Learning in Early Childhood

Authored by: Christine Stephen

The Routledge International Handbook of Learning

Print publication date:  December  2011
Online publication date:  May  2012

Print ISBN: 9780415571302
eBook ISBN: 9780203357385
Adobe ISBN: 9781136598562


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There is a widespread consensus that the first five or six years of life are particularly important for children's learning. There is evidence of rapid growth and learning from a range of disciplines, charting changes in physical, social, emotional and cognitive capacities. From neuroscience we learn about changes in the brain that speed up the passage of signals and increase the number of synaptic connections. Psychologists have identified changes in children's cognitive capacities in the early years of life, for example, becoming able to sort, classify, sequence and use symbols, the development of meta-cognition and theory of mind. From a sociological perspective, learning in the early years is often seen as a process of enculturation, as children learn the ways of their families and society. But they do not just learn how to ‘fit in’, they appropriate, reinvent and contribute to cultural reproduction (Corsaro, 1997).

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