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Tina Bruce Essay

Tina Bruce is known as a ‘Social learning theorist’ whose work has been greatly influenced by theorist Fredich Froebel. Bruce originally trained and worked as a teacher at the Froebel Institute and then went on to become Head of the Froebel nursery school. Throughout her time Bruce has become an acclaimed figure within childhood education writing many well known articles and was subsequently awarded a CBE for her services to early childhood education in 2009. (4)

Tina Bruce bases her theory around the importance of a holistic teaching approach centred on play, experiences and creativity (4). Bruce identified 10 core principles of early education. Central to the theory is the belief that play is vital within a child’s learning, and places much emphasis on free-flow play. In 1997 she stated ‘When play is at its most fruitful, it is in ‘free-flow’. (1) Free-flow play allows the child to have control over their own play by exploring their different ideas and feelings, using their imagination, making choices and making mistakes.

Tina Bruce (1991) identified 12 features, deemed important in order for quality free-flow play to arise. During play, if 7 or more of these features are present then effective learning will be seen. (3) Children are perceived to be biologically born to play and genetically set to develop, however children need other people to initiate these biological processes. (2) An adult can initiate free flow play but there involvement must be limited-allowing the child to have the control.

Tina Bruce’s work has been much influenced by revolutionary theorists such as Froebel and Montessori showing …… One of Bruce’s 10 principles is the holistic nature of development which is supported in The Curriculum for Excellence today showing supports an holistic approach to teaching

t Bruce illustrates well the concept and advantages of free-flow play- a concept that is being encouraged within the early year’s sector, she is however opposed by Janet Moyles who does however believe that children benefit from the active involvement of teachers, stating, ‘Appropriately directed play will ensure the child learns from his or her current state of knowledge and skill’ (5). The theory sees children as being biologically programmed to play and develop with the necessity of others to initiate it. Bruce therefore shows that both biological and social aspects are important within development and of play.

The theory adapted by Bruce can be applied into a practical context in numerous ways. The idea of a Holistic approach can be practiced by allowing children to make more choices in their learning. Teachers should observe the children and find out their interests and individual needs in order to plan and create activates according to each child. Free-flow play can be extended by the use of a play house/home corner. The corner could be made into for example a shop. The children would be able to make use of the costumes and props allowing to them to engage in role play, use their imagination and play by their own means. Allowing free flow play to happen, the environment and layout of the context is crucial component. It is important to ensure that there is enough space to allow children to move freely and that all resources are available. There is an element of structure in that the playhouse would have to be set up as well as the classroom- but once set up the child has the freedom to play by their own accordance. Free flow play could also be implemented into practice by allowing a child to freely move from indoor to outdoor play.

In relation to my own understanding, this specific theory has provided me with a greater breadth of knowledge and understanding of how the 10 core principles can be incorporated into children’s education. In practice I am aware and able to differentiate between structured and unstructured or free flow play. An example of free flow play within my placement was when the play house was turned into Doctors surgery. When the children used the playhouse I was then able to observe how the children used their own experience of visiting the doctors by using the relevant language and actions in their free play.


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