How do you picture your child’s early education? Do you see them sitting at a desk, hand raised ready to answer the teacher’s questions? Or do you imagine them playing freely with their peers in a game of their choice?
More and more schools, teachers and parents are embracing the idea of a more child-led curriculum. The benefits of this are particularly strong in early childhood, although many argue for more independent learning right through to college and beyond.
Here we look at the principles guiding this curriculum, how it works in practice in nursery schools in Dubai, as well as the benefits it offers your child.
What is child-led learning?
Child-led learning is a flexible, non-prescriptive way of teaching children. A child has access to various resources within the nursery setting or school classroom. They choose how they use these resources in their play and how they engage with them. They may opt to play alone or with peers.
What are the principles behind it?
Underpinning this style of teaching and learning is the knowledge that children are naturally curious. They want to learn. They like to practice new skills, to engage with the world around them, and to understand how it works. This gives them pleasure.
When children can choose what or how they learn, their natural curiosity is harnessed to great effect. A child immersed in an activity of their choice is more engaged, relaxed and receptive. Quite simply, they will probably learn much more than when time is spent following a teacher-led activity.
This does not mean there is no place at all for teacher-led learning. Many good nurseries and early years classrooms will opt for a balance between teacher-led and child-led to ensure that the children in their care are accessing a broad curriculum and are developing all the skills they need.
In a child-led session, you are also likely to witness excellent behavior and little resistance to learning. Children are likely to be fully engaged in their chosen activity. Teachers can spend more of their time helping children further their learning.
What is the role of the teacher?
With children being in charge of their own learning, it is natural to wonder how the teacher is a part of a child-led learning session.
First and foremost, it’s to provide a carefully choreographed and stimulating learning environment. It is vital to provide the right resources to develop new interests and foster existing ones. A teacher must know his or her pupils very well to help move their learning forward without specifically directing it. They must provide the right tools at the right time.
A teacher will also always be available to encourage children to be ambitious and to answer their questions. A good teacher will inspire children to ask even more questions and explore further until their learning journey reaches a natural end.
Monitoring the behavior of children within a classroom is also important. A teacher will also encourage and model positive behavior so that children can improve their social skills as they learn.
What are the key benefits to child-led learning?
Here are six of the benefits that come from the greater use of child-led learning approach in a classroom or nursery setting. Experienced early years practitioners believe that child-led learning:
Promotes independence from an early age
With the freedom to explore the nursery setting, children are encouraged to make the choice right for them and to not rely wholly on others. This is a skill that will help the child during their lifetime.
In a child-led classroom, children can express themselves and their learning through the outlet of their choice: music, art, painting, song or dance, the spoken word, and for older children, the written word. This enhances their creative skills.
Improves social skills
With this way of learning, children have more chances to interact and communicate with peers and their teacher on a one-to-one basis. This offers boundless opportunities for improving social skills that would be difficult to match in a teacher-led session.
Allows children to learn at their own pace and in their own way
When children are working on different projects, the pressure is removed to ‘keep up’ and children can learn at a pace right for them. It is also more straightforward to provide for a range of learning styles at one time since children can opt for an activity that suits them.
Is a positive start to their education
Children will spend more than a decade in full-time education, perhaps even two. Hopefully, they’ll never stop learning or nurturing their minds. What could be more important than a positive start? Early education must be enjoyable for the child and child-led learning certainly fulfills this requirement.
When children succeed in learning, their confidence improves. If they are choosing their own goals and the journey to meet them, success becomes more likely.
Why choose a school with a child-led curriculum?
Early education should be an exciting adventure. The aim of any early years curriculum should be to teach children the joy of learning, and great learning skills and habits. It should encourage children to be enthusiastic and effective learners to form the strongest of foundations for their time in schooling. A child-led curriculum fulfills all these objectives and more.
It’s definitely a good idea for parents to figure out how much child-led learning they would like their child to enjoy before they embark on nursery admissions and enrollment.