Developmentally Speaking . . .

Kindergarten’s Butterflies
October 29, 2013
Launching Life-Long Learners
April 14, 2014

Student workingImagine if cars’ seats didn’t move, mirrors weren’t adjustable, and seatbelts all came in one size. We’d all be masters at physical contortion or miserable. Or both. One thing is certain: driving would be a dangerous enterprise.

Of course, this is a ridiculous hypothetical proposition. We would never expect a 5’3” teenage girl to operate a vehicle designed to fit a 6’2” adult male, or vice versa. Our streets would be absolute mayhem.

So, rather than expect people to adjust to the fit of the vehicle, manufacturers make the fit of the vehicle adjustable to the diverse body of the people. They “design for the extreme,” as Harvard professor Todd Rose might put it.

The result? Most people can adapt their vehicular environments to meet their needs and we all win. While designing and building such interiors costs more, the payoffs are worth it – for sales, comfort and reducing the risk of bodily harm. In short, for societal well-being.

Science w Rickards studentsSchools, on the other hand . . .

The harm that results from expecting students to adapt to standardized schooling, rather than adapting schooling to unstandardizable students, is less physically dangerous than a 10-car pile-up. However, the cognitive harm of such an approach can be a roadblock to a life-long love of learning.

At CLC we take the responsibility of “designing for the extremes” very seriously all the way through 8th grade graduation. In edu-speak, doing so is called “Developmentally Appropriate Practices,” and includes three core considerations according the National Association for the Education of Young Children:

  1. Knowing about child development and learning.
  2. Knowing what is individually appropriate.
  3. Knowing what is culturally important.

Laura Young, CLC’s Middle School Coordinator, and Shana Ryberg, a former CLC middle school teacher, conducted a literature review on the topic of developmental attributes of middle schoolers and how a developmentally appropriate school might respond (their chart is linked here).

Developmentally speaking, they found that adolescents are . . .

  • Struggling with identity.
  • Trying to balance numerous worlds (self, school, family, peers).
  • Going through puberty.
  • Thinking about themselves all the time (self-conscious), and alternating between high expectations and low self-esteem.
  • Becoming independent from parents.
  • Thinking more abstractly (hypothesis, metacognition, multiple dimensions, relativism).

This mosaic of attributes presents challenges and opportunities in equal measure. The responsively-designed learning environment – adjustable “seats, mirrors, and seat belts” – can help ensure that the design and delivery of learning experiences meet their needs and leverage their strengths.

Our commitment to focusing on developmental appropriateness through middle school sets us apart regionally and is part of what made the International Baccalaureate (IB) Middle Years Programme attractive to us.

IB Middle Years GraphicThe IB Middle Years Programme is utilized internationally as a framework that puts the student first. While the IB framework employs a rigorous approach to curricular design and competency-based assessment, it provides extensive latitude for content and differentiation, allowing for personalization, individualization and place-specific community building. We can make schooling adaptable to the student to ensure the students’ love of learning survives an education.

Interested in learning more? Join us Thursday, December 19 from 6 – 7 pm to see how our middle school employs responsiveness and developmental appropriateness to challenge and empower learners. You’ll also better understand why we are pursuing authorization as an IB World School and what it will mean for your child(ren). Feel free to invite friends outside of CLC to join us too.

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