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Nowadays a lot of attention is paid to the development of children, full realization of their potential in all spheres, versatile approaches to children care and teaching methods and so on. In this paper we are going to discuss the key issues, related to developmentally appropriate practice, its role for early child development, the major components of this approach and the expected final results of DAP application.
First of all we should be clear about the definition of the subject of our discussion – “Developmentally appropriate practice (or DAP) is a perspective within early childhood education whereby a teacher or child caregiver nurtures a child’s social/emotional, physical, and cognitive development by basing all practices and decisions on (1) theories of child development, (2) individually identified strengths and needs of each child uncovered through authentic assessment, and (3) the child’s cultural background as defined by his community, family history, and family structure” (Gestwicki, 8).
The starting idea of developmentally appropriate practice, like actually of any advanced theory of children teaching states, that adult people seize the full responsibility for the successful development and learning of their children. Most of specialists proved already, that relations with adults, the way, they are formed from the very birth and the earliest years of life, are the major determining factors for the further social, intellectual, psychological development of a child. On the other hand, every child is an individual, starting from the moment of the birth and usually is able to actively express the initiative in learning activities and interaction with peers (Bredekamp, 22).
Thus it is vitally important for the teachers to take into consideration all the factors, balancing between proper control and guidance, at the same time not suppressing the initiatives of the learners.
Certainly any teacher should plan the concrete aims, which are essential for further development of children, however, the concrete practices, which would help to achieve the planned results are not always uniform, mostly they are chosen individually and in correspondence to the psychological and mental state of a child or group of children. Usually, the most successful outcomes of the learning process appear, when the new experience involves some part of the already acquired skills or knowledge of children. At the same time any activity should be challenging enough for the learners to be able to reveal new things and make steps forward. As soon as this step is done and the teacher is sure, that the learners mastered new skills and new information, there is the need of a new target, which is identified by the teacher. This cycle is repeating as long as the process of education lasts. The correct fulfillment of all the components of this cycle guarantees rapid development and learning.
Most researchers agree, that the process of changing is quite predictable for most of the children under the age of nine. Here we are talking about all spheres of development, including cognitive, emotional and physical ones. In some sciences this period is called developmental or functioning. However it should not be mixed up with biological age of children, as the period of developmental functioning often can be traced by children of different age, depending on their individual differences and growth rates. Some researchers also noted, that there are slight differences between girls and boys, the last might be several months less mature than girls.
We have already mentioned, that for DAP teachers it is necessary to take into consideration also individual peculiarities of every child, because every child is unique, as his family background, initial education, experiences are different from the others. For making the process of education maximum successful, there should be corresponding interaction between the teacher and the learner. The ideas, experiences, which the child faces in the process of education, should match the previous environment and experiences of each child. Experiences, suggested by the teacher are supposed to provide challenge for the learner, at the same time being not too difficult for accomplishing.