YEAH, BUT’s That Keep Teachers from Embracing an Active Curriculum Overcoming the Resistance
By: Eugene Geist and Angela C. Baum
Early years are learning years.
The National Association for the Education of Young Children is an organization that recognizes and advocates an approach called developmentally appropriate practice (DAP). The developmentally appropriate practice approach is actually intended for the young learners. According to Little Voices website, a position statement was written in 1987 regarding developmentally appropriate practice to cover children from birth to eight years old. It allows children engaging experiences that are relevant to their lives and are based on clear objectives or standards. It is often associated with hands-on activities, in-depth exploration, cooperative learning, individualized instruction, and project-based curriculum (Geist and Baum, 2005). The DAP curriculum design is dependent on the learner's developmental status, is responsive to the individual's strengths, interest, and needs, and provides experiences which are meaningful, relevant, and respectful of the social and cultural context in which children. It therefore practices the child-centered (learner-centered) approach which acknowledges the individual differences of the learner, encourages active learning and promotes deep understanding.
The following are the five basic guidelines for Developmentally Appropriate Practice developed by the National Association for the Education of Young Children:
Create a caring community of learners. Developmentally appropriate practices supports the development of relationships between adults and children, among children, among teachers, and between families and teachers.
Teach to enhance development and learning. Early childhood teachers strive to achieve a balance between guiding children’s learning and following their lead.
Construct appropriate curriculum. The content of early childhood curriculum includes the subject matter, social or cultural values, parents’ input, and the age and experience of the children.
Assess children's learning and development. Assessment of individual children’s development and learning is essential for planning and implementing appropriate curriculum.
Establish mutually beneficial relationships with families. Developmentally appropriate practices evolve from a deep knowledge of individual children and the context within which they develop and learn. The younger the child, the more necessary it is for care givers and teachers to acquire this knowledge through relationships with children’s families.
Knowing that this approach supports children’s learning, educators strive to implement developmentally appropriate practices in their teaching. However, several factors such as the teaching-to-the-test phenomenon today makes it hard for the teachers to apply the principles of DAP. The article addresses the eight of the most frequently encountered challenges by educators in implementing the developmentally appropriate curricula and offers suggestions on how to overcome these teaching challenges to support teachers and bolster their continuing efforts to foster DAP curricula.
“Guidelines for developmentally appropriate practices”. National Association for the Education of Young Children. Article retrieved August 19, 2008 from http://www.naeyc.org/ece/1998/05.pdf
“Developmentally Appropriate Practice”. Little Voices Early Childcare and Education. Article retrieved August 19, 2008 from http://www.littlevoicesece.org/AppropriatePractice.asp