Posted on 10/20/2015 at 08:52 AM by Liz Determan

When we watch young children interacting with toys, books, nature, we often look at how they handle it, share it, talk about it, but have you thought about that as looking at a child’s “Approach to Learning”? In her recent book, Approaches to Learning, Ann Epstein, shares the meaning and importance of being focused on how children APPROACH their learning. She states, “Approaches to learning is the foundation that affects how children learn in every content area.” She goes on to discuss the relationships children have with learning and the long lasting impact of their positive approach because it incorporates their attention, engagement, motivation and overall participation in the act of “learning”.


Do you think about how the child who is attempting to clean up sand on the floor and what he is thinking? Do you observe the child trying to get the tower of blocks to stand? Have you considered what goes into a child attempting to recreate the events in which they see other participating, such as sacking groceries, cleaning windows, taking someone’s temperature? All of these events MUST say to the child this is something you can do, this is something you can learn about, but in order to do that, you need to attend to the information (how long does it take, what are the skills), the act (how does one hold a wisk broom to sweep up sand), and the completion (what is it that I need to do to stay with this task until it is complete).

In preschool, children have the chance to learn about what happens around them and how they can engage in those events to learn more information. What is critical is that we, as adults supporting children, help each and every child consider what they know and what they want to learn as well as how to act on that knowledge. It is the adult’s role to set up the environment so children can learn what they need to learn and set the learning experience up to be one in which the child can “fail” and continue to make progress. In this, the child learns to take risks even if the outcome may not be what they expected. So, the critical elements of having positive approaches to learning would be persistence to complete the task, as well as developing positive attitudes and dispositions.

Sue Bredekamp (National Education Goals Panel, 1995) talks about children’s approaches as: curiosity, creativity, confidence, independence, initiative, and persistence while Lillian Katz and Diane McClellan (1997) tell us about how children can develop positive styles and habits related to learning based on how the environment works with them. So, what does your environment say to children about the future disposition or approaches to learning? Build environments that allow children to explore freely, engage with others to learn and develop new knowledge based on skills that of high interest to them and then they will feel positive about learning and that will go with them through life. IT REALLY DOES START IN PRESCHOOL!

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