Arnold Gesell (1881-1960) is one of the most well-known researchers in the field of child development. Much of his work, from the Yale Clinic of Child Development and later at the Gesell Institute of Child Development, was based on the simple premise that behavior is a function of structure and that humans develop in a patterned, predictable way. Gesell and colleagues studied children for decades to gather “norms,” i.e. normative patterns of behavior and hallmarks from their clinical observations. Even though this data was collected nearly a generation ago, it has been refined and updated, and it remains very much the same today as when it was identified. At each developmental stage, researchers were able to identify characteristic patterns of:
- Mental and physical organization
- Social and emotional behaviors
- Play interests and activities
It was found that these behaviors involve a combination of interaction between child and environment (including other people) and acknowledged individual differences, however, developmental sequences were proven to be similar from child to child and across varying cultures. Following Gesell’s retirement, Dr. Louse Bates Ames, Dr. Frances Ilg, and Dr. Janet Learned continued his work by founding the Gesell Institute of Child Development and to this day, the institute examines the concept of developmental age and school placement. From their website:
Understanding stages of child growth and development and using this knowledge to interpret behaviors, plan appropriate curricula, and manage the classroom are essential to quality teaching practices. Such understanding is also integral to quality parenting, and in implementing best practices in all professions working with children.
Development is a complex process that can be understood when attention and focus is given. This takes an understanding of child development, solid interpersonal skills, and an openness to observe behaviors so that a clear picture can emerge. When school placement, curriculum and instruction are based on developmental age, a child is given the opportunity to be successful with the skills and experiences they have to date, with an eye toward nudging them to take on challenges they can reasonably attain and therefore, grow. Continue reading “Looking Back, Looking Ahead- Development is Still Crucial”