Effect of College Students' Knowledge of Child Development on Their Selection of Discipline Approaches

Article excerpt

Abstract This study examined college students' selection of discipline approaches based on the effect of child-related coursework. A total of 200 college students participated and were grouped by the number and the type of Child Development courses taken. The Scale of Adult Responses to Children's Behavior (ARCB) assessed students' beliefs toward discipline. Students with (1) three or more Child Development courses and (2) the guidance course were more developmentally appropriate in their selection of discipline approaches than students with less child development coursework and those without the guidance course. The importance of proper academic training in the early childhood field was discussed.

As an increasing number of children are placed in child-care centers, discipline and classroom guidance surface as paramount concerns for caregivers. Recent research has shown classroom guidance to be dynamic and multidimensional (Latz, 1992). A great number of teachers have reported their disappointment with the academic preparation they received in the area of guidance (Merrett & Wheldall, 1993). A deficiency of knowledge in developmentally appropriate discipline practices was found among beginning early childhood educators when compared to individuals with more than three years of experience (Kaplan & Conn, 1984; Latz). Improved academic preparation in guidance is important. However, few studies have examined the relationship between caregivers' educational preparation and their knowledge of developmentally appropriate discipline approaches.

Educational preparation is part of current governmental regulations for hiring day-care personnel. The licensing regulations for most states require only two Child Development courses for a head teacher position. Likewise, one Child Development course is required for an assistant teacher. Therefore, the primary purpose of this study was to investigate whether academic preparation was linked to college students' responses to discipline situations, measured by the number and type of Child Development courses respondents had completed. Secondarily, this study explored the effects of an upper-division guidance course on students' selection of discipline approaches The Importance of Academic Preparation for Early Childhood Personnel

The effects of caregivers' academic preparation has been examined from the perspective of studying general aspects of teachers' classroom behaviors (Arnett, 1989; Cassidy, Buell, Pugh-Hoese, & Russell, 1995). Arnett and Cassidy et al. agreed a close relationship seems to exist between the quality of education received by a child and teacher preparation. Notwithstanding, disagreement has emerged from researchers regarding the type of educational preparation essential for early childhood teachers. On one hand, studies revealed that high levels of formal education, regardless of the discipline, predicted more sensitive, less harsh, and less detached caregiving behaviors (Berk, 1985; Whitebook, Howes, & Philips, 1989). Alternatively, Ruopp, Travers, Glantz, and Coelen (1979) found a strong relationship between education specific to Child Development, early childhood education, and the quality of education received by children. Generally, teachers with extensive Child Development academic background were less authoritarian and more positive in interacting with young children in comparison to the teachers with fewer specialized child-related courses.

More closely related to the present study, Snider and Fu (1990) explored the relationship between the amount and types of academic preparation that teachers received and their knowledge of developmentally appropriate practice (DAP). The authors surveyed teachers with various levels of Child Development backgrounds. They discovered teachers with a four-year Child Development/ Early Childhood degree were much more likely to respond in a developmentally appropriate manner to the vignettes of teacher-child interaction than teachers with less child-specific educational backgrounds. …