Promoting Development is Essential...and Different than Teaching

This blog was kindly shared with us by Jeffrey Guenzel, CEO of The International Council on Development and Learning (ICDL).

When I was a child, kindergarten was not mandated where I was living and only available on a lottery system. At the time, I was seen as one of the unlucky ones that did not get into kindergarten because I was not selected in the lottery. While I was young and don't remember that much of it all, I do remember being in a K-Mart with my mother buying workbooks and supplies as she tried to figure out how she was going to teach me at home. I still can recall feeling the anxiety she had that I was going to fall behind because I did not get into kindergarten. Well, after this study came out recently, I emailed my mother to thank her for not sending me to kindergarten! 

While the study is about preschool and not kindergarten, it does raise questions about how many are thinking about preschool and early education. The frustrating part is that we have known this for decades, yet our systems constantly get lured into short-term immediate outcomes of things like knowing letters and numbers and struggle to see the value of a longer-term perspective that focused on promoting core development instead of rushing to teach. 

Related to the above cited study, a recent study at MIT found that the development of the language centres of the brain were better correlated with exchanges of communication than exposure to words. Exposure to words and knowing words going into kindergarten shows better outwardly observable "data", but it really does not promote the requisite development that is essential for the brain to be able to make the most out of the words a child learns. 

Dr. Gil Tippy, co-author of Respecting Autism with Dr. Stanley Greenspan, often refers to the core Functional Emotional Developmental Capacities (FEDCs) of DIR® as "Foundation Academics". This is so true. 

The world needs to move from thinking of playful and joyful interactions as an extra to, or something that is less important than, teaching. It is within these interactions that essential development happens. In addition, this development is essential for children to get the most out of learning through more traditional classroom teaching. But if we jump to the more traditional classroom teaching approaches before building the foundation, the child may be at risk of having more and more challenges as time progresses, much like the preschool study cited above found. 

Please share these studies with your decision makers in your communities. The data they are being given to show outcomes of preschools and kindergartens may look shiny and nice, but it is the wrong data. Just because it is outcome data, does not mean it is the right outcome data. We need to be looking more at developmental data than data simply focused on learning information. 

Here is a link to an article on the preschool research I mentioned above. One thing I really like that is included in this article is the fact that the lead researcher did not expect the results that emerged. In my opinion, that just makes it all the more powerful. 

Jeffrey Guenzel.

Promoting Development is Essential...and Different than Teaching