The Child Development domain accounts for about 19% of the entire exam. This domain will test your knowledge of early childhood development and factors that influence development.
There are three competencies within the Child Development domain:
- Foundations of Child Development
- The Early Learning Process
- Family Engagement
Let’s explore a few concepts that are highly likely to appear on the exam.
Piaget’s Cognitive Development Theory
Piaget’s theory of cognitive development is a theory about the stages of intellectual development that humans go through from birth to adulthood. Piaget believed that children go through four stages of cognitive development, each described below. In Piaget’s theory, stages are not skipped, and each stage builds upon the previous ones. Let’s take a look at the four stages:
- Sensorimotor stage (birth–2 years): At this stage, infants and children under two are thought to explore and understand the world through their senses and through movement. One of the most important skills developed during this stage is the concept of object permanence (understanding that objects still exist even if they cannot be seen).
- Preoperational (2–7 years): During this stage, children begin to think symbolically and have increased language and imagination skills. Their thought processes at this stage tend to be egocentric and concrete (rather than abstract).
- Concrete operational (first grade–adolescence): Children’s thought processes at this stage are more logical and organized, and they are better equipped to work out ideas systematically in their heads. Children at this stage become more aware of the world around them and are able to understand that others may view the world differently than they do.
- Formal operational (12+ years): In the final stage, abstract reasoning skills begin to develop. Children are able to use reason, logic, and background knowledge to think about hypothetical questions. Children also develop the ability to think about moral and ethical issues during this stage.
Piaget used the following terms and concepts in his theory to explain the cognitive development processes that occur at each stage:
- Schema: Piaget referred to schemata as the building blocks of cognitive development. Schemata are a way of organizing our knowledge and can be used to interpret and respond to different situations. For example, as a toddler learns the meaning of the word car, he will begin to develop a schema for cars. Initially, he may see cars as anything with four wheels that is moving down the road.
- Assimilation: This occurs when a person applies an existing schema to a new situation or concept. Following the car example, assimilation would occur when the child sees a parked car and realizes that cars do not have to be moving. He assimilates this new knowledge to expand his schema of cars to include anything with four wheels that is either moving or not moving.
- Accommodation: This is the process that occurs in the brain when a new concept or experience doesn’t fit into an existing schema. When this happens, a person modifies their schemata to accommodate the new information. In our example, when the child sees an ambulance and learns that it is not a car, he will adjust his existing schema of a car. He will begin to understand that cars have specific shapes and styles, although he may also incorrectly assume that cars are any vehicle without a siren.
- Equilibration: This can be thought of as the balancing between assimilation and accommodation. Piaget believed that equilibration is the process that drives cognitive development and moves children from one cognitive stage to the next. In our example, after making accommodations to his existing schema of a car, the child will understand that all cars have four wheels and can move, but that not all moveable four-wheeled vehicles are cars. At this time, he will begin to recognize that there are several types of vehicles, and his schemata will adjust accordingly.
The Role of Play
Play is a crucial component of elementary education. Play is important for brain development, social and emotional development, and imagination. It promotes creativity, problem-solving skills, and educational discovery. Play can be implemented in the classroom in many ways including learning centers, games, role play or student performances, or movement activities.
The Montessori Method
The Montessori Method is a student-centered approach to learning that focuses on independence and self-motivation. One of the core beliefs of the Montessori Method is that children have a natural desire to learn and will initiate their own learning through their interests and experiences. Common components of a Montessori classroom include:
- Multi-age classes: Montessori classrooms often have an age range of about three years. For example, a classroom may have children from ages 3 to 6 or 6 to 9. This allows students to learn from their peers and helps older students solidify their learning by teaching others.
- Learning through discovery: Students learn by making their own discoveries through specialized Montessori materials. Teachers act as a guide, rather than providing direct instruction.
- Uninterrupted work time: Most Montessori classrooms provide much lengthier work times than traditional classrooms. Students typically work uninterrupted for two to three hours at a time. The purpose of this is to allow students to focus on their work and reach a deeper level of understanding.
- Prepared environment: Montessori classrooms are carefully organized, with materials located in specific areas within student reach. Teachers observe the students’ interests and learning and place activities on the shelves that will meet the needs of each student.
- Freedom within limits: Students are able to choose what subject and activity they want to work on, as long as they are doing productive work. Teachers provide guidance and instruction on how to work with a certain material or activity, but the student may choose whether or not they complete that activity.
Fostering Positive Family-Teacher Relationships
Family involvement and positive family-teacher relationships increase student achievement, allow parents to take an active role in their child’s education, and creates a sense of community in the school. Teachers and schools can encourage positive relationships with families by clearly communicating learning expectations, keeping families up-to-date on their child’s progress, implementing newsletters, utilizing classroom apps, hosting family engagement nights, and providing volunteer opportunities. All communication should be done in a variety of formats (email, phone calls, flyers, etc.) and should be presented in a language understood by the family.
Characteristics of Good Strategies for ELLs
English language learners, or ELLs, benefit from specific instructional strategies. Let’s take a look at some of these:
- Provide linguistic support: This can include word walls, labels for common objects, sentence stems, specific vocabulary instruction, and many other strategies.
- Use comprehensible content: This means that ELL students should be able to understand most of what you are saying. While they may not understand every word, they should be able to understand the core of the message. The steps taken to ensure content is comprehensible will vary based on what stage of language acquisition a child is in.
- Activate background knowledge: It is important to note that ELL students may have different background knowledge than their peers. Teachers should closely examine the content of their lessons and look for any areas where they might need to provide relevant background information for ELLs. Additionally, teachers can validate the background of ELL students by incorporating aspects of their culture into lessons and by encouraging ELL students to share their knowledge of specific topics with their peers.
- Engage ELL students in academic conversations: This provides ELL students with an opportunity to learn the specific vocabulary, skills, and norms that are involved in academic discussions.
- Allow meaning to be explored and negotiated: Negotiation of meaning is a process that occurs as children learn a second language. It involves the child making an attempt to clarify the meaning of a word or statement by asking for rephrasing, elaboration, clarification, or confirmation.
- Pair oral information with visual supports: This includes gestures, drawings, videos, examples, and anchor charts.
- Use cooperative learning groups: Having ELL students work in small groups with their peers gives them an authentic opportunity to practice their new language skills in a low-risk setting.
And that’s just some very basic information about the Child Development domain.