Why is it important for a teacher to understand human growth and development?

It is important for a teacher to understand human growth and development in order to best meet the needs of students, both collectively and individually. By understanding typical patterns of growth and development, teachers are better equipped to make appropriate educational choices. They are also better able to recognize students who do not follow typical patterns of development and to then assist those students in obtaining needed educational support to improve student success.

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It is useful for teachers to first have knowledge of human growth and development so that they can develop appropriate educational choices for their students. Although individuals do differ in their learning abilities and no two children will learn exactly the same way, we can make some generalizations about how a child's mind develops. Therefore, some educational choices would be inappropriate based on typical child development. For example, Piaget concluded that there are four stages of cognitive development, and that all children must proceed through those in order:

  • Sensorimotor stage (birth to roughly 2 years)
  • Preoperational stage (roughly ages 2–7)
  • Concrete operational stage (roughly ages 7–11)
  • Formal operational stage (roughly ages 12 and up)

Thus, children are not simply a bank of knowledge that teachers invest into, but the way children are able to learn actually changes over time. Attempting, therefore, to reason with a five year old by using hypothetical situations is likely to fail. Likewise, attempting to teach a one year old to read is inappropriate as he has not yet developed the ability to recognize symbolic representations of ideas. As teachers reflect on their teaching practice, it is important to consider whether the content and the methods being used to deliver that content are appropriate, and a knowledge of human development is crucial in making those determinations.

A knowledge of typical human development is also crucial for teachers as they seek the best educational opportunities for each of their students. When teachers recognize the typical patterns of development, they are also able to recognize the outliers to those patterns. For a multitude of factors, the number of students in our schools who require additional assistance in order to be successful is growing. One in seven American children has an Individualized Education Plan and receives special services. Many of these children enter schools with undiagnosed or unnoticed difficulties. Thus, it falls to teachers to recognize when students are in need of extra support, which could include a wide range of differences in ability:

  • health issues (examples: attention deficits, type 1 diabetes, asthma, severe allergies, limited strength, and autism)
  • struggles with speech (examples: delayed skills, apraxia, receptive disorders, selective mutism, orofacial disorders, and stuttering)
  • emotional and mental challenges (examples: depression, anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorders, post-traumatic stress disorder, and schizophrenia)

Teachers are asked to do so much more than simply deliver content each day. In many ways, they are the gatekeepers to incredible resources which could benefit students in need. Students come to school from incredibly diverse backgrounds, and teachers are tasked with meeting the needs of all of those students. Being able to recognize the needs of individual students and to then obtain needed services to help ensure student success is of paramount importance and is reliant on a core knowledge of human development.

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Teachers play an important role in the growth and development of students. Teachers help students by imparting knowledge and guiding them through the acquisition of the knowledge. They also ensure that an adequate environment is provided for the learning function.


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order to perform or facilitate the teaching function, teachers need to understand human growth and development. The reason behind this is that teachers, or larger the education system, will need to group students into appropriate groups and deploy teaching methods that are appropriate for the group. These groups are established based on human growth, and an important demographic aspect that is mostly used is age.

Students belonging to the same age group are grouped together because it is expected that they would learn efficiently through similar techniques. However, challenges in their ability may occur, and this may force the teacher to take special considerations for individual students, to ensure they keep up with the rest. In such a case, the teacher is aware of human developments and understands that not all students develop the same.

Thus, human growth and development determines how teachers perform their functions. Their understanding of these elements is critical in ensuring that all students get an equal opportunity to increase their knowledge and capacity.

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I can think of two reasons why it might be important for teachers to study and understand human growth and development. First, if a teacher intends to teach a course on such a subject, it would be wise for him or her to have a thorough understanding of human growth and development before teaching others. Secondly (and more importantly, in my opinion), knowledge of growth and development is vital to creating appropriate lessons. Knowledge of physical, mental, and social development in humans is important for teachers to consider when developing their lesson plans.

Let's consider the importance of understanding physical growth and development. Teachers either should not have students perform exercises they physically cannot do, or may choose to alter the exercise so it is appropriate for the student. Children and adolescents are in a period of development where they are still "getting the hang of" their bodies. The development of fine motor skills is especially important for academic tasks like writing, typing, and crafting. Activities should be appropriate to the student's skill level. It would also be prudent for a teacher to have an understanding of human growth and development and problems which may arise in exceptional circumstances. If a child suffers from pain in their legs during or after a physical education course, teachers should have some understanding of the possibilities of fractures or nutritional deficiencies.

Mental development is similarly appropriate to creating lessons which meet and challenge a child's skill level. Children may be in varying stages of development which hinder or allow them to practice abstract thought and object or personal permanence. Abstract thought is especially important to subjects like math and science, which may involve lessons about things which are intangible. Children typically do not study physics both because they do not have foundational knowledge of the subject and because their brains may not be entirely capable of the functions necessary to understand the laws of physics.

Of the three of these, I think social development needs the most additional attention in educational settings. Young people may be maturing at different rates or have different experiences with socialization, and teachers should have a good understanding of social development and how it affects education. For example, if one student has been lacking in their socialization and experiences anxiety at school, the discomfort they feel can impede his or her ability to learn. 

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Why is it important for a teacher to study child development?

Studying child development is a crucial part of becoming a teacher. This might not seem obvious as first, as most people associate teaching with merely passing on subject content to students. However, it is not just subject knowledge that matters when it comes to being a good teacher. In some countries, such as Germany, studying child development is even part of the university course that future teachers have to complete, such is the importance of a teacher's knowledge of child psychology and child development.

The first reason you might want to look into is the fact that successful teaching very much depends on the teacher knowing what the current mental capability of their students is. For example, young children find dealing with abstract concepts a lot more difficult than older children. This will impact the teacher's lesson planning, as a teacher will need to incorporate this into the design of their lessons: with younger students, the teacher will need to break the content down into more factual components and clear conclusions, as the teacher can't rely as much on the students' ability to think in abstract concepts.

In a math lesson, for example, this could mean that a teacher might use objects, such as wooden blocks, to demonstrate certain mathematical rules, whereas with older students, the same content could be taught much quicker, as less breaking down will be needed, given the mental ability of older students. Here, just working with numbers written on the board might be sufficient.

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Why is it important for a teacher to study child development?

Studying child development is important to teachers for a number of reasons.

First, it provides a context for the stages of development; teachers need this base of understanding in order to develop appropriate curriculum choices for their students. This is why, for example, it doesn't make sense to attempt to teach algebraic concepts to first graders; in most cases, they have not developed the ability to think in such abstract ways. All students will not progress at the same rate, and understanding how the stages of development progress will help teachers modify curriculum choices for students who are struggling or excelling.

Understanding child development also helps teachers as they assist parents in identifying potential concerns in the learning process. If a ten-year-old has not yet developed the ability to understand the perspective of others, he may not have progressed beyond the pre-operational stage. If a fifteen-year-old cannot convey ideas with sound logic, then they may not have progressed beyond the concrete operational stage. Students who fail to develop as expected may need additional educational supports in order to find academic success.

Studying child development can also help teachers assess the source of a student's social or behavioral problems. A student who avoids doing assignments may not just be lazy; he may be unable to complete the work as it has been assigned. It also helps when comparing a child against her peers; teachers who understand the fundamentals of child development will understand that children are all on different continuums of progress, and being "behind" at any given moment does not imply an eventual negative educational outcome. It does give teachers tools for evaluating a child's needs and then targeting ways to encourage further development so that a child reaches her best potential.

Finally, having a thorough understanding of child development helps teachers evaluate new directives, methodologies, and curriculum choices made by those outside their classrooms. Often, people with little to no educational training try to influence the decisions that teachers make with their students. Teachers who have studied child development are better equipped to assess these changes and to then determine which, if any, are relevant and appropriate for their own students.

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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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