Empowering Preservice Teachers to Design a Classroom Environment That Serves as a Third Teacher

  • Katherina Danko-McGheeEmail author
  • Ruslan Slutsky
Part of the Educating the Young Child book series (EDYC, volume 12)


Creating a multimodal nurturing environment that promotes learning is one of the most important considerations for teachers when planning a curriculum. This chapter focuses on ways to empower preservice teachers to design a quality learning environment for young children. Carefully prepared environments nurture critical thinking skills. They are designed in a provocative kind of way to encourage a child to learn and can entice a child to look and ponder and become engaged in discovery, problem solving, and creative thinking. Two approaches of preparing preservice teachers to think about the learning environment as the third teacher are shared with implications for teacher preparation programs. One approach was to provide a theoretical foundation along with a hands-on experience where students had the opportunity to design an environment as a third teacher. The second approach involved students in discussions to form a theoretical foundation, similar to the first approach, but they did not have an opportunity to design an environment.


Classroom environment Aesthetics Third teacher Reggio Emilia 


  1. Barnett, W. S. (1995). Long term effects of early childhood programs on cognitive and school outcomes. The Future of Children, 5(3), 25–50.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Brooks-Gunn, J., McCarton, C. M., Casey, P. H., McCormick, M. C., Bauer, C. R., Bernbaum, J. C., et al. (1994). Early intervention in low-birth-weight premature infants: Results through age 5 from the Infant Health and Development Program. Journal of the American Medical Association, 272(16), 1257–1262.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Broudy, H. (1988). Aesthetics and the curriculum. In W. Pinar (Ed.), Contemporary curriculum discourses (pp. 332–342). Scottsdale, AZ: Gorsuch Scarisbrick.Google Scholar
  4. Burchinal, M. R., Campbell, F. A., Bryant, D. M., Wasik, B. H., & Ramey, C. T. (1997). Earlyintervention and mediating process in cognitive performance of children of low-income African American families. Child Development, 68(5), 935–954.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Cadwell, L. (1997). Bringing Reggio Emilia home: An innovative approach to early childhood education. New York: Teachers College Press.Google Scholar
  6. Cohen, J., & Ewen, D. (2008). Infants and toddlers in childcare. Zero to three policy brief. Retrieved 28 Aug 2015 from
  7. Committee on Early Childhood, Adoption and Dependent Care. (2005). Quality early education and childcare from birth to kindergarten. Pediatrics, 115(1), 187–191.Google Scholar
  8. Danko-McGhee, K. (2006). Favorite artworks chosen by young children in a museum setting. International Journal of Education Through Art, 3(1), 223–235.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Danko-McGhee, K. (2009). The environment as third teacher: Pre-service teacher’s aesthetic transformation of an art learning environment for young children in a museum setting. International Art in Early Childhood Journal, Research Journal, 1, 1–17.Google Scholar
  10. Duffy, B. (2002). Supporting creativity and imagination in the early years. Buckingham, UK: Open University Press.Google Scholar
  11. Eisner, E. (1972). Educating artistic vision. New York: Macmillan Company.Google Scholar
  12. Eisner, E. (1992). Arts can counter school reforms standardizing aims. ASCD Update, 34(5), 5.Google Scholar
  13. Eyestone-Finnegan, J. (2001). Looking at art with toddlers. Art Education, 54(3), 40–45.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Feagans, L., & Appelbaum, M. (1995). Validation of language types in learning disabled children. Journal of Educational Psychology, 78, 358–364.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Gandini, L. (1998). Educational and caring spaces. In C. Edwards, L. Gandini, & G. Forman (Eds.), The hundred languages of children: The Reggio Emilia approach – advanced reflections (pp. 161–178). Greenwich, CT: Ablex.Google Scholar
  16. Gandini, L. (2002). The story and foundations of the Reggio Emilia approach. In V. Fu, A. J. Stremmel, & L. T. Hill (Eds.), Teaching and learning: Collaborative explorations of the Reggio Emilia approach (pp. 13–22). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Merrill Prentice Hall.Google Scholar
  17. Gandini, L., Hill, L., Cadwell, L., Schwall, C., & Vecchi, V. (2005). In the spirit of the studio. New York: Teacher’s College Press.Google Scholar
  18. Isbell, R., & Raines, S. (2003). Creativity and the arts with young children. New York: Thompson Delmar Learning.Google Scholar
  19. Jalongo, M., & Stamp, L. (1997). The arts in children’s lives: Aesthetic education in early childhood. Boston: Allyn & Bacon.Google Scholar
  20. Kerka, S. (1999). Creativity in adulthood. Washington, DC: Office of Educational Research and Improvement. ERIC Document Reproduction Service No. ED429 186.Google Scholar
  21. Lamb, M. E. (1998). Nonparental child care: Context, quality, correlates. In W. Damon, I. E. Sigel, & K. A. Ranninger (Eds.), Handbook of child psychology (Child Psychology in Practice, Vol. 4, pp. 73–133). New York: Wiley.Google Scholar
  22. Malaguzzi, L. (1998). History, ideas and basic philosophy: An interview with Lella Gandini. In C. Edwards, L. Gandini, & G. Forman (Eds.), The hundred languages of children: The Reggio Emilia approach – advanced reflections (2nd ed., pp. 49–98). Greenwich, CT: Ablex.Google Scholar
  23. McKellar, P. (1957). Imagination and thinking: A psychological analysis. London: Cohen and West.Google Scholar
  24. North American Reggio Emilia Alliance. (2005). North American Reggio-inspired Environments. NAREA.Google Scholar
  25. Phillipsen, L. C., Burchinal, M. R., Howes, C., & Cryer, D. (1997). The prediction of process quality from structural features of child- care. Early Childhood Research Quarterly, 12(3), 281–303.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Ramey, C. T., & Ramey, S. L. (1998). Early intervention and early experience. American Psychologist, 58(2), 109–120.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Rinaldi, C. (1995). Projected curriculum constructed through documentation – Progettazione. In C. Edwards, L. Gandini, & G. Forman (Eds.), The hundred languages of children. Greenwich, CT: Ablex.Google Scholar
  28. Roberts, J. E., Rabinowitch, S., Bryant, D. M., & Burchinal, M. R. (1989). Language skills of children with different preschool experiences. Journal of Speech and Hearing Research, 32(4), 773–786.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Schirrmacher, R. (2006). Art and creative development for young children. Clifton Park, NY: Delmar Learning.Google Scholar
  30. Szekely, G. (1991). From play to art. Portsmouth, NH: Heineman.Google Scholar
  31. Tarr, P. (2001). Aesthetic codes in early childhood classrooms: What art educators can learn from Reggio Emilia. Art Education, 54(3), 33–39.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Tinmannsvik, L., & Bjelland, H. V. (2009). Children and aesthetics: Exploring toddlers’ aesthetic experiences of everyday products. International Journal of Product Development, 9(4), 370–388.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Torrance, P. (1969). Creativity. Belmont, CA: Fearon Press.Google Scholar
  34. U.S. Census Bureau. (2015). Child care an important part of American life. Retrieved 28 Aug 2015 from
  35. UNICEF. (2015). The state of the worlds children in numbers. Retrieved 28 Aug 2015 from
  36. Williams, F. E. (1982). Developing children’s creativity at home and school. G/C/T Gifted, Creative, and Talented, 24(1), 2–6.Google Scholar
  37. Wurm, J. (2005). Working in the Reggio way: A beginner’s guide for American teachers. St. Paul, MN: Redleaf Press.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.First Encounters, LLCToledoUSA
  2. 2.University of ToledoToledoUSA

Personalised recommendations