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Unpacking child-centredness: a history of meanings

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This paper examines the historical development of the term 'child-centred' in the discourse of early schooling in America. The discussion begins with the founder of the kindergarten, Friedrich Froebel, and traces the development of the kindergarten in the US until the 1930s. We explore how underlying meanings of the term child-centredness have changed - which were lost and which survived by tracing the educational and philosophical currents of each historical context. The term balances on many layers of complex and sometimes contradictory meanings that have been forged over the years by competing interest groups, each appropriating the term and, adding to and taking away from the existing meaning, moulding it to their own purposes. In the process, some underlying meanings were lost, others were added. Meanings were changed and then shared within and sometimes across groups. The term has masked complex and contradictory underlying assumptions about children and their learning and development that should be addressed.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: March 1, 2000

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