Developmentally Appropriate and Challenging Learning Experiences in Diverse Classrooms

In another post, I went through learning differences based on the developmental stage of the children that are being taught. In that post, we also discussed how the neurophysiological development phase determines what is developmentally appropriate and within zone of proximal development for the students. On the other words, what kind of activities are appropriate and challenging learning experiences based on the developmental stage of a child.

Knowing the zone of proximal development, instruction can be adjusted to scaffold students to the next stage in their learning process.

It is fascinating to draw lose connections between Learning styles and development stages:

Age Brain Maturation Cognitive Development (Piaget) Moral Development (Kohlberg) Moral and existential Development (Gibbs) Ego development (Loevinger) Primary Motivators Learning style
0-2 Neural Exuberance and Myelination of Sensory and Motor Areas (Behavior/senses) Sensori-motor Preconventional:
1st stage: Punishment and obedience
Moral Development
Stage 1: Centrations on salient features
E1 – Symbiotic
Biological Senses, hunger, thirst, arousal Behavioral
2-7 Maximum Number of Connections (desire) Pre-operations 2nd stage: Instrumental purpose and exchange 2nd stage: Pragmatic exchanges E2 – Impulsive Behavioral Towards pleasure/avoid pain Cognitive
7-11 Corpus callosum myelinates and pruning begins around age 10 (mind) Concrete Operations Conventional:
3rd stage: Interpersonal accord (college)
3rd stage: Ideal moral reciprocity
E3 – Self-Protective Social Role models, or group pressure Social constructivism

The rightmost column shows what is the predominant learning style associated to the age group or development phase in case development does not follow the norm.

What is important here is that this is just a guideline, based on research. When in a classroom, there is much more important to observe and make connections between theory and reality. In a classroom the real meaning of the research results may surface. From my experience that happens and in addition, new observations happen. One common experience in classroom is to observe students assume a development phase lower than their real level. This is due to peer pressure and established atmosphere in the classroom that determines what is acceptable and “cool”.

Once a teacher has a picture of what’s going on and what’s really going on behind what seems to be going on, teacher can target exercises and even lectures to specific student groups. Typical groups are fast learners and slow learners. However, there might be other groups present: concrete operations vs formal operations, visual vs kinestetic learners etc.

Using a model where students can study at their own pace, such as Khan Academy, can help bridge between different developmental groups and learning styles while keeping the learning experiences developmentally appropriate and challenging.


Leave a Reply