Jerome Bruner

Jerome Bruner
Interactive learning for early
education and childcare students
Section 1
Section 2
Section 3
Section 4
Section 5
Background information
Spiral curriculum
Modes of representation
Background information
• Jerome Bruner was born in New York in
1915 and continues to play an important
role in the study of children’s development
and learning. He developed earlier work
carried out by Lev Vygotsky in the 1920s
and 30s. Bruner believed that knowledge
and learning were gained most effectively
when children learned through personal
discovery rather than being ‘taught’.
Spiral Curriculum
• Bruner stated that ‘any subject can be taught to any
child at any age in some form that is honest’ (Bruner
• At a simple level, the ‘science’ of baking scones
would allow children to discover the texture of dry
ingredients e.g. flour & sugar, oily nature of
margarine and the wet ingredient of milk. Combining
ingredients to form a mixture would change the
texture and finally the addition of heat from the oven
would alter the consistency permanently.
• Now look carefully at the pictures in a similar but
different context and decide how the children’s
learning could be honest.
The science of water
Apply your knowledge about spiral
curriculum and note the learning
opportunities linked to the pictures on the
student activity sheet.
More water fun!
Think about how these learning
situations could be honest for young
Remember there may be a variety of
• Bruner believed that adults can support
children by ‘scaffolding’ their learning. He
advocated that the adult should assist the
child to move from where they are to
where they want to go. It should stem from
the child’s interests and desires and
scaffolding should support their learning.
Images of scaffolding ?
Which picture is the odd one out and why?
Modes of representation
 When adults represent something they are
bringing back information from a previous
experience. Bruner believes that this
recall is processed in 3 inter-related ways.
Enactive mode
Iconic mode
Symbolic mode
Enactive mode
• When we represent
things through doing
this is termed the
enactive mode. This
is an important aspect
of early education and
staff often focus on
process rather than
Iconic mode
• Children in early
education and childcare
settings are often
encouraged to record
experiences using
photographs, pictures
and now video tape.
• How might children
record experiences of
making dough?
Symbolic mode
• Bruner explains that children use the
symbolic mode to represent something.
When we write the word ‘girl’ to mean a
girl and the numeral ‘4’ to represent the
number four. In other words, children are
using a ‘code’ to show what they mean.
• How might children express themselves
continuing with the dough scenario?
Variety of codes
• Children use a variety
of symbolic codes to
express themselves
 Drawing & painting
 Dancing
 Imaginative play
 Making models
 Language
 Numeracy
Check your learning
• Now check your learning by matching the
statements in this exercise.
• Without the web, you could try this
matching activity
• Now check your overall knowledge with a
quiz just for fun!
• Without the web, you could try this quiz
just for fun!
Links to practice Spiral curriculum
• Spiral curriculum remains valid in early
Dry/wet sand
Science of dough
Building blocks
• Think how the above topics could be
explored in early education and childcare
• Scaffolding works if staff are alert and
responsive to children’s learning needs.
Adults need to be clued in to children's
thoughts in a sensitive manner and
nurture the child’s learning rather than
impose their ideas on it. It is almost an
intuitive experience.
• Enactive mode – by doing
• Iconic mode – by making an image/picture
• Symbolic mode – by using symbols/codes
Modes of representation in practice
• Encourage children to be active in the
• Promote recording of experiences
through photographs/videotape.
• Provide opportunities for scribbling and
early writing skills.
• The work of Jerome Bruner remains
influential in early education settings today
as he continues to explore how children
play, learn and develop.
• Now you have had an introduction to his
work, look at the books and find out more!
• Bruce, T.(2005). 3rd edition Early
Childhood Education. London: Hodder
• Lindon, J. ( 2001). Understanding
Children’s Play. Cheltenham: Nelson

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