Early educational interventions on a broad level began in the United States more than thirty years ago. The 1960s were permeated with a spirit of political change. Young men and women—the teachers, researchers, policy makers, as well as politicians of the near future railed in opposition to the establishment. The well-known war on poverty in the United States initiated under the Johnson administration was emulated by several other countries.
There was a strong confidence in socially engineering society. In developmental and educational psychology there was a parallel pedagogic hopefulness, which offered a scientific basis for the social movement. This hopefulness was entrenched in converging lines of hypothesizing in neo-behaviorism and neuropsychology that stressed the significance of rich stimulus environments in periods critical for academic development. There was as well an innovative exciting conception of intelligence.
Even though Piaget never planned his genetic epistemology to be a developmental theory, let alone a psychological theory, lots of saw it as the foundation for a new theory of intelligence surpassing the conventional approaches footed on individual differences and psychometric assessment that had a strong scent of nativism and hereditarianism. With merely a few months of preparation, the project Head Start was brought in over three thousand communities in the United States in 1965, involving more than 150,000 children at risk of educational failure.
The high expectations accompanying Head Start and similar programs unavoidably led to disappointment. The Westinghouse evaluation in 1969 demonstrated that Head Start’s one-year program had merely modest short-term effects that had largely disappeared within 2 years after the intervention. A more comprehensive meta-analysis of the various Head Start projects until 1982 by McKey et al. (1985) came to similar conclusions.
The disappointing outcome of Head Start led to a revitalization of the nature-nurture debate with Jensen’s (1969) article in the Harvard Educational Review entitled “How much can we boost IQ and scholastic achievement? ” The bottom line of Jensen’s argument is famous. Since eighty percent of the variance in intellectual capabilities in a given population is attributable to genetic variance and most likely less than ten percent is attributable to environment, very little possible impact remains for compensatory educational programs.
This would, in Jensen’s view, elucidate Head Start’s failure to meet expectations. Further authors, however, particularly Urie Bronfenbrenner, a member of the Head Start planning committee in 1975, concluded that the intervention strategy of Head Start was not adequately modified to the ecological context of child development; that is to say, the home environment and the wider social and cultural context, including the school.
The lessons learned from the first generation intervention programs showed the way to recommendations for two changes in fundamental intervention strategy. The first recommendation was to enhance the intensity and duration of programs. An instance is the program Success for All by Slavin and Madden and their colleagues. The second suggestion involved shifting the focus to comprise the parents, the families, the communities, as well as socioeconomic circumstances as targets of an intervention.
Instances of programs in which children, parents, family, and community are addressed in a complete approach are the Turkish Early Enrichment Program, the Dutch HIPPY program, plus the ICDS program in India. Family support programs, including empowerment strategies and parent basic education, complementing child-focused educational interventions in a strict sense, are presently seen as the catalysts for change. Current developments in psychology and anthropology relevant to the issue of child development and early education show two trends.
While, still in 1981, Schwartz remarked that anthropology has ignored children in culture while developmental psychology has ignored culture in children, both disciplines are presently converging, opening innovative avenues for research and leading to significant new insights for the general intend of enhancing educational opportunities for disadvantaged children. Developmental and educational psychology are paying rising attention to the social and cultural context of child rearing, child development, and learning.
The modern theorizing on cognitive development, emergent literacy, and numeracy in family and school settings has been deeply influenced by anthropological and ethnographic research. The key to the chemistry of the different research programs is Vygotsky’s sociohistorical psychology, which has opened psychology to anthropological approaches for studying the social and cultural context. Within anthropology, educational anthropology has developed as a subdiscipline focusing on educational processes at school, mainly those involving ethnic minority students.
A second field of research in anthropology integrating psychological viewpoints is psychological or cognitive anthropology. Furthermore, cultural anthropologists are these days paying more attention to intracultural variation at subgroup and individual level. Psychology is seeing the instantly recognizable rise of the behavioral genetics paradigm accompanied by a further expansion of nativist or hereditarian explanations over more domains of human development and behavior.
Riding on the wave of behavioral genetics, Herrnstein and Murray (1994) published the “The bell curve,” in which they give short shrift to educational priority strategy and affirmative/positive action, as well as reinforcing Jensen’s early critique of educational intervention programs. While Herrnstein and Murray’s analysis is not convincing, and at times is obviously mistaken, it has set a certain tone. Furthermore computers are being more and more integrated into early childhood programs.
More than twenty-five percent of licensed preschools had microcomputers as early as 1984; it is expected that almost all will have such access sometime in the next century. A similar ownership rate in homes is probable. Children approach computers with comfort and confidence, and emerge to enjoy exploring this innovative medium. Even preschoolers can work with minimum instruction and supervision, if they have adult support at first. Though, adults play an important role in victorious computer use.
Problem-solving programs claim more initial and continuous support than simpler, practice programs. For all kinds of programs, children are more attentive, more involved, and less aggravated when an adult is present. Using the standard keyboard is not a trouble for children, and is frequently superior to other devices, such as a joystick. Certainly, typing appears to be a source of motivation as well as sense of competence for many.
In brief, even preschool children can pleasantly and productively use and manage age-appropriate software requiring merely one- or two-character keypresses. They can turn the computer on and off, remove also replace disks properly, pursue instructions from a picture menu, utilize situational and visual cues in the aid of reading, and talk meaningfully regarding their computer activity. A computer center may differ from being among the most popular free-time activity to being chosen to some extent less than many other areas.
Physical setup, teacher interventions, and particularly the computer programs (software), may cause such differences. For instance, children favor programs that are animated, problem-solving-oriented, plus interactive–that give them a sense of control over the computer. In most studies, it come into view that three to five year-old children spend about the same amount of time playing in the computer center as drawing, talking, or playing in the block or art centers.
This attraction outlives the innovation effect. Though, play in other vital centers, such as blocks, is not lessened by the presence of a computer. In one study, the merely change was that some children’s make use of of art centers diminished as they switched to using computers, however this involved performing art activities on the computers. Overall, the computer appears to be an interesting, however not excessively engrossing, activity for young children.