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Effective Strategies for Early Childhood Curriculum Design

Effective Strategies for Early Childhood Curriculum Design

EARLY CHILDHOOD CURRICULUM DESIGN

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Introduction

Early childhood curriculum development can be a challenging yet rewarding process. The teachers in contemporary pre-school classrooms are obliged to prepare their learners for a broader diversity of experiences for their future (The Education Hub, 2021, n.pag). Apart from being introduced to a proper and standardized academic setting, students deserve a conducive learning environment for cultural norms and social skills. Curriculum design involves comprehensive planning for a curriculum, related activities, interactions, and the environment suitable for implementing the agreed-on children’s priorities of learning (Druzhinina et al., 2018, p1). Effective curriculum design facilitates the setting of the early childhood priorities, which are crucial for learning with the support and promotion of the children’s and teachers’ routine interactions and activities.

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Effective curricular planning together with the related provision of early childhood experiences and environments allow children’s learning, development as well as inquiries. According to The Education Hub (2021, n.pag), the results obtained from previous studies indicate a greater children’s achievement in the classrooms where teachers properly plan for focus and structured play on the learners’ academic skills. This also involves pedagogical practices’ engagement such as modeling or questioning (direct teaching), ‘shared sustained thinking,’ promoting play among children, and extensions of the ‘interactions initiated by children. According to the National Academy of Sciences (2001, p185), teaching content or curriculum may be designed to foster cognitive skills (classification, contrasting and comparing, reasoning); ‘learning processes’ (attention, memory, observation), and specific information or knowledge acquisition such as letters’ names. A curriculum designed on the philosophy of an “essentialist classroom” can help teach basic or essential knowledge and skills to all children through receiving instructions in reading, writing, computers, and measurement (Ogwora et al., 2013, p96). Thus, this can help the learners to develop creative skills, master basic life techniques, and body information, helping them move gradually from less detailed knowledge and complicated life skills. The essentialist programs are academically considerate for both fast and slow learners.

Curriculum Design

Model(s) Guiding Curriculum Design

Kumari (n.d, p1) defines a model as a curriculum design format developed to fulfill the unique purposes or need contexts. The realize the primary goals, the curriculum developers must reconfigure, rearrange or design one or more critical components of the curriculum. Curriculum models help determine the specific teaching aspects, such as time frame, instruction manner, and subject. According to Kumari (n.d, p2), the curriculum model helps identify the curriculum type as it encompasses teaching approach, methodology, and educational philosophy. The models to be used in curriculum design are categorized as either scientific or technical models, non-scientific or non-technical models basing on the different aspects like society and subject matter (Kumari, n.d, p2).

The curriculum design will utilize a “Grass Root Model.” Unlike the traditional models such as “The Tyler Model,” with the grassroots models of curriculum development, the curriculum or education systems are centralized by involving teachers in ideas generation and decision making (Läänemets, and Kalamees-Ruubel, 2019, p1). The grass root models are the most suitable models for early childhood curriculum designs due to the involvement of teachers who are deemed to have a better understanding of the needs necessary for children’s effective learning. The grass root models consider teachers to be executors, planners and provides the evaluations of classroom teaching. Läänemets and Kalamees-Ruubel (2019, p1) argue that teachers possess the best knowledge of their classes’ needs, making them the most competent curriculum designers and implementers.

Taba -Model of Curriculum Development

Taba describes a curriculum as a statement containing specific goals and aims. The document indicates some organization and selection of the learning/ teaching content, and it either manifests or implies specific patterns of teaching and learning (Kumari, n.d, p1). Taba-Model is based on a content organization or objective demand, requiring the outcomes’ evaluation program.

Source: Kumari, n.d.

Principles of Taba -Model of Curriculum Development

  1. Taba believes that the reconstruction of programmers and curricula can not be realized in the short-term, rather a long-term activity involving years.
  2. Social processes, such as human beings’ socialization, do not have linearity; therefore, linear programming cannot help model them. According to Kumari (n.d, p4), personality development and learning can not be regarded as one-way procedures of deriving specific goals and educational aims establishment from an ideal proclaimed education.
  3. The development of new programs and curricula is considered ‘more effective’ based on well-founded work distribution and democratic guidance principles. Here, much emphasis is placed on the competence partnership instead of administration.
  4. Social institutions such as school programs and curricular are considered effectively realigned in the presence of a well-developed bottom-top approach.

Explanation of the Taba -Model of Curriculum Development

According to Kumari (n.d, p4), the “Taba -Model of learning” was developed by Taba Hilda. Taba believed in a ‘definite order’ of curriculum creation. The Taba-Model is commonly used in enhancing students’ thinking skills. The model assumes the teachers’ awareness of the learners’ needs (Läänemets, and Kalamees-Ruubel, 2019, p1). Therefore, teachers should create unique ‘teaching-learning situations tailored to address all the students’ needs. Here, the model encourages teachers to adopt an ‘inductive teaching approach,’ i.e., from “specific to general,” substituting the “traditional deductive” strategy starting from building and general to the specifics (Kumari, n.d, p4). The model raises the “grassroots approach” or the “down-top” approach.

Taba further advises the ‘curriculum development’ to adopt a logical and sequential process, and more information should be added throughout all the phases of the development. The model’s main idea is placing the children at the curriculum’s forefront (Kumari, n.d, p4). Hilda suggests the criterion of assessing the students’ content achievements based on the set and implemented content standards. The model’s main concept is the involvement of the teachers in the process of ‘curriculum development’ (Kumari, n.d, p4). Taba -Model of Curriculum Development, has seven (7) steps, all of them advocating teachers’ primary role.

Taba -Model of Curriculum Development’s Seven Steps

Source: Kumari, n.d, p5

Explanation of the Taba -Model’s Seven Steps/ Phases

  1. Learners need diagnosis; The teachers, considered as ‘curriculum designers,’ initiate the process by identifying the student’s needs, who are the main targets or beneficiaries of the curriculum. An example of the need may include; the majority of student’s inability to think critically or socialize with their peers. Diagnosis is considered a critical step in early childhood ‘curriculum development’ as it helps in fact determination such as the pre-nursery needs which are taken into consideration while implementing the curriculum decisions (Läänemets, and Kalamees-Ruubel, 2019, p3). The infants’ needs include health, emotional development, self-care skills, social presentation, relationships, and identity.

Child’s development needs

While designing the early childhood curriculum, need diagnosis helps establish the required standards, identify the sources of weaknesses, increase attainment levels. All these are paramount in closing the gaps between particular groups (infant learners) and the general needs, thus setting up evaluation benchmarks.

  1. Objectives formulations; after the teachers identified the learners’ needs requiring attention, they (teachers) set specific objectives, which can help in fulfilling the identified needs. While designing the early childhood curriculum, the objectives formulated should describe both the behavior form expected from the infant learners and the nature of content that breeds the desired behavior. According to Läänemets, and Kalamees-Ruubel (2019, p4), the objectives should be stated specifically and analytically to remove all doubts in the early ages of the children being taught the behavior forms expected from the learners. Lastly, the objectives of the pre-school learners should be realistic by considering the content, which can only be translated into classroom experiences for the better learning and development of the infants.

The objectives should be grouped to permit rational thinking in all types of experiential learning for the infants. They must also include the various forms of education techniques recommendable for the appraisal of the infant learners. The objectives to be included in the early childhood curriculum can be divided into four; skills objectives, knowledge objectives, application objectives, and attitude objectives. All these should be set and implemented to facilitate a complete assessment of infants’ learning experiences.

  1. Content selection; the objective created or selected suggests the curriculum’s content or subject matter (Kumari, n.d, p5). The uniformity should be in content and objective and in the significance and validity of the content chosen to address the identified needs, that is, the content’s significance and relevancy. Taba calls for the selection of the content following a defined criterion. For instance, the selected content should be useful or valid; it should be easy for infants to learn and understand. More so, the selected content should match the interests and needs of the children, and it should be consistent with the existing ‘social realities.
  2. Content organization; teachers can not randomly select the content; rather, they must ensure it is organized sequentially, considering the learners’ maturity, interests, and academic achievements. The pre-school teachers should organize the content in an ascending way, i.e., from ‘simple to complex’ to allow step-by-step learning of the infants. The content should also be organized from ‘known to unknown’ to avoid confusing the children (Kumari, n.d, p6). Lastly, the pre-school teachers should avail diversified learning modes such as painting, modeling drawing, field trips, writing, and experiment. All these can facilitate the cognitive development of infants, which is pivotal for their learning processes.
  3. Learning experiences’ selection; the content presented to the students must be engaging. Here, the teachers should select the most suitable ‘methodology of instruction’ to involve the student(s) with the content (Kumari, n.d, p6). Here, the teachers should select learning experiences and practical activities considering the following factors.
  • The teachers should visualize whatever the children want to do, experience, or know.
  • The teachers should know/ understand the skills and needs of the children.
  • Teachers should consider including a diversity of learning ways for children, e.g., writing, reading, constructing, discussing, doing, and observing.
  1. Learning activities’ organization; the ‘learning activities’ must be organized sequentially based on learners’ characteristics and content’s sequence. The teachers must be mindful of the nature of the students there are teaching. After successfully selecting the learning experiences and activities, the teachers must organize them following a defined criterion. For instance, they should be arranged in ascending order (i.e., from ‘simple to complex) and provide integration for experiences and learning activities.
  2. Evaluation; the curriculum designer(s) or teacher(s) are obliged to assess and determine whether the set aims have been realized. Evaluating the learning milestones necessitates designing the assessment procedures (Kumari, n.d, p6). The teachers’ assessment techniques may involve questioning and observation.

Reflection

Reflection plays a vital role in implementing new curricula, especially in the pre-primary classes. For instance, reflective practices among educators facilitate the development of their (teachers’) ability to understand their students’ learning styles/ speed and the suitable ways of teaching them (‘Cambridge International Education’, 2020, n.pag). By reflecting on teaching, educators can identify the existence of any barriers hindering children’s successful learning. Reflection can enable teachers to create lessons to reteach any content the students have not accessed successfully, thus allowing them to develop quickly and overcome any learning obstacles. By reflecting, teachers can develop the potentials to address the existing and emerging problems. According to ‘Cambridge International Education’ (2020, n.pag), this can be done by changing and questioning how educators deliver their lessons, find new solutions, and become more flexible with their teaching styles. Besides, an effective planning cycle allows teachers to reflect on students’ learning abilities on time through monitoring, follow-up activities, and classroom inclusiveness where all children’s needs and differences are considered in the teaching content. Reflection on teaching and learning helps identify the gaps in existing curriculum or teaching content, which can be used to improve the teaching styles and the content necessary to better future learning.

References

Cambridge International Education (2020). Getting started with Reflective Practice. What is reflective practice? Cambridge Assessment. Available at: <https://www.cambridge-community.org.uk/professional-development/gswrp/index.html>. [Accessed 29 April 2021].

Druzhinina, M., Belkova, N., Donchenko, E., Liu, F., and Morozova, O. (2018). Curriculum Design in Professional Education: Theory and Practice. SHS Web of Conferences. 50. 01046. 10.1051/shsconf/20185001046.

Kumari, C. (n.d). Curriculum Models Taba Model. Curriculum Studies. Patna University. Available at: <https://www.patnauniversity.ac.in/e-content/education/Med53.pdf>. [Accessed 29 April 2021].

Läänemets, U. and Kalamees-Ruubel, K. (2019). The Taba-Tyler Rationales.

National Academy of Sciences (2001). Curriculum and Pedagogy: The What and the How of Early Childhood Education. Eager to Learn: Educating Our Preschoolers. The National Academies Press. Available at: <https://www.nap.edu/read/9745/chapter/7>. [Accessed 29 April 2021].

Ogwora, E.T., Kuria, G., Nyamwaka, E. and Nyakan, B. (2013). Philosophy as a Key Instrument in Establishing Curriculum, Educational Policy, Objectives, Goals of Education, Vision and Mission of Education. Journal of Education and Practice. Vol.4(11). Available at: <https://www.iiste.org/Journals/index.php/JEP/article/viewFile/6452/6457>. [Accessed 29 April 2021].

The Education Hub (2021). Curriculum design in ECE. Available at: <https://theeducationhub.org.nz/category/ece-resources/curriculum-design-in-ece/>. [Accessed 29 April 2021].

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