Why is it important for a teacher to study child development?
By understanding child (and adolescent) development, a teacher can make the most appropriate decisions possible about expectations for students, how to best have students engage with the material, and how to push students to grow academically, emotionally and socially.
For example, through research into brain development we know that the prefrontal cortex goes through dramatic changes during the teen years. The prefrontal cortex is involved in higher order thinking skills and emotional control. By teachers learning how and when this development occurs, they can better understand that students will be at very different stages of development in these areas and that much structure and modeling will be necessary in the classroom to help them learn how to use their higher level cognitive skills and use self-control with their emotions. With my freshman students this plays out often during projects such as building paper roller coasters. I have to provide a well-laid out structure for how the project will work and what they should be doing each day, but through the process of building their roller coasters they are using higher cognitive skills and practicing self-control by collaborating with group members.
It is a very developmentally appropriate task for them, yet it pushes them every day to improve their skills. This activity would not be as appropriate at an early elementary level where students are still working on fine motor skills and do not have the social skills necessary to collaborate with a group. Learning about child development is an important part of becoming an effective teacher.
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