The Big IdeaThe message of the Early Years is that we are most capable of learning until the age of 6. Underpinning this message is the idea of "plasticity". This is not news. What might become news is if we find out what to do with this knowledge.
For the problem is that we have not known what to do about this knowledge. We have not known how to move from concept to action? Until now.
We believe that the research has now come together to provide us with a clear direction and a clear focus. If we focus on the acquisition of vocab by the age of 2 and its drivers the amount and quality of conversation and the amount and timing of touch we believe that we will have resolved the gigantic complexity of the early years into a field narrow enough yet powerful enough to get movement. This series of articles will explore this proposition and link the separate areas of research into a coherent and self supporting whole.
The trajectory of vocab
Our brains and our world view are open to many choices at birth but by 3 many of the alternatives and the trajectory for our future development is largely set. By the age of 2 the size of our vocabulary will indicate how we will be able to learn all the way through school.
This slide shows us a dramatic picture. Vocab is a powerful and measurable predictive factor. If we measure an infant's ability to understand vocabulary at 2 we can get a strong sense of the development trajectory for life. Much of the research now informs us that by 4 the vocab trajectory is largely set. Infants with a vocab of 150 or less will normally develop on a very shallow trajectory reaching by grade 10 an ability of grade 5. At the other end of the scale, infants with a vocab of 300 words will be on track for an exponential trajectory leading to a vocab of a 2nd year university student in grade 10.
This revelation about the predictive power of vocab attainment raises the issue of the idea of Trajectories and when they are able to be influenced. Chaos theory tells us that "Initial Conditions" are the most powerful element in how systems unfold. It is likely that vocab attainment in the Early Years represents the measure of the Initial Conditions of human development.
The impact of this ideaThis insight has huge implications for how we as a society consider our current investment in the education system that begins age 6
Here are three consecutive links to a series of articles that explore this in depth. Each article is also linked so that, if you choose, you can go deeper into each main idea. My intent is to pull together a wide range of research that has not easily been accessible for the lay person and to combine this insight into the Early Years with a suggestion for how we might use network principles to form an organization that could help us all.
1. The Power of the Vocab Trajectory - the key factor for our children's development
2. The Keys to the Kingdom - things that will help us get there
3. Building the Network - how we could use network principles to build a human organization to support us in this work