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Critically evaluate the importance of active learning as an approach to planning & Teaching the foundation curriculum subjects

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Introduction

Critically evaluate the importance of active learning as an approach to planning & Teaching the foundation curriculum subjects. As we enter a new and exciting time in education it is a time to reflect on recent change & reform within the education sector. In 1989 a shock wave was felt throughout schools with the introduction of the National Curriculum, this "marked a major change from the freedom to prescription in curriculum content, and from topics to subject-based teaching." ((Turner-Bisset, 2005, Pg.17) As a result of this change teachers began to feel pressurised to teach the exact content described within the curriculum, teaching became very formal in order to attain targets and the appropriate levels, this meant teaching in some cases lost its creativity. In 2000 the Foundation Stage Document was published, the ethos of this document placing the emphasis on learning through play. A view supported by theorists such as Piaget, Bruner and Vygotsky, Curtis & O'Hagan, (2003) state in their book Care and Education in Early Childhood..."he (Piaget) argued that children are active learners" Susan Isaacs (1929) also wrote that "play indeed is the child's work and the means by the way he or she develops and learns." However this principle of children learning through play was not continued throughout the primary curriculum. ...read more.

Middle

Conversely in this type of approach the learning is very one dimensional, although there are links to mathematical development, this, is only due to the subject matter not the teaching method as in the previously mentioned active learning approach. The very nature of active learning lends itself to the unknown quantity; children will often take something from the activity that was not planned for, however it is these moments which children really benefit from, these types of opportunities are often when children are making sense of learning which has previously occurred. In Piaget's terms this fits in to the assimilation and adaptation process found in his schema theory, adaptation takes place as people are driven by the urge to have things "fit together" or to be in what Piaget calls "equilibrium". (Curtis & O'Hagan 2003) "Schema theory would indicate that we need to provide a range of activities which allow children to work.... in very active ways, not merely reading words on a page, but engaging physically, mentally & emotionally with facts, concepts, skills and processes to make the new material part of their mental map of the world" (Turner-Bisset, 2005, pg.25) History is a subject that is often very closely linked with geography. Topics such as sea sides past and present lend themselves to cross curricular links between the two subjects. ...read more.

Conclusion

Even when assessing children through summative assessments it is still possible to use an active learning approach. Whilst assessing children's addition skills on teaching practice a sand sorting game was devised. Children had to find the sums buried in the sand and place them in the appropriate answer bucket, this was done under observation and a summative assessment was carried out, but instead of giving the child a standardised test, some fun and active participation was added. However active learning should not be the only approach used in schools, it is important to cater for children's differing learning styles, indeed it has been observed children who thrive off worksheets but this was a minority. It is essential to remember that, "In order to teach anything to anyone, one needs a broad pedagogical repertoire." (Turner-Bisset, 2005, pg.28) Excellence and Enjoyment (2003) has taken this idea on board, teachers must use a variety of approaches and styles to capture and stimulate children's imaginations. Children have so much energy and passion that is important teachers harness this spirit and use it to their advantage in the classroom. In the foreword of the document Charles Clarke (2003) writes, "Children learn better when they are excited and engaged - but what excites and engages them best is truly excellent teaching, which challenges them and shows them what they can do. When there is joy in what they are doing, they learn to love learning. ...read more.

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