Academic journal article Journal of Research in Childhood Education

Characteristics of Teachers Who Talk the DAP Talk and Walk the DAP Walk

Academic journal article Journal of Research in Childhood Education

Characteristics of Teachers Who Talk the DAP Talk and Walk the DAP Walk

Article excerpt

Abstract. Studies consistently find a discrepancy between teachers' self-reported beliefs about developmentally appropriate practices (DAP) and their actual, observable classroom practices. Teachers attribute the discrepancy to a variety of environmental / work-related stresses or institutional barriers. Some early childhood professionals, however, are either unaffected by, or able to cope with, these same obstacles and live out DAP beliefs in practice. What are the characteristics of teachers who both state a belief in DAP and engage in DAP practices in their early childhood classrooms? Although there were differences between preschool and primary teachers in this sample of 20 early childhood educators of children ages birth through 8, DAY beliefs overall were strongly correlated with practices at the p [less than] .001 level (r = .79). Also, high personal teaching efficacy and internal locus of control were significantly related to high DAP beliefs and predictive of DAP practices. In addition, teachers who either had an academic background in early childhood education or child development, or who had experience working in a preschool, were found to be significantly more DAP in their actual classroom practices than those who had an elementary education degree and no preschool experience. Implications for teacher education and professional development are discussed.

Researchers argue that teachers': 1) philosophies about education (i.e., beliefs about the impact of teaching in general, as well as their understanding of how children learn); 2) perceptions of themselves as teachers (i.e., how they feel about their own abilities to influence learning outcomes); and 3) beliefs about how events in the classroom are contingent upon their own actions (i.e., how much they attribute learning outcomes to their own actions) each play a critical role in actual teaching practices and classroom decisions (Brantlinger, 1996; Brookhart & Freeman, 1992; Bunting, 1984; DiBella-McCarthy, McDaniel, & Miller, 1995; Kagan, 1992; Pajares, 1992; Smith, 1993; Spodek, 1988; Wood, Cobb, & Yackel, 1990). Consistently, however, researchers report a discrepancy, or at best only a small correlation, between the self-reported beliefs and actual classroom practices of teachers (Bryant, Clifford, & Peisner, 1991; Charlesworth, Hart, Burts, & Hernandez, 1991; Hatch & Freeman, 1988; Hyson, 1991; Kagan & Sm ith, 1988; Kemple, 1996; Smith, 1993; Smith & Shepard, 1988; Spidell, 1988; Verma & Peters, 1975; Wing, 1989). In studies that report a discrepancy, the typical pattern is that educators report highly appropriate beliefs, but are found to engage in significantly less appropriate practices.

Stating One Belief; Practicing Another

There maybe several reasons why teachers might state a belief in DAP, yet not practice it in their own classrooms. DAP is the "politically correct" philosophy of the day (i.e., it is widely supported by professional organizations and leaders in the field), and it may be very hard for some teachers to admit that they don't accept the "conventional wisdom" when asked to state their beliefs (Hyson, 1991). Among those teachers who insist that they really do believe in DAP, the discrepancy between beliefs and practices is attributed to number of environmental or work-related stresses. Most common among these complaints are feelings of being unsupported by parents, colleagues, and administrators, and teachers' perception that they must emphasize skill development and prepare students for standardized tests.

In addition to environmental stresses, some teachers may be challenged, or even defeated, in their attempts to live out their beliefs by their own personal characteristics. Certain personality traits, tendencies, and/or levels of preparation or professional experience may act together with environmental/work factors to make it difficult or even impossible for these teachers to engage in the "best practices" in which they say they believe. …

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