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Experts Disagree on Tactic of Reducing Play to Promote Skills in Kindergarten

Experts Disagree on Tactic of Reducing Play to Promote Skills in Kindergarten

As lawmakers and educators attempt to pursue ways to improve long-term achievement in students across the country, the change in instruction is felt all the way down to the kindergarten classroom.

According to The New York Times, experts in the education field are becoming more and more concerned about the emphasis placed on promoting certain skills in the youngest learners.

"...a growing group of scientists, education researchers and educators say there is little evidence that this approach improves long-term achievement; in fact, it may have the opposite effect, potentially slowing emotional and cognitive development, causing unnecessary stress and perhaps even souring kids’ desire to learn," the article said.

Some educators believe children who are prompted to develop a core skill set by such an early age will not grow to be innovative, creative individuals but rather "people who are likely to be passive consumers of information, followers rather than inventors."

The intent of getting young learners started early is good, of course.The approach is an attempt to solve issues of the educational achievement gap that plagues poor students, many from minority backgrounds, through the belief that getting them started early will help.

But research on whether or not this is true has proven to be inconclusive or even contradictory.

In fact, psychology professor Rebecca A. Marcon's research indicated that early didactic instruction "might actually worsen academic performance."

In her study, she looked at 343 children who attended preschools that either promoted didactic instruction, child initiated learning, or learning that was in between both.

"She looked at the students’ performance several years later, in third and fourth grade, and found that by the end of the fourth grade those who had received more didactic instruction earned significantly lower grades than those who had been allowed more opportunities to learn through play," the article said.

For this reason, among others, some educators want less of an emphasis on didactics instruction and instead more emphasis on "active exploration." Instead of completely nixing playtime, proponents of active exploration urge fellow educators to turn play into instructive, creative, and innovative learning for young students.

Not to mention that recent studies also indicate preschoolers and young learners alike are not getting enough exercise- reportedly less than half of what they should be getting. 

"...[T]he early education that kids get — whatever their socioeconomic background — should truly help their development. We must hope that those who make education policy will start paying attention to this science."

Read the full article here and comment below.

Article by Nicole Gorman, Education World Contributor

05/20/2015

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