Study on Developmentally Appropriate Practices: Student Development

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Developmentally appropriate practices (DAP) describe an approach to education that focuses on the child as a developing human being and lifelong learner. This approach recognized the child as an active participant in the learning process; a participant who constructs meaning and knowledge through interaction with others, friends and family, materials and environment (Houser, D. & Osborne, C). Developmentally appropriate practices require teachers to make decisions in the classroom by combining their knowledge of child development with an understanding of the individual child to achieve desired and meaningful outcomes (Houser, D. & Osborne, C). Research shows that developmentally appropriate practices ensure success in the early grades (Novella, R.). The approach fosters active participation by the child in the learning process. In this process of learning, the teacher acts as the facilitator and guides the child through the activities of the day, in order to reach an outcome the child feels is meaningful. The NAEYC has supportive evidence that suggests that the success or failure of a child in his or her early stages in school could predict the outcome of how they perform later in school (Houser, D. & Osbourne, C). This is why there is so much importance placed upon developmentally appropriate practices. Teachers need to realize that teaching methods do have an effect on how students academically develop later in life. An adaptation from the Developmentally Appropriate Practices in Early Childhood Programs, published by the NAEYC, mentions guidelines to help teachers through the DAP process. The Franklin Public Schools, in Franklin MA, made an adaption of the guideline areas, and divided them into four major areas. The areas mentioned are environment, curriculum, assessment, and instructional strategies.

Since there is such an importance placed on developmentally appropriate practices, teachers can look at these four major areas to help foster positive learning and optimal development of young children. In the environment area, teachers create an engaging, and responsive environment to enhance the child's learning and development. This type of DAP is applicable to all grade levels. The classroom is supposed to enhance exploration, observation, experiment, and allow for risk taking in a "safe" environment. If students feel comfortable within their environment, then creative learning will occur. Curriculum planning should be based on how children learn best. For teachers to effectively employ DAP, they must have a thorough understanding about how children develop and learn, therefore, combining this knowledge with the frameworks designated by a given state, teachers should be equipped with adequate resources to help children reach his or her full potential. To optimize each child's progress in learning, instructional strategies can be used by teachers to ensure success. An example a teacher might use as an instructional strategy would be to observe and interact with whole groups, small groups, or even individually. The benefit to instructional strategies is that it helps students to be motivated and promotes the willingness to take risks. Teachers should ask questions, make comments, and give feedback. This will help stimulate children's thinking and learning. Assessment in a developmentally appropriate classroom is ongoing, authentic, and purposeful. The developmental needs of students are assessed, teachers adapt instruction to these needs, and the results of assessment are used to improve instruction.

Development is an important aspect to how and why children learn. Children pass through several stages before becoming adults. There are four stages of growth where children learn certain things: infancy (birth to age two), early childhood (ages 3 to 8), later childhood (ages 9 to 12), and adolescence (ages 13 to 18) (Borgen, W. & Norman, E.). For teachers to effectively teach and understand students, the need to identify developmental behavior is a necessity. Adolescence is the beginning of a more complex thinking process. Since this age group encompasses those from the ages of thirteen to eighteen, teens in this developmental phase experience a variety of behavioral changes. The Adolescent Assessment textbook mentions that in cognitive development, "thinking changes both quantitatively and qualitatively during adolescence. Adolescents can think faster and more efficiently than children" (Gumbiner, 2003, p.27). Typical cognitive behaviors that adolescent youth encounter are: developing advanced reasoning skills, developing abstract thinking skills, and developing the ability to think about thinking (Novella, R.). Advanced reasoning skills involve answering the question, "what if?" This skill includes thinking about multiple options and possibilities. The use of more hypothetical and logical thinking skills are used to process information. Abstract thinking is the use of thinking about things that do not actually exist. Prime examples of this type of thinking skill would be religion, faith, or trust. The development of the ability to think about thinking is a process known as meta-cognition. As defined by Webster's dictionary, meta-cognition is "the awareness or analysis of one's own learning or thinking process." This thinking strategy can be used to improve learning, and an example of this development strategy would be creating mnemonic devices. Cognitive development changes can affect teens in a number of ways. One affect is that teens demonstrate a heightened level of self consciousness. Teens tend to believe that everyone is as concerned with their thoughts and behaviors as they are. Teens also tend to believe that no one has ever experienced the same feelings or emotions as they have. The coined phrase "drama queen" comes to mind in regard to this statement. In adolescent youth, often heard phrases are, "You'll never understand," or "You have ruined my life." Another typical cognitive behavior in the adolescent youth is the, "It can't happen to me" or the, "I'm invincible" syndrome. Teens often use this belief to make risks like drinking and driving, smoking, or other harmful and thoughtless behavioral decisions, without thinking of the consequences. Cognitive behaviors such as the tendency to become overly cause-oriented and to exhibit a "justice" orientation are also very present in adolescent development. An example of cause-oriented behavior would be a teen becoming vegetarian after reading about cruelty to animals. Justice oriented behavior is the tendency of teens to point out flaws between adults' words and their actions. Teens may confront their parents by saying something like, "But you let Johnny (big brother) go to the prom when he was a sophomore." They see little room for error and view points are seen more in black and white, rather than gray.

The adolescent youth face many social and emotional development issues. At the adolescent stage in a teen's life, establishing an identity, autonomy, and achievement are important developmental components (Novella, R.). As a teenager, one of the most important tasks is trying to answer the question, "Who am I?" This question, however, is one that teens think about throughout the course of their adolescent years. Teens use the thoughts and opinions of others to come to their own likes and dislikes. They begin to integrate the opinions of people like their parents, other adults, and friends to come their own beliefs and values. Teens who have a secure identity know where they do, or don't fit in the world. A very important social developmental component is the ability for teens to establish autonomy. Autonomy does not mean being a loner and totally independent from others. Autonomy refers to becoming an independent person within relationships (Novella, R). This means that teens have gained the ability to make independent decisions based on what they feel is right or wrong. Autonomy is important for adolescent teens because it helps them become less emotionally dependent on parents. To become self-sufficient in society, autonomy is a necessary achievement for teens. Achievement is also an important social development behavior for teens because it helps them realize their strengths and weaknesses. Competition and success are valued attitudes in the American culture. The American culture is immensely influenced by competition. There has been a large increase in the number of reality shows produced like, American Idol and America's Got Talent. These shows epitomize the essence of completion in American culture today. Individualism and purpose, in social cognition development, as stated in the Adolescent Assessment textbook, mentions that, "moral reasoning is based on rewards and self-interest. In other words, a teenager will work hard to obtain good grades to be accepted to a prestigious university" (Gumbiner, 2003, p.27). Teens need to study their strengths and realize where their achievement preferences are, and in what areas they are willing to strive for success (Novella, R.). Every teenager is unique and will invariably experience different social and emotion development issues.

There are a variety of typical behavior patterns of social behavior development. Teens begin to spend more time with their friends than their parents. Also, teens may begin to keep a journal as part of tracking one's own thought and opinions. This method helps teens work through how they feel. Teens may begin to lock their bedroom door. This is a way teens wish to establish privacy. Other behaviors include the involvement of multiple hobbies and the elusiveness about where they are going or with whom. Teens may become more argumentative, or not want to be seen with parents in public. Although teens may be more argumentative and not want to be seen in public with parental figures, they may begin to view parents more as people. Teens may start asking questions like, "I wonder what my parents were like as a teen?" (Novella, R.).

Britannica Encyclopedia defines psychomotor learning as, "development of organized patterns of muscular activities guided by signals from the environment." This type of behavior combines cognitive functions and physical movements. Learning is demonstrated by physical skills such as movement, strength, speed, etc. An example of psychomotor assessment that the Classroom Assessment textbook mentions would include testing of student's keyboarding skills in computer class or student's prowess in shooting a basketball in gym class (Popham, 2008, p.35). In psychomotor development, the focus is on coordinated learning from the arms, hands, feet, fingers, while verbal processes are not emphasized. For adolescent teens, behavioral examples would include driving a car, and any eye-hand coordination tasks, such as athletics, or playing musical instruments.

For teachers, the cognitive, social/emotional, and psychomotor development of adolescent teenagers can have an impact on learning. It is important for teachers to know what they can do to effectively reach teenage students. It would be beneficial for teachers to be able to relate to his/her students in whatever way possible. Gaining respect from teens is an important element that can aid teachers in behavioral development. If students know you listen and care about them, you will earn their respect, and they will be more likely to share their feelings. To combat the cognitive behavior of "it can't happen to me," teachers can provide opportunities for teens to participate in supervised risky behavior such as extreme sports. Lots of schools have athletic teams like wrestling, or rugby, which are "intense" sports. Teens tend to want to get involved with things that have deeper meanings, so encouraging students to get involved with community service activities, or other school related activities, like student government, can greatly benefit student behavior. Teachers can take the opportunity to discuss students view and opinions about certain topics in the news, or on television. This can help with the development of personal beliefs, and help engage students to think independently. The impact of learning that the social/emotional development can have on teens is that this is the time when teens are trying to establish themselves. Assigning activities like weekly personal reflections or discussions of current events could help teens begin to think about their own thoughts and opinions in certain topics areas. This also helps students gain confidence in discussing their beliefs in front of the class. Another useful method may be to include more group involvement. Since teens like to be with other teens, let them work on tasks together. This could encourage social and problem solving skills.

It is important for teachers to take development into consideration when planning lessons and activities for the classroom. Knowing how and why students act the way they do is important to effectively reaching the classroom audience. Since adolescent teenagers are concerned with friends, image, psychomotor development tasks, such as sports, then knowing these motivational behaviors can help a teacher know how to "get through" to his/her students. If you have an educational objective that is pretty cut and dry, then finding a way to either incorporate kinesthetic movement, or social interaction will probably increase the likely hood that students will master that objective. At the adolescent age, teenagers are very focused on factors other than school. It would be beneficial for teachers to realize the cognitive, social/emotional, and psychomotor development behavior of teens at this age. This would allow the teacher to have a better grasp on why students behave the way they do. Teachers can have a major impact on students during this time in their life. There are a variety of changes, both physical and non-physical that are occurring to students in the adolescent stages of development. Teens face both challenges at home and at school. A teacher can benefit by being open minded and creative in creating lesson plans. Teens at this age enjoy moving around, working in groups, and talking out loud, so incorporating these elements into projects or assessments may prove to be successful. Lastly, the importance of being a good listener will be stressed again. Students at this age have a lot going on in their lives. Having a teacher who is willing to develop a personal relationship with his/her students creates a trusting environment. A trusting environment will lead to respect; respect leads to open ears, open ears leads to mastery of knowledge, and mastery of knowledge leads to a happy classroom.

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