Sunday, September 27, 2009

"Duh" Research Strikes Again

Interesting piece in the New York Times this morning--The School Issue - Preschool - Can the Right Kinds of Play Teach Self-Control? It's yet another in that long series of discoveries by researchers that kids learn better in ways that unschoolers have advocated for decades.

Researchers are coming to believe that impulse control and behavioral skills are more important than IQ, but they're finding that formal instruction in those skills is often ineffective. One program, called Tools of the Mind, is taking another approach:

At the heart of the Tools of the Mind methodology is a simple but surprising idea: that the key to developing self-regulation is play, and lots of it. But not just any play. The necessary ingredient is what Leong and Bodrova call “mature dramatic play”: complex, extended make-believe scenarios, involving multiple children and lasting for hours, even days. If you want to succeed in school and in life, they say, you first need to do what Abigail and Jocelyn and Henry have done every school day for the past two years: spend hour after hour dressing up in firefighter hats and wedding gowns, cooking make-believe hamburgers and pouring nonexistent tea, doing the hard, serious work of playing pretend.

I can't help but notice (again) that this program shifts the responsibility for learning to kids and away from teachers--that little matter of autonomy makes a difference every time.

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