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In an attempt to highlight the value of a balanced curriculum, the High/Scope Preschool Curriculum
Comparison Study63 compared the effectiveness of three preschool curriculum models when used with
children at risk for school failure. Children were randomly assigned to participate in programs employing
(1) the High/Scope curriculum model which balances child- and teacher-directed instructional activities,
(2) a direct instruction model in which it is primarily teachers who initiate activities, or (3) a traditional
nursery school program in which classroom activities are the teacher’s responses to the child’s expressed
needs and interests, and teachers encourage children to engage in free play.
The High/Scope curriculum provides children with opportunities to make choices about their activities by
identifying goals and making plans to achieve them. Students are also encouraged to recall or reflect upon
different experiences they have had during the day, taking time to consider ideas and concepts they have
discovered and discuss what they might do to build on or extend what they have learned. The plan-do-review
sequence helps children develop language and social behavioral skills and contributes to the development of
higher-order thinking skills such as making predictions, solving problems, and anticipating outcomes.64 This
model provides autonomy and assists in the development of analytical abilities, abstract thinking, problem
solving skills, self regulation, and metacognitive skills, all of which are essential for success in school.
Adults who had attended the High/Scope program as children experienced fewer social difficulties and were
more likely to participate in volunteer work, vote, and stay married longer than their peers who had participated
in the other programs. Other studies also suggest that a balanced curriculum can have a significant
long-term impact on sociobehavioral outcomes,65 including more prosocial behavior and better relationships
with peers in early elementary school.66 These suggest that more attention to how children are taught and
the kinds of relationships children and adults have in preschool programs may be the key to avoiding even
small negative effects on aggression and maximizing positive effects on social and emotional development
and behavior.
The High/Scope curriculum study is just one small experiment, but the field is decidedly lacking in randomized
trials investigating the effects of curriculum on social and emotional development on long-term
social and emotional development. Indeed, the experimental literature has tended to focus on highly specific
interventions for children identified as having serious problems rather than on a whole child
approach for the general population.67 The preschool education programs found to be the most effective in
preventing antisocial behavior and delinquency are quality programs with balanced curricula that focus on
the needs of the children,68 provide opportunities for peer interactions during play and produce high levels
of teacher-child closeness.69
Understanding the impact of quality preschool education is the first step, but providing programs
that foster healthy emotional development requires foresight, planning and the support of politicians,
communities and families.


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