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The Influence of Developmentally Appropriate Practice on Children’s Cognitive Development: A Qualitative Metasynthesis


by Christopher P. Brown & Yi-Chin Lan — 2013

Background: As policymakers and advocates across the United States look to early childhood educators to improve children’s cognitive development so they enter elementary school ready to learn, debates have emerged over what types of practices these educators should be engaged in to achieve this goal. Historically, the field of early childhood education has advocated for teachers to employ developmentally appropriate practices to ready young children for school success. Yet, empirically, the quantitative studies that have examined the impact of these practices on children’s cognitive development have produced mixed results. Absent from these debates are qualitative research studies exploring this topic.

Purpose of Study: To address this issue, this article presents findings from a qualitative metasynthesis that studied whether teachers and/or administrators were engaging in developmentally appropriate practices, and if so, how such practices might influence children’s cognitive development.

Research Design: This qualitative metasynthesis used a template analysis to code 12 peer-reviewed qualitative studies that were based on original research, took place in the United States, and involved practicing teachers and administrators who worked in early childhood settings (birth through Grade 3).

Findings: The findings appear to demonstrate a positive influence of teachers’ developmentally appropriate practices on children’s cognitive development and a negative influence from practices that contrast with this construct. These findings also reveal the need to continue to refine the conception of these practices as well as additional research that examines the influence of such practices on children’s development.

Conclusion: It appears that developmentally appropriate practices can positively influence children’s cognitive development. Still, it is uncertain as to what these benefits mean in terms of student outcomes, which has become a fundamental issue for publicly funded early education programs. This metasynthesis points to the need for further research that uses a range of measures to examine the influence of developmentally appropriate practices on children rather than teachers. Such work should pay attention to children’s cognitive development as well as attend to children’s cultural backgrounds. By doing so, it could help inform the fields of early and elementary school education about the impact of developmentally appropriate practices on children’s development so that educators across both contexts can provide instructional practices that ready young children for school success.



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Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record Volume 115 Number 12, 2013, p. -
http://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 17250, Date Accessed: 10/18/2017 9:47:00 PM

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About the Author
  • Christopher Brown
    University of Texas, Austin
    E-mail Author
    CHRISTOPHER P. BROWN is a Fellow in the Judy Spence Tate Fellowship for Excellence and an Associate Professor in the Early Childhood Program Area of the Department of Curriculum and Instruction at the University of Texas at Austin. His research interests include studying the impact of policymakers' high-stakes reforms on the various aspects of the field of early childhood education. His recent work examines how early childhood educators are responding to the challenges of teaching a diverse population of children in high-stakes contexts. Recent publications include: Brown, C. P., & Gasko, J. W. (2012). Why should pre-k be more like elementary school? A case study of pre-k reform. Journal of Research in Childhood Education, 26, 264-290. Brown, C. P. (2011). Searching for the norm in a system of absolutes: A case study of standards-based accountability reform in pre-kindergarten. Early Education and Development, 22, (1), 151-177.
  • Yi-Chin Lan
    University of Texas, Austin
    E-mail Author
    YI-CHIN LAN is a doctoral candidate in the department of Curriculum and Instruction at The University of Texas at Austin. Her research interests mainly focus on investigating the influence of parental support in early science learning, novice and veteran teachers’ conceptual change in science teaching, and children’s development of sense of place. She is one of the translators of Preschool pathways to science: Facilitating scientific ways of thinking, talking, doing and understanding (Gelman, Brenneman, Macdonald, & Roman, 2009) and Analyzing qualitative data: Systematic approaches (Bernard & Ryan, 2010) (Mandarin Chinese edition).
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