aroused curiosity or initiative (Dewey, 1952). And as a teacher I always put this theory to practice and when planning my daily activity I always al-low them to be expanded on and it can sometime last weeks and it gets the children very in-terested in what’s coming next. For example my topic could be what jobs people do? And I would ask the children to help me name some of these jobs. After we highlighted a few I can then go further to ask them to explain what some of does these jobs entails and then I can go much further and ask what jobs their parents do and give them the chance to tell me and we can go more further and get the children to get dressed up in what jobs there would like to do when their grow up and so on, we can keep this going for a few weeks. So as I have given the child the tools to experiences. Dewey stresses that education is a social process that everyone should participate in. we should get the family involve and also the community because chil-dren learn from others and not in isolation. As teachers we are to also know our students so we can identify their needs and capacities so that we can arrange classroom experiences that will help the students cope with real life situation.
We have seen a great changes in the ECCE setting and the quality of teachers that are being employed our teachers are more of a providers then that of traditional teachers. We as teach-ers must recognize what surroundings are conductive to promote quality experiences. Before Traditional Education did not allow teachers to affect the learning environment. As Desks were arranged in rows and students were to sit still and sit up straight. This arrangement en-courages passivity in students. I am now seeing were Progressive education requires the teacher to arrange the learning environment to promote active student learning. Students may move around the room from work station to station freely and actively working on and solv-ing problems. The ECCE classroom setting is arranged so that students have freedom of movement. As Physical freedom of movement can lead to freedom of intelligence. This re-quires teachers to put more thought into lesson planning and arranging the learning environ-ment (Dewy, 1952). (Wikibooksorg, 2015).

Application of Piaget’s Constructivist approach to Early Years Settings

As teacher’s our main roles is to facilitate learning. By providing various experiences for the students. Which can help them “Discovering Learning” in an environment that can allow them to think freely and allows opportunities for students to explore and experiment, while encour-aging new understandings. Opportunities that allow learners of different cognitive levels to work together often help encourage less mature students to advance to a higher understand-ing of the material. One future implication for the instruction of students is the use of hands on experiences to help students learn (Wood, 2008).

There are four main teaching implications drawn from Piaget’s theory (Slavin, 2005):

1. A focus on the process of children’s thinking, not just its products.
2. Recognition of the crucial role of children’s self-initiated, active involvement in learning activities.
3. A deemphasis on practices aimed at making children adult like in their thinking.
4. Acceptance of individual differences in developmental progress.

My three way of appropriately implement Piaget theory in my setting:

 To be a practitioner that provide opportunities for play and learning.
As practitioners we must encourage children to learn from their peer this can happen by hav-ing a mix class with children at different stages development play together or by taking part in games or activities that would be challenging to their development need. A good practi-tioner must allow children to learn from their own mistakes as piaget believed that children learn from trial and error. We must also respect our children interests and abilities and limits. And in my sitting I would have a developmentally appropriate curriculum that enhances the students’ logical and conceptual growth

 By assess what stage of development the child is at in order to provide appropriate toys/resources.
As a teacher knowing what stages of cognitive development the children are at would allow us as teachers to provide them with activities that would be appropriate for their needs and help to encourage their intellectual development. Provide opportunities for varied experiences and keep encouraging the child to engage.

 Allow free play with range of materials for example role play.
Having a comfortable and safe environment that can encourage children to explore and inter-act. By providing free play that encourages exploration and allows children to re-enact and practise real life situations.

The educational implication of Piaget’s theory is the adaptation of instruction to the learner’s development level. It is important that the content of instruction needs to be consistent with the developmental level of the learner.



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Piaget. (n.d.). Retrieved November 4, 2015, from

Piaget. (n.d.). Retrieved November 6, 2015, from

Jean Piaget. (n.d.). Retrieved November 6, 2015, from–activities.html

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