Theories of Childhood Book Summary - Theories of Childhood Book explained in key points
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Theories of Childhood summary

Carol Garhart Mooney

An Introduction to Dewey, Montessori, Erikson, Piaget & Vygotsky

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19 mins
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    Theories of Childhood
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    Child-centered education, with John Dewey

    Born in 1859 in Vermont, John Dewey is one of the most influential figures in American education. He earned a PhD from Johns Hopkins University, then joined the University of Michigan as a philosophy professor. His wife, Alice Chipman, had a strong interest in education's connection with social issues, which led Dewey to explore educational studies.

    In 1894, the couple moved to the University of Chicago, where Dewey blended philosophy, psychology, and educational theory in his teaching. He established the Laboratory School within two years, placing the university at the forefront of progressive education – a child-centered, democratic approach that differed vastly from the rigid, traditional style of education prevalent during the nineteenth century. Despite facing criticism at the time, Dewey's approach led to extensive educational research and theory that are still relevant today.

    In 1899, Dewey addressed parents worried about the changing times and their impact on children's education. He emphasized that change brings new challenges but also opportunities, urging parents to find innovative ways to instill social responsibility in their children without clinging to the past.

    Today, Dewey's theories still resonate strongly with our current educational conundrums. His writings provide significant insights into how to introduce children to subject matter, the feasibility of multi-age classrooms, curriculum planning, supporting classroom teachers, and teaching thinking skills. His teachings align with those of other early theorists like Maria Montessori and Jean Piaget, who advocated learning by doing and encouraged experimentation and independent thinking.

    Key to Dewey's pedagogical approach were his beliefs that education should be child-centered, active, and interactive. Education should involve the child's social world, too. Dewey proposed that curriculum should evolve from real-life situations, and that the interests and background of each child should be the basis for planning learning experiences. He viewed education as a part of life, not merely a preparation for the future. He argued for a gradual progression from home life to school life, with the school deepening and extending the values of the home. 

    These ideas formed the crux of his influential book My Pedagogic Creed, published in 1897. He argued that teachers are more than subject-matter instructors; they help shape society and form proper social life. Dewey emphasized the importance of teachers' confidence in their skills and abilities, which in turn helps to nurture inquiry and learning dispositions in children. 

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    What is Theories of Childhood about?

    Theories of Childhood (2000) is a foundational text for early childhood educators that explores the lives and work of five influential thinkers who have shaped modern education over the past century. 

    Who should read Theories of Childhood?

    • Anyone curious about the minds and theories behind modern education
    • Classroom teachers seeking more information about child development
    • Parents or guardians seeking insight into age-appropriate challenges to help their children thrive at learning

    About the Author

    Carol Garhart Mooney is an educator and author on childhood development with decades of classroom experience. Her books include Theories of Attachment, Use Your Words, and Swinging Pendulums.

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