The Development of a Scale Measuring the Exploratory Learning Environment



Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title



Quality in the field of early childhood education has become increasingly important as connections between the quality of a program and child cognitive outcomes have been demonstrated in research. Consequently, this research has guided the construction of developmentally appropriate practices, also known as best practices, in the field of early childhood education. These practices have been published by the National Association for the Education of Young Children (2009). Additionally, some concepts of best practices in early childhood education have been inspired by exploratory learning. Exploratory learning is a unique educational approach which, in more recent years, has gained popularity in American culture, particularly with early childhood education. To measure the quality of early childhood programs, environmental rating scales are predominantly and widely used; however, currently utilized classroom quality rating scales heavily measure structured learning practices while minimally measuring exploratory learning practices, leading to lower scale scores in an exploratory learning environment. To date, there are no available assessment tools that adequately evaluate the quality of exploratory learning environments and practices. However, before a cumulative environmental rating scale that equally measures structured learning and exploratory learning practices is synthesized, an environmental rating scale to measure the environmental quality of exploratory learning environments should be created. Therefore, this study’s aim is to create a new environmental rating scale that would more adequately measure the quality of exploratory learning environments and practices through defining exploratory learning, and delineating key constructs to exploratory learning practices and what they look like within pre-kindergarten classrooms. In order to accomplish this task, the research will pilot a new environmental rating scale with pre-kindergarten classrooms that implements exploratory learning practices. The scale will be created based on a review of literature as well as on data obtained through interviews with pre-kindergarten teachers with experience and training pertaining to exploratory learning, and a focus group with experienced consultants that aid teachers in implementing exploratory learning practices. The goal of the pilot study is to establish a scale that measures the environmental quality of exploratory learning environments, which implement different practices than structured learning environments; hence the judgment criteria should suit the educational environment. Furthermore, the goal of the study is to further demonstrate that exploratory learning practices are currently not sufficiently measured by widely used environmental rating scales, and that in order to truly capture the quality of an educational environmental, a more comprehensive scale is needed.



Early childhood education, Exploratory learning, Environmental rating scale, Quality, Assessments