A brief description of Urie Bronfenbrenner’s Educational Theory

Urie Bronfenbrenner was a renowned psychologist and educational theorist, who is perhaps best known for being a co-founder of the Head Start program in the United States. His theories on education are closely related to psychology as the factors that affect childhood development and thus affect childhood education.

Bronfenbrenner’s theory is the Ecological Systems Theory, that there are many levels of influences on a child’s education and development. He posited that there are several ecosystems within which the child lives. Each ecosystem level has an influence on the child, his development, and his learning. The most basic and closest setting to the child is the microsystem. Bronfenbrenner (1979, 7) describes this as the child’s “immediate setting” and it could be a combination of the people and objects directly in the individual’s space. The individual has the power to create experiences in the microsystem.

One system above the microsystem is the mesosystem. The mesosystem is the combination of interactions from microsystems, which affect each other.

Outside of the mesosytem is the exosystem, a layer that might be an organization. Most importantly, the individual doesn’t have particular control of the influences in this layer.

Surrounding all of the systems is the macrosystem. This might include the greater society’s effects which don’t directly impact the person’s microsystem, but influence it.

The final interconnected system is the chronosystem, encompassing all of the person’s life experiences. Past experiences influence the present.

There are many visual representations of Bronfenbrenner’s ecological systems theory. It’s helpful to view a few representations in order to better imagine the how the systems are connected and how Bronfenbrenner’s theory is applied. One useful representation is illustrated in Professor Pamela Schulze’s lecture notes on Bronfenbrenner.

It’s the combination of the influences of each of these systems that affects the child’s development and learning.

Bronfenbrenner, U. (1979). Ecological models of human development. Retrieved from http://search.ebscohost.com/

Ceci, S.J. (2006). “Urie Bronfenbrenner Obituary.” American Psychologist. 6(2) pp.173-174. Retrieved from http://search.ebscohost.com/

Schulze, P. “Lecture Notes-Urie Bronfenbrenner.” <http://www3.uakron.edu/schulze/610/lec_bronf.htm&gt;

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2 Responses to A brief description of Urie Bronfenbrenner’s Educational Theory

  1. Sarah Machin says:

    This is the first time I have heard of Urie Brofenbrenner and I have to admit I find his theory very interesting! I also believe there are many different factors that influence a child’s development but I have never thought of it in terms of the impact of different ecosystems. It does however make sense to me that people and objects in the microsystem directly influences a child’s development and learning. I look forward to reading more about Brofenbrenner and his impact on education in your blogs. Thanks for posting!

  2. Michelle Raczkowski says:

    Bronfenbrenner’s theory is interesting as it applies hard science principles are social sciences. Bronfenbrenner’s theory posits that these systems not unlike the layers of an onion, which is a good way for me to understand his concepts (clarifying). I have often heard that as educators we cannot neglect all that the learner ‘brings to the table’ as all that the child has previously learned and experienced will impact how and what the child learns. It seems that Bronfenbrenner’s system is interested in the power of the individual and how far reaching that influence is as well. Is that true? The graphic depiction is helpful in understanding this theory and the individual in the scope of the world and its influences.

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