Fifteen Visionary Educators and Theorists
Whose Ideas Have Influenced Early Childhood Education
Great Educators of Three Centuries -

Martin Luther (1483-1546)
Universal education; literacy; use of native language in teaching and learning; importance of family; and importance of religion and literacy as the purposes and basis for education.
Luther on Reformed education -
Educational Theory -
Martin Luther Wikipedia -

John Amos Comenius (1592-1678)
Wrote The Great Didactic and Orbis Pictus; humans born in image of God; advocate of universal education; natural order of education; and important role of sensory experiences.
State University -
Waldorf Homeschoolers page -
Bio -
Wikipedia -

John Locke (1632-1704)
Identified "tabula rasa" or blank tablet view of mind; important role of environment and experiences; and importance of the senses in learning.
History and Timeline -
Society for Recognition of -
Educational Theory -
Wikipedia -

Jean Jacques Rousseau (1712-1778)
Wrote Emile, the life of a hypothetical child from birth to adolescence; return to nature and a naturalistic approach to education; idea of "unfolding;" basic innate goodness of children; and children develop through experiences with the environment.
Jean Jocke Rousseau on Education -
Wikipedia -
Society for Recognition of -

Johann Heinrich Pestalozzi (1746-1827)
Back-to-nature concepts; started school at Neuhof and developed ideas of integrating of home life, vocational education, and education for reading and writing; and wrote Leonard and Gertrude, How Gertrude Teaches Her Children and Book for Mothers.
Pestalozzi on Education -
Wikipedia -
Neuhof -
Pestalozzi's BIography -

Robert Owen (1771-1858)
Environmentalist; believed that by controlling the circumstances and consequent outcomes of child-rearing, a new and more perfect society could be built; and opened an infant school in 1861.
Education and the New Society -
Wikipedia -
PDF Download -
New Lanark -
Video of New Lanark -
Video of Owen -
Video of New Harmony -

Friedrich Wilhelm Froebel (1782-1852)
Identified as "Father of Kindergarten," developed a curriculum and methodology (gifts and occupations, role of play, rhymes and songs, etc.) and wrote Mother's Songs, Games, and Stories. Developed the “Froebel Gifts”, intricate and beautiful manipulative materials.
Froebel in Infed - -
Froebel web -
PDF Download -
Froebel Online Books -

Elizabeth Palmer Peabody (1804 - 1894)
Champion of education reform and visionary teacher. Established the first formal American Kindergarten in 1860. Studied and applied the work of Froebel in America. Mrs. Peabody was a proponent of the idea that each child should receive education that emerged from their innate capacity
Brittanica -
New World Encyclopedia -
Open Education Ideals -
Transcendentalism -

Maria Montessori (1870-1952)
Medical doctor and perceptive observer of young children. Developed the Montessori Method, Philosophy, and Materials; and traveled widely to disseminate ideas of her work. Developed an approach to schooling that focuses on a carefully prepared environment employing self-correcting manipulative materials.
Maria on Infed -

John Dewey (1859-1952)
Was the leader of the progressive education movement, emphasizing the child and his interests, the child-centered curriculum or child-centered school; and wrote several books, including My Pedagogical Creed which set forth his beliefs that education is "a process of living, not a preparation for future living".
Dewey and Education -
Wikipedia -
Cylibrary -
Marxist take -
Center for Dewey Studies -

Jean Piaget (1896-1980)
Developed a widely-accepted theory of intellectual development, identifying four major stages of intellectual thinking. His writings and ideas have made a major impact on early childhood education programs since the 1960s.
Jean Piaget Society -
Learning and Teaching -
Educational Theory -

Lev Vygotsky (1896-1934)
Constructivist; believed that children's mental, language and social development is supported and enhanced by others through social interaction. Bruner applies the term “scaffolding” to the support that teachers provide their students in the zone of proximal development.
Wikipedia -
Educational Theory -
Simple Psychology -

Jerome Bruner (1915-)
Cognitive psychologist and educational theorist noted for his efforts to bring the work of Vygotsky and Piaget to the attention of the West. A cognitive constructivist who championed discovery and guided discovery based learning. Coined the term scaffolding. Author of the groundbreaking "The Process of Education"
New Foundations -
WIKI - Bruner -
Constructivism -

Loris Malaguzzi (1920-1994)
Visionary Italian educator who worked with post war educators to design a revolutionary new approach to ECE based in the city of Reggio Emilia. Designd schools to be collaborative, project-based with deep community involvement. Making learning visible.
Reggio children -
Wikipedia -
Your Image of the Child -
Malaguzzi Article -

Howard Gardner (1943-)
A contemporary theorist who proposes that one unitary intelligence not a good way to describe human intellect. Instead he proposes that there are many different ways in which we demonstrate our intelligence. Encourages the structuring of schooling around authentic learning experiences that include authentic performance-based assessments.
Howard on Infed -
Biography -
Educational Theory -

Mark Bailey's Home -
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Page last updated on Tuesday, February 14, 2017