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Jerome Bruner. Interactive learning for early education and childcare students. Contents. Section 1 Background information Section 2 Spiral curriculum Section 3 Scaffolding Section 4 Modes of representation Section 5 Summary. Background information.

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jerome bruner

Jerome Bruner

Interactive learning for early education and childcare students

  • Section 1 Background information
  • Section 2 Spiral curriculum
  • Section 3 Scaffolding
  • Section 4 Modes of representation
  • Section 5 Summary
background information
Background information
  • Jerome Bruner was born in New York in 1915 and continues to play an important role in the study of children’s development and learning. He developed earlier work carried out by Lev Vygotsky in the 1920s and 30s. Bruner believed that knowledge and learning were gained most effectively when children learned through personal discovery rather than being ‘taught’.
spiral curriculum
Spiral Curriculum
  • Bruner stated that ‘any subject can be taught to any child at any age in some form that is honest’ (Bruner 1977)
  • At a simple level, the ‘science’ of baking scones would allow children to discover the texture of dry ingredients e.g. flour & sugar, oily nature of margarine and the wet ingredient of milk. Combining ingredients to form a mixture would change the texture and finally the addition of heat from the oven would alter the consistency permanently.
  • Now look carefully at the pictures in a similar but different context and decide how the children’s learning could be honest.
the science of water
The science of water

Apply your knowledge about spiral curriculum and note the learning opportunities linked to the pictures on the student activity sheet.

more water fun
More water fun!

Think about how these learning situations could be honest for young children.

Remember there may be a variety of answers!

  • Bruner believed that adults can support children by ‘scaffolding’ their learning. He advocated that the adult should assist the child to move from where they are to where they want to go. It should stem from the child’s interests and desires and scaffolding should support their learning.
images of scaffolding
Images of scaffolding ?

Which picture is the odd one out and why?

modes of representation
Modes of representation
  • When adults represent something they are bringing back information from a previous experience. Bruner believes that this recall is processed in 3 inter-related ways.
  • Enactive mode
  • Iconic mode
  • Symbolic mode
enactive mode
Enactive mode
  • When we represent things through doingthis is termed the enactive mode. This is an important aspect of early education and staff often focus on process rather than product.
iconic mode
Iconic mode
  • Children in early education and childcare settings are often encouraged to record experiences using photographs, pictures and now video tape.
  • How might children record experiences of making dough?
symbolic mode
Symbolic mode
  • Bruner explains that children use the symbolic mode to represent something. When we write the word ‘girl’ to mean a girl and the numeral ‘4’ to represent the number four. In other words, children are using a ‘code’ to show what they mean.
  • How might children express themselves continuing with the dough scenario?
variety of codes
Variety of codes
  • Children use a variety of symbolic codes to express themselves including
  • Drawing & painting
  • Dancing
  • Imaginative play
  • Making models
  • Language
  • Numeracy
check your learning
Check your learning
  • Now check your learning by matching the statements in this exercise.
  • Without the web, you could try this matching activity
  • Now check your overall knowledge with a quiz just for fun!
  • Without the web, you could try this quiz just for fun!
links to practice spiral curriculum
Links to practice Spiral curriculum
  • Spiral curriculum remains valid in early education
  • Dry/wet sand
  • Science of dough
  • Building blocks
  • Think how the above topics could be explored in early education and childcare settings.
  • Scaffolding works if staff are alert and responsive to children’s learning needs. Adults need to be clued in to children's thoughts in a sensitive manner and nurture the child’s learning rather than impose their ideas on it. It is almost an intuitive experience.
  • Enactive mode – by doing
  • Iconic mode – by making an image/picture
  • Symbolic mode – by using symbols/codes
modes of representation in practice
Modes of representation in practice
  • Encourage children to be active in the nursery.
  • Promote recording of experiences through photographs/videotape.
  • Provide opportunities for scribbling and early writing skills.
  • The work of Jerome Bruner remains influential in early education settings today as he continues to explore how children play, learn and develop.
  • Now you have had an introduction to his work, look at the books and find out more!
  • Bruce, T.(2005). 3rd edition Early Childhood Education. London: Hodder Arnold.
  • Lindon, J. ( 2001). Understanding Children’s Play. Cheltenham: Nelson Thornes.