1 Creating Developmentally Appropriate Classrooms The Importance of Age and Developmental Status Chapter 11
Rationale for Developmentally Appropriate Educational Practice • Definition: Developmentally appropriate practice (DAP) involves providing learning environments, instructional content, and pedagogical practices that are responsive to the major attributes and salient needs and interests of a given life period in order to facilitate continuing developmental progress.
Developmentally appropriate practices result from decisions about the education and well-being of children based on three important kinds of knowledge: • What is known about child development and learning • What is known about the strengths, interests, and needs of each individual child • What is known about the social and cultural contexts in which children live
Economic Aims for Schooling • Education goals are increasingly related to the demand for evidence of achievement in schooling. • According to the NAEYC, the goal of early childhood education, helping each child be “ready to learn” when he or she enters school, has not been fully realized. • Economic goals for schooling places pressures on schools to teach more and more cognitive material to younger and younger children.
Two Problems with Economic Aims • The view that the major purpose of schooling is to prepare students to enter the workforce misses a number of other, equally important aims of education. • The tendency to “blame” descending levels of schooling (and teachers) when students do not “measure up” ultimately comes to rest on parents, who then tend to demand increasing levels of academic instruction at younger and younger ages.
Early Childhood Education and Developmentally Appropriate Practice • Early childhood education seeks to advocate for the nurturing of young children as a necessary means to achieve the democratic goals of a just society. • It therefore acts in some ways in opposition to strictly economic goals for education.
Theoretical Basis for Developmentally Appropriate Practice • Universal theories: • Cognitive developmental theory (Jean Piaget) • Psychosocial development (Erik Erikson) • Particularist theories: • Constructivist theory (Lev Vygotsky) • Cognitive development (Jerome Bruner)
Constructivist Thought in Developmentally Appropriate Practice • Children of all ages are understood to be active constructors of their own knowledge. • Concepts and perceptual development is enhanced through wide experiences with people, materials, and events. • Curriculum is expected to provide multiple opportunities for direct and concrete engagement.
The Idea of Cognitive Structures • The term “cognitive structure” refers to the concepts, ideas, and understandings that children construct through transactions with their social and physical environment; also known as frame, lens, or scaffold. • Knowledge is “made” by the knower, who assimilates new experiences within knowledge structures already present, and accommodates to experiences that do not fit neatly into those structures. cont.
Motivation to learn comes from the fact that children’s cognitive structures are constantly challenged. • The need to understand provides the impetus for acquiring new knowledge. • This need to understand is internal. • The teacher’s task is to provide a match between what the child is ready to learn and what is available to the child to learn. cont.
The constructivist view differs from the traditional view of readiness in that it emphasizes that cognitive readiness is not determined simply by biological maturation. • Rather, readiness also depends on the transactional nature of the child’s environment. • At any point in time, a child is ready to learn if learning experiences are at an optimal level of novelty or incongruity.
Characteristics of a Developmentally Appropriate Classroom • Constructivist ideas gained scientific support and integrity in the 20th century through the work of Piaget, Vygotsky, and Bruner. • Both the work of Vygotsky and that of Bruner place greater emphasis on the social-cultural context of children than did Piaget. cont.
Pedagogies: Old and New • Historical antecedents: • Comenius in the 17th century • Condillac and Rousseau in the 18th century • Pestalozzi and Parker in the 19th century • Dewey in the 20th century
Child-Centered Instruction • Use of small group organization • Use of activity centers • Project-based learning • Provision for student choice • Joint teacher-student planning of learning activities • Integration of content
Roles: Old and New • Teachers work in collaboration with students, other teachers, and other adults. • The goal is to support the learning and development of all children. • Teachers need to know as much as possible about each child—learning styles, interests, preferences, personality, temperament, skills and talents, challenges and difficulties.
Place of Content Knowledge: Old and New • Early childhood education is concerned with the process of learning and its effect on child development. • Knowledge acquisition is seen as necessary for the child to reconcile incongruities and solve problems; thus students may learn different things from the same lesson. • Early literacy learning involves “playing” with language. • Deductive reasoning, basic to mathematical understanding, is an inherent capability of young children.
Assessment: Old and New • Screening and assessment should never be used to close educational doors to children; they should be used to open them. • Observation of children in natural activity contexts is an important factor in assessment. • Also important is looking at collections of children’s work, and ongoing communication with parents.
Perspectives on Age and Development • School experiences profoundly influence and are influenced by people’s development as human beings. • “Development” refers to systematic changes in the individual that occur from birth to death. • What implications does this have for schooling?
Sensitive Periods and Developmental Crises • Sensitive periods are points in development when children learn readily. • Childhood—sensitive periods depend, in part, on the life history of the child and on the child’s experiences in school • Adolescence—a period of physiological, emotional, and cognitive change • Ego identity, or the development of one’s sense of self, is a lifetime enterprise.
Individual Differences and Developmental Domains • Individual differences may be related to biological, psychological, social, and cultural factors. • The nature vs. nurture debate is ongoing and refers to the question of whether differences are innate or learned; they are probably both. cont.
Developmental domains refers to aspects of development that progress more or less at the same time, if not at the same rate: • Motor development • Cognitive development • Language/communication development • Social/emotional development cont.
Milestones (e.g., first words, independent walking) and transitions from one stage to another can be influenced by many factors: • Gender • Geography (e.g., climate) • Genetics • Specific environment • Differential cultural values and expectations • Disabilities
The Importance of Developmental Knowledge • Necessary for effective use of developmentally appropriate practice • Necessary in order to take individual variations into account • Especially important in inclusion classrooms
Examples of Cultural Variations • In values, such as the notion of independence • In ideas of what constitutes “childhood” • In expectations for the “proper” time to acquire specific knowledge (e.g., knowledge of sexuality)
Something to Think About Much of the story of human development must be written in light of cultural influences in general and of the particular persons, practices, and paraphernalia of one’s culture. Chief among these, of course, in any complex culture, will be such educational institutions as apprenticeships or formal schools.