Advances in neuroscience and other developmental sciences have greatly increased our understanding of how children learn. Yet, according to a new report from the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE), too little of that knowledge is making its way into educator training programs and the classroom.
The report, which recommends revamping educator preparation programs to better incorporate the developmental sciences, was prepared by a panel co-chaired by Dr. James P. Comer, founder of the Yale Child Study Center School Development Program, and Dr. Robert Pinata, dean of the Curry School of Education at the University of Virginia.
“If teachers are to address the increasingly diverse needs of all of the children that are entering today’s classrooms, they need access to scientifically-based knowledge concerning student development and learning,” the report — “The Road Less Traveled: How the Developmental Sciences Can Prepare Educators to Improve Student Achievement” – states. “Many educators, however — both teachers and administrators — have not been prepared to understand and apply advances in the developmental sciences in their schools and classrooms.”
The report, according to a NCATE news release, is based on more than a decade of research that links increased academic achievement with teachers’ ability to address students’ social, emotional and cognitive development. “A meta-analysis of 213 school programs that employ developmentally focused approaches to social and emotional learning found an 11 percentile-point gain in student achievement, as well as reduced behavioral issues,” the release notes. The report found that:
- Educator preparation programs provide insufficient grounding in the developmental sciences, including cognitive science and the science of child and adolescent development.
- Programs must integrate academic study in the behavioral sciences with real opportunities to implement child and adolescent development best practices in classrooms and communities.
- Policy must consider the importance of child and adolescent development as they design new standards and assessments of evaluating student and teacher performance — particularly when turning around low-performing schools, whose students are often in particular need of developmental supports to improve achievement.
“Developmental science is not ‘fluff’ that can be considered optional or an add-on to what schools do or how educators are prepared,” Pinata said in the news release. “If we don’t act now to integrate developmental sciences knowledge into preparation programs, we may lose another generation of learners.”