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Debating Developmentally Appropriate Practice
July 9, 2021
A failure is not always a mistake. It may simply be the best one can do under the circumstances. The real mistake is to stop trying.
-B. F. Skinner (1904-1990), American pychologist

What is the value of examining deep beliefs within the early childhood field, and asking challenging questions? Francis Wardle, in his article, “Unpacking Developmentally Appropriate Practice,” discusses his take on the recent “Position Statement on Developmentally Appropriate Practice 2020” released by the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC). He describes their decision to not use the term “best practices” because “what works effectively with young children depends on the diversity of the children, families, communities and cultures we serve.” He then explains his own thinking, writing that “while I have always advocated for the continued deconstruction of how we engage with young children, especially regarding approaches to diversity and academic practice, I deeply believe that when we discuss how to support and encourage the development and learning of young children, there are absolutes.” Wardle offers his ideas about “absolutes,” using a construct he has developed called “positive and negative instances.”

A new Exchange Reflections called “Debating Developmentally Appropriate Practice” has been created around Wardle’s article. As its name implies, the Reflections invites debate, in the hope that staffs might wrestle with serious thinking together, or college courses have good discussions, or individuals consider what feels true to them. Healthy debate can help people clarify their own belief structures and core values. We hope this Reflections will be a tool to do just that.





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Comments (3)

Displaying All 3 Comments
Tiffany Peckham · July 14, 2021
Lincoln, Nebraska, Australia


Lois and Francis, thank you for the thoughtful conversation!

-Tiffany at Exchange

Lois M. Ingellis · July 11, 2021
Empire State College
Castro Valley, CA, United States


I agree and was lucky enough to have found the work of J.Bruner and Dewey early in my career. Francis is right on with his belief that we need these foundations they are solid to build upon. ROW to me is building upon that.

Francis Wardle · July 09, 2021
Center for the Study of Biracial Children
Denver, Colorado, United States


I need to make one slight correction to this piece. The idea of positive and negative instances is not mine, but comes from the work on learning constructs proposed by J. Bruner in his seminal book, The Process of Education (1966). In my view Bruner is the greatest American educator after J, Dewey, but hardly known by people in the ECE field, and even less appreciated. (One of the other problems with the new DAP statement is a total rejection of our rich and powerful history).



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