Date of Award

Spring 5-1-2017

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science in Education (MSEd)

First Advisor

Margaret Blachly


This paper explores the relationship between emergent, child-driven learning and the structured curricula of a special education program. Relying on current research and theory as driving forces, the author designed and implemented a series of math lessons with a small group of kindergarten students in a self-contained, special-education setting. The paper begins in narrative form, detailing the author’s journey to her current line of inquiry. Empirical research and educational theory about both emergent, child-driven learning and math instruction are then summarized. The following two chapters chronicle the author’s work with her students. These chapters are presented as both narrative documentation and retrospective reflection. Finally, the author synthesizes her year’s work. Stemming from the research and these teaching experiences, the author draws several conclusions about the inherent value of emergent learning, the relevance of structured, content-driven curricula, and—of paramount significance—the vital and unparalleled role of the teacher as the creator and facilitator of meaningful learning experiences. The paper concludes with a statement on progressive education and the role of current early childhood special educators.


Early Childhood Special and General Education