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>