Branscombe N, Gunnels Burcham J, Castle K, Surbeck E with Dorsey A and Taylor J (2014) Early Childhood Curriculum: A constructivist perspective Second Edition London: Routledge
Number of pages 368 (including glossary, references and index) 341 (without)
It is a book which promotes the active participation of practitioners and teachers in the development of their own classroom practice. The focus is curriculum design and implementation from a constructivist base; Piaget’s theory of ‘knowing’ and ‘how knowledge develops’ is key to this. Although written for American professionals, its structure, integration of theory and practice and reflective approach, make it as relevant to students, practitioners, teachers and initial teacher educators in England as in America. However, spelling, glossary terminology and policy references reflect its original readership. This does not detract from this interesting book and its usefulness as both a guide for classroom practice and as a deeper reference book.
Divided in to three clear parts over ten chapters, the authors, support readers in considering the meaning of constructivist curriculum, its aims, the principles on which it is based, acknowledged models of constructivist curriculum and how readers can evaluate what they have both designed and implemented. Each chapter provides opportunity to observe, question, reflect, research and analyse, enabling readers to develop a strong base from which they can both develop and implement their own curriculum. For readers it is not a passive journey. The principles of the ‘constructivist curriculum’ are brought to life through the ‘voice’ of six early years and primary school teachers (elementary school), whose after school discussions of practice and ‘lived’ classroom experience are cited throughout the book.
At a time of great educational reform in England and a new policy focus on children’s outcomes, higher aspirations and closing the achievement gap, this book provides an informative and engaging way of developing professional practice. It supports and guides readers to consider curriculum design and teaching and learning from an outcomes perspective; this includes children as problem solvers, children as independent learners and children who know how they are learning.
Founded on Piagetian theory of how knowledge develops rather than how to teach children, the authors clearly define a ‘constructivist model’ and how teachers and practitioners can apply the related theory and research through their practice. They cite the leading thinkers in the field- Piaget, Sinclair, Inhelder, Furth and Ackerman and the key researchers whose work readers are encouraged to engage with.
The authors write from their perspective as university professors and former practitioners. They explore in some depth constructivist aims and assumptions, key components of constructivist curriculum and constructivist practices. The second edition of this book provides and interesting and inspiring approach to early education. It includes the interactive features of the first edition, but includes current educational issues –raising standards, inclusive practice, evaluation and technology. Readers are asked to engage with the book- to do research, to observe children, to write a journal, to analyse their ideas and to implement what they have designed. This book was thought proving. As a practitioner guide, a book for aspiring early years educators and initial teacher trainers, it is very good. International perspectives now guide national education systems. There are many features in this book which may initiate change.