Developmentally Appropriate Practice (DAP): Why it Matters?

Updated: Feb 7, 2020

One of the most fundamental considerations in educational setting is to always put the learner at the center of curriculum content and processes. In early childhood education, this means using developmentally appropriate practices in designing and delivering programs to young children. It advocates that children learn best when educational content and processes are age appropriate, individually appropriate and culturally appropriate.

1. Knowledge of child development and learning

I strongly believe that for me to become an effective preschool teacher, it is crucial that I know what learning experiences are appropriate to a child’s age and stage of development. This will allow me to not just have realistic but also appropriate expectations about my students.

I remember few weeks ago, I taught as a volunteer Sunday school teacher at our local church and the topic was about God’s provision. The class assigned to me was kindergarten. As I was browsing the story book provided for the class that day, I noticed that there were many words in the story that I thought were too difficult for my class to understand. I wanted the kids to appreciate and understand the story so I had to unlock some difficult words using illustrations, and for some words, I had to replace them with synonymous words that my class could easily grasp. This particular experience made me realized that if I do not meet my students at their level, especially in the way I communicate and interact with them, I am setting them for failure.

2. Child's individuality

Consequently, I also have to recognize that each child is unique which means they have different strengths, needs, and interests. Even their rate of development grows at varying paces. As a teacher, this implies that I should consider individual variations in the design, application, and evaluation of activities in my classroom. For me, this is one of the most challenging parts of being a preschool teacher because oftentimes, you have to create individualized lesson for specific type or group of students.

3. Social and cultural contexts

In addition, no two children have the same social and cultural backgrounds. Their upbringing was shaped under different homes and communities that have different values, attitudes, and beliefs. As a teacher, I have to ensure that I give my students various learning opportunities that are respectful of their background and are relevant to each of them.

On one occasion for instance, we were discussing about Family Tree in our class when one of my students suddenly cried. He said he does not have a father hence he could not complete his Family Tree. I had to comfort him and explain to him that all of us have a father. It is just that, not all fathers live with us. There are some fathers who are away because of work while others had already gone to heaven. This experience was really heartbreaking and it made me realized how important it is to know my students’ family background well and to be sensitive of their feelings.

Developmentally appropriate practice (DAP) is a holistic approach to teaching developed by the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC). It focuses on identifying and fostering children’s developmental needs in different areas such as cognitive, physical, emotional, and social.

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