Considering Children’s Development to Improve the Lives of Students

The importance of studying children’s development is multi-faceted, but Santrock (2013) simplifies it so nicely when he states that “the more you learn about children, the more you can guide them.”  This resonates with me, because I like to think of the role of educators primarily as ‘facilitators of learning.’  Despite where one falls on the spectrum of the nature vs nurture debate, when a student walks through the classroom door, an educator’s objective is to help that student grow in a beneficial way.  Building relationships and understanding is certainly a key to that process, but so also is instructional design and instructional strategies.  Understanding students is the first step to understanding their learning needs, and also the best way to approach those needs. I am reminded of an experience as an undergrad: I had signed up for an intensive summer-long, immersive foreign language academy, and as we began orientation the professor told us to leave our insecurities behind, because we would approach the language-learning process in the same way elementary children do – with songs, with games, with role-playing – because that method has been instructionally proven to best help with language development.  And it worked!  So perhaps all of the pieces should come together: what does my child need to learn, how can I best help him learn, and when is it developmentally appropriate to help him learn this?

 

I was just reading an article in the Journal of Adolescent and Adult Literacy (Houseal, 2016), which responded to the idea that adolescents are not ready for the kinds of thinking advocated for by science specialists.  The study found that adolescents did not have trouble with the content, simply the approach, and that innovative teaching practices could create positive learning environments and increase engagement.  In meeting the children where they were developmentally, it could stimulate advanced growth.  And in turn, when students experience that success, it trickles down for positive interactions and development in other parts of their lives.  A continuum, perhaps.

 

Houseal, A., Helming, M., & Hutchison, L. (2016, February).  Disciplinary Literacy Through the Lens of the Next Generation Science Standards.  Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy, 59(4).

 

Santrock, J. W. (2013). Children. New York, NY: McGraw Hill.

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