Primary teachers' reported classroom practices and knowledge of developmentally appropriate instruction

Sandra Ingram Dyer


The term developmentally appropriate has been used for many years to describe good curriculum and instructional practices for young children. Since the mid-1980s, early childhood educators have become increasingly concerned about the growing trend to move teaching strategies and curriculum down from the intermediate and upper grades to kindergarten and pre-school programs. Consequently, in 1987, the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) released a position statement formally articulating the organization's consensus definition of developmentally appropriate teaching practices for young children, especially those in kindergarten through third grade (Bredekamp, 1987). The concerns of these early childhood professionals were based upon several recurring events. Too many children were struggling through or failing early school experiences. Others were denied entrance to school or were assigned to a two-year track prior to entering school because they were found to be immature or not ready for the demands of rigorous kindergarten and first grade programs. The normal, individual differences of children were not being taken into account (Bredekamp, 1992). The hoped-for reforms in this area are being only slowly realized in some schools but many school systems are still applying tremendous pressure to teachers to teach and children to perform in areas that are inappropriate for young children (McGill-Franzen & Allington, 1993). This demand by the schools ultimately affects the course offerings in universities across the country. Consequently, both new teachers coming from the universities and veteran teachers are lacking in knowledge of developmentally appropriate practices for the instruction of primary-age children. This study examined the relationship between what teachers of kindergarten through third grade know about the precepts of developmentally appropriate education and the types of teaching activities they use in the classrooms. Teachers who know about child development and understand how children learn are more likely to use developmentally appropriate practices in their classrooms (Kostelnik, 1993). The challenge remains to fully educate both pre-service and in-service teachers so that all children can benefit from a classroom environment that is appropriate for young children.