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|Theories of Child Development: Building Blocks of Developmentally Appropriate Practices | |By Terri Jo Swim, Ph.D. | |“The best teacher is not the one who fills the student’s mind with the largest amount of factual data in a minimum of | |time, or who develops some manual skill almost to the point of uncanniness, but rather the one who kindles an inner fire,| |arouses moral enthusiasm, inspires the student with a vision of what she may become, and reveals the worth and permanency| |of moral and spiritual and cultural values." | |– Harold Garnet Black | | | |Many individuals enter the field of early childhood education because they love children. You may be one of them. How | |could a person not love children or, at least like them a great deal, in order to spend so much time with them on a | |daily, weekly, and yearly basis? For many years, practitioners in early childhood education have assumed that this love | |of children was a primary component in the “quality equation.” In other words, if you love young children enough, then | |you would provide high-quality care and education for them. Jane Weichel (2003), President of the National Association | |for the Education of Young Children says is this no longer the formula. Scholarly research on the relationship between | |teacher qualifications and child outcomes now supports the notion that, first and foremost, teachers must have knowledge,| |skills, and dispositions about child development and learning; after those components are in place, love of children can | |be added to the “quality equation.” | | | |This change in teacher qualifications for the “quality equation” is simultaneously a reflection and a driving force of | |the current context for early childhood education. Our field is changing significantly at all levels – national, state, | |and local, and it is our professional responsibility to know the current landscape and respond in appropriate ways. The | |No Child Left Behind Act, for example, is driven by performance standards, calls for quality teachers and teaching, | |guarantees that all children have access to learning opportunities and can learn at high levels, and requires frequent | |assessment to demonstrate accountability (Weichel, 2003; see also the U.S. Department of Education | |website:www.nochildleftbehind.gov). Each day, teachers are faced with the decision to assume their professional and | |ethical responsibility of making a meaningful difference in the lives of children or to continue doing business as usual.| | | | | |In order to make an informed decision about how to make meaningful differences while providing high-quality care and | |education, teachers need knowledge of child development, learning, and best practices as well as tools for making sense | |of this vast array of information. The primary focus of this article is to assist early childhood teachers in gaining | |knowledge of how developmental theories inform our...
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