Child-Centred Education: Reviving the Creative Tradition

Child-Centred Education: Reviving the Creative Tradition Christine Doddington
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Child-Centred Education: Reviving the Creative Tradition. Books Chapter 7: Children and their Teachers: The Creative Tradition Revived. Child‐Centred Education: Reviving the Creative Tradition by Doddington, Christine and Hilton, Mary () London: Sage Publications ISBN.

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Child-centred Education: Reviving The Creative Tradition

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This opening chapter then moves to the counter-Enlightenment and looks at the origins and fortunes of the nineteenth-century infant school movement where the influence of Pestalozzi came to bear. We show the ways the kindergarten philosophy formalized and embodied many of the values of childcentredness that were extant in the British tradition.

In Chapter 2 we follow the child-centred tradition and the alternative instrumental and authoritarian ideology of the elementary and preparatory schools in the contrasting lives of two women teachers, Alice Berridge and Alice Hallouran, who both worked in education for many years in the twentieth century. Here we use oral testimony to explore the ways that personal values affect a lifetime of work in teaching.

The chapter traces the deep ways that different versions of, and lives within, education are structured by different visions of civil society.

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In focusing on the lives of these two women we can trace the ways child-centred ideology of the Froebelian kindergarten movement spread and eventually flowered in the Hadow Report of and beyond as Britain struggled to liberalize its early childhood education for the poorest classes. Through sensitive dialogue about their life histories with these two elderly former head teachers, women who gave their lives to the education of young children, the chapter traces, on the one hand, the ways that the constraints of the hegemony of xxiv THE STRUCTURE OF THIS BOOK the processes of selection for grammar school, the endless rigours of getting children through the eleven-plus, could become the rigid contours of a life spent in service to social mobility.

Chapter 3 completes this historical story by returning to the issue of selection for secondary school and the ways it militated against the child-centred vision enshrined in the Hadow Report, hopelessly destroying its effects despite the enthusiasm and creativity of many primary teachers and educationalists.

The exigencies of selection for secondary school and the ways the eleven-plus could form and dictate the life chances of the growing child are reprised in considering the crucial effects the reform of secondary schools, the abolishing of grammar and secondary modern schools in the s, had on primary education.

Instituting comprehensive schools for all meant that the nation was freed at last from the exigencies of training for the eleven-plus and a progressive vision of education could finally flower in primary schools.

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The chapter examines the famous Plowden Report of , its initial liberating effects on teacher and child creativity, and the subsequent attacks on its ideology, from the conservative Right in the notorious Black Papers of the early s, and from the Marxist Left in accusations that it merely unleashed new methods of social control. The chapter goes on to outline the consistent ways this alternative tradition in education has been attacked, disappeared and falsely reinvoked in controversies over the nature of childhood and citizenship, finally examining the devastating redrawing of the primary curriculum more and more narrowly around assessment and measurement since In our effort to construct a renewed model of child-centredness for the twenty-first century, in the next three chapters we consider in depth the philosophical principles and values that could form the core of a revived child-centred approach in schools.

The chapter also explores the long-held child-centred belief that respect for the child involves consideration of the child as she or he is in the present more than a stress on what the child should become. We explore the implications of these views in terms of opportunities for agency and expression. In Chapter 5 we continue this examination and new elaboration of the philosophy of the child-centred tradition, picking up themes from earlier chapters. Learning which is genuinely felt as significant by a child will be the kind of learning which carries weight and meaning for that child.

Ultimately, in this renewed tradition meaning is the prerequisite for coming to care and to feel passion about what we know and understand. As such, the curriculum does not offer knowledge that is sufficiently deep or robust to guide actions and choices for a way of living. Here we argue to the contrary that one other vital strand has been the call for a communal nature to child-centred education, where collaborative and democratic learning experiences and the social construction of knowledge are seen as significant and of value.

This idea extends to the kind of conversations school can offer children within the practices and traditions in our heritage, as well as with their contemporary peers and teachers. As part of this argument, the ways and senses in which strong beliefs, passions and concerns are not simply individual acquisitions but can be importantly for schools acquired and generated through ethos and community are explored.

How this rich version of interdependence highlights the fundamental importance of talk and goes some way to satisfying the demands of an active democracy are considered. Finally, in Chapter 7 we discuss what essential reforms are needed for a new return to child-centredness in primary schools across the nation. However, our main point remains, that this tradition gives autonomy back to the historical actors within education — the teachers and children.

Thus, in setting out pictures from history and clear arguments for a particular view of education, we hope to provoke discussion in ways that will ensure that, whatever values come to be espoused in individual schools, they can become communally revived as living values, not just dry empty statements of intent. The whole-hearted holding of educational values as deeply as if they were personal is important in this view.

We believe that if teachers are to live and work by a particular set of values, they need to be meaningful to them as individuals — to carry conviction and be something they care enough about to work with. However, particularly if this work is in a school, they need to be open, to be able to hone them in relation to others, and genuinely to collaborate in creating the value framework by which they will make decisions and view practice.

Only in this way can an authentic and, we believe, desperately needed, child-centred vision re-emerge in the twenty-first century. Many of the new middle classes became devoted to self-education and experimentation. Difficulties of travel encouraged the formation of these local societies in nearly all the new industrial towns ands cities.

Their members, men and women, were naturally interested in education and were concerned about ways and means of encouraging and supporting their children to read, discuss, experiment and invent. It was in late eighteenth-century Birmingham that the most famous of these societies flourished, one that was to bequeath a textual legacy of enlightenment, child-centred education to future generations. The founders were Matthew Boulton, a born promoter and improver, and his friend Erasmus Darwin grandfather of Charles.

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This famous circle of thinkers and inventors continued to correspond and meet for years, and their families remained close for the rest of their lives, forming a long-lasting intellectual circle. It is here, in the daily lives of the Lunar circle, that we can see the Enlightenment origins of child-centred education as a system, method and approach, for alongside their public projects that brought scientific knowledge to bear on an extraordinary number of industrial and social problems, the Lunar circle remained familial and domestic.

Within their homes they developed their outstanding culture of education, observation, invention, and literary and philosophical critique. In all this daily round, children were involved, watching, listening, playing and experimenting for themselves. Several younger members of these families eventually intermarried, carrying this intense domestic culture of scientific and intellectual learning into the Victorian period.

It was members of the innovative Lunar circle that produced the most outstanding text on child-centred education, Practical Education by Richard Lovell Edgeworth and his daughter Maria. As a young man Richard Lovell Edgeworth had developed an absorbing and inventive interest in mechanics and engineering, and this led him to make contact with members of the Lunar Society. His first wife died in , which meant that he had to take care of 5-year-old Maria, her older brother, and two younger sisters.

Soon afterwards he married Honora Sneyd of Lichfield, with whom he produced two more children.

Honora died in and in the following year Richard Lovell Edgeworth married her sister Elizabeth, with whom he produced a further nine children. In the Edgeworth family returned to Edgeworthstown in Ireland. Elizabeth died in and one year later he married his fourth wife, Frances Beaumont, with whom he had six more children. Over these years Richard Lovell Edgeworth devoted himself to managing and improving his estate, dabbling in Irish politics, continuing his experiments and inventions, and above all, working at educating his numerous children.

His own mother had been a believer in the educational ideas of Locke and she had taught Richard Lovell Edgeworth herself, encouraging in him both an independence of mind and a fascination with empirical observation and experiment. As his children grew up in the large house at Edgeworthstown he fostered this same independence of Joseph Wright of Derby, The Orrery.

Wright was friendly with, and often painted, members of the Lunar Society. Here we can see children and adults learning together through active engagement in scientific wonder. Reproduced with the permission of the trustees of Derby Museums.

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His older daughter, Maria, became an outstanding writer. By the end of the century Maria was a renowned novelist, her works much admired by most intellectual readers of her day, including the still obscure Jane Austen. Nevertheless it was the day-to-day necessity of educating a large household of children that prompted Richard Lovell Edgeworth and Maria to produce a full-scale educational course. Together they wrote the most comprehensive and child-centred educational treatise of the period, Practical Education, a quarto work of pages full of example and precept, published in Then come exact recommendations for teaching particular subjects such as English grammar, classical literature, geography, mechanics and chemistry.

Working closely in their child-filled domestic setting, they both also belonged to wider scientific and intellectual circles. So, although based on Lockean principles of childhood freedom, active learning and respect for the developing intellect of the growing child, they also carefully integrated theories and scientific ideas from the Lunar circle and progressive continental intellectuals. Although it was designed for middle-ranking and elite families, in its pages we can trace a direct route back from our child-centred ideas to their Enlightenment origins.

Young learners should be given small stills, tea kettles and lamps for boiling, distilling and subliming. They should be expected to collect and fill their shelves with natural objects such as shells and ores logically arranged.

Child-Centred Education: Reviving the Creative Tradition

Cheap microscopes should be provided and the learners encouraged to carry out experiments in optics. Experiments in chemistry should be conducted with simple household equipment. Above all, in place of showing to children the steps of a discovery, they should be given time to invent and discover for themselves Simon, Edgeworth and Edgeworth, 30 Several chapters explain particular ways in which children can be encouraged to learn through invention rather than being made to learn by rote through enforced discipline or instructed in facts beyond their comprehension.

Children should not only be allowed to experiment, insist the Edgeworths, but to think freely without interference. Beyond this nurturing of scientific curiosity, invention and experiment, the Edgeworths set out the best principles of acquiring and using language, and they discuss ways of mastering the symbolic systems involved in reading, arithmetic, writing and spelling. Correspondingly, the Edgeworths have no time for showy accomplishments in children, believing that true learning produces sober rational sense.

The latter quality is illustrated in Practical Education by a variety of small anecdotes and stories from their archive of experiences within the Edgeworth family. Visitors to Edgeworthstown House certainly seemed to have been impressed by the Edgeworth children, whose articulacy and enthusiasm in conversing about ideas were much admired.

Practical Education is a corner stone in the history of child-centred education. In bringing a century of Enlightenment ideas to the education of the young, not only did they ingeniously promote contemporary science, but they displayed a sophisticated sense of the young mind, and the ways imagination and autonomy support solid learning. Most importantly, Practical Education consistently constructs an adult—child relationship based on mutual respect, reason and justice. As they wrote: Young people, who find that their daily pleasures depend not so much upon their own exertions as upon the humour and caprice of others, become courtiers; they practice all the arts of persuasion, and all the crouching hypocrisy which can deprecate wrath or propitiate favour.

Their notions of right and wrong cannot be enlarged; their recollection of the rewards and punishments of childhood are always connected with ideas of tyranny and slavery; and when they break their own chains, they are impatient to impose similar bonds upon their inferiors. Edgeworth and Edgeworth, When Practical Education first appeared it met with great approval by leading educationalists.

Clearly the enlightened intelligentsia who bought the book were shown how children, boys and girls, need to be nurtured within the educated family, they were taught how children learned through experiment, play and invention, and most importantly they were reminded constantly that children developed their intellects through reading and democratic discussion with adult members of their family communities.

By the British were at war with Napoleonic France. By the beginning of the nineteenth century the problems of the British nation had become unanswerable and unstoppable: starvation, unrest and exploitation for the increasing numbers of dispossessed poor, and the frightening possibility of revolution for the middle and upper classes. In rural areas enclosures meant that many of the poor became redundant and families made their ways to the nearest towns to find work in the factories.

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As the factory system developed and industry grew, vast tracts of slums containing unprecedented numbers of restless and scarcely governable masses of poor people spread out around the industrial towns and cities. There were children everywhere. It is estimated that by over 50 per cent of the population was under 20 years of age and most of them were under the age of The poor now provided a constant threat of revolution and their filth and degradation a constant reproach to those with enlightenment values.

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One solution, hotly debated as to who had invented it, was the monitorial school. Holding to an image of a machine, the Anglican, Andrew Bell, and the Quaker, Joseph Lancaster, both came up with the idea of huge schools for the poor where the many children would teach each other. The whole human machine depended on finely worked out systems of rewards and punishments. Each learner learnt the words by rote, and sufficient mastery enabled them to become monitors themselves, instructed in turn by the master.

In the early decades of the century the machine-like quality of these schools impressed observers of all religious and political persuasions. Monitorial schools sprang up across the country and the children of the poor were herded in. In fact there was a huge variety of schools in the early nineteenth century with little or no state support.

Alongside the monitorial schools some of the old eighteenth-century subscription charity schools carried on their work. By now they had become distinct and respectable day schools, attended not by the very poor but by the children of artisans and shopkeepers, the girls destined to become upper servants in gentry households and the boys artisans and factory managers. Sunday schools, the large ones situated in industrial areas and taking in huge numbers of children who worked all week in the factories, had grown to enormous numbers. They were no longer entirely under the auspices of the Anglican Church, as many were founded and run by Dissenters with teachers from local humble communities.

Parish schools, instituted by the British and Foreign Society and the National Society, existed alongside thousands of practically invisible dame schools.