The HighScope approach to learning seeks to provide an environment in which children become active participants in learning. Five "ingredients" go into the "recipe" for this type of learning: materials, manipulation, choice, child language and thought, and adult scaffolding. All of these ingredients work together to produce a setting in which active participatory learning can occur. The HighScope organization has programs designed for children from infancy through the preteen and teenage years.
Because the HighScope approach is based on the concept that children need interesting materials to explore to engage them in the learning process, the HighScope classroom contains a variety of items arranged in "interest areas." These areas give children a place to freely explore a specific interest. Interest areas might include a block area, a reading area, a sand-and-water area and an art area.
In contrast to the lecture style classroom, the HighScope approach emphasizes hands-on manipulation of materials. Children are allowed to explore freely in each area, following their own inclinations on combining, handling and transforming materials. Teachers ensure that ample materials are available for all children, so that a child may pursue his learning without distraction.
An important aspect of the HighScope approach is choice. The child should be allowed to choose what he will explore, how and with whom. He may change play partners or activities according to his own needs and interests. The "Plan-Do-Review" routine allows children to plan their activities, explore as they wish, and then discuss the outcomes and discoveries with adults and other children.
Child Language and Thought
Allowing the child freedom of thought and expression also is important in the HighScope approach. Interest areas are "print rich" to increase familiarity with written communication, and adults encourage children to discuss or describe what they are doing. Adults also encourage children to express their thoughts about what they understand and discover as they manipulate the materials.
"Adult scaffolding" is the term used to describe the role of the teacher or other adult in the HighScope learning process. Adults interact with the children, encouraging them to talk about or show what they discover as they work with their chosen materials. Adults help to expand the learning process by guiding the children in problem solving or joining in their play. Teachers act as partners with the children in the learning process.