Current Trends in Early Childhood Education
Review this module’s Learning Resources with particular attention to the NAEYC Position Statement on Developmentally Appropriate Practice. (Check attachments)
Assignment Task Part 1:
After considering the perspectives presented in this module’s Learning Resources, address the following below in 1 ½ page:
· How does nature-based learning in Forest Preschools reflect elements of DAP?
· The Forest Schools trend is emerging internationally. Why do you think this might be so?
· What unique aspects of nature-based learning might serve to promote meaningful learning for young children?
· What unique aspects of nature-based learning might serve to promote a sense of community among children and their families?
· Describe the current issue or trend you are exploring for this week’s assignment. Briefly explain 1) why you have chosen this issue; 2) how it relates to meaningful learning experiences for young children; 3) how this trend reflects or departs from DAP guidelines.
· Cite appropriate references in APA format to substantiate your thinking.
Assignment Task Part 2:
· Read a selection of your colleagues’ postings.
· Respond to two of your colleagues’ postings, with at least one sharing the same perspective as you and one sharing a different perspective from yours in one of the following ways in a 150 word response each:
· Explain why you agree or disagree with your colleagues and cite Learning Resources to substantiate your thinking.
· Pose clarifying questions to a colleague to better understand his or her perspective.
· Act as a critical friend to both colleagues by offering constructive feedback on the clarity and validity of how they conveyed their perspectives.
· Locate one resource that contains a global perspective that agrees with or negates statements made by your peer and discuss how early childhood professionals can learn from this international perspective.
Cite appropriate references in APA format to substantiate your thinking.
Developmentally Appropriate Practice National Association for the Education of Young Children
Adopted by the NAEYC National
Governing Board April 2020
Each and every child, birth through age 8, has the right to equitable learning
opportunities—in centers, family child care homes, or schools—that fully
support their optimal development and learning across all domains and
content areas. Children are born eager to learn; they take delight exploring
their world and making connections. The degree to which early learning
programs support children’s delight and wonder in learning reflects
the quality of that setting. Educators who engage in developmentally
appropriate practice foster young children’s joyful learning and maximize
the opportunities for each and every child to achieve their full potential.
Disponible en Español: NAEYC.org/dap #naeycDAP
NAEYC Position Statement
Permissions NAEYC accepts requests for limited use of our copyrighted material. For permission to reprint, adapt, translate, or otherwise reuse and repurpose content from the final published document, review our guidelines at NAEYC.org/resources/permissions.
Developmentally Appropriate Practice: A Position Statement of the National Association for the Education of Young Children. Copyright © 2020 by the National Association for the Education of Young Children. All rights reserved.
Developmentally Appropriate Practice
3 Introduction 3 Purpose 5 Statement of the Position 5 Defining Developmentally Appropriate Practice
6 Core Considerations to Inform Decision Making
8 Principles of Child Development and Learning and Implications That Inform Practice
14 Guidelines for Developmentally Appropriate Practice in Action: Using Knowledge of Child Development and Learning in Context 15 1. Creating a Caring, Equitable Community of Learners 18 2. Engaging in Reciprocal Partnerships with Families and Fostering Community Connections 19 3. Observing, Documenting, and Assessing Children’s Development and Learning 21 4. Teaching to Enhance Each Child’s Development and Learning 25 5. Planning and Implementing an Engaging Curriculum to Achieve Meaningful Goals 28 6. Demonstrating Professionalism as an Early Childhood Educator
29 Recommendations for Implementing Developmentally Appropriate Practice 30 1. Recommendations for Schools, Family Child Care Homes, and Other Program Settings 31 2. Recommendations for Higher Education and Adult Development 31 3. Recommendations for Policymakers 32 4. Recommendations for Research 32 Conclusion
33 Appendix A: History and Context
35 Appendix B: Glossary
38 Appendix C: Acknowledgements
A POSITION STATEMENT OF THE NATIONAL ASSOCIATION FOR THE EDUCATION OF YOUNG CHILDREN | 3
Purpose Chief among the professional responsibilities of early childhood educators is the responsibility to
plan and implement intentional, developmentally appropriate learning experiences that promote the
social and emotional development, physical development and health, cognitive development, and
general learning competencies of each child served.1 But what does it mean to be “developmentally
appropriate”? This position statement, one of five foundational documents developed by NAEYC
in collaboration with the early childhood profession to advance high-quality early learning for
all young children, defines the term. The definition emerges from a set of evidence-based core
considerations and principles of child development and learning, all of which are explained in the
principles section of this statement. To support educators’ use of developmentally appropriate
practice, this statement also identifies guidelines for decision making in six key areas of responsibility
that correspond to the Professional Standards and Competencies for Early Childhood Educators.2
Practice (DAP) Professional
Standards and Competencies for Early Childhood
Code of Ethical Conduct
Advancing Equity in Early
NAEYC’s Foundational Documents
4 | DEVELOPMENTALLY APPROPRIATE PRACTICE
This statement’s primary focus is on the decisions early childhood educators make that result in developmentally appropriate practice. It is important to note, however, that educators make these decisions within settings that include their specific programs as well as broader systems, states, and societal contexts. Decision making that advances developmentally appropriate practice is facilitated when these systems also reflect the tenets described within this statement. Therefore, in addition to identifying guidelines for early childhood educators, the statement makes specific recommendations for policies and actions needed to support educators as they strive to implement developmentally appropriate practice—in their work settings, through professional preparation and development, in public policy, and through continuing research.
This is the fourth edition of NAEYC’s position statement on developmentally appropriate practice. (For a brief history and summary of changes from previous editions, see Appendix A.) More extensively than in previous editions, the definition, core considerations, principles, guidelines, and recommendations all underscore the importance of social, cultural, and historical contexts. This broader view emphasizes the implications of contexts not only for each child, but also for all the adults (educators, administrators, and others) involved in any aspect of early childhood education.
We begin this statement noting multiple tensions:
1. This position statement is based on a synthesis of current research and evidence across multiple disciplines. Although research finds that culture and context matter, relatively little research has been conducted with children from non- White and non-middle-class backgrounds. There is also a need for additional research led by those who reflect the diversity of children and families and their lived experiences.
2. This position statement requires well-prepared and qualified early childhood educators to engage in effective decision making. Yet insufficient funding and other policy decisions (for example, budget-driven decisions related to group size and ratios or mandated curricula and assessments that do not reflect the principles of development and learning identified here) have resulted in suboptimal environments, challenging working conditions, and inadequate compensation that make it difficult for early childhood educators to implement these guidelines.
3. This position statement elevates the crucial support educators require from higher education and other professional development systems. Yet even as they grapple with their own institutional biases and inequities, professional preparation programs and ongoing professional development systems must orient themselves towards consistently and effectively preparing and supporting educators to reflect on and address their own inherent biases and to help them provide developmentally, culturally, and linguistically responsive learning experiences to an increasingly diverse population of children.
4. This position statement highlights the importance of learning experiences that are meaningful to each child and that provide active engagement through play, exploration, and inquiry in ways that support the whole child—socially, emotionally, physically, and cognitively. Yet such opportunities are too often denied to young children when educational practices are not responsive to their developmental, cultural, and linguistic characteristics.
5. This position statement is based on NAEYC’s core values and beliefs, which underscore the fundamental right of each and every child to live in a society dedicated to helping them achieve their full potential. Yet the historical and current inequitable distribution of societal power and privilege on the basis of race, ethnicity, gender, language, disability, and other social identities results in limited opportunities and harms children—as well as early childhood professionals.3
Each of these tensions must be addressed for each child to achieve their full potential. We offer this statement as a call to action, committing to work collectively to address the ways in which current realities constrain the full potential of all young children as we continue to reflect and learn from multiple, diverse perspectives.
A POSITION STATEMENT OF THE NATIONAL ASSOCIATION FOR THE EDUCATION OF YOUNG CHILDREN | 5
Statement of the Position Each and every child, birth through age 8, has the right to equitable learning opportunities—in
centers, family child care homes, or schools—that fully support their optimal development and
learning across all domains and content areas. Children are born eager to learn; they take delight
exploring their world and making connections. The degree to which early learning programs
support children’s delight and wonder in learning reflects the quality of that setting. Educators
who engage in developmentally appropriate practice foster young children’s joyful learning
and maximize the opportunities for each and every child to achieve their full potential.
Defining Developmentally Appropriate Practice NAEYC defines “developmentally appropriate practice” as methods that promote each child’s optimal development and learning through a strengths-based, play-based approach to joyful, engaged learning. Educators implement developmentally appropriate practice by recognizing the multiple assets all young children bring to the early learning program as unique individuals and as members of families and communities. Building on each child’s strengths—and taking care to not harm any aspect of each child’s physical, cognitive, social, or emotional well- being—educators design and implement learning environments to help all children achieve their full potential across all domains of development and across all content areas. Developmentally
appropriate practice recognizes and supports each individual as a valued member of the learning community. As a result, to be developmentally appropriate, practices must also be culturally, linguistically, and ability appropriate for each child.
The Developmentally Appropriate Practice Position Statement is a framework of principles and guidelines to support a teacher’s intentional decision making for practice. The principles serve as the evidence base for the guidelines for practice, and both are situated within three core considerations—commonality, individuality, and context.
6 | DEVELOPMENTALLY APPROPRIATE PRACTICE
Core Considerations to Inform Decision Making Developmentally appropriate practice requires early childhood educators to seek out and gain
knowledge and understanding using three core considerations: commonality in children’s development
and learning, individuality reflecting each child’s unique characteristics and experiences, and the
context in which development and learning occur. These core considerations apply to all aspects of
educators’ decision-making in their work to foster each child’s optimal development and learning.
1 Commonality—current research and understandings of processes of child development and learning that apply to all children, including the understanding that all development and learning occur within specific social, cultural, linguistic, and historical contexts
An ever-increasing body of research documents the tremendous amount of development and learning that occur from birth through age 8 across all domains and content areas and how foundational this development and learning is for later life.4 This extensive knowledge base, including both what is known about general processes of children’s development and learning and the educational practices educators need to fully support development and learning in all areas, is summarized in the principles section of this statement.
When considering commonalities in development and learning, it is important to acknowledge that much of the research and the principal theories that have historically guided early childhood professional preparation and practice have primarily reflected norms based on a Western scientific-cultural model.5, 6 Little research has considered a normative perspective based on other groups. As a result, differences from this Western
(typically White, middle-class, monolingual English-speaking) norm have been viewed as deficits, helping to perpetuate systems of power and privilege and to maintain structural inequities.7, 8 Increasingly, theories once assumed to be universal in developmental sciences, such as attachment, are now recognized to vary by culture and experience.9
The current body of evidence indicates that all child development and learning—actually, all human development and learning— are always embedded within and affected by social and cultural contexts.10 As social and cultural contexts vary, so too do processes of development and learning. Social and cultural aspects are not simply ingredients of development and learning; these aspects provide the framework for all development and learning. For example, play is a universal phenomenon across all cultures (it also extends to other primates). Play, however, can vary significantly by social and cultural contexts as children use play as a means of interpreting and making sense of their experiences.11 Early childhood educators need to understand the commonalities of children’s development and learning and how those commonalities take unique forms as they reflect the social and cultural frameworks in which they occur.
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2 Individuality—the characteristics and experiences unique to each child, within the context of their family and community, that have implications for how best to support their development and learning
Early childhood educators have the responsibility of getting to know each child well, understanding each child as an individual and as a family and community member. Educators use a variety of methods—including reflecting on their knowledge of the community; seeking information from the family; observing the child; examining the child’s work; and using authentic, valid, and reliable individual child assessments. Educators understand that each child reflects a complex mosaic of knowledge and experiences that contributes to the considerable diversity among any group of young children. These differences include the children’s various social identities, interests, strengths, and preferences; their personalities, motivations, and approaches to learning; and their knowledge, skills, and abilities related to their cultural experiences, including family languages, dialects, and vernaculars. Children may have disabilities or other individual learning needs, including needs for accelerated learning. Sometimes these individual learning needs have been diagnosed, and sometimes they have not.
Early childhood educators recognize this diversity and the opportunities it offers to support all children’s learning by recognizing each child as a unique individual with assets and strengths to contribute to the early childhood education learning environment.
3 Context—everything discernible about the social and cultural contexts for each child, each educator, and the program as a whole
One of the key updates in this revision is the expansion of the core consideration regarding the social and cultural contexts of development and learning. As noted in the first core consideration on commonality, the fact that development and learning are embedded in social and cultural contexts is true of all individuals. Context includes both one’s personal cultural context (that is, the complex set of ways of knowing the world that reflect one’s family and other primary caregivers and their traditions and values) and the broader multifaceted and intersecting (for example, social, racial, economic, historical, and political) cultural contexts in which each of us live. In both the individual- and societal- definitions, these are dynamic rather than static contexts that shape and are shaped by individual members as well as other factors.
Early childhood educators must also be aware that they themselves—and their programs as a whole—bring their own experiences and contexts, in both the narrower and broader definitions, to their decision-making. This is particularly important to consider when educators do not share the cultural contexts of the children they serve. Yet even when educators appear to share the cultural contexts of children, they can sometimes experience a disconnection between their professional and cultural knowledge.12
To fully support each child’s optimal development and learning in an increasingly diverse society, early childhood educators need to understand the implications of these contexts. By recognizing that children’s experiences may vary by their social identities (for example, by race or ethnicity, language, gender, class, ability, family composition, and economic status, among others), with different and intersecting impacts on their development and learning, educators can make adaptations to affirm and support positive development of each child’s multiple social identities. Additionally, educators must be aware of, and counter, their own and larger societal biases that may undermine a child’s positive development and well-being. Early childhood educators have a professional responsibility to be life-long learners who are able to foster life-long learning in children; in this, they must keep abreast of research developments, while also learning continuously from families and communities they serve.
8 | DEVELOPMENTALLY APPROPRIATE PRACTICE
Principles of Child Development and Learning and Implications That Inform Practice NAEYC’s guidelines and recommendations for developmentally appropriate practice are based on
the following nine principles and their implications for early childhood education professional practice.
These principles reflect an extensive research base that is only partially referenced here.13 Because
these principles are interrelated, this linear list does not fully represent their overall complexity.
1 Development and learning are dynamic processes that reflect the complex interplay between a child’s biological characteristics and the environment, each shaping the other as well as future patterns of growth.
Advances in neuroscience over the last two decades have provided new insights regarding the processes of early brain development and their long-term implications for development and learning. The findings provide robust evidence supporting the importance of high-quality early learning experiences for young children for promoting children’s lifelong success.
Neural connections in the brain—which are the basis for all thought, communication, and learning—are established most rapidly in early childhood.14 The processes of forming new neural connections and pruning the neural connections that are not used continue throughout a person’s lifespan but are most consequential in the first three years.15 When adults are sensitive and respond to an infant’s babble, cry, or gesture, they directly support the development of neural connections that lay the foundation for children’s communication and social skills, including self-regulation. These “serve and return” interactions shape the brain’s architecture.16 They also help educators and others “tune in” to the infant and better respond to the infant’s wants and needs.
The interplay of biology and environment, present at birth, continues through the preschool years and primary grades (kindergarten through grade 3). This has particular implications for children who experience adversity. In infancy, for example, a persistent lack of responsive care results in the infant experiencing chronic stress that may negatively impact brain development and may delay or impair the development of essential systems and abilities, including thinking, learning, and memory, as well as the immune system and the ability to cope with stress.17 Living in persistent poverty can also generate chronic stress that negatively affects the development of brain areas associated with cognitive and self-regulatory functions.18
No group is monolithic, and data specific to communities provides a deeper understanding of children’s experiences and outcomes. It is important to recognize that although children of all races and ethnicities experience poverty and other adverse childhood experiences (ACEs), Black and Latino/a children, as well as children in refugee and immigrant families, children in some Asian-American families, and children in Native American families, have been found to be more likely to experience ACEs than White non-Latino/a and other Asian-American populations of children,19 reflecting a history of systemic inequities.20 Moreover, racism itself must be recognized not only for its immediate and obvious impacts on children, but also for its long-term negative impacts, in which the repetitive trauma created by racism can predispose individuals to chronic disease.21 It should be noted that these stressors and trauma affect adults as well as children, including family members and early childhood educators themselves, who, despite their skills and importance, often earn wages that place them into poverty.
Some children appear to be more susceptible than others to the effects of environmental influence—both positive and negative—reflecting individual differences at play. For children facing adverse circumstances, including trauma, the buffering effects of caring, consistent relationships—with family and other community members but also in high-quality early childhood programs—are also important to note.22 This emerging science emphasizes the critical importance of early childhood educators in providing consistent, responsive, sensitive care and education to promote children’s development and learning across the full birth-through-8 age span. The negative impacts of chronic stress and other adverse experiences can be overcome. High-quality early childhood education contributes substantially to children’s resilience and healthy development.
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2 All domains of child development—physical development, cognitive development, social and emotional development, and linguistic development (including bilingual or multilingual development), as well as approaches to learning—are important; each domain both supports and is supported by the others.
Early childhood educators are responsible for fostering children’s development and learning in all these domains as well as in general learning competencies and executive functioning, which include attention, working memory, self-regulation, reasoning, problem solving, and approaches to learning. There is considerable overlap and interaction across these domains and competencies. For example, sound nutrition, physical activity, and sufficient sleep all promote children’s abilities to engage in social interactions that, in turn, stimulate cognitive growth. Children who experience predictable, responsive relationships and responsive interactions with adults also tend to demonstrate improved general learning competencies and executive functioning.23
Changes in one domain often impact other areas and highlight each area’s importance. For example, as children begin to crawl or walk, they gain new possibilities for exploring the world. This mobility in turn affects both their cognitive development and their ability to satisfy their curiosity, underscoring the importance of adaptations for children with disabilities that limit their mobility. Likewise, language development influences a child’s ability to participate in social interaction with adults and other children; such interactions, in turn, support further language development as well as further social, emotional, and cognitive development. Science is clear that children can learn multiple languages as easily as one, given adequate exposure and practice, and this process brings cognitive advantages.24 In groups in which children speak different home languages, educators may not be able to speak each language, but they can value and support maintaining all languages.25
A growing body of work demonstrates relationships between social, emotional, executive function, and cognitive competencies26 as well as the importance of movement and physical activity.27 These areas of learning are mutually reinforcing and all are critical in educating young children across birth through age 8. Intentional teaching strategies, including, and particularly, play (both self-directed and guided), address each domain. Kindergartens and grades 1-3 tend to be considered elementary or primary education, and, as such, may have increasingly prioritized cognitive learning at the expense of physical, social, emotional, and linguistic development. But integrating cognitive, emotional, social, interpersonal skills and self-regulatory competencies better prepares children for more challenging academic content and learning experiences.28 In brief, the knowledge base documents the importance of a comprehensive curriculum and the interrelatedness of the developmental domains for all young children’s well-being and success.
3 Play promotes joyful learning that fosters self- regulation, language, cognitive and social competencies as well as content knowledge across disciplines. Play is essential for all children, birth through age 8.
Play (e.g., self-directed, guided, solitary, parallel, social, cooperative, onlooker, object, fantasy, physical, constructive, and games with rules) is the central teaching practice that facilitates young children’s development and learning. Play develops young children’s symbolic and imaginative thinking, peer relationships, language (English and/or additional languages), physical development, and problem-solving skills. All young children need daily, sustained opportunities for play, both indoors and outdoors. Play helps children develop large-motor and fine-motor physical competence, explore and make sense of their world, interact with others, express and control their emotions, develop symbolic and problem-solving abilities, and practice emerging skills. Consistently, studies find clear links between play and foundational capacities such as working memory, self-regulation, oral language abilities, social skills, and success in school.29
Indeed, play embodies the characteristics of effective development and learning described in principles 4 and 5—active, meaningful engagement driven by children’s choices. Researchers studying the pedagogy of play have identified three key components: choice (the children’s decisions to engage in play, as well as decisions about its direction and its continuation), wonder (children’s continued engagement as they explore, gather information, test hypotheses, and make meaning), and delight (the joy and laughter associated with the pleasure of the activity, making discoveries, and achieving new things).30 Play also typically involves social interaction with peers and/or adults.
Although adults can be play partners (for example, playing peekaboo with an infant) or play facilitators (by making a suggestion to extend the activity in a certain way), the more that the adult directs an activity or interaction, the less likely it will be perceived as play by the child. When planning learning environments and activities, educators may find it helpful to consider a continuum ranging from children’s self-directed play to direct instruction.31 Neither end of the continuum is effective by itself in creating a high-quality early childhood program. Effective, developmentally-appropriate practice does not mean simply letting children play in the absence of a planned learning environment, nor does it mean predominantly offering direct instruction. In the middle of the continuum is guided play. Educators create learning environments that reflect children’s interests; they provide sustained time and opportunities for children to engage in self-directed play (individually and in small groups). Educators also strategically make comments and suggestions and ask questions to help move children toward a learning goal, even as children continue to lead the activity.32
10 | DEVELOPMENTALLY APPROPRIATE PRACTICE
Guided play gives educators opportunities to use children’s interests and creations to introduce new vocabulary and concepts, model complex language, and provide children with multiple opportunities to use words in context in children’s home languages as well as in English. These meaningful and engaging experiences help children—including those in kindergarten and the primary grades—build knowledge and vocabulary across subject areas and in purposeful contexts (which is more effective than memorization of word lists).33
Despite evidence that supports the value of play, not all children are afforded the opportunity to play, a reality which disproportionately affects Black and Latino/a children.34 Play is often viewed as being at odds with the demands of formal schooling, especially for children growing up in under-resourced communities.35 In fact, the highly didactic, highly controlling curriculum found in many kindergarten and primary grades, with its narrow focus on test-focused skill development, is unlikely to be engaging or meaningful for children; it is also unlikely to build the broad knowledge and vocabulary needed for reading comprehension in later grades. Instead, the lesson children are likely to learn is that they are not valued thinkers or successful learners in school. For example, studies suggest that students who are taught math primarily through memorization and rote learning are more than a year behind those who have been taught by relating math concepts to their existing knowledge and reflecting on their own understanding.36
Even if not called play, cross-curricular and collaborative approaches such as project-based learning, inquiry learning, or making and tinkering share characteristics of playful learning.37 Giving children autonomy and agency in how they approach problems, make hypotheses, and explore potential solutions with others promotes deeper learning and improves executive functioning.38 In sum, self-directed play, guided play, and playful learning, skillfully supported by early childhood educators, build academic language, deepen conceptual development, and support reflective and intentional approaches to learning—all of which add up to effective strategies for long-term success.
4 Although general progressions of development and learning can be identified, variations due to cultural contexts, experiences, and individual differences must also be considered.
A pervasive characteristic of development is that children’s functioning, including their play, becomes increasingly complex— in language, cognition, social interaction, physical movement, problem solving, and virtually every other aspect. Increased organization and memory capacity of the developing brain make it possible for children to combine simple routines into more complex strategies with age.39 Despite these predictable changes in all domains, the ways that these changes are demonstrated and the meanings attached to them will vary in different cultural and linguistic contexts. For example, in some cultures, children may be encouraged to satisfy their growing curiosity by moving independently to explore the environment; in other cultures, children may be socialized to seek answers to queries within structured activities created for them by adults.40 In addition, all children learn language through their social interactions, but there are important distinctions in the process for monolingual, bilingual, and multilingual children.41 Rather than assuming that the process typical of monolingual children is the norm against which others ought to be judged, it is important for educators to recognize the differences as variations in strengths (rather than deficits) and to support them appropriately.42
Development and learning also occur at varying rates from child to child and at uneven rates across different areas for each child. Children’s demonstrated abilities and skills are often fluid and may vary from day to day based on individual or contextual factors. For example, because children are still developing the ability to direct their attention, a distraction in the environment may result in a child successfully completing a puzzle one day but not the next. In addition, some regression in observed skills is common before new developments are fully achieved.43 For all of these reasons, the notion of “stages” of development has limited utility; a more helpful concept may be to think of waves of development that allow for considerable overlap without rigid boundaries.44
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5 Children are active learners from birth, constantly taking in and organizing information to create meaning through their relationships, their interactions with their environment, and their overall experiences.
Even as infants, children are capable of highly complex thinking.45 Using information they gather through their interactions with people and things as well as their observations of the world around them, they quickly create sophisticated theories to build their conceptual understanding. They recognize patterns and make predictions that they then apply to new situations. Infants appear particularly attuned to adults as sources of information, underscoring the importance of consistent, responsive caregiving to support the formation of relationships.46 Cultural variations can be seen in these interactions, with implications for later development and learning. For example, in some cultures, children are socialized to quietly observe members of the adult community and to learn by pitching in (often through mimicking the adults’ behaviors).47 In other cultures, adults make a point of getting a child’s attention to encourage one-on-one interactions. Children socialized to learn through observing may quietly watch others without asking for help, while those socialized to expect direct interaction may find it difficult to maintain focus without frequent adult engagement.
Throughout the early childhood years, young children continue to construct knowledge and make meaning through their interactions with adults and peers, through active exploration and play, and through their observations of people and things in the world around them. Educators recognize the importance of their role in creating a rich, play-based learning environment that encourages the development of knowledge (including vocabulary) and skills across all domains. Educators understand that children’s current abilities are largely the result of the experiences—the opportunities to learn—that children have had. As such, children with disabilities (or with the potential for a disability) have capacity to learn; they need educators who do not label them or isolate them from their peers and who are prepared to work with them and their families to develop that potential.
In addition to learning language and concepts about the physical phenomena in the world around them, children learn powerful lessons about social dynamics as they observe the interactions that educators have with them and other children as well as peer interactions. Well before age 5, most young children have rudimentary definitions of their own and others’ social identities that can include awareness of and biases regarding gender and race.48
Early childhood educators need to understand the importance of creating a learning environment that helps children develop social identities which do not privilege one group over another. They must also be aware of the potential for implicit bias that may prejudice their interactions with children of various social
identities.49 Educators must also recognize that their nonverbal signals may influence children’s attitudes toward their peers. For example, one recent study found that children will think a child who receives more positive nonverbal signals from a teacher is perceived as a “better” or “smarter” reader than a child who receives more negative nonverbal signals, regardless of that child’s actual reading performance.50
6 Children’s motivation to learn is increased when their learning environment fosters their sense of belonging, purpose, and agency. Curricula and teaching methods build on each child’s assets by connecting their experiences in the school or learning environment to their home and community settings.
This principle is drawn from the influential report How People Learn II and is supported by a growing body of research that affirms principles espoused more than 100 years ago by John Dewey.51 The sense of belonging requires both physical and psychological safety. Seeing connections with home and community can be a powerful signal for children’s establishing psychological safety; conversely, when there are few signs of connection for children, their psychological safety is jeopardized. It is important for children to see people who look like them across levels of authority, to hear and see their home language in the learning environment, and to have learning experiences that are both culturally and linguistically affirming and responsive.52
Equally important is encouraging each child’s sense of agency. Opportunities for agency—that is, the ability to make and act upon choices about what activities one will engage in and how those activities will proceed—must be widely available for all children, not limited as a reward after completing other tasks or only offered to high-achieving students. Ultimately, motivation is a personal decision based on the learner’s determination of meaningfulness, interest, and engagement.53 Educators can promote children’s agency and help them feel motivated by engaging them in challenging yet achievable tasks that build on their interests and that they recognize as meaningful and purposeful to their lives. Studies have found that some children are denied opportunities to exercise agency because they are mistakenly deemed unable to do so.54 For educators, supporting a child’s agency can be especially challenging when they do not speak the same language as the child or are not able to understand a child’s attempts to express solutions or preferences. In these cases, nonverbal cues and/or technology-assistive tools may be helpful as the educator also works to address the communication barrier.
As noted earlier regarding brain development, children’s feelings of safety and security are essential for the development of higher-order thinking skills, so fostering that sense of belonging is essentially a brain-building activity. Beginning in infancy, educators who follow children’s lead in noticing their interests
12 | DEVELOPMENTALLY APPROPRIATE PRACTICE
and responding with an appropriate action and conversation (including noting when interest wanes) are helping children develop self-confidence and an understanding that their actions make a difference. Educators can involve children in choosing or creating learning experiences that are meaningful to them, helping them establish and achieve challenging goals, and reflecting on their experiences and their learning. Educators can also intentionally build bridges between children’s interests and the subject matter knowledge that will serve as the foundation for learning in later grades.
7 Children learn in an integrated fashion that cuts across academic disciplines or subject areas. Because the foundations of subject area knowledge are established in early childhood, educators need subject-area knowledge, an understanding of the learning progressions within each subject area, and pedagogical knowledge about teaching each subject area’s content effectively.
Based on their knowledge of what is meaningful and engaging to each child, educators design the learning environment and its activities to promote subject area knowledge across all content areas as well as across all domains of development. Educators use their knowledge of learning progressions for different subjects, their understanding of common conceptions and misconceptions at different points on the progressions, and their pedagogical knowledge about each subject area to develop learning activities that offer challenging but achievable goals for children that are also meaningful and engaging. These activities will look very different for infants and toddlers than for second- and third- graders and from one community of learners to another, given variations in culture and context. Across all levels and settings, educators can help children observe and, over time, reflect about phenomena in the world around them, gain vocabulary, and build their conceptual understanding of the content of subjects across all disciplines.
Recognizing the value of the academic disciplines, an interdisciplinary approach that considers multiple areas together is typically more meaningful than teaching content areas separately. This requires going beyond superficial connections. It means “making rich connections among domain and subject areas, but allowing each to retain its core conceptual, procedural, and epistemological structures.”55 It is, therefore, important that educators have a good understanding of the core structures (concepts and language) for all the academic subject areas so that they can communicate them in appropriate ways to children.
Educators shape children’s conceptual development through their use of language. For example, labeling objects helps young children form conceptual categories; statements conveyed as generic descriptions about a category are especially salient to young children and, once learned, can be resistant to change.56
It is also important for educators to monitor their language for potential bias. For example, educators who frequently refer to “boys” and “girls” rather than “children” emphasize binary gender distinctions that exclude some children. Educators can also encourage children’s continued exploration and discovery through the words they use. For example, when given an object, children are more likely to engage in creative explorations of that object when they are provided with more open-ended guidance versus when they are given specific information about what the object was designed to do.
From infancy through age 8, proactively building children’s conceptual and factual knowledge, including academic vocabulary, is essential because knowledge is the primary driver of comprehension. The more children (and adults) know, the better their listening comprehension and, later, reading comprehension. By building knowledge of the world in early childhood, educators are laying the foundation that is critical for all future learning.57 All subject matter can be taught in ways that are meaningful and engaging for each child.58 The notion that young children are not ready for academic subject matter is a misunderstanding of developmentally appropriate practice.
8 Development and learning advance when children are challenged to achieve at a level just beyond their current mastery and when they have many opportunities to reflect on and practice newly acquired skills.
Human beings, especially young children, are motivated to understand or do what is just beyond their current understanding or mastery. Drawing upon the strengths and resources each child and family brings, early childhood educators create a rich learning environment that stimulates that motivation and helps to extend each child’s current skills, abilities, and interests. They make use of strategies to promote children’s undertaking and mastering of new and progressively more advanced challenges. They also recognize the potential for implicit bias to lead to lowered expectations, especially for children of color,59 and actively work to avoid such bias.
Educators contribute significantly to the child’s development by providing the support or assistance that allows the child to succeed at a task that is just beyond their current level of skill or understanding. This includes emotional support as well as strategies such as pointing out salient details or providing other cues that can help children make connections to previous knowledge and experiences.60 As children make this stretch to a new level in a supportive context, they can go on to use the skill independently and in a variety of contexts, laying the foundation for the next challenge. Provision of such support, or scaffolding, is a key feature of effective teaching. Pairing children can be an effective way to support peer learning in which children with different abilities can scaffold each other.61
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Children need to feel successful in new tasks a significant proportion of the time to promote their motivation and persistence.62 Confronted by repeated failure, most children will simply stop trying. Repeated opportunities to practice and consolidate new skills and concepts are also essential for children to reach the threshold of mastery at which they can go on to use this knowledge or skill, applying it in new situations. Play (especially in intentionally designed environments with carefully selected materials) provides young children with opportunities to engage in this type of practice.
Educators foster learning for a group of children by setting challenging, achievable goals for each child, building on the combined funds of knowledge and cultural assets of the children in the group. Providing the right amount and type of scaffolding requires general knowledge of child development and learning, including familiarity with the paths and sequences that children are known to follow in specific skills, concepts, and abilities. Also essential is deep knowledge of each child, based on what the teacher has learned from close observation and from the family about the individual child’s interests, skills, and abilities and about practices of importance to the family. Both sets of knowledge are critical to matching curriculum and teaching experiences to each child’s emerging competencies in ways that are challenging but not frustrating.
Encouraging children to reflect on their experiences and learning and to revisit concepts over time is also an important strategy for educators. The curriculum should provide both breadth and depth with multiple opportunities to revisit concepts and experiences, rather than rapidly progressing through a wide but shallow set of experiences. Picture books and other learning materials that depict communities and situations relevant to children’s lives can be useful starting points for such reflection. Group projects with documentation, including photos, videos, child artwork and representations, child dictations, and/or children’s writing, are also important tools for encouraging reflection and for revisiting concepts over time.63
Tiered intervention approaches can be helpful in identifying children who might benefit from additional instruction or support.64 These approaches, often in collaboration with early childhood special educators and early interventionists, are most effective when they are implemented in a way that is continuous, flexible, dynamic, and focused on the range of critical skills and proficiencies children need to develop and to enable their full participation in the classroom/group community.
9 Used responsibly and intentionally, technology and interactive media can be valuable tools for supporting children’s development and learning.
Young children live in a digital era in which technology and interactive media are pervasive. Given rapid changes in the types and uses of new media, the knowledge base of their effects on children’s development and learning continues to grow and shift. Emerging evidence suggests a number of cautions, including concerns about negative associations between excessive screen time and childhood obesity as well as negative impacts on toddlers’ performance on measures of fine motor, communication, and social skills.65 There is no evidence that development is enhanced when children younger than age 2 independently use devices with screen media.66 Keeping these cautions in mind, technology and interactive media can help to support developmentally appropriate practice. For example, technology and interactive media can facilitate communication between families, children, and teachers. It can also support learning, comprehension, and communication across language differences and provide adaptations that support inclusion of children with disabilities. The use of digital media can facilitate reflection through documentation and formative assessment by children, educators, and families. The use of media can also provide isolated children (for example, children with health problems that prevent them from participating in group settings or those with less well-developed social skills) with opportunities to engage effectively with peers.67
Effective uses of technology and media by children are active, hands-on, engaging, and empowering; give children control; provide adaptive scaffolds to help each child progress in skills development at their individual pace; and are used as one of many options to support children’s learning. Technology and interactive media should expand children’s access to new content and new skills; they should not replace opportunities for real, hands-on experiences.68 When truly integrated, uses of technology and media become normal and transparent—the child or the educator is focused on the activity or exploration itself, not the technology. Readers are encouraged to review the NAEYC/Fred Rogers Center position statement on the use of technology for more information on this topic.
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Guidelines for Developmentally Appropriate Practice in Action: Using Knowledge of Child Development and Learning in Context Based on the principles outlined above, the following guidelines address decisions that early childhood
professionals make in six key and interrelated areas of practice: (1) creating a caring community of
learners; (2) engaging in reciprocal partnerships with families and fostering community connections;
(3) observing, documenting and assessing children’s development and learning; (4) teaching to enhance
each child’s development and learning; (5) planning and implementing an engaging curriculum to
achieve meaningful goals; and (6) demonstrating professionalism as an early childhood educator.
Generally consistent with previous editions of this statement, the six areas have been reworded and
reordered to reflect consistency with the Professional Standards and Competencies for Early Childhood
Educators. These guidelines work hand in hand with the standards and competencies; they are also
based on the assumption that, as part of the sixth professional standard regarding professionalism,
educators are also advocating for policies and financing that support the equitable implementation of
developmentally appropriate practice across all states and settings serving children birth through age
8. Finally, some of the guidelines are similarly reflected in the recommendations for early childhood
educators embedded in the Advancing Equity in Early Childhood Education position statement.
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1. Creating a Caring, Equitable Community of Learners Because early childhood education settings are often among children’s first communities outside
the home, the character of these communities is very influential in children’s development.
Through their interactions, children learn how to treat others and how they can expect to be
treated. In developmentally appropriate practice, educators create and foster a community of
learners. The role of the community is to provide a physical, emotional, and cognitive environment
conducive to development and learning for each child. The foundation for the community is
consistent, positive, caring relationships between educators and other adults and children,
among children, among educators and colleagues, and between educators and families. Each
member of the learning community is valued for what they bring to the community; all members
are supported to consider and contribute to one another’s well-being and learning.
To create a caring, equitable community of learners, educators make sure that the following occur for children from birth through the primary grades.
A Each member of the community is valued by the others and is recognized for the strengths they bring. By observing and participating in the community, children learn about themselves, their world, and how to develop positive, constructive relationships with other people. Each child has unique strengths, interests, and perspectives to contribute. Children learn to acknowledge and respect differences of all kinds and to value each person. Children with and without disabilities can learn from each other and respect each other using this strengths-based approach.
Educators demonstrate their valuing and respect for each child in different ways:
1. Educators pronounce and spell the child’s name in accordance with the child’s and family’s preferences.
2. Educators acknowledge and accept the family composition that each family defines.
3. Educators demonstrate ongoing interest in each child’s unique knowledge, skills, and cultural and linguistic experiences and recognize these as assets for learning.
B Relationships are nurtured with each child, and educators facilitate the development of positive relationships among children. Children construct their understandings about the world around them through interactions with other members of the community (both adults and peers). Thus, early childhood educators actively work to build their own relationships with each child as well as foster the development of relationships among the children. Educators regularly seek out opportunities for extended conversations with each child, including those with whom they do not share a language, through verbal and nonverbal interactions. Opportunities to play together, collaborate on investigations and projects, and talk with peers and adults enhance children’s development and learning and should be available to all children, with support as needed. Interacting in small groups provides a context for children to extend their thinking, practice emerging language skills, build on one another’s ideas, and cooperate to solve problems. (Also see guideline 2, “Engaging in reciprocal partnerships with families and fostering community connections.”)
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C Each member of the community respects and is accountable to the others to behave in a way that is conducive to the learning and well-being of all.
1. Educators help children develop responsibility and self-regulation. Educators intentionally model and teach children self-regulation and calming strategies. Recognizing that behaviors reflect children’s experiences and needs, educators seek to understand a child’s reasons for behaving in particular ways. Knowing that responsibility and self-regulation develop with experience and time, educators consider how to foster such development in their interactions with each child and in their curriculum planning. They work to provide predictable, consistent routines (but not rigid schedules with unnecessary transitions) and supportive relationships for all children, taking into consideration the range of current self-regulation abilities among the children. They do not blame children or families for their behavior but call on additional resources for support as needed. They work to eliminate suspension and expulsions as mechanisms for addressing challenging behaviors. Educators also take care to reflect on their own behaviors and expectations and the ways in which these may affect children’s behavior. For all young children, including in K–3 classrooms, educators recognize that children are continuing to learn and refine behavior regulation. Educators implement systems of support that help children practice self-regulation and provide additional supports where needed. When using behavioral systems to guide social and emotional interactions in the early learning setting, educators ensure that the systems acknowledge positive behaviors rather than drawing attention to negative ones.
2. Educators are responsible for all children under their supervision to ensure respectful behaviors. They actively teach and model prosocial behaviors. They monitor, anticipate, prevent, and redirect behaviors not conducive to learning or disrespectful of any member of the community.
3. Educators set clear and reasonable limits on children’s behavior, find ways to effectively communicate those limits to all children, and apply them consistently. Early childhood educators help children be accountable to themselves and to others for their behavior. In the case of preschool and older children, educators engage children in developing their own community rules for behavior. Educators understand that all behaviors serve a purpose; they seek to understand what may be leading to that behavior and help children learn prosocial replacement behaviors when needed.
4. Educators listen to and acknowledge children’s feelings, including frustrations, using words as well as nonverbal communication techniques. Knowing that children often communicate through their behavior, especially when they are unable to verbalize their feelings, educators seek to understand what the child may be trying to communicate in any language. Educators respond with respect in ways that children can understand, guide children to resolve conflicts, and model skills that help children to solve their own problems.
5. Educators themselves demonstrate high levels of responsibility and self-regulation in their interactions with other adults (colleagues, family members) and with children. This includes monitoring their own behaviors for potential implicit biases or microaggressions on the basis of race and ethnicity, gender, disability, or other characteristics that unfairly target children or adults in the early learning setting, undermine an individual’s self-worth, or perpetuate negative stereotypes. They also confront biased or stereotypical comments in interactions among children and/or adults. When they inadvertently engage in behavior that hurts or undermines an individual’s self-worth, educators model how to manage negative emotions and to repair relationships.
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D The physical environment protects the health and safety of the learning community members, and it specifically supports young children’s physiological needs for play, activity, sensory stimulation, fresh air, rest, and nourishment. The daily schedule provides frequent opportunities for self-directed play and active, physical movement, regardless of the length of the program day or the ages of the children. Children are provided opportunities for rest as needed. Outdoor experiences, including opportunities to interact with the natural world, are provided daily for children of all ages. This includes daily periods of recess for children through the primary grades. Recess is never withheld as a punishment. Mealtimes are unhurried, and conversation among children is encouraged during meals.
E Every effort is made to help each and every member of the community feel psychologically safe and able to focus on being and learning. The overall social and emotional climate is welcoming and positive.
1. Educators monitor interactions among community members (administrators, educators, families, children), as well as their overall experiences, striving to make sure that participants feel secure, relaxed, and comfortable rather than disengaged, frightened, worried, or unduly stressed.
2. Educators build on individual children’s funds of knowledge,69 interests, languages, and experiences to foster each child’s enjoyment of and engagement in learning.
3. Educators ensure that the environment is organized in ways that support play and learning and that create a positive group climate. Space, time, and stimulation are modified to take into account children’s individual needs and feelings of psychological safety. Educators recognize that individual children may need or benefit from different levels of stimulation. They avoid overly cluttered environments that may be too stimulating. Flexibility and freedom of movement predominate throughout the day. Although the environment’s elements are dynamic and changing, the overall structures and routines are predictable and comprehensible from a child’s point of view.
4. Educators strive to make sure that each child hears and sees their home language, culture, and family experience reflected in the daily interactions, activities, and materials in the early learning setting. Each child’s various social identities are affirmed in positive ways that do not negatively impact any others. Stereotypical thinking and messages are countered with opportunities to engage in more sophisticated and accurate thinking.
5. Educators are prepared to recognize signs of stress and trauma in young children and seek access to early childhood mental health experts, supports, and resources to provide healing-centered approaches to assist children. Educators recognize that children who have experienced trauma may need frequent, explicit, and consistent reminders that they are psychologically and physically safe. Educators also keep children’s resilience in mind, knowing that simple actions like being consistently warm and caring support healthy development for all children—including those who have experienced trauma.
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2. Engaging in Reciprocal Partnerships with Families and Fostering Community Connections Developmentally appropriate practice requires deep knowledge about each child,
including the context within which each child is living. Educators acquire much of this
knowledge through respectful, reciprocal relationships with children’s families. Across
all ages, families’ expertise about their own children is sought out and valued.
Educators who engage in developmentally appropriate practice take responsibility for forming and maintaining strong relationships with families and communities. They recognize that the traditional models of “parent involvement” or “parent education” are one-sided approaches that fail to give educators the knowledge or insights they need to provide learning experiences that are fully responsive to each child’s needs and experiences.
The following descriptions of educators’ behavior indicate the kinds of relationships that are developmentally appropriate for children from birth through the primary grades, in which family members and educators work together as members of the learning community.
A Educators take responsibility for establishing respectful, reciprocal relationships with and among families. As they work to facilitate their own relationships with families, educators also encourage and support families to get to know each other, serve as resources to each other, and collaborate within and outside of the program. They strive to ensure mutual respect, cooperation, and shared responsibility and to help negotiate conflicts as they work toward achievement of shared goals. (Also see guideline 1, “Creating a caring community of learners.”)
B Educators work in collaborative partnerships with families, seeking and maintaining regular, frequent, two-way communication with them and recognizing that the forms of communication may differ for each family. Early childhood educators employ a variety of communication methods and engagement skills, including informal conversations when parents pick up and drop off children, more formal conversations in teacher-family conference settings, and reciprocal technology-mediated communications, such as phone calls, texting, or emails. When educators do not speak a family’s home language, they enlist the help of community resources to provide interpreters or use volunteers identified by the family. The use of children as translators should be avoided.
C Educators welcome family members in the setting and create multiple opportunities for family participation. Families are offered multiple ways of participating, including weighing in on any program decision about their children’s care and education. If families cannot communicate with educators during drop-offs and pick-ups, alternative means provide frequent, ongoing communication.
D Educators acknowledge a family’s choices and goals for their child and respond with sensitivity and respect to those preferences and concerns. In the event of disagreements between the family and the educator, educators listen carefully to the family’s concerns and use the NAEYC Code of Ethical Conduct and Statement of Commitment to guide their decision making as they strive to find mutually agreeable solutions.
E Educators and the family share with each other their knowledge of the particular child and understanding of child development and learning as part of day-to-day and other forms of communication (e.g., family get-togethers, meetings, support groups). Educators support families in ways that maximally promote family decision-making capabilities and competence. When communicating with families about their children, educators stress children’s strengths and abilities and use this information to support future instructional decisions.
F Educators involve families as a source of information about the child (before program entry and on an ongoing basis). They engage families in the planning for their child, including teaching practices, curriculum planning and implementation, and assessments.
G Educators take care to learn about the community in which they work, and they use the community as a resource across all aspects of program delivery. The community serves as an important resource for implementing the curriculum as well as a resource for linking families with a range of services based on identified priorities and concerns. Early childhood educators also look for ways that they can contribute to the ongoing development of the community.
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3. Observing, Documenting, and Assessing Children’s Development and Learning Observing, documenting, and assessing each child’s development and learning are essential
processes for educators and programs to plan, implement, and evaluate the effectiveness of the
experiences they provide to children. Assessment includes both formal and informal measures
as tools for monitoring children’s progress toward a program’s desired goals. Educators can be
intentional about helping children to progress when they know where each child is with respect
to learning goals. Formative assessment (measuring progress toward goals) and summative
assessment (measuring achievement at the end of a defined period or experience) are important.
Both need to be conducted in ways that are developmentally, culturally, and linguistically
responsive to authentically assess children’s learning. This means that not only must the methods
of assessment, both formal and informal, be developmentally, culturally, and linguistically
sensitive, but also the assessor must be aware of and work against the possibility of implicit and
explicit bias, for example through training, reflection, and regular reviews of collected data.
Effective assessment of young children is challenging. The complexity of children’s development and learning—including the uneven nature of development and the likelihood of children fully demonstrating their knowledge and skills in different contexts— makes accurate and comprehensive assessment difficult. For example, authentic assessment takes into consideration such factors as a child’s facility in each language they speak and uses assessors and settings that are familiar and comfortable for the child. When standardized assessments are used for screening or evaluative purposes, the measures should meet standards of reliability and validity based on the characteristics of the child being assessed. When these standards are not met, these limitations must be carefully considered before using the results. Using assessments in ways that do not support enhancing the child’s education is not developmentally appropriate practice. Yet, decisions regarding assessment practices are often outside of the control of individual educators (also see Recommendations for research, page 31). When educators are aware of inappropriate assessment practices, they have a professional ethical responsibility to make their concerns known, to advocate for more appropriate practices, and, within their learning environment, to minimize the adverse impact of inappropriate assessments on young children and on instructional practices.
The following practices for observation, documentation, and assessment are developmentally appropriate for children from birth through the primary grades.
A Observation, documentation, and assessment of young children’s progress and achievements is ongoing, strategic, reflective, and purposeful. Educators embed assessment-related activities in the curriculum and in daily routines to facilitate authentic assessment and to make assessment an integral part of professional practice. They create and take advantage of unplanned opportunities to observe young children in play and in spontaneous conversations and interactions, in adult-structured assessment contexts as well as when children are participating in a group activity and doing an individual activity. Observations, documentations, and the results of other formal and informal assessments are used to inform the planning and implementing of daily curriculum and experiences, to communicate with the child’s family, and to evaluate and improve educators’ and the program’s effectiveness. Especially in K–3 classrooms, care must be taken to avoid overuse of standardized assessments, which can cause stress for young children and interfere with time for learning. Educators limit the use of digitally-based assessments, especially for young children who (appropriately) should have limited exposure to screen media.
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B Assessment focuses on children’s progress toward developmental and educational goals. Such goals should reflect families’ input as well as children’s background knowledge and experiences. They should be informed by developmental milestones including use of state early learning standards. Goals should be aspirational and achievable and should foster a sense of pride and accomplishment for educators, families, and children. Children, educators, and families should have opportunities to celebrate both small and large achievements, while recognizing that all children need time to build mastery on a current skill before progressing to the next challenge.
C A system is in place to collect, make sense of, and use observations, documentation, and assessment information to guide what goes on in the early learning setting. Educators use this information in planning curriculum and learning experiences and in moment-to-moment interactions with children—that is, educators continually engage in assessment for the purpose of improving teaching and learning. Educators also encourage children to use observation and, beginning in the preschool years, documentation to reflect on their experiences and what they have learned.
D The methods of assessment are responsive to the current developmental accomplishments, language(s), and experiences of young children. They recognize individual variation in learners and allow children to demonstrate their competencies in different ways. Methods appropriate to educators’ assessment of young children, therefore, include results of their observations of children, clinical interviews, collections of children’s work samples, and children’s performance on authentic activities. For children who speak a language the educators do not know, native speakers of the child’s language such as family or community members may need to be recruited to assist with the assessment process. A plan should be in place for employing volunteer and paid interpreters and translators as needed and providing them with information about appropriate interactions with young children and ethics and confidentiality, as well as about the features and purposes of the screening or assessment tool. Once collected, the results are explained to families and children (as appropriate) in order to extend the conversations around what is collected, analyzed, and reflected upon.
E Assessments are used only for the populations and purposes for which they have been demonstrated to produce reliable, valid information. If required to use an assessment tool that has not been established as reliable or valid for the characteristics of a given child or for the intended use, educators recognize the limitations of the findings, strive to make sure they are not used in high-stakes decisions, and advocate for a different measure.
F Decisions that have a major impact on children, such as enrollment or placement, are made in consultation with families. Such decisions should be based on multiple sources of relevant information, including that obtained from observations of and interactions with children by educators, family members, and specialists as needed.
G When a screening assessment identifies a child who may have a disability or individualized learning or developmental needs, there is appropriate follow-up, evaluation, and, if needed, referral. Screening is used to identify issues needing more thorough examination by those qualified to do so; it is not used to diagnose or label children. Families are involved as essential sources of information.
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4. Teaching to Enhance Each Child’s Development and Learning Developmentally appropriate teaching practices encompass a wide range of skills and strategies
that are adapted to the age, development, individual characteristics, and the family and social
and cultural contexts of each child served. Grounded in the caring relationships that educators
nurture with each child and family as well as among all children and families (see guideline 1,
“Creating a caring community of learners”), these teaching practices are designed to foster
development and learning for each child across all domains and subject areas. Teaching practices
build on each child’s multiple assets and actively counter various forms of bias. Through their
intentional teaching, educators blend opportunities for each child to exercise choice and
agency within the context of a planned environment constructed to support specific learning
experiences and meaningful goals. Educators recognize that children are active constructors
of their own understanding of the world around them; they understand that children benefit
from initiating and regulating their own learning activities and from interacting with peers.
Recognizing play as critical for children to experience joy and wonder, early childhood educators incorporate frequent opportunities for play in their teaching strategies. They plan learning environments that provide a mix of self-directed play, guided play, and direct instruction. Educators maximize opportunities for children to choose the materials, playmates, topics, and approaches they use throughout the day for all children, birth through age 8. Educators support and extend children’s play experiences by providing materials and resources based on careful observation of children’s play choices. Adult- guided activities provide for children’s active agency as educators offer specific guidance and support to scaffold and extend children’s interest, engagement, and learning.
Direct instruction—for example, providing children with relevant academic vocabulary, pointing out relationships, helping children recognize specific phenomena, or suggesting an alternative perspective—is an important tool for supporting children’s learning. Its effectiveness is determined by the degree to which it extends children’s interests and learning in meaningful ways and educators’ sensitivity to changes in children’s interest. Individually or in small or large groups, across all activities—self-directed play, guided play, direct instruction, and routines—the teacher is responsible for ensuring that each child’s overall experiences are stimulating, engaging, and developmentally, linguistically, and culturally responsive across all domains of development and learning. Promoting many opportunities for agency for each child is essential to fulfilling this responsibility.
The following descriptions of educators’ actions illustrate teaching practices that are developmentally appropriate for young children from birth through the primary grades.
A Educators demonstrate and model their commitment to a caring learning community through their actions, attitudes, and curiosity. They recognize that through their actions, they are influencing children’s lifelong dispositions, confidence, and approaches to learning.
B Educators use their knowledge of each child and family to make learning experiences meaningful, accessible, and responsive to each and every child. Building on the relationships they nurture with each child and family and between children (see also guideline 1, “Creating a caring community of learners”), educators design learning activities that reflect the lives and cultures of each child.
1. Educators incorporate and integrate a wide variety of experiences, materials, equipment, and teaching strategies to accommodate the range of children’s individual differences in development, languages, skills and abilities, prior experiences, needs, and interests.
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2. Educators, with the support of families, bring each child’s home culture(s) and language(s) into the shared culture of the learning community. They model recognition and valuing of the unique contributions of the home cultures and languages so that these contributions can be recognized and valued by the other members of the learning community. They strategically use the child’s home or family language and cultural ways of learning to enhance each child’s communication, comprehension, self-expression, and learning. Educators continually strive to support and sustain each child’s connection with their family, languages, and cultures.
3. Educators provide all children opportunities to participate in all activities and encourage children to be inclusive in their behaviors and interactions with peers.
4. Educators are prepared to individualize their teaching strategies to meet the specific needs of individual children, including children with disabilities and children whose learning is advanced, by building upon their interests, knowledge, and skills. Educators use all the strategies identified here and consult with appropriate specialists and the child’s family; they see that each child gets the adaptations and specialized services needed for full inclusion as a member of the community and that no child is penalized for their ability status.
C Educators effectively implement a comprehensive curriculum so that each child attains individualized goals across all domains (physical, social, emotional, cognitive, linguistic, and general learning competencies) and across all subject areas (language and literacy, including second language acquisition, mathematics, social studies, science, art, music, physical education, and health). Educators follow Universal Design for Learning principles by proactively providing multiple means of engagement, multiple means of representation, and multiple means of action and expression.70 Educators design experiences that celebrate the diversity in the experiences and social identities of each group of children and counter the biases in society. They build upon the children’s combined funds of knowledge to foster each child’s learning and understanding. Educators design activities that follow the predictable sequences in which children acquire specific concepts, skills, and abilities and by building on prior experiences and understandings. (Also see guideline 5, “Understanding and using content areas to plan and implement an engaging curriculum designed to meet goals that are important and meaningful for children, families, and the community in the present as well as the future.”)
D Educators plan the environment, schedule, and daily activities to promote each child’s development and learning.
1. Educators arrange firsthand, meaningful experiences that are cognitively and creatively stimulating, invite exploration and investigation, and engage children’s active, sustained involvement. They do this by providing a rich variety of materials, challenges, and ideas that are worthy of children’s attention and that reflect the funds of knowledge each child brings to the setting. Materials are periodically rotated and revisited to provide children with opportunities to reflect and re-engage with the learning experiences.
2. Educators consistently present children with opportunities to make meaningful choices. Children are encouraged to shape specific learning activities and to identify projects that can be used to extend their learning. Children are regularly provided with opportunities for child-choice activity periods— not simply as a reward for completing other work. Educators assist and guide children who are not yet able to enjoy and make good use of such periods.
3. Educators organize the daily and weekly schedules to provide children with extended blocks of time in which to engage in sustained investigation, exploration, interaction, and play. Children are encouraged to freely interact with peers, and collaborative learning opportunities with peers are frequently used. Adults offer questions to stimulate children’s thinking, introduce related vocabulary, and provide specific suggestions to scaffold children’s thinking. As much as possible, educators use multiple languages to support bilingual and multilingual children and also use nonverbal means of communication such as images and gestures.
4. Educators routinely provide experiences, materials, and interactions to enable children to engage in play. Play allows children to stretch their boundaries to the fullest in their imagination, language, interaction, and self-regulation, as well as to practice their newly acquired skills. Play also provides an important window for educators to observe children’s skills and understandings.
5. Educators create language-rich environments that focus on the diversity and complexity of language in children’s communities. Given the importance of vocabulary for conceptual development and as the key building blocks for academic subject areas, this is especially crucial. Educators affirm children’s use of home dialects, vernaculars, and language as strengths as they also support the development of academic English.
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E Educators possess and build on an extensive repertoire of skills and teaching strategies. They know how and when to choose among them to effectively promote each child’s development and learning at that moment. Such skills include the ability to adapt curriculum, activities, and materials to ensure full participation of all children. These strategies include but are not limited to acknowledging, encouraging, giving specific feedback, modeling, demonstrating, adding challenge, giving cues or other assistance, providing information, and giving directions.
1. To help children develop agency, educators encourage them to choose and plan their own learning activities. Self-directed learning activities are important for all young children, including those in K–3 classrooms. Self-directed activities can engage children in meaningful learning that is relevant to all curriculum and applicable learning standards.
2. To stimulate children’s thinking and extend their learning, educators pose problems, ask questions, and make comments and suggestions.
3. To extend the range of children’s interests and the scope of their thoughts, educators present novel experiences and introduce stimulating ideas, problems, experiences, or hypotheses.
4. To adjust the complexity and challenge of activities to suit children’s skills and knowledge, educators increase the challenge as children gain competence and understanding or reduce the complexity for those who struggle.
5. To strengthen children’s sense of competence and confidence as learners, motivation to persist, and willingness to take risks, educators provide experiences that build on a child’s funds of knowledge, are culturally and linguistically responsive, and are designed for each child to be challenged and genuinely successful.
6. To enhance children’s conceptual understanding, early childhood educators use various strategies, including conversation and documentation, which encourage children to reflect on and revisit their experiences in the moment and over time.
7. To encourage and foster children’s development and learning, educators avoid generic praise (“Good job!”) and instead give specific feedback (“You got the same number when you counted the beans again!”). They use the home or family languages, images, or other forms of non-verbal communication to be sure the child understands the feedback. With frequent, timely, specific feedback, educators help children evaluate their own learning.
8. Educators focus on what children can do rather than what they can’t or don’t do. For example, a child who responds to a question asked in academic English by speaking in their home dialect is recognized for their receptive language. Similarly, invented spellings or other “errors” in children’s thinking or language are analyzed for what they reveal of children’s current understanding.
F Educators know how and when to scaffold children’s learning. Based on their ongoing interactions and knowledge of each child, educators provide just enough assistance to enable each child to perform at a skill level just beyond what the child can do on their own, then gradually reduce the support as the child begins to master the skill, setting the stage for the next challenge.
1. Educators recognize and respond to the reality that in any group, children’s skills will vary and they will need different levels of support. Educators also know that any one child’s level of skill and need for support will vary over time and in different circumstances.
2. Scaffolding can take a variety of forms, such as giving the child a hint, providing a cue, modeling the skill, or adapting the materials and activities. It can be provided in a variety of contexts, not only in planned learning experiences but also in free play, daily routines, and outdoor activities.
3. Peers can be effective providers of scaffolding in addition to educators. Peer learning can be an effective mechanism to provide individual support and assistance across all areas of development and learning. Peer learning can be especially useful for children who are bilingual or multilingual.
24 | DEVELOPMENTALLY APPROPRIATE PRACTICE
G Educators know how and when to strategically use the various learning formats and contexts.
1. Educators understand that each major learning format or context (for example, large group, small group, learning center, routine) has its own characteristics, functions, and value. They consider the characteristics of the learners in choosing the most appropriate format, such as limiting the use of large groups with very young children or of groups led in a language not understood by all the children. Educators recognize that they need to balance activities that require attentive behavior with time for more active movement. Circle time and large group instruction periods are limited in length to match age-appropriate attention span limits. Breaks for self-directed and active play are provided throughout the day. Flexibility of participation is provided to all children to accommodate individual needs.
2. Educators think carefully about which learning format is best for helping children achieve a desired goal, given the children’s ages, abilities, experiences, temperaments, and other characteristics. Especially in the case of large group activities, educators change formats when attention wanes. In K–3 classrooms, educators ensure that individual seatwork is used only when it is the most effective format for meeting the learning objective. They encourage collaborative learning through peer interaction and provide frequent opportunities for children to support each other’s learning in pairs and small groups. Educators strive to provide opportunities for physical activity throughout the day, including the use of learning activities that incorporate movement.
3. Educators minimize time in transitions and waiting for children to line up or be quiet. Educators who document how children spend their time are often surprised at how much time is spent in transitions, often in ways that do little to support children’s development and learning.71 Reducing the time and amount of full-group activities, providing children with advance notice of the transition, and incorporating songs, pretend play, and/or movement into the transition can be useful strategies. Educators strive to reduce the need for transitions through flexible schedules, strategic use of staff and volunteers, and helping children take responsibility for their own learning.
H Educators differentiate instructional approaches to match each child’s interests, knowledge, and skills. Children who need additional support receive extended, enriched, and intensive learning experiences, always building on the child’s current interests, strengths, and cultural ways of knowing.
1. Educators take care to provide each child with opportunities to be successful and to engage in joyful learning. They work to avoid children having frustrating or discouraging experiences that lead to a negative association with schooling.
2. Regardless of their need for additional support, all children are provided agency to the greatest extent possible. Educators are highly intentional in use of time, and they focus on key skills and abilities through highly engaging, play-based experiences to build on the assets of children and their families.
3. Recognizing the self-regulatory, linguistic, cognitive, and social benefits that play and active self-direction affords, educators do not reduce or eliminate play opportunities, recess, or any other important community and inclusive activities for children who need additional support to meet school readiness/grade level or behavioral expectations.
A POSITION STATEMENT OF THE NATIONAL ASSOCIATION FOR THE EDUCATION OF YOUNG CHILDREN | 25
5. Planning and Implementing an Engaging Curriculum to Achieve Meaningful Goals The curriculum consists of the plans for the learning experiences through which children acquire
knowledge, skills, abilities, and understanding. Implementing a curriculum always yields outcomes
of some kind—but which outcomes those are and how a program achieves them are critical. In
developmentally appropriate practice, the curriculum helps young children achieve goals that
are meaningful because they are culturally and linguistically responsive and developmentally
and educationally significant. The curriculum does this through learning experiences that
reflect what is known about young children in general and about each child in particular.
Learning through play is a central component of curriculum, and it incorporates strategies to extend learning through play across the full age and grade span of early education. Ideally, the curriculum is planned in a coordinated fashion across age and grade spans so that children’s knowledge and skills are developed in a coherent, aligned manner, with each age or grade span building on what was learned previously. A well-designed developmentally and culturally relevant curriculum avoids and counters cultural or individual bias or stereotypes and fosters a positive learning disposition in each area of the curriculum and in each child.
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