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Tools of the Mind is one of the early childhood curriculums designed to produce both long and short-term results that various research studies associated with the development of self-regulation among children. Children can apply the developed self-regulation capacity to emotional and social behaviors as well as to learning activities. Notably, self-regulated learners can establish adequate social relationships with other participants in the learning and teaching environment (Hammer, Blair, Lopez, Leong & Bedrova, 2012). Besides, they can also adopt a specific role and position of a student that is characterized by the willingness to adhere to school rules/regulations, readiness to follow teachers’ instructions, interest in learning processes, as well as comprehending the relationship between outcomes for a particular learning task and an effort to learn. Tools of the Mind has its strengths and weaknesses regarding the inclusion of young children (0-8 years) with special needs.
Tools of the Mind
Early childhood classrooms overlook the significance of tuning children’s thinking about the actual learning and instead concentrate on course contents. Such approaches do not assist children in developing their capabilities to judge if they are meeting their individual objectives at the end of learning processes. The Tools of the Mind includes learning activities such as learning plans, play programs, numerals game, buddy reading, and the freeze game; that aim at enforcing self-regulation in children (Hammer et al., 2012). In a classroom environment, the Tools of the Mind mainly focuses on using classroom management techniques and other activities designed to promote emotional and social competence in children who are susceptible to behavioral problems.
As highlighted by Bodrova and Leong (2001), Tools of the Mind has been utilized in teaching at-risk children in urban environments and has also been implemented in special education programs. Unlike other curriculum approaches in which teachers are responsible for regulating children’s interactions and learning processes, in the Tools of the Mind, the teachers’ primary role is to encourage the children to embrace behavioral regulation with minimal or no direction from adults (Barnett, Jung, Yarosz, Thomas, Hornbeck, Stechuk & Burns, 2008). In that case, children act as both the regulators of other children’s behaviors and subjects of other children’s regulatory actions (Wilson & Farran, 2012).
Strengths of the Tools of the Mind
As discussed by Bodrova and Deborah (2007), the Tools of the Mind approach has several advantages that are ideal for children learners. For example, the approach has heightened opportunities for enhancing children’s language development. In research conducted by Barnett et al. (2008), it was established that the Tools of the Mind enhanced children’s language development and classroom quality. Tools of the Mind approach has been effective in reducing the need for special education for special needs children because of its ability to move children with poor Executive Functions (EF) to optimal states through self-regulated learning (Diamond, Barnett, Thomas & Munro, 2007).
Weaknesses of the Tool of the Mind
In a classroom learning environment, Children with special needs require some level of direction from teachers or practitioners to facilitate their successful learning outcome. The Tools of the Mind is grounded on self-regulation learning, which does not seem to be practical for children with special needs. In that case, children with special needs will find it difficult to interact with others, as required by the Tools of the Mind curriculum approach.
The Tools of the Mind curriculum approach is effective in improving children’s Executive Functions (cognitive controls) through self-regulated learning. Various research studies have found the approach to be effective in improving children’s emotional and social behaviors such as language skills development. Nonetheless, the approach does not seem to be practical for special needs children who cannot interact with others or regulate their interactions as encouraged in the Tools of the Mind classrooms. In that case, more research studies should be conducted to develop the viability of the Curriculum approach, especially in teaching special needs children.
Barnett, W. S., Jung, K., Yarosz, D. J., Thomas, J., Hornbeck, A., Stechuk, R., & Burns, S. (2008). Educational effects of the tools of the mind curriculum: A randomized trial. Early childhood research quarterly, 23(3), 299-313.
Bodrova, E., & Leong J. (2007). Tools of the mind. New Jersey, NJ: Pearson.
Bodrova, E., & Leong, J. (2001). Tools of the mind: A case study of implementing the vygotskian approach in American early childhood and primary classrooms. Innodata Monographs 7. Web.
Diamond, A., Barnett, W. S., Thomas, J., & Munro, S. (2007). Preschool program improves cognitive control. Science, 318(5855), 1387.
Hammer, C. S., Blair, C., Lopez, L., Leong, D., & Bedrova, E. (2012). Tools of the Mind: Promoting the school readiness of ELLs. Society for Research on Educational Effectiveness. Web.
Wilson, S. J., & Farran, D. C. (2012). Experimental evaluation of the tools of the mind preschool curriculum. Society for Research on Educational Effectiveness. Web.