Articles and Summaries


Dr. John Bransford

• Bransford, J., Brown, A., & Cocking, R. (2000) How People Learn: Brain, Mind, Experience and School. Washington, D.C., National Research Council, National Academy Press. The development of learning begins in infancy and extends throughout our lives. New research about the mind, brain, and the processes of learning are discussed in this book. It describes a number of experiments and studies that prove even infants are capable of learning. The authors outline four essential and interrelated features of successful early learning: A child’s education must be learner, knowledge, assessment and community centered. Theories and insights for teachers on how to put this into practice are also outlined.

• Donovan, S., & Bransford, J. D. (2005). How Students Learn: History, Mathematics, and Science in the Classroom: National Academies Press.

• Donovan, M. S., Bransford, J. D., & Pellegrino, J. W. (1999). How People Learn: Bridging Research and Practice: National Academies Press.

• Darling-Hammond, L., & Bransford, J. (2005). Preparing Teachers for a Changing World: What Teachers Should Learn and be Able to Do: Jossey-Bass.


Dr. Ann L. Brown

• Bransford, J., Brown, A., & Cocking, R. (2000) How People Learn: Brain, Mind, Experience and School. Washington, D.C., National Research Council, National Academy Press. The development of learning begins in infancy and extends throughout our lives. New research about the mind, brain, and the processes of learning are discussed in this book. It describes a number of experiments and studies that prove even infants are capable of learning. The authors outline four essential and interrelated features of successful early learning: A child’s education must be learner, knowledge, assessment and community centered. Theories and insights for teachers on how to put this into practice are also outlined.

• Brown, Ann. & Sullivan Palinscar, Annemarie. (1984) Reciprocal Teaching of Comprehension – Fostering and Comprehension Monitoring Activities. University of Illinois.


Dr. Stuart Brown

• Dr. Brown on TED Talk: Play is More Than Fun, it’s Vital. This speech, filmed at the 2008 Art Center Design Conference, outlines play as experienced by children, adults and animals. He says games, roughhousing, flirtation and fantasy are more than just fun, they’re foundational to a successful adulthood.

• Brown, S., & Vaughn, C. (2009). Play: How it Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination, and Invigorates the Soul. New York: Penguin Group Inc.

This book outlines why play is so instrumental in child development, parenting, education, social policy, business innovation and productivity – even for the future of our society. From new research suggesting the direct role of three-dimensional object play in shaping our brains, to animal studies showing the effects of the lack of play, Brown provides a sweeping look at the latest breakthroughs in our understanding of the importance of play behavior.

The National Institute for Play  – of note in this website is the seven patterns of play, as determined by Dr. Stuart Brown and his colleagues. These patterns include attunement play (also known as serve and return, observed in the interactions between mother and baby), body and movement play, object play, imaginative play, social play (which includes friendship and belonging and rough and tumble play), storytelling and narrative play, and transformative-integrative play. The site also has a section devoted to various research studies on play.

• In his article The Pedagogy of Play and the Role of Technology in Learning, author and middle school teacher Aran Levasseur refers to Dr. Brown’s views of play in a technological context. He says the road to today’s digital environment hasn’t been smooth, or in some cases, readily adopted, but by adopting a schema of play, technologies such as the Apple iPad can become effective learning tools.


Dr. Sylvia Chard

• Project-based learning evolves from students’ interests and needs, and are unique to each classroom. The best projects also make use of local resources and surroundings. Click here to find out what this approach looks like in different classrooms, including early learning environments.

• Sylvia Chard describes project based learning – what it is, how it works, and its link to emotional intelligence.


Nancy Carlsson-Paige

• Carlsson-Paige, N. (2008) Reclaiming Play: Helping Children Learn and Thrive in School. Exchange Press, Redmond WA.

Play is slowly being eroded from a young child’s experience, thanks to media influence, commercialism and our fast-paced lifestyle. The consequences are that many young children today are robbed of the opportunity for free play, which is essential for their growth and learning. In fact, Carlsson-Paige writes many children do not know how to play, and many simply imitate scenarios from television and movies. She blames this on legislation that was passed in the US in the mid-80s allowing the marketing of toys and products for children that are directly tied to TV. She also writes educators have an important role in taking back healthy play for children.


Dr. Rodney R. Cocking

• Cocking, Rodney R. (1987) Blueprints for Thinking: The Role of Planning in Cognitive Development.

• Cocking, Rodney R. (1996) Interacting With Video (Advances in Applied Developmental Psychology).

• Bransford, J., Brown, A., & Cocking, R. (2000) How People Learn: Brain, Mind, Experience and School. Washington, D.C., National Research Council, National Academy Press. The development of learning begins in infancy and extends throughout our lives. New research about the mind, brain, and the processes of learning are discussed in this book. It describes a number of experiments and studies that prove infants as young as five weeks old are capable of learning. The authors outline four essential and interrelated features of successful early learning: A child’s education must be learner, knowledge, assessment and community centered. Theories and insights for teachers on how to put this into practice are also outlined.

• Calvert, Sandra L., Cocking, Rodney R. & Jordan, Amy B. (2002) Children in the Digital Age: Influences of Electronic Media on Development.


Dr. Adele Diamond

• Diamond, A. (2010) The Evidence Base for Improving School Outcomes by Addressing the Whole Child and by Addressing Skills and Attitudes, Not Just Content. Early Education and Development, New York: Taylor and Francis Group.

If we want the best academic outcomes, the most efficient and cost-effective route to achieve that is, counter intuitively, not to narrowly focus on academics, but to also address children’s social, emotional and physical development. Similarly, the best and most efficient route to physical health is through also addressing emotional, social, and cognitive wellness. Emotional wellness, similarly, depends critically on social, cognitive, and physical wellness.

• Diamond, A. (2009). All or None Hypothesis: A Global-Default Mode That Characterizes the Brain and Mind. National Institute of Health Public Access: US Department of Health and Human Services.

Developmental psychologists, neuroscientists, pediatricians and teachers have long known a young child’s nervous system lacks precision in many ways. For example, when he or she intends to do something with one hand, there is often movement in the other hand as well. This paper discusses the author’s experiments on young children and babies, who were challenged to lift a box lid, then reach into the box with one hand in order to retrieve a toy. This paper states the mind and brain often work at a gross level and will only deviate from that with the use of fine-tuning or inhibition. This is true even when one might think the domains being given the global command should be distinct.

It’s easier to issue the same command to both hands than to move only one hand. If one needs to respond to the opposite of the stimulus, one is faster if the correct response is to the side opposite the stimulus. People tend to think of the nervous system as sending out very precise commands only to the relevant recipient, but it appears that often the command goes out more globally and then parts of the system need to be inhibited from acting on the command.

The conclusion of this report states although experts have known for some time that neural connections are initially grossly specified and later fine-tuned, many have not considered that gross, global commands might be the default at all stages of development, and across many contexts.

The report also reveals there is need for more constructive dialogue between those who support massive public investments in early childhood education, and those who question the cost and ask whether they really make a difference. Both perspectives have merit. This paper is designed to further inform sound policy decisions guided by state of the art knowledge, and to create a science-based framework where the public and private sectors work together the quality of life for children and their families.

• Diamond, A. (2009) The Interplay of Biology and the Environment Broadly Defined. National Institute of Health Public Access: US Department of Health and Human Services.

This special section of Developmental Psychology contains articles on the interplay of biology and the environment that has the potential to change or challenge how developmental psychologists think. Topics include how experience affects gene expression; how genes affect how the environment is experienced and what effect the environment has; interactions between the environment and the presence or absence of early brain damage; motor neurons and the understanding of others’ beliefs and intentions; the effect of physical fitness on cognition and the brain; evidence that our brains work and develop differently from the way traditionally thought; misconceptions that can arise from treating children as if they are simply small adults; and how research with adults can provide insights into developmental processes in children. Each of the 16 articles in the special section forges new territory and crosses disciplinary boundaries. They suggest that investigators look at variables not typically considered, or look at them from perspectives not usually taken, and especially that they pay more attention to interrelations among variables.

• Diamond, A., Amso, D., Poldrack, R., Wagner, A. (2008). Contributions of Neuroscience to Our Understanding of Cognitive Development. Current Directions in Psychological Science, Thousand Oaks, California: Sage Publications.

One major contribution of neuroscience to understanding cognitive development has been in demonstrating that biology is not destiny—that is, demonstrating the remarkable role of experience in shaping the mind, brain, and body. This insight is particularly important in advancing theory in cognitive development, where debates have raged about the importance of nature versus nurture.

The report also outlines how touch plays a powerful role for human infants in promoting optimal development and in counteracting stressors. The improved weight gain from neonatal massage has been replicated cross-culturally, and cognitive benefits are evident even a year later. It is not that infants sleep or eat more; rather, stimulating their body through massage increases vagal (parasympathetic nervous system) activity, which prompts release of food-absorption hormones. Such improved vagal tone also indicates better ability to modulate arousal and to attend to subtle environmental cues important for cognitive development.

The report also states neuro-imaging in developing children may perhaps be able to detect evidence of learning disorders—such as attentional, sensory-processing, language, or math deficits—before there is behavioral evidence of a problem. Already, research is being undertaken to see if infants’ neural responses to auditory stimuli might predict later linguistic problems.

• Blair, C. & Diamond, A. (2008). Biological Processes in Prevention and Intervention: The Promotion of Self-Regulation as a Means of Preventing School Failure. Development and Psychopathology, 20, pp 899-911

This research examines the relationship between biological and social influences on the development of self-regulation in young children, and how this affects a successful transition to school.

Emotional development and regulation is also influenced by the development of executive cognitive functions, which includes working memory, inhibitory control, and the mental flexibility necessary for regulating attention and behavior. Developing self-regulation is further understood to reflect an emerging balance between processes of emotional arousal and cognitive regulation.

Early childhood educational programs that effectively link emotional and motivational arousal with activities designed to exercise and promote executive functions have been effective in enhancing self-regulation, school readiness, and school success.

• Diamond, A., Barnett. W.S., Thomas, J., & Munro, S., (2007). Preschool Program Improves Cognitive Control, Science, 318, 1387-1388.

A growing body of new research indicates that many children start school not ready to learn not because they do not know their letters or numbers but because they lack one critical ability: the ability to regulate their social, emotional, and cognitive behaviors. Current research shows that self-regulation– often called executive function -- has a stronger association with academic achievement than IQ or entry-level reading or math skills.

Diamond’s research team obtained findings with direct and important implications for early childhood education. They compared two different educational approaches during the course of their study – The Tools of the Mind approach, based on Vygotsky’s insights into executive functioning, and the school district’s version of the Balanced Literacy Curriculum, which featured more direct academic instruction. They found that:

-Executive function can be improved in four to five year-olds. Some believed that was too early to try to improve these skills.

-Executive function can be improved in regular public-school classes, without expensive, high-tech equipment or one on one attention and by regular public-school teachers.

-A program that emphasized dramatic play produced better executive functioning abilities (and others showed improved academic outcomes) than ones that devoted more time to direct academic instruction (indicating that play may aid academic goals rather than take time away from achieving them).

This report also discusses characteristics of mature, intentional make-believe play, with further analysis of the Tools of the Mind curriculum.

• Diamond, A. (2007). Interrelated and Interdependent. Developmental Science., Garsington Road, Oxford: Blackwell Publishing Ltd.

The possibilities for building and nourishing connections among the social, cultural, biological and cognitive sciences in the service of understanding children and their development are tremendously exciting. Crossing, and integrating across disciplinary boundaries, especially those disciplines relating to biology/neuroscience, society/culture, cognition, emotion, perception, and motor function has greatly increased over the last decade and hopefully will increase exponentially in the future. All of these aspects of being human are interrelated and we need to make far more progress in understanding those relationships.

• Diamond, A., Davidson, M., Amso, D, Anderson, L. (2006).Development of cognitive control and executive functions from 4 to 13 years: Evidence from manipulations of memory, inhibition, and task switching. Neuropsychologica., Amsterdam: Elsevier Ltd.

Predictions concerning development, interrelations, and possible independence of working memory, inhibition, and cognitive flexibility were tested in 325 participants. All were tested on the same computerized battery, designed to manipulate memory and inhibition independently and together, in steady state (single-task blocks) and during task-switching, and to be appropriate over the lifespan and for neuro-imaging. This is one of the first studies, in children or adults, to explore how memory requirements interact with spatial compatibility and how spatial incompatibility effects both with stimulus-specific rules and with higher-level, conceptual rules.

• Diamond, A. (2006) Bootstrapping Conceptual Deduction Using Physical Connection: Rethinking Frontal Cortex. Trends in Cognitive Sciences, Vol. 10, No. 5.  Amsterdam:   Science Direct., Ensevier Ltd.

The age at which infants can demonstrate the ability to deduce abstract rules can be reduced by more than half, from 21 months to 9 months. The key is to introduce a physical connection between the items to be conceptually related. In this paper, Diamond argues that making the same change in how items are presented might also help some preschoolers with learning delays, especially some children with autism. She also suggests the roles of premotor and ventrolateral prefrontal cortices in deducing abstract rules might have been misinterpreted behaviorally and anatomically. The crucial brain region may be the periarcuate, which partially overlaps both premotor and lateral prefrontal cortex. The cognitive ability made possible by this region might be something far more elementary than previously considered: the ability to perceive conceptual connections in the absence of physical connection.

•Diamond, A., Kirkham, N. (2003) Response: Sorting Between Theories of Perseveration: Performance in Conflict Tasks Requires Memory, Attention and Inhibition. Garsington Road, Oxford: Blackwell Publishing Ltd.

Two commentaries have raised interesting and important questions regarding the authors’ theory of attentional inertia. In this short paper, Diamond and Kirkham respond to these questions.


Dr. Sharon Friesen

• Friesen, S. 21st Century Learning In this short article, Dr. Friesen notes the classroom structures, curricula and practices we take for granted were developed in the early 20th century in order to meet the needs of a society transformed by technology. At that time, children of migrants from radically diverse backgrounds were transformed first into students and then into workers with remarkable efficiency. So, as Dr. Friesen writes, when we describe the transformations required in today’s classrooms, once again changed by global conditions and technology, we can make one sure claim: Educators have to invent new learning environments to address the findings from the learning sciences and that encompass the digital world emerging around us.

• Willms, J. D., Friesen, S. & Milton, P. (2009). What did you do in school today? Transforming classrooms through social, academic, and intellectual engagement. (First National Report) Toronto: Canadian Education Association.

• Jardine, D., Friesen, S., Clifford, P. (2006) Curriculum in Abundance. Mahwah, New Jersey. Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Inc.

• Jardine, D., Friesen, S., Clifford, P. (2003) Back to the Basics of Teaching and Learning: Thinking the World Together. Mahwah, New Jersey. Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Inc.

• Jacobsen, M. Clifford, P. & Friesen, S. (2002). Preparing teachers for technology integration: Creating a culture of inquiry in the context of use. Contemporary Issues in Technology and Teacher. This article outlines how new ways of learning in this online age demand new ways of teaching. In the fall of 2000, Alberta teachers embarked on a three-year implementation of an innovative curriculum, the Information and Communications Technology Program of Studies. Designed for kindergarten to Grade 12 students, the curriculum was at the forefront in terms of what in means for students to think and learn with the full range of digital technologies that are so much a part of today’s changing world.

• (Friesen, S. (2009) What did you do in school today? Teaching Effectiveness: A Framework and Rubric. Toronto: Canadian Education Association.

Preparing teachers for today’s world requires a close look at what it means to teach and learn in increasingly networked, information-rich, digital classrooms. This framework, published by the Canadian Education Association, puts forward a set of five principles to guide educators in teaching for today’s realities. The five core principles provide a framework for effective teaching:

1.   Effective teaching practice begins with the thoughtful and intentional design of learning that engages students intellectually and academically.

2.     The work that students are asked to undertake is worthy of their time and attention, is personally relevant, and deeply connected to the world in which they live.

3.     Assessment practices are clearly focused on improving student learning and guiding teaching decisions.

4.     Teachers foster a variety of interdependent relationships in classrooms that promote learning and create a strong culture around learning.

5.     Teachers improve their practice in the company of others.

Implicit in these five core principles is the understanding technology is an integral feature of todays learning environments and is therefore inextricably woven into the teaching and learning fabric of each setting.


Dr. Robbin Gibb

• Dr. Gibb and her colleagues at the Canadian Centre for Behavioural Neuroscience were featured during an Alberta Education research series in May, 2011. In this video, Brain 201, Dr. Gibb speaks to how early experience can change the developing brain.


Dr. Jane Hewes

• Hewes, Jane (2006) Let the Children Play: Nature’s Answer to Early Learning: Early Childhood Learning Knowledge Centre, Canadian Council on Learning. Montreal, QC. (Laissons-les s'amuser : l'apprentissage par le jeu chez les jeunes enfants)

In this article, Dr. Hewes outlines why play is so important in the early years. She points out although this is widely known, play is persistently undervalued in our society and in our educational systems. The priority is generally on academic skills, which limits the scope of learning that unfolds naturally in play.

• Hewes, Jane The Value of Play in Early Learning: Towards a Pedagogy. From the book, Several Perspectives on Children’s Play: Scientific Reflections for Practitioners. (2007) Tom Jambor and Jan Van Gils. Garant Publishers, Antwerp, Belgium

Play nourishes every part of a child’s development. In the chapter completed by Dr. Hewes, the vital role of parents, caregivers and educators is outlined. They must:

-Ensure there is adequate time, space and conditions for play to develop, both indoors and outdoors.

-Ensure that early learning environments have an appropriate balance of child-initiated free play and more directed learning.

-Improve the quality and scope of play in early learning environments.

-Create tools to assess the quality of play environments and experiences;

-Articulate the learning outcomes of play – social, emotional, cognitive, creative, physical;

-Create tools to assess the learning of individual children and groups of children in play contexts;

-Provide a clear focus in both preservice and inservice teacher training on developing a full range of roles for adults facilitating children’s play;

-promote the value of play and the child’s right to play.


Dr. Anna Kirova

• Dachyshyn, Darcey. Kirova, Anna. Paradis, Johanne (2009) Working with Young Children who are Learning English as a New Language. Alberta Education Early Learning Branch. Edmonton, Alberta.

• Kirova, Anna. Cooley, Miriam. Dunn, William E., Greg Ogilvie. (2007) Promoting the pursuit of intercultural competence among pre-service teachers. University of Alberta Research Team. This study investigates the experiences of a group of teacher educators working to promote intercultural awareness among pre-service teachers enrolled in their subject-area curriculum courses. The goal of the study is to allow for greater equality and social inclusion for immigrant children and their families.

• Kirova, Anna (2004) Lonely or Bored: Children’s lived Experiences reveal the difference. Interchange, Vol. 35/2 Kluwer Academic Publishers. Despite a growing body of research, the link between loneliness and boredom in children hasn’t been sufficiently addressed. In this article, Dr. Kirova recounts conversations with children, and her own experiences, along with research on the topic, discovering that both boredom and loneliness are seen as important pedagogical ingredients in the formation of a child’s inner self.

• Kirova, Anna (2003) Assessing Children's Experiences of Loneliness Through Conversations. Field Methods, Vol.15, No.1. Sage Publications. The question of how to talk to children about loneliness hasn't been fully addressed. In this article, Dr. Kirova suggests a game-playing approach to initiating conversations with children about their experiences. The resulting interviews provide a deeper understanding of the difference between loneliness and aloneness, solitude and boredom.

• Kirova, Anna. Bhargava, Ambika (2002) Learning to Guide Preschool Children's Mathematical Understanding: A Teacher's Professional Growth. Early Childhood Research and Practice, Vol. 4, No. 1. Champaign, Illinois.

• Kirova, Anna (2001) Loneliness in Immigrant Children. Childhood Education, Vol.77. This article delves into the psyche of an immigrant child, which Dr. Kirova accomplishes through personal experience and her research on the topic. The impact of immigration on a child’s self esteem, socialization and learning in school are covered.

Learning the Ropes, Resisting the Rules: Immigrant Children’s Representation of the Lunchtime Routine through Fotonovella. Anna Kirova, Fauza Mohamed, Michael Emme. For a child who has immigrated to Canada, the school routine can be seen as confusing, even traumatizing. This article is based on an in-school study where immigrant students were given the opportunity to interpret school life through a fotonovella – a small publication similar to a comic book, with photographs instead of illustrations. The project allowed the authors to better understand how immigrant children make sense of school rules and procedures, and how they interpret, comply with or resist them. The students, in turn, were able to better assert their own position in relation to school routines and school life in general.


Dr. Bryan Kolb

• Dr. Kolb and his colleagues at the Canadian Centre for Behavioural Neuroscience were featured during an Alberta Education research series in May, 2011. In this video, Brain 101, Dr. Kolb speaks to how the brain works and develops.

• Kolb, Bryan., Whitshaw, Ian Q. (2003) Fundamentals of Human Neuropsychology.

• Kolb, Bryan., Whitshaw, Ian Q (2005) Introduction to Brain and Behaviour.


Robert J. Marzano

• Marzano, R.J., (2010). Representing Knowledge Non-Linguistically, Educational Leadership, Alexandria VA.

This article recommends teachers have their students illustrate their learning in ways that don’t include the use of language. Across 129 different studies, students in classrooms where non linguistic strategies were used (graphic organizers, sketches, pictographs), experienced a 17 percent gain in student achievement.

The article defines five important characteristics of non linguistic representations for teachers to consider:

-These representations come in many forms, including graphic organizers, sketches, concept maps, flow charts and computerized simulations.

- They must identify crucial information, or there is little or no positive effect on student learning.

-Students should explain their non linguistic representations, because it requires them to think about content in new ways.

- Non linguistic representations can take more time to construct, explain and defend. Teachers should plan and allow for this extra time.

-Students should revise their representations when necessary.


Janet N. Mort

• Janet N. Mort’s expertise is featured in a series of early learning videos from the BC government, in support of the province’s introduction to full day Kindergarten. These videos discuss important features in every Kindergarten classroom: The learning environment, the role of the educator, play-based learning, inquiry or project-based learning, and self-regulation.

Click here to view videos and support materials:

• More articles concerning early learning can be found on the Human Early Learning Partnership (HELP) website.


Vivian Gussin Paley

YouTube video: Vivian Gussin Paley talks about the importance of imagination and play in children’s development. She also talks about the most important role of a teacher in the lives of young children.

• Books concerning Vivian Gussin Paley’s approach:

-Boys and Girls: Superheroes in the Doll Corner.

-Wally’s Stories

-White Teacher

-Bad Guys Don’t Have Birthdays

-Mollie is Three

-The Boy Who Would Be a Helicopter

-You Can’t Say You Can’t Play

-The Girl With The Brown Crayon

-Kwanzaa and Me: A Teacher’s Story.

-The Kindness of Children

-A Child’s Work: The Importance of Fantasy Play.

• Cooper, Patricia M. (2005). Literacy Learning and Pedagogical Purpose in Vivian Paley’s ‘Storytelling Curriculum.’ Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.


Dr. Sergio Pellis

• Pellis, S.M. & Pellis, V.C. (2007). Rough and Tumble Play and the Development of the Social Brain. Sage Journals Online: Current Directions in Psychological Science. April 2007.

Rough and tumble play, a recurring feature of childhood is correlated with measures of social competence. Play fighting involves many areas of the brain. In experiments with rats, the areas of the brain that work together to deal with social phenomena are activated. In young rats, it induces the release of chemical growth factors that affect social behavior and cognition. This article also concludes adult rats that were prevented from playing with their peers as juveniles ended up with many emotional and cognitive defects.

• Pellis, S.M. & Pellis V.C. (2010). The Playful Brain: Venturing to the Limits of Neuroscience. New York, N.Y.: One World Publications.


Lloyd P. Rieber

• Rieber, L.P. (1996). Seriously Considering Play: Designing Interactive Learning Environments Based on the Blending of Microworlds, Simulations and Games. Educational Technology Research and Development, 44(2), 43-58.

This paper provides a brief overview of the history, research, and theory related to play, which has proven to be a powerful mediator for learning throughout life. Rieber defines play as having the following attributes: It is usually voluntary, it is intrinsically motivating, that is, it’s pleasurable for its own sake and not dependent on external rewards. Play also involves some level of active, often physical engagement, and it is distinct from other behavior by having a make-believe quality to it.

• Rieber, L.P. (2001) Designing Learning Environment that Excite Serious Play. Paper presented to the Australasian Society for Computers in Learning in Tertiary Education. Melbourne, Australia.

This paper outlines the benefits of play, when aligned with the use of technology in the classroom. Technology, Rieber says, offers many routes to serious play. Students can effectively learn through technology, through simulations and games, and also, when given the opportunity to take charge of multimedia tools.


Educational Approaches:

Reggio Emilia Approach

• This YouTube video illustrates what a classroom looks like under the Reggio Emilia approach.

The Reggio Emilia Approach to Pre-School Education. This European-based website includes information on school projects, and outlines administrative policies, and the importance of community and parental involvement the in education of young children.

• Wurm, J. P., Genishi, C., (2005), Working in the Reggio Way: A Beginner’s Guide for American Teachers. St. Paul, MN: Redleaf Press.

• Cadwell, L.B., Gandini, L., (1997), Bringing Reggio Emilia Home: An Innovative Approach to Early Childhood Education. New York: Teachers College Press.


The HighScope Approach

• Directorate for Education, OECD, (2004) Curricula and Pedagogies in Early Childhood Education and Care: Five Curriculum Outlines. Paris, OECD.

This paper was developed as part of a project launched by OECD, the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development. The aim is to improve the quality of early childhood education and care, while disseminating information on early childhood policy. The HighScope Approach is included in this report as part of that initiative.

Acting out Stories Watch how adults support children as they act out a popular nursery rhyme. Props and materials are turned over to the children, and the story is told with a tapping beat.

Small Group Time This video outlines what small group time is, why it’s important and how teachers can successfully plan, support and conclude this part of the day.

Large Group Time Similar to the Small Group Time video, examples of how large group time works in an early childhood classroom are shown. Large group time gives children a repertoire of common experiences, builds a sense of community in the classroom, and encourages children to be part of a group.


Lev Vygotsky and the Tools of the Mind Approach

• The Tools of the Mind curriculum is featured in Adele Diamond’s report The Early Years: Preschool Program Improves Cognitive Control. It outlines how the use of the Tools curriculum contributed to social and academic success, when compared to a school district’s version of the Balanced Literacy Curriculum. Children experienced such success with the Tools program, the school involved in the study switched to that approach entirely, as officials felt it was unethical to deprive them of the program’s benefits. 

• The Tools Program and its focus on self-regulation is the topic of this article from the Metropolitan State College of Denver. It points to research concerning the link between self-regulation skills and academic achievement. It also outlines the main characteristics of a Tools classroom.

• Focus and Planning Skills can be Improved Before a Child Enters School (2008). National Scientific Council on the Developing Child. Harvard.

This study concerns the Tools of the Mind curriculum. It finds focusing attention on a preschool-age child’s executive functioning skills can be helpful and may also improve the development of more traditional academic skills.


Groups and Organizations:

The Alliance for Childhood

• Almon, J., & Miller, E. (2009) Crisis in the Kindergarten: Why Children Need to Play in School College Park MD: The Alliance for Childhood.

Thanks to everything from so-called smart baby products, standardized testing, and an increased focus on teaching literacy and numeracy skills at too young an age, play is being moved out of America’s classrooms. The effects are startling – many experts link a rise in severe behavior problems and anxiety in children to inadequate playtime. There is a balance to be achieved in play-based learning, however. In a healthy kindergarten, play does not mean that anything goes. Nor is it so tightly structured that children are denied the opportunity to learn through their own initiative and exploration. Young children need a balance of child-initiated play in the presence of an engaged teacher, and more focused, experience-based learning, guided by the teacher. Because children develop important attributes such as creativity, initiative, problem-solving and cooperation through imaginative play, changes must be made to ensure play is a priority in schools and communities.


Center on the Developing Child – Harvard University

From Neurons to Neighbourhoods: The Science of Early Childhood Development (2000). National Scientific Council on the Developing Child, National Academy Press.

Based on a two and a half-year study, this report uncovers important findings about the effects of genetics, environment and early stress on brain architecture. It also highlights the impact politics have on early childhood programming. It calls for fundamental changes in how children’s programming is conducted.

A Science-Based Framework for Early Childhood Policy: Using Evidence to Improve Outcomes in Learning, Behaviour, and Health for Vulnerable Children (2007). National Scientific Council on the Developing Child, Harvard University.

This paper outlines how early experiences determine whether a child’s developing brain architecture provides a strong or weak foundation for all future learning, behavior and health. It builds on the analysis of From Neurons to Neighbourhoods: The Science of Early Childhood Development. The basic science of development is summarized in six core concepts. They are:

-Brains are built over time and a substantial proportion is constructed during the early years of life.

-The interactive influences of genes and experience shape the architecture of the developing brain, and the active ingredient in that process is the ‘serve and return’ interactive nature of a child’s relationship with their parents.

-Both brain architecture and developing skills are built from the bottom up, with simple circuits and skills providing the scaffolding for more advanced circuits and skills over time.

-Cognitive, emotional and social capabilities are inextricably intertwined throughout life, and their interactive relationship develops in a continuous process over time.

-Toxic stress in early childhood is associated with disruptive effects on the nervous system and stress hormone regulatory systems. It can damage developing brain architecture and chemistry and lead to lifelong problems in learning, behavior, and both physical and mental health.

This paper also evaluates effectiveness factors in early childhood programming. They are:

-Highly-skilled teachers

-Small class sizes and high adult-to-child ratios

-Age-appropriate curricula and stimulating materials in a safe physical setting

-A language-rich environment.

The Science of Early Childhood Development: Closing the Gap Between What We Know and What We Do (2007) National Scientific Council on the Developing Child, Harvard University.

This report also addresses how early experiences shape a child’s brain architecture, but additionally, stresses the importance of investing in young children and their families as a contribution to a prosperous and sustainable society. It recommends policy changes that support a balanced approach to emotional, social, cognitive and language development, in addition to early intervention for children and families who are at risk. Leading psychologists, pediatricians and economists contributed to the recommendations in this report.

The Timing and Quality of Early Experiences Combine to Shape Brain Architecture (2007) National Scientific Council on the Developing Child, Harvard University.

This working paper outlines how a environmental conditions and primary influences early in a child’s life contributes to brain architecture, and therefore, the child’s potential to learn. It encourages early childhood professionals and parents to pay attention to so-called sensitive periods, or times when life experiences affect specific brain circuits during specific stages of development.

Building the Brain’s Air Traffic Control System: How Early Experiences Shape the Development of Executive Function (2011) National Scientific Council on the Developing Child, Harvard University.

Much like an air traffic controller at an airport, we must be able to focus, hold on to, and work with information, while filtering out distractions. This important skill is referred to as executive functioning. This working paper outlines how executive functioning skills are developed, and how supporting them pays off in school and in life.

The Science of Early Childhood Development This video outlines how the brain is built “from the bottom up”, and how biologically, the brain is set up to be influenced and shaped by experience, from a very young age. It talks about the ‘serve and return’ in childhood development, and how cognitive development and social/emotional development can’t occur in isolation from the other. When young children grow up in emotionally stable surroundings, their brains are literally wired in a way that promotes successful learning.

Early Childhood Program Effectiveness This video outlines much of what is contained in the Harvard Education paper, A Science-Based Framework for Early Childhood Policy: Using Evidence to Improve Outcomes in Learning, Behaviour, and Health for Vulnerable Children. It suggests that if decision-makers adopt suggestions for improving early childhood programming, the benefits to society would be significant – both in terms of monetary savings and in improvements to the social, emotional and intellectual growth of children.


Dr. Fraser Mustard and the Founder’s Network

• McCain, M.N., Mustard, F. & Shanker, S. (2007). The Early Years Study 2: Putting Science Into Action. Toronto, ON: Council for Early Childhood Development.

This Canadian study builds on previous findings about brain development in early childhood. It outlines how different experiences early in life affect the wiring of the brain, and how emotions play a role in brain development. The study also highlights the importance of play in expanding intelligence, providing a testing ground for language and reasoning skills, and its role in developing a child’s confidence, self esteem, and sense of their own strength and weaknesses. The study also suggests neighbourhood schools would be ideal locations for early childhood centres. These centres should revolve around the power of play, and be staffed by a skilled, competent and fairly-compensated workforce.


Researchers focused on technology:

Cathy Davidson

• Davidson, Cathy, N (2011). Now You See It: How the Brain Science of Attention Will Transform the Way We Live, Work and Learn. Viking. Penguin. London, England.

• Davidson, Cathy, N. and David Theo Goldberg (2010). The Future of Thinking: Learning Institutions in a Digital Age. MIT Press.


Beryl Exley

• (Exley, B. (2008). Communities of Learners: Early Years Students, New Learning Pedagogy and Transformations. In Healy, A. (ed), Multiliteracies and Diversity in Education: New Pedagogies for Expanding Landscapes. Oxford University Press. South Melbourne, Vic., pp. 126-143.


Dr. Scott McLeod

Did You Know? This collection of videos outlines the need for educators – and society as a whole – to recognize what skills children require to navigate a media-rich, globalized society. It’s a call for action to help all children become successful, digital, global citizens. A wiki has also been developed to provide more background on the Did You Know / Shift Happens series.

Dangerously Irrelevantis Dr. McLeod’s blog relating to information and ideas on education, technology, the 21st century, leadership, staff development and more.


Roger Schank

• Schank, Roger. Teaching Minds: How Cognitive Science Can Save Our Schools. (2011) Teachers College Press. ISBN 978 0 8077 5266 1.)

• Read Roger Schank’s blog, Education Outrage


John Seely Brown and Douglas Thomas

• Thomas, Douglas and Brown, John Seely. (2011) A New Culture of Learning: Cultivating the Imagination for a World of Constant Change. Create Space. Seattle, WA.

• The authors have also developed a web resource expanding upon the ideas presented in the book.


Etienne Wenger-Trayner and Beverly Wenger-Trayner

• Wenger, Etienne. Communities of Practice: A Brief Introduction. Posted online April 18, 2012. People form communities of practice (COP) to engage in a process of collective learning. Communities of practice come together regularly around a concern or passion to learn how to do it better.


Dr. Michael Wesch

An Anthropological Introduction to YouTubeThis 2008 presentation at the American Library of Congress opens our eyes to the phenomenon of new social communities and the classroom use of web tools such as Jott, Twitter, YouTube, Diigo, and Google Earth.

• See an example of Dr. Wesch's class in their World Systems Simulation, then view the video, A Portal to Media Literacy, in which Dr. Wesch describes how they applied these various technologies in this course. 

• More videos by Dr. Wesch and his Digital Ethnography Working Groupat Kansas State University can be found here, including videos on how social media tools can create massive movements and change.


Martha Stone Wiske

• Wiske, M.S., Rennebohm, F. & Breit, L. (2005). Teaching for Understanding with Technology. San Francisco, CA. John Wiley and Sons. Inc.