Bruner’s Spiral Curriculum (1960).
Cognitive learning theorist, Jerome Bruner based the spiral curriculum on his idea that ” We
begin with the hypothesis that any subject can be taught in some intellectually honest
form to any child at any stage of development” .
In other words, he meant that even very complex topics can be taught to young children if
structured and presented in the right way. The spiral curriculum is based on three key ideas.
1. Students revisit the same topic multiple times throughout their school career. This
reinforces the learning each time they return to the subject.
2. The complexity of the topic increases each time a student revisits it. This allows
progression through the subject matter as the child’s cognitive ability develops with age.
3. When a student returns to a topic, new ideas are linked with ones they have previously
learned. The student’s familiarity with the keywords and ideas enables them to grasp the
more difficult elements of the topic in a stronger way.
Bruner’s 3 Modes of Representation (1966).
Following the idea of the spiral curriculum, Bruner presented the idea of three modes of
representation. These modes of representation refer to the way knowledge is stored in memory.
Unlike Piaget’s age-related stages, Bruner’s modes are loosely sequential.
1. Enactive (age 0-1 years). Representation of knowledge through physical actions.
2. Iconic (age 1-6 years). Visual representation of knowledge stored via visual images.
3. Symbolic (age 7+ years). The use of words and symbols to describe experiences.
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