Knowledge Base 3
Developmentally Appropriate Practices
In order to "impact learners in diverse learning communities," it is essential for Professionals of the 21st Century to demonstrate developmentally appropriate practice. This is necessary due to the diversity of cognitive, physical, and socio-emotional development, as it relates to individual students across multiple grade levels, backgrounds, and experiences (Gestwicki, 2011; Payne, 2001; Rushton & Larkin, 2001). According to Doherty and Bailey (2003), "...knowledge of skill acquisition and development is vital in ensuring that the experiences [of learning] are enjoyable, valuable and will allow children to lead active and full lives" (p.62).
The Unifying Forces of Diversity, Leadership, Oral and Written Communication, Technology, Purposeful Reflection, and Parents and Community in Developmentally Appropriate Practices:
Much research and wisdom of practice emphasizes various aspects of development (e.g., Cole, 2008; Gordon, & Browne, 2011; Papalia, Olds, & Feldman, 2008). Within this consideration are issues of diversity concerning typical development and development that ranges below or beyond the norm. In classes that are developmentally appropriate (Bredekamp, 2009), teachers are not the one and only source of knowledge; students also actively engage in generating and sharing understanding. The teacher and students together become a learning community in which everyone's contributions are valued. The consideration of diversity in this description should not be overlooked. In the developmentally appropriate classroom, students are not blank slates but rather developmentally diverse at different grade levels and as individuals.
This developmentally appropriate practice will require clear communication with a variety of stakeholders in the learning community. As Gesticki (2001) has noted, this requires the educational community to focus on how we receive additional information about a student's development. In this goal, oral and written communication with parents and the community is vital (Stronge, 2002). This is particularly true when considering public expectations reinforced by higher national and state learning standards and the assessments based on those standards (Rose & Gallup, 2003; Ryan & Cooper, 2007).
As noted by Ryan and Cooper (2007), the benefit of technology as a key tool in improving developmentally appropriate practices should not be underestimated in the preparation of Professionals of the 21st Century. As noted previously, technology may be used with students at a variety of developmental levels and should be used to improve the practice of educational professionals (ISTE, 2002; Morrison, Ross, & Kemp, 2001; Ryan & Cooper, 2007; Picciano, 2006).
Finally the role of purposeful reflection concerning systemic and developmentally appropriate practice is considered vital. As Parkay, Anctil, and Hass (2006) have suggested when discussing this practice:
We are realizing with increasingly, sophistication that life is organic, not mechanical; the universe is dynamic, not stable; the process of curriculum development is not passive acceptance of steps, but evolves from action within the system in particular contexts; and that goals emerge oftentimes from the very experiences in which people engage. (p. 221).
This statement provides an important insight concerning the reflective activity of the improving professional. The professional is aware of the fact that she or he operates within a larger educational system where a variety of approaches in impacting students of varying developmental levels may be used. She or he also makes use of the knowledge of others operating within the system to inform instruction. And, there is an emphasis on the development and the diversity of students within the system as related to instructional design. This sort of reflective activity provides continuous improvement in developmentally appropriate practice within a system (Danielson, 2007; Ryan & Cooper, 2010; Rushton & Larking, 2001). Numerous program and state licensure standards are used as expectations for our candidates to demonstrate these practices.