Our Approach

We believe that education is most effective when children are interested, engaged, supported, and encouraged.

We don’t just provide what to teach — we focus on how to teach.

By fostering child creativity, confidence, and independence, we take the learning process beyond traditional academic subjects and prepare children for later schooling and future success in life. This active learning approach to early education achieves powerful, positive results.

Our goals for young children

  • To become independent, responsible, and confident problem solvers and decision makers — ready for school and ready for life
  • To gain knowledge and skills in important academic, social, emotional, and physical domains through active involvement with people, materials, events, and ideas
  • To learn to plan many of their own activities, carry them out, and talk with others about what they have done and what they have learned
  • To develop strong executive function and self-regulation skills that will last through adulthood

What does HighScope’s active learning approach look like in the classroom?

Shared Control

Children construct their own knowledge of the world with the support of intentional teachers who shape and encourage their individual learning experiences. Teachers build on children’s learning by planning activities based on what they observe in the classroom, providing materials and opportunities that both support and challenge young children. Children make their own discoveries and build their own initiatives by creating plans, following through on their intentions, and reflecting on their learning. This Plan-Do-Review process is a trademark of the HighScope approach and the strategic backbone for children and adults moving successfully through life. This unique dynamic of shared control between the child and adult lays the groundwork to actively engage young children in learning and helps children build essential school readiness skills.

Social-Emotional Development

Children learn and thrive when they are emotionally secure and socially connected to others. That’s why we focus on the important social and emotional development of young children. In a HighScope program, teachers intentionally arrange the classroom and daily routines to develop children’s sense of competence, support social interactions, and build a secure community. Our six steps for conflict resolution allow teachers to build children’s language skills as they work through a conflict. As children gain control over their emotions and thoughts, their thinking and interactions become intentional — leading to better executive function skills — a key predictor of school success.

Diversity

Because families and cultures play important roles in young children’s development, HighScope teachers strive to understand children’s home cultures and create classroom environments that reflect children’s home and community. Adults model respect for diversity, empowering children to act confidently and with respect for others. In an early childhood classroom, it’s not unusual to have children whose first language is one other than English. In HighScope classrooms, adults encourage children to communicate regardless of which language they use, and acknowledge and support all verbal and non-verbal modes of communication. They understand that children learn a second language the same way that they learned their first — with the support of caring adults who are delighted at their attempts to communicate. HighScope’s active learning approach focuses on children’s strengths and abilities, allowing teachers to individualize learning for children with a broad range of abilities — including those with special needs. Unlike some approaches where learning is sequenced across activities, HighScope sequences learning within activities so teachers are able to tailor their interactions to each child’s zone of proximal development.

Family Engagement

Developing a warm, supportive relationship with parents is key to building strong family engagement. HighScope teachers realize that parents are their child’s first teachers and work to communicate openly and collaboratively with parents. We offer a variety of resources to help educators partner with parents and involve them in children’s learning.

The 5 Ingredients of Active Learning

Materials

Children’s home, culture, and language are reflected in a variety of age appropriate, open-ended materials for them to explore.

Manipulation

Children make discoveries when they are encouraged to handle, examine, combine, and transform materials and ideas.

Choice

Children choose materials and play partners, change and build on their play ideas, and plan activities according to their interests and needs.

Child language and thought

Children communicate verbally and nonverbally — thinking about their actions, expressing their thoughts about what they understand, and modifying their thinking — as they learn and explore.

Adult scaffolding

Children gain knowledge and develop creative problem-solving skills with the help of well-prepared adults who support a child’s current level of thinking and challenge them to advance to the next stage, also known as “scaffolding.”

Professional Learning

At HighScope, we believe that educators deserve the same level of inspiration and individualization that they provide children every day. Explore our current professional learning opportunities.

Shop HighScope

Browse and purchase HighScope curriculum materials, assessment tools, and professional learning resources in our online store.

HighScope Membership

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