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Early Childhood Education: Theoretical Basics


There is no doubt that early childhood education remains an extremely important branch of science as studying the mechanisms responsible for perception and processing of the information in children involves significant scientific discoveries capable of improving the modern approaches to education. As for the latter, they may be regarded as the solution to the puzzle of intellectual abilities in children.

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The researchers working in the field do not stop searching and conducting new experiments to approve the effectiveness of certain practices aimed at developing the mental faculties in children. Even though the sphere never stops developing, it is necessary to note that the current progress becomes possible due to the theories that have been proposed earlier. Within the frame of the given assignment, we are supposed to reflect on the topic of famous childhood education experts and their work to outline possible conversation between the experts and better understand the assumptions that they supported or still support.

Theorists and Their Thinking Styles

If I had an opportunity to organize the party and invite three theorists related to the field, I would prefer to have a conversation with such specialists as Lev Vygotsky who was a famous researcher from the Soviet Union, Jean Piaget who was a psychologist from Switzerland, and Howard Gardner who is an American researcher.

These three people were chosen because the theories proposed by them helped many people all over the world to understand which aspects should be paid increased attention to when it comes to early childhood education and teaching in general. To better understand the most important differences between these three experts chosen and think about good questions for discussion that could be proposed to them, it is necessary to become familiar with the primary concepts that they supported in their famous works.

Considering the differences between the researchers and their points of view, I would encourage them to discuss the following two questions: Which component is the most important when it comes to early childhood education? How can your theory be applied in practice?

To begin with, the first export from the Soviet Union whose name is Lev Vygotsky is supposed to be one of the key figures when it comes to theories of early childhood education. Trying to understand the range of factors that may have a significant influence on children and the way that they process the information which is new to them, this researcher was paying increased attention to studying the development of a child in connection with social interaction. According to this specialist, social interaction remains the sphere of great importance as it supports the “cognitive, linguistic, and social development” of children (Morrison, 2015, p. 137).

Therefore, it is important to note that this very assumption conflicted with the ideas supported by other famous researchers of that time living and working in Europe. As it is clear from the works by Vygotsky, this researcher supposes that the importance of social interaction should never be underestimated. Unlike other researchers, he defines the need for communication as one of the basic needs that have to be fulfilled for successful childhood development.

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Importantly, the researcher highlights the fact that children cannot develop essential skills without the help of adults and their support. At the beginning of the 1930s, the researcher introduced a new concept called ZPD that helps to define the skills that are already developed in a particular child and the ones that still need to be improved.

It is clear from the concept that children try to adopt the practices repeating the actions performed by adult people in their communities; acting like that, children start to demonstrate their independence and individual needs and learn to fulfill certain tasks without the help of other people. ZPD can be used as an important tool when it comes to the development of individualized education programs as the use of this concept helps to define the range of skills that can be developed in the nearest future (Murphy, Scantlebury, & Milne, 2015).

The second researcher whose ideas deserve attention and can be successfully applied when it comes to the early development of children is Jean Piaget from Switzerland. This person is known for his constructivist learning theory that was developed in the first half of the twentieth century. In general, speaking about the ideas supported by this researcher, it is necessary to state that he puts more focus on the individual role of children in the process of education.

In other words, he supposes that children do not necessarily need to pay attention to the actions performed by adult people to learn; unlike the previous expert chosen for this assignment, he does not regard social interaction as the issue of paramount importance. In his theory, this researcher places a high emphasis on the development of logical abilities such as numeration (Ness & Farenga, 2016). Applying the theory proposed by Piaget, teachers tend to focus on the previous experience of a child rather than on his or her potential or talents. Piaget supposes that children should gain knowledge and develop intelligence through constant contact with the physical world.

As for the third specialist in early childhood education, Howard Gardner from the United States is the author who proposed the theory of multiple intelligences that can be applied in many spheres including early childhood development. Nevertheless, the concepts outlined in the theory can also be used by those specialists working with adolescents and adult people as the ideas of Gardner are supposed to be universal.

The theory proposed by the discussed author touches upon the abilities that can be developed in children. To begin with, the author singles out a few types of intelligence that are strictly interconnected with talents and strong suits of children (Sternberg, 2015). Unlike other authors working in the same period, he supposes that these types of intelligence are manifested in different degrees, and this is why there are no people who would demonstrate the same behavior (Bjorklund & Causey, 2017).

The theory of multiple intelligences involves the idea that individualized education is extremely important as every child has his or her strengths and weaknesses. Having defined the types of intelligence that prevail in a student, teachers can develop a program that would be the most appropriate considering the individual needs and talents of a child.

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The Conversation

The thinking styles of these three experts are extremely different. Because all of them single out the particular element they believe to be the most important, I suppose that there could be an interesting discussion like that:

  • V: To me, it is clear that social interaction is the primary factor encouraging the development of intelligence in children, and the link between language capabilities and brain-building in children is obvious (Moriguchi, 2014).
  • P: I would agree with you when we speak about the importance of communication; nevertheless, to me, it seems that intellectual development exists due to the adoption of the experience of older generations. At the same time, I believe that children themselves possess this potential allowing them to gain knowledge and understand complex ideas. In other words, the role of a teacher is not critical. And it is impossible to cover all the tasks during education as there are ones that children cannot fulfill due to their actual level of development.
  • V: You are right and I would like to state that my ZPD theory also supports this assumption. Nevertheless, I strongly believe that teacher’s role should not be underestimated – it can be very difficult for children to define which skills they need to develop.
  • G: Dear colleagues, let me introduce my opinion. I know that your theories were developed a few decades earlier than mine, but I would like to state that an individual approach to teaching may be extremely important – I do not agree with those stating that intelligence is defined by only one general ability. Instead, I found out that there are at least seven types of intelligence, and children who seem to be retarded often possess hidden talents.
  • P: It sounds interesting but you do not take into account the factors defining information processing in general: processing speed, short-time memory, and other ones. Despite that, I suppose that your theory can help certain teachers in their work.


In the end, thinking styles of experts and the fact that these theories were created in different periods can have a significant impact on their possible conversation. In general, it can be supposed that their dialogue would start as a calm discussion but then, due to opposing views and Gardner’s awareness of the current trends in the field and criticism towards the other two theories, it might escalate into a conflict.


Bjorklund, D. F., & Causey, K. B. (2017). Children’s thinking: Cognitive development and individual differences. London, UK: Sage Publications.

Moriguchi, Y. (2014). The early development of executive function and its relation to social interaction: A brief review. Frontiers in Psychology, 5(1), 388-389.

Morrison, G. S. (2015). Early childhood education today. New York, NY: Pearson.

Murphy, C., Scantlebury, K., & Milne, C. (2015). Using Vygotsky’s zone of proximal development to propose and test an explanatory model for conceptualising co-teaching in pre-service science teacher education. Asia-Pacific Journal of Teacher Education, 43(4), 281-295.

Ness, D., & Farenga, S. J. (2016). Blocks, bricks, and planks: Relationships between affordance and visuo-spatial constructive play objects. American Journal of Play, 8(2), 201.

Sternberg, R. J. (2015). Teaching for creativity: The sounds of silence. Psychology of Aesthetics, Creativity, and the Arts, 9(2), 115.

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