Developmentally appropriate practice, often shortened to DAP, is an approach to teaching grounded in the research on how young children develop and learn and in what is known about effective early education. Its framework is designed to promote young children’s optimal learning and development.
3 Core Considerations of DAP
Knowing about child development and learning.
Knowing what is typical at each age and stage of early development is crucial. This knowledge, based on research, helps us decide which experiences are best for children’s learning and development. (See “12 Principles of Child Development and Learning” from NAEYC’s DAP Position Statement.) (note: add link to page below)
Knowing what is individually appropriate.
What we learn about specific children helps us teach and care for each child as an individual. By continually observing children’s play and interaction with the physical environment and others, we learn about each child’s interests, abilities, and developmental progress.
Knowing what is culturally important.
We must make an effort to get to know the children’s families and learn about the values, expectations, and factors that shape their lives at home and in their communities. This background information helps us provide meaningful, relevant, and respectful learning experiences for each child and family.
5 Guidelines for Effective Teaching
Through the decisions they make, excellent teachers translate the DAP framework into high-quality experiences for children. Such teaching is described in NAEYC’s position statement on Developmentally Appropriate Practice, pages 16-23: "Guidelines for Developmentally Appropriate Practice." These guidelines address five key aspects of the teacher's role:
Creating a caring community of learners
Teaching to enhance development and learning
Planning curriculum to achieve important goals
Assessing children's development and learning
Establishing reciprocal relationships with families
Think of these guidelines as five points on a star—a “mariner’s star” to guide our journey to help children learn best. Each point of the star is a vital part of good practice in early care and education. None can be left out or shortchanged without seriously weakening the whole.
12 Principles of Child Development & Learning
1. All areas of development and learning are important.
2. Learning and development follow sequences.
3. Development and learning proceed at varying rates.
4. Development and learning result from an interaction of maturation and experience.
5. Early experiences have profound effects on development and learning.
6. Development proceeds toward greater complexity, self-regulation, and symbolic or representational capacities.
7. Children develop best when they have secure relationships.
8. Development and learning occur in and are influenced by multiple social and cultural contexts.
9. Children learn in a variety of ways.
10. Play is an important vehicle for developing self-regulation and promoting language, cognition, and social competence.
11. Development and learning advance when children are challenged.
12. Children’s experiences shape their motivation and approaches to learning.
10 Effective DAP Teaching Strategies
An effective teacher chooses a strategy to fit a particular situation. It’s important to consider what the children already know or can do and the learning goals for the specific situation. Remain flexible and observant, often, if one strategy doesn’t work, another will.
1. Acknowledge what children do or say. Let children know that we have noticed by giving positive attention, sometimes through comments, sometimes through just sitting nearby and observing. (“Thanks for your help, Kavi.” “You found another way to show 5.”)
2. Encourage persistence and effort rather than just praising and evaluating what the child has done. (“You’re thinking of lots of words to describe the dog in the story. Let’s keep going!”)
3. Give specific feedback rather than general comments. (“The beanbag didn’t get all the way to the hoop, James, so you might try throwing it harder.”)
4. Model attitudes, ways of approaching problems, and behavior toward others, showing children rather than just telling them (“Hmm, that didn’t work and I need to think about why.” “I’m sorry, Ben, I missed part of what you said. Please tell me again.”)
5. Demonstrate the correct way to do something. This usually involves a procedure that needs to be done in a certain way.
6. Create or add challenge so that a task goes a bit beyond what the children can already do. Example: you lay out a collection of chips, count them together and then ask a small group of children to tell you how many are left after they see you removing some of the chips. The children count the remaining chips to help come up with the answer.
7. Ask questions that provoke children’s thinking.(“If you couldn’t talk to your partner, how else could you let him know what to do?”)
8. Give assistance (such as a cue or hint) to help children work on the edge of their current competence (“Can you think of a word that rhymes with your name, Matt? How about bat . . Matt/bat? What else rhymes with Matt & bat?”)
9. Provide information, directly giving children facts, verbal labels, and other information. (“This one that looks like a big mouse with a short tail is called a vole.”)
10. Give directions for children’s action or behavior. (“Touch each block only once as you count them.” )