Spotlight on QA1
A guide to theorists in Early Education
What do theories have to do with my practice? Who are relevant theorists who can influence my practice?
Do not mistake a child for his symptom - Erik Erikson
Erik Erikson was once a teacher, who became a developmental psychologist who specialised in child psychoanalysis and was best known for his theory of psychosocial development.
At the heart of his theories is the idea that a person passes through eight developmental stages that build on each other. At each stage we face a crisis. By resolving the crisis, we develop psychological strengths or character traits that help us become confident and healthy people.
When it comes to working with children in early childhood, Erikson’s theories are important because the first three stages - trust vs. mistrust, autonomy vs. doubt and initiative vs guilt - very much govern the way in which educators communicate and scaffold learning for children.
Of all the theorists outlined above, Erikson is the one who focuses on relationships at the centre of his work. The full quote of the words used above says "Children love and want to be loved and they very much prefer the joy of accomplishment to the triumph of hateful failure. Do not mistake a child for his symptom," with Erikson encouraging educators to remember to keep children’s accomplishments and achievements at front and centre, and to guide them with compassion and care.
She does it with his hands, by experience, first in play and then through work - Montessori
Maria Montessori is best known for her belief that every educator should follow the child, and prepare an environment which optimises their chances for learning.
By having a carefully prepared space, children’s developmental needs will emerge, and children will move through what she terms “planes of development”, with each plane building on the one before.
In early childhood, from birth to the age of six, Dr Montessori believed that children are in a plane termed “absorbent mind” where they are taking in and absorbing information and behaviour from their environment, its language and culture.
"In the same way, the caterpillar and the butterfly are two creatures very different to look at and in the way they behave, yet the beauty of the butterfly comes from its life in the larval form, and not through any efforts it may make to imitate another butterfly. We serve the future by protecting the present. The more fully the needs of one period are met, the greater will be the success of the next."
Montessori learning environments are characterised by tidy spaces which are visually appealing, where everything has a space and a purpose, and where practical life activities are encouraged.