The HighScope Method of Teaching for Active Learners

Kids sit on the floor in front of a teacher raising their hands

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If your preschooler is a self-starter and active learner, then the HighScope method may be something you want to look into when you are choosing a preschool. The method is ideal for children who would enjoy being involved in the various steps of planning the learning process.

The HighScope Classroom

Active learning, complete with hands-on experiences, is the driving force behind the HighScope method. Students are encouraged to choose what materials they would like to use. Teachers are in place to support and guide.

For example, if a child is showing an interest in the solar system, a HighScope teacher may encourage them to build a model of the planets. Through a version of scaffolding, children are encouraged by their teacher to take the next step in learning.

"When HighScope says adults support and extend children’s learning, it means that the adults first validate, or support, what children already know, and then, when the time is right, gently encourage them to extend their thinking to the next level," states a HighScope newsletter.

The program takes an "intentional learning" approach to education that makes teachers and children active partners.

A HighScope classroom's daily routine helps children understand what happens next. It usually includes time outside, computer work. and group interaction time.

The classroom is a busy one, with students often working on different things in center-type environments. While there is a lot of independent work, coming together as a group is highly encouraged. Having students share what they have learned with their peers is an important part of the HighScope method, as it encourages independent learning and thinking.

The HighScope Curriculum

The curriculum has eight main focuses:

  1. Approaches to Learning
  2. Social and Emotional Development
  3. Physical Development and Health
  4. Language, Literacy, and Communication
  5. Mathematics
  6. Creative Arts
  7. Science and Technology
  8. Social Studies

These areas are then broken down into 58 "Key Developmental Indicators" (KDIs) that include singing and role-playing. The length of the school day varies by program; it may be part-day or full-day.

To assess a child's development, HighScope uses the Preschool COR (Child Observation Record) as well as their own Preschool Program Quality Assessment (PQA).

The HighScope Educational Research Foundation is an independent nonprofit organization that "promotes the development of children and youth worldwide and supports educators and parents as they help children learn." Their headquarters are in Ypsilanti, Michigan.

HighScope Mission and History

Aside from developing curricula for early learners, the foundation has an assortment of missions, including:

  • Offering professional development and training for educators, administrators, caregivers and other early childhood experts
  • Conducting studies that explore all facets of early childhood education
  • Publishing books, DVDs, and other educational materials that support the HighScope method of teaching and learning

The HighScope method was founded in 1970 as part of the Perry Preschool Project, a project created to provide early childhood education to young children from poor families in Ypsilanti. As part of the project, children who were enrolled in the program participated in a study to find out how preschool affected their academics.

The study was a boost to the program, finding that children enrolled in a program using the HighScope method:

  • Were more likely to graduate from high school
  • Committed fewer crimes
  • Were more likely to be employed
  • Earned more than those who did not go to preschool or did not participate in a HighScope program
7 Sources
Verywell Family uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Our Approach.

  2. Delgado H. Embracing HighScope: Questioning the “Rules”. HighScope Extensions.

  3. Arlinghaus KR, Johnston CA. The importance of creating habits and routine. Am J Lifestyle Med. 2019;13(2):142-144. doi:10.1177/1559827618818044

  4. The HighScope Preschool Curriculum.

  5. HighScope ReSource for Educators. 2016.

  6. Our History.

  7. Schweinhart LJ, Montie J, Xiang Z, Barnett WS, Belfield CR, Nores M. Lifetime Effects: The High/Scope Perry Preschool Study Through Age 40. High/Scope Press; 2005.

By Amanda Rock
Amanda Rock, mom of three, has spent more than a decade of her professional career writing and editing for parents and children.