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Arkansas State University

Design Early Childhood Education Curriculum With a Master’s Program

When early childhood educators enroll in a master’s degree program, they can expect to gain a better understanding of the basic child development models of early childhood education. This foundation integrates with different early childhood education curriculum, and students will learn to design their own early childhood programs and curricula.

Early Child Development Models

Early twentieth-century scientists spent a great deal of time researching children in controlled settings to determine if they could predict children’s development. Then they set about trying to share their ideas about how to teach children. These five basic theories and corresponding scientists include the following:

  1. Psychoanalytical Theory. According to Freud and Erikson, child development occurs in various stages, and children experience conflict based on what they were born to do and what society expects them to do.
  2. Behavioral and Social Learning Theory. According to Watson and Skinner, child development is about the importance of environment and nurturing the growth of a child.
  3. Cognitive Development Theory. Piaget and Vygotsky focused on how children learn in a developmental fashion.
  4. Biological Theory. Gesell maintained that heredity affected growth in children. Thus, development is a biological process, primarily determined by genetics.
  5. System Theory. According to Bronfenbrenner, no one single concept can explore or explain development; rather, a more multidimensional and complex system is necessary. He explained that environment shapes the child’s development — as do the child’s relationships.

Early Childhood Education Curriculum Has Evolved From These Theories

Students in programs for early childhood education degrees have the opportunity to learn how to design their own curricula based on the child development models with which they either agree or disagree. Often, these early childhood models coincide with different styles that have developed over time in the education field.

According to Kali Sakai and Ashly Moore Sheldon in Preschool Primer: Comparing Different Preschool Styles, students will study different curricular models, such as Montessori, which “is a child-directed approach that originated with Italian pediatrician/psychiatrist Maria Montessori and emphasizes the development of the whole child. Classrooms are of mixed ages (usually from 2 and a half or 3 to 6 years old), which helps to foster peer learning.”

There is also STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics), which is a model that encourages science, technology, engineering and math instruction at young ages: “STEM-focused preschools seek to engage young children in scientific exploration by applying an inquiry-based approach to experiential activities” (Sakai and Sheldon).

“HighScope is a research-based curriculum that uses active learning where kids learn to participate in order to help build language and cognitive skills” (Sakai and Sheldon). Another model, Reggio Emilia “is a child-directed approach that also views children as active participants in the learning process.”

Further, Waldorf education “is based on the ideas of Austrian Rudolf Steiner . . . Waldorf education emphasizes nurturing the whole child by engaging the five senses in experiential, hands-on and artistic learning experiences” (Sakai and Sheldon).

Lastly, “the concept of outdoor preschool has been growing in popularity since emerging in the 1950s in Sweden and Denmark … These schools are generally child-directed, encouraging children to explore freely, follow their own impulses and connect to the natural world” (Sakai and Sheldon).

There is much to consider when deciding on the right model, but an online master’s degree program can help guide you to your own philosophy of early childhood education curricula.

Learn about the Arkansas State Master of Science in Early Childhood Services online program.


ParentMap: Preschool Primer: Comparing Different Preschool Styles

Earlychildhood News: Different Approaches to Teaching: Comparing Three Preschool Programs

Earlychildhood News: Theories of Child Development: Building Blocks of Developmentally Appropriate Practices

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