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Strength-Based Approach in Early Childhood Education

See how a strength-based approach can positively impact early childhood education and help children build on their success.

Strength-Based Approach in Early Childhood Education

Strength-Based Approach in Early Childhood Education

Children have many differences when it comes to their skill sets and interests. However, their strengths can impact how they learn and their capacity to learn. Therefore, as an educator, it's essential to identify ways to support and enhance their learning potential and opportunities for development. This article will discuss the strength-based approach in early childhood education and how it helps educators, children, and their families.

What is a strength-based approach?

The strength-based approach is a strategy educators use to identify what works well for a child, what they know, what they can do, and how to use this for further development. These strengths and competencies include physical, intellectual, and interpersonal. Through this individualized approach, teachers take the time to assess and evaluate each child's motivations, interests, and skill sets and find ways to implement them into their teaching. 

As opposed to the deficit-based approach, where challenges and weaknesses dominate a child's learning and development, strength-based education encourages learning by offering encouragement, building confidence, and focusing on a child's potential. Where deficit-based learning focuses on the negatives and can often discourage children and lead to a lack of enthusiasm, a strength-based approach utilizes a child’s positive traits, skills, behavior, and thought processes to their benefit. In short, it uses success to create even more success.

Three children reading a book together

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Benefits of a strength-based approach

Strength-based teaching forms a collaborative effort and supportive environment in which children, families, and teachers can benefit. By identifying and using a child's strengths to empower and uplift them and their potential to learn and grow, teachers can change a child's mindset. Rather than looking negatively at their deficits, the strength-based approach allows you to highlight the child's strengths, encourage further improvement, and show them that there's still growth potential. 

In turn, teachers can learn more about their children, including what they enjoy, what they're good at, and where they've experienced the most growth and success. By gathering this information, teachers can find ways to tailor their lesson plans, teaching methods, strategies, and curricula to support the children's interests and skill sets.  

Parents and caregivers can also reap the benefits of the strength-based approach. Sharing a child's deficits and challenges with them can be discouraging and overwhelming. However, this alternative encourages empowerment, showing families how to support and motivate their child at home. 

Some additional benefits of strength-based teaching include: 

  • Building a child's confidence
  • Encouraging positive behavior
  • Sustaining long-term learning pursuits
  • Supporting greater academic performance and achievements
  • Fostering individuality, inclusivity, diversity, accessibility, and equity
  • Better relationship building in and out of the classroom

Examples of the strength-based approach

There are various ways to incorporate a strength-based approach into your teaching strategy. Because positivity is the foundation of this approach, you must focus on positive language, encouragement, and honing in on where and how the child excels. Some examples of implementing a strength-based approach into your teaching method include: 

Measuring children's growth and competencies 

Conducting ongoing assessments is integral to learning and development. It enables you to continually measure their progress and adjust the curriculum and lesson planning in response to their performance.

Discussing children's performance

Providing parents and caregivers with written and face-to-face feedback on their child's progress helps establish a baseline for tracking their progress and provides a record for both parties to reference as the child develops new and stronger skills.

Driving curriculum choices

Since the strength-based approach relies on embracing a child's unique strengths, the curriculum must offer them multiple opportunities and areas to learn and explore. Some examples include classroom areas or lesson plans focusing on arts, science, music, and more.

Using the “if-then” model

With this model, the child's strengths are the "if" part of the model. The "then" is new material and skills they learn based on their current strengths. As their teacher, you'll identify their strengths and pair them with new learning opportunities that can be taught using praise, practice, recognition, and scaffolding.

Creating personalized lesson plans and tailoring techniques

A key component of the strength-based approach is designing your lesson plans and instruction to align with the child's strengths, skills, interests, and progress. Your lesson plans should constantly be evolving to keep up with their growth.

Children playing with blocks separately.

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Activities and methods to identify strengths 

A child's strengths vary; some are big, small, hidden, or visible. For example, they may demonstrate creative, literacy, math and logic, cognitive, social, and language strengths that can contribute to an even more extensive skill set. In addition, you can identify their natural tendencies and chosen hobbies in various ways, such as:

Creating a checklist

A child can display an array of behaviors that signify that they're skilled in a particular area. For example, they may enjoy listening to stories, learning new words, and can adequately use their words to communicate their feelings, needs, wants, and ideas. All of these qualities could be related to solid language skills. By maintaining a checklist of behaviors children exhibit under each category, you can develop a sense of where they're excelling and how you can encourage further development.

Observing and interviewing the children

Observing the children as they participate in activities around the center allows you to see them in their element. During observation, you can gather information on how they communicate, socialize, problem-solve, and what interests them. Additionally, you can ask them questions to gauge their interests and knowledge on specific topics.

Keeping detailed notes and building a portfolio

After observing the children and collecting information on their abilities and interests, you should record your findings by taking notes, taking photographs, or making a portfolio of the children's work. Then, you can assess your findings to learn more about the children's strengths.

Take the strength-based approach to teaching

With strength-based teaching and learning, you can create a team effort to support a child's abilities and interests. Capitalizing on a child's strengths is the perfect way to inspire them to see themselves at their best. In turn, it brings more enthusiasm to learning and keeps them engaged in their everyday routines and activities, further nurturing their growth and development.

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