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Developmentally Appropriate Practice and Preschool Teachers' Perceptions: Theory Versus Practice

Dorothy Jean Alexander, Johnson & Wales University


The National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) Position Statement of Developmentally Appropriate Practices (2009) serves as a pedagogical framework for best practice among early childhood educators. Developmentally Appropriate Practice (DAP) is guided by what is known about how children develop and learn. Teachers draw upon these principles to make decisions about planning experiences which promote learning and optimize children's growth. The DAP statement is accepted in the early childhood field as the standard by which quality early learning experiences are defined and is used as a guidepost for planning (Copple & Bredekamp, 2009). Copple and Bredekamp (2009) state that "intentional teachers are purposeful and thoughtful about the actions they take, and they direct their teaching towards the goals the program is trying to help children reach" (p. 10). This qualitative descriptive study explored preschool teachers' perceptions of DAP and their use of DAP in planning learning experiences. Semi-structured interviews and document analyses were utilized to examine potential gaps between preschool teachers' perceptions and more fully understand daily planning decisions related to DAP. Utilizing Rubin and Rubin's responsive interviewing model (2012), (N=7) degreed preschool teachers employed at NAEYC accredited group care facilities were interviewed. Findings revealed inconsistencies among teachers' descriptions of key learning experiences for preschool children, implementation of learning experiences, and planning practices, thus, indicating a disconnect between theory and DAP. The findings of this study may benefit pre-service and in-service teacher training programs as well as administrators of childcare centers. It is useful in identifying ways in which preschool teachers' understandings of developmentally appropriate practice can be further supported and developmentally inappropriate perceptions can be challenged.

Subject Area

Pedagogy|Early childhood education|Teacher education

Recommended Citation

Alexander, Dorothy Jean, "Developmentally Appropriate Practice and Preschool Teachers' Perceptions: Theory Versus Practice" (2014). Dissertation & Theses Collection. AAI3621971.