What is Developmentally Appropriate Practice?

What is Developmentally Appropriate Practice?

The NAEYC defines Developmentally Appropriate Practice, also known as “DAP” as the following: “an approach to teaching grounded in the research on how young children develop and learn and in what is known about effective early education. Its framework is designed to promote young children’s optimal learning and development.”

DAP is not a curriculum, but rather an approach to teaching. In essence, it is the placing of focus on meeting children where they are developmentally and teaching from that starting point. It is necessary to meet a child where they are developmentally, otherwise the teaching one does is of no positive effect. For example, as a teacher you would not ask an infant to read you a book to promote literacy skills because it would undoubtedly be a waste of time. Instead you would likely read books with rhymes or speak in a way that varies vocabulary; this would be considered developmentally appropriate.

What are the Goals of DAP? (NAEYC)

  • Better prepare children for elementary school success
  • More effectively position teachers as key contributors to a child’s education
  • Reduce learning gaps between children of varying socioeconomic statuses
  • To meet children where they are developmentally, and empower them to reach their goals

There are 12 principles that make up DAP.  These 12 principles conveyed below come directly from the NAEYC.

  1. All areas of development and learning are important.
  2. Learning and development follow sequences.
  3. Development and learning proceed at varying rates.
  4. Development and learning result from an interaction of maturation and experience.
  5. Early experiences have profound effects on development and learning.
  6. Development proceeds toward greater complexity, self-regulation, and symbolic or representational capacities.
  7. Children develop best when they have secure relationships.
  8. Development and learning occur in and are influenced by multiple social and cultural contexts.
  9. Children learn in a variety of ways.
  10. Play is an important vehicle for developing self-regulation and promoting language, cognition, and social competence.
  11. Development and learning advance when children are challenged.
  12. Children’s experiences shape their motivation and approaches to learning.

These principles will help you decide whether an educational activity is appropriate for children.

What Knowledge Is Necessary to Utilize DAP?

To effectively utilize DAP, it is essential that you understand the ages and stages of child development. I recommend that you utilize the Child Development Institute’s guide to the ages and stages of child development. This resource provides you with ample information pertaining to each stage of development, so that you can tailor activities to be appropriate.

What about personalizing instruction?

Personalization is a key component of DAP.  Although there are stages of child development, each child is unique, and develops slightly differently.  It is important to recognize this fact, and plan instruction to be tailored to each child. For example, children at the age of three are learning logical reasoning skills, but some three-year olds reason much better than others. We must challenge those who are advanced, and empower, encourage, and work to tailor instruction to begin developing these essential skills. Activities aimed at promoting a certain skill or ability should be adapted to fit a child’s development.

Does culture play a role in DAP?

Yes, culture plays an important role in DAP. Children come from different backgrounds with different values, traditions, expectations, etc.  Culture makes up the bulk of who they are. For instruction to be DAP, it must take culture into account, and ensure that instruction acknowledges and respects the child’s culture and community outside of the center.

What are the Goals of DAP? (NAEYC)

  • Better prepare children for elementary school success
  • More effectively position teachers as key contributors to a child’s education
  • Reduce learning gaps between children of varying socioeconomic statuses
  • To meet children where they are developmentally, and empower them to reach their goals

Looking for an overview of DAP?

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