Open Discussion Forum

Subject: BIOLOGY AND EARLY CHILDHOOD EDUCATION

1.  BIOLOGY AND EARLY CHILDHOOD EDUCATION

Posted 08-13-2017 04:39 PM

The last 20 years in the biological sciences has presented dramatic changes in our understanding of child development. A core change is that the debate over nature versus nurture is over. We now have epigenetic adaptation: nurture influences nature. Together they control our lives. Early childhood educators don't need to become neural-biologists, but we do need to understand how the current information regarding epigenetic adaptation informs our role in the development of children.

We especially need to understand that we are changing the expression of genes, not just behaviors. That suggests that how we change behaviors is crucial to the success of children. Most of us have moved from behavior modification to teaching thinking skills, but we also need to pay close attention to brain development: the ability to think.

It appears that thinking itself is a central piece of the environment that affects genes. Genes control all development of animals and plants. They control the development of cells: the basic element in all living things. Thinking is available because cells divided to produce neural structures that recorded environmental experience and make connections between neurons.

This is a different language than early childhood educators are used to. It is a significant difference. If we think, for example, that a child is being obstinate by way of multiple refusals, we are not as likely to see what the child needs to develop in their brain that will sustain the learning necessary to obey the commands of caregivers. The behavior may appear to be obstinate, but it is a lack of education, of brain development.

Understanding epigenesis could even lead to not giving children many commands, only assisting their education. For example, children do need to obey: sometimes, some ways, but not always. The decision requires cognition. Recognizing the need for cognition could lead to more focus on nutrition, sleep, and sensory-motor activities. Further, the development of cognition requires understanding the procedures of scaffolding: offering mental-assistance when the child is asking, and finding ways to encourage their search for answers.

Early childhood educators have mostly stopped directly punishing children for mistakes, but we still may be thinking that children make mistakes on purpose. We confuse children when we're disappointed in them. We probably have confused ourselves when we expect more of children than they have learned. Understanding the epigenetic adaptation aspect of brain development will help us improve our training of young children.



------------------------------
Jack Wright
Success With Children
St. Ignatius MT
------------------------------


2.  RE: BIOLOGY AND EARLY CHILDHOOD EDUCATION

Posted 08-14-2017 12:35 AM
This is interesting and innovative information. I've conducted sessions with teachers were we discussed this same concept and conclude as research has. Where can I find more information? How do you propose this information impact teacher pedagogy?

Sent from my iPhone




3.  RE: BIOLOGY AND EARLY CHILDHOOD EDUCATION

Posted 08-15-2017 11:04 AM
Antoinette: I'm so glad to see that someone is interested in this new stuff. It takes some personal security to consider new information that may contradict what one has done for a long time. The book that helped me the most about the effect of new information coming from neural-biology on early childhood education isThe Epigenetics Revolution, by Nessa Carey (Columbia University Press, 2012). It was a tough read for me. I read through it three times and still only understood about half of it, but it informed me a great deal about human learning.

Early childhood education is different than any other education. Early childhood educators have discussed how issues like mathematics can start with toddlers, but mathematics, as complicated as it can become, is not as complex as learning life skills. Further, issues that can have a start by the age of three, like the regulation of impulsivity, can be assets and disabilities the rest of our lives, and difficult to correct as adults. Learning errors in math, and all other subjects, tend to be easier to discover and to correct. Early childhood education is more broadly developed in the human brain than any other subject.

I started being interested in genetics when I was a psychologist. It appeared to me that we had better know when we we're dealing with genetic effects in human problems. When I retired from my private practice, I started consulting in early childhood education (it's been ten years now), and reading more in neural-biology. I'm now actually auditing a college biology class. It is fascinating. I hadn't taken biology since the fifties. I don't think early childhood educators need to do what I'm doing, but more leaders in the field need to, and college early childhood curriculums need to be sure they're up to date in biology.

I hope others will join us in this conversation. We never know if our thinking is correct anymore. I've gotten used to be wrong. I just read a article in Developmental Psychology on impulsivity published in 2010. Just seven year later I could correct its thinking at several points. Discussion, and especially disagreement, is important these days with information coming in so quickly.

------------------------------
Jack Wright
Success With Children
St. Ignatius MT
------------------------------



4.  RE: BIOLOGY AND EARLY CHILDHOOD EDUCATION

Posted 08-21-2017 05:37 PM
Hi . Thanks  Jack for introducing me to the book . I will be purchasing it within the next little while. I often try to have my students imagine that they are the child themselves are the child; the caregiver and the parent as they are doing various art activities in group work and individual activities.

------------------------------
miriam melamed
[Education Consultant/Conceptual Designer]

Toronto [Ontario][Purple Rip Tide Productions]
------------------------------



5.  RE: BIOLOGY AND EARLY CHILDHOOD EDUCATION

Posted 08-22-2017 09:33 AM
Jack once again you make a good point about the need to re-think how we think and respond to children's development. This is exactly what the recommendations from the Transforming the Workforce for Children Birth Through Age 8: A Unifying Foundation is trying to accomplish. Many of the reason for our lack of success in meeting children's needs is we are not using new research and information.

------------------------------
Steven Erwin
Chico CA
------------------------------



6.  RE: BIOLOGY AND EARLY CHILDHOOD EDUCATION

Posted 08-23-2017 10:25 AM
​Hi Jack and others, I, too, am fascinated by this discussion.  My own work focuses on nurturing children's wonder, awe, and empathy by looking at spiritual development.  In my research in finding a definition of spiritual development for all children, thus circumventing any mention of god or religion, I discovered that positive and strong relationships do more for a child's brain development than make them good academic learner.  Positive relationships at the beginning of like helps to develop in children a strong sense of awareness in relationship to all that is around you.  It opens one up to new experiences for learning;  It guides thoughts to big questions that help you feel part of something bigger....often this is through experiences and a child's relationship with nature (biophilia).  I eagerly read the NAEYC articles and found that I agree with most of what was written.  My question goes beyond cognitive learning to our thinking about raising children for a just and good society.  I think biology might play a role here as well.  I am curious to learn your thoughts about this question.
Thanks,
Deb
Growing Wonder.Com

------------------------------
Deborah Schein
Minneapolis MN
------------------------------



7.  RE: BIOLOGY AND EARLY CHILDHOOD EDUCATION

Posted 08-15-2017 09:49 AM
Jack,

Thank you for bringing this conversation forward --I attended a talk by an Epigenetics researcher here in Indy and am quite excited about the implications!

I recently read an article from YC which talked about the ways that positive interactions with caregivers positively influence baby's brain development and future social-emotional development.  It deals with some of the themes you write about but with a focus on the ways it plays out in our infant-toddler classrooms.   Here's the link:
http://www.naeyc.org/yc/article/caring-relationships-heart-early-brain-development

And here's a link to the entire special issue, which deals with the science of brain development:
http://www.naeyc.org/yc/pastissues/2017/may


------------------------------
Benjamin Planton
Infant Toddler Outcome Specialist - Partnerships for Early Learners
Infant Toddler Professionals Interest Forum Co-Facilitator
NAEYC Affiliate Advisory Council
------------------------------



8.  RE: BIOLOGY AND EARLY CHILDHOOD EDUCATION

Posted 08-18-2017 01:35 AM
  |   view attached
I am grateful for the well-informed responding to this vital topic.The article you cite in Young Children centers on relationship-based care, a model that forms the crux of the authors' discussion prominently being the work of Magda Gerber, one of the foremost contributing infant development theorists and co-founder of Resources for Infant Educucarers® forty years ago. Her seminal work predates the neurobiological facts being examined so thoroughly in this valuable online discussion. As an example, the article's authors state "...a caregiver who performs routines in a gentle way and uses language to help the child anticipate what will happen next teaches the child to learn about caring relationships and supports language development...care with healthy brain growth in mind." This practice comes directly from The Educaring® Approach, radically challenging the custodial model that has for decades contributed to the horrific state of infant group care dominating our society. Thankfully for the thousands of children, parents and professionals educated by Gerber and Certified RIE® Associates in many parts of the world today, the vision promoted by Gerber's care model -- inspired by the natural integrity of infants and the formative power of relationships in their lives -- has been shaping lives of compassionate, autonomous, securely attached humans for decades. When allowed to unfold in their own way and in their own time, children discover, manifest and inspire the best in themselves and in others. RIE® is profoundly committed to sharing with families and teachers the opportunity to see infants with new eyes. As one parent in my Certified RIE® Parent - Infant Guidance Class (the signature program Gerber created) recently wrote to me: "I am so glad to have started my journey with E. with the intention to see and respect what she chooses to do, and how she chooses to move. I could have missed so much if I was pushing her to move according to someone else's timeline. It makes me appreciate the gift RIE gives of freedom from that kind of anxiety." For more information you can check out "Resources for Infant Educarers® (RIE®)" on the web.  [Post edited by moderators -- our rules do not allow general links to commercial or advertising materials.]


------------------------------
Elizabeth Memel, M.A.
RIE® Associate
Resources for Infant Educarers®
Los Angeles and Ojai, CA
------------------------------

Attachment(s)

pdf
TulaTummyTime.pdf   292K 1 version


9.  RE: BIOLOGY AND EARLY CHILDHOOD EDUCATION

Posted 08-15-2017 10:50 AM
Thank you for opening up this discussion. I am interested in knowing more about the ramifications of technology use by infant and toddler children as it relates to EPIGENETICS ... the affects on the brain. Are there any studies being done in this regard? My gut tells me that we are swimming in dangerous waters by letting little people dabble with ipads and mobile phones. Their interest is peaked when Mom or Dad are using their devices. I have witnessed a 7-month old grab for a Mom's cell phone as she was texting. I believe that the desire was more for Mom's attention than the phone itself, but it begs the question...what are we doing to our children???? If the child sees that Mom and Dad are showing primary attention to electronics, but little Johnny wants his due attention, then what stops him from getting in on it himself? It's almost like he's saying, Hey...let me see what is more important than looking at me! If Mom gives in, which is sometimes the case, little Johnny seems to magically know how to swipe his little finger across the screen. A Dad I know told me the other day that his 2-year old son was smart enough to get into Netflix on Dad's ipad, after Dad had thought he successfully hid it from his kids. It's not just internet content that is frightening, more than that it is...WHAT DO TECH DEVICES DO TO A LITTLE PERSONS DEVELOPING BRAIN? HOW DOES THE BLUELIGHT AFFECT IT? WHAT EPIGENETIC EFFECTS IS IT HAVING? Does anyone know?

------------------------------
Jean Sutton
Owner
Family Tree Childcare & Learning Center
Newington, CT
------------------------------



10.  RE: BIOLOGY AND EARLY CHILDHOOD EDUCATION

Posted 08-15-2017 11:42 AM
Hi Jack, can you provide some citations to the reports that influence your thinking? Thanks!

------------------------------
Fran Simon, M.Ed.
Engagement Strategies, LLC
Early Childhood Investigations Webinars
Early Childhood Investigations Consultants Directory
Washington, DC Metro
------------------------------



11.  RE: BIOLOGY AND EARLY CHILDHOOD EDUCATION

Posted 08-16-2017 12:08 PM
Benjamin: thanks for the links to the YC Journal. It has some good information on this subject.

Jean: there is quite a bit of research suggesting that it is the passiveness of watching that limits brain development in young children. One-hour has been suggested as a limit for those under three-years-old. Research also suggests that screens limit interaction with others for both children and adults. Loneliness is up, and may be a result of too much screen time.

Fran: I haven't done a literature review, but the references in some sources I'll mention may be helpful. I attend conferences on brain development, have a college text for biology, read a good deal of literature that I don't copy or save references for, but the following may be helpful.

For background: From Neurons to Neighborhoods, National Research Council and Institute of Medicine, 2000. Old, but still relevant.
"From Best Practices to Breakthrough Impacts," Center for the Developing Child, Harvard University, 2016.
"Executive Control of Actions Across Time and Space," Current Directions in Psychological Science, APS, 2016.
"Bridging Psychological and Biological Science: The Good, Bad, and Ugly," Perspectives on Psychological Science, APS, 2010.
"Maternal Behavior Predicts Infant Neurophysiological and Behavioral Attention Processes in the First Year," Developmental Psychology,      APA, 2017.
"Developmental Origins of Infant Emotion Regulation: Mediation by Temperamental Negativity and Moderation by Maternal                           Sensitivity," Development Psychology, APA, 2017.
"The Development of Self-Regulation Across Early Childhood," Developmental Psychology,
 APA, 2016.

Because research can appear to be blaming mothers, I want to note that understanding epigenetics helps us not blame anyone, adult or child for mistakes. The message is that we can't be a better person in the moment, we can only learn to do better.

I'm going to post a article I've written about the effects of biology on early childhood education. Hope we can discuss that, too. We can go so wrong if we don't have feedback on new thinking.

------------------------------
Jack Wright
Success With Children
St. Ignatius MT
------------------------------



12.  RE: BIOLOGY AND EARLY CHILDHOOD EDUCATION

Posted 08-16-2017 12:49 PM

Some more thoughts on this topic:

The developments in neural-biology over the last 20 years are demanding that we take a new look at early childhood education. Education isn't just words anymore, it's environment affecting genes-epigenetics. We knew that relationship was important if education with words was to be effective; we may not have known that relationship was an environment affecting genes, and thereby itself early childhood education.

Early childhood education is different from all other education. I'll compare education in mathematics. A person can start learning mathematics before they are three-years-old. They can keep learning it the rest of their lives. That's where the comparison ends. If mathematicians don't learn something before they are five it isn't much of an impediment to their further learning; it just slows the process a little. If they learned something wrong, it soon shows up as a problem and can be easily corrected: two plus two just doesn't equal five when you count the sticks.

By contrast, if you didn't learn social skills by the time you were five-years-old, you are easily in trouble the rest of your life. It even requires social skills to notice even dramatic errors, and to make corrections. If you didn't learn about and develop feelings of empathy before you were five-years-old, you're in bad shape for learning about relationships, including that with yourself, and may have trouble with the law when you are older.

I can't think of any other subject of education that has the complexity and dramatic impact on human life that early childhood education has. With most educational subjects there are clear rules to follow. They can be complex-consider learning grammar-and take a long time to clearly understand, but they hardly compare to the life-skills that a child needs to learn if their adult life is to go well. My life is going well, but I'm still learning from mistakes and aware that there is more to learn.

Notice that it doesn't matter if your mathematics instructor is a gentle person. They can even be mean. It is of course more difficult, but you can still learn mathematics from them. You're unlikely to learn effective living skills from a caretaker with limited personal skills-a low emotional quotient (EQ in contrast to IQ). You're far more likely to learn personal skills from them that don't work well over time.

Everything that we experience is being learned. If we don't pay attention to the new learning it fades away, sometimes in seconds, but young children are eager to pay attention to anything novel. They are making quadrillions of connections in their brain. One thought may be at least thousands of neural connections. If it is thought many times more, it is a thought that would even be difficult to get rid of.

We even have thoughts about thoughts. We question the effectiveness and consequences of thoughts. How well we do that task depends on what we have learned to think. For example, we can learn a great deal about paying attention in our first months of life if our interests are effectively supported. That includes the ability to pay attention to consequences-think-which is crucial to learning.

Understanding more about neural-biology needs to affect our thinking about early childhood education. Our brains are not digital recorders. Experiences aren't just recorded in our brains, they are thought about as they are recorded by cell division and neural developments. The thinking is recorded with the memory. It happens instantaneously. The thinking includes decisions about how engaged we are in a subject, whether it is positive or negative, safe or dangerous.

Nutrition, sleep, and exercise are crucial to brain development, but we also need to think of early childhood education as brain development. We've been using psychological personality assessments to describe the needs for and effects of early childhood education, but that has proven to be a problem, and is no longer an effective approach to education.

For example, knowing that a child may become aggressive in a classroom is important awareness, but it is not a descriptor of the child. An effective description of the child who easily becomes aggressive is that the child has learned that aggression works in their life. Calling the child aggressive is not only misleading, but also limits a caretaker's understanding regarding what education to bring to bear.

It would be effective when dealing with a child who tends to use aggression for his needs in the classroom for a caregiver to think about what neural connections would counteract his brain connections regarding emotion driving ineffective impulses of aggression. The child's frustration, or even anger, is likely to be appropriate, depending on how much the young child knows about things like rules and sharing; it's the impulsivity that needs attention. The child needs to think more about consequences, both negative and positive.

Now the caregiver will focus on the normal training regarding developing regulation of emotion and impulsivity. That's normal early childhood education if the child is still a toddler, but needs to be returned to if the earlier training was missed or ineffective. Now the caregiver will soothe the aggressive child understanding that being aggressive leads to anxiety.

This well-trained caregiver will not even consider punishment, and will try not even to be disappointed in the aggressive child's return to negative behavior, seeing that, too, as punishment. Reducing anxiety will be scaffolding for clearer thinking. Now some open-ended questions may find what the child is ready to learn about being impulsive with his anger. Possibly even learning some element of the causes of his anger.

 We see impulsive aggression in adults regularly in the news, sometimes with ugly and tragic consequences. That can add to our motivation to explore how to make early childhood education more effective. Taking a new look at early childhood education will not change our approach to children quickly. We may need to deal with our own anxiety about mistakes, and our beliefs in what we have been doing for years.

Important new information is happening quickly in sciences related to child development. Five years is old information these days. This information about the environment influencing our genes-epigenetics-has been significantly growing among scientists for 20 years, but only recently reached our ears. When I write on early education sites, I'm often shown that I've misspelled epigenetics and need to add it to their dictionary. That's how new this information is.



------------------------------
Jack Wright
Success With Children
St. Ignatius MT
------------------------------

------------------------------
Jack Wright
Success With Children
St. Ignatius MT
------------------------------



13.  RE: BIOLOGY AND EARLY CHILDHOOD EDUCATION

Posted 08-21-2017 12:52 AM
Thanks Jack, for the valued information.
I work with infants and toddlers at my family child care and PITC trainings of continuity of care, routines and nurturance (in-tune with young ones) has helped me a lot in to go at their level and be with them.
Would love to read the articles that you have suggested.

thanks again,
jagruti patel

------------------------------
Jagruti Patel
Patel Family Child Care
Redlands CA
------------------------------



14.  RE: BIOLOGY AND EARLY CHILDHOOD EDUCATION

Posted 08-17-2017 09:27 AM
Thanks, Jack. it helps me to see the derivation of your thoughts and opinions. I appreciate the citations.

------------------------------
Fran Simon, M.Ed.
Engagement Strategies, LLC
Early Childhood Investigations Webinars
Early Childhood Investigations Consultants Directory
Washington, DC Metro
------------------------------



15.  RE: BIOLOGY AND EARLY CHILDHOOD EDUCATION

Posted 08-19-2017 10:09 AM
Fran, your looking for the derivation of a theory is crucial today, with so much new information on child rearing becoming available. I'm glad you asked me for it.

Elizabeth, I'm pleased that you mentioned the issue of pushing a child to learn something. A recent study called this pushing "invasive," and compared it to "synchronous" care giving. Scaffolding is at the core of this issue. I'm posting a brief article of mine that will be on the HiMama cite on the 28th of this month.
SCAFFOLDING

Early childhood educators use the word scaffolding regularly, but I think we could use this concept better if we discuss it more thoroughly.  "Scaffolding" has been around for a long time. It appears that Jerome Bruner invented the term, but it goes back to Vigotsky's work at the beginning of the Twentieth Century. Before both, John Dewey developed the phrase "growing edge" regarding education. Vigotsky made it clear that scaffolding for learning new information was to be provided at what he called the "zone of proximal development."

That raises the question, what is a child ready to learn. I think this question has more to do with brain development than any particular knowledge. A newborn, for instance, attends to her environment as though it is a part of herself until she has enough neural connections to realize some things move without her being involved. There was recently research suggesting that training attention, a core ingredient of learning anything, has to do with reinforcing an infant's natural attention; that's an example of scaffolding. Trying to teach the infant to attend to something, in contrast to reinforcing their natural attention, was found to distract attention to the object, and thus didn't train the ability to attend.

I think that it is possible that we do too much training that isn't in touch with a child's interest-or abilities-and is thus not very effective as it isn't using scaffolding. The research mentioned above called effective training of attention "synchronist," and ineffective training "intrusive."  We may want to add the word "synchronistic" to "scaffolding," when we are trying to educate at a child's growing edge-their zone of proximal development.

It appears important to discuss these issues in a time when we see more pressure to add subjects to our curriculums. I think that too often research is ignored when curriculums are developed. For example, children are sometimes expected to share when they are as young as three years of age, when it has been found that children aren't able to clearly discuss what they mean by sharing until they are at least five years old. There just aren't adequate neural connections for that level of sophistication before that age.

When skills are taught without appropriate scaffolding, they are what Newell Kephart called "splinter skills." He described them as skills that don't generalize, that is, aren't flexible enough to be used in more complex situations. For example, social skills often fail when they aren't developed by regulating emotion and impulsivity.

Let's consider the complex of skills needed to eat lunch together at a childcare agency before you are three years old. What skills does a toddler have that an early childhood caregiver can scaffold? The caregiver needs to know the level of each child's regulation of emotion and impulsivity. This includes knowing how long a child can wait, how well their sensory system is developed (e.g. body orientation is space, reach/grasp/release, mouth sensitivity, and many things), and how difficult the food is to control.

When scaffolding isn't well understood, I think that a good deal of punishment from frustration occurs at the lunch table in some childcare situations. In addition, without appropriate scaffolding not much learning is affected, leading to further frustration. So much can be learned at the lunch table that I've suggested that mock-lunches be a frequent part of a classroom. Caretakers can be more relaxed without food at the table, one skill at a time can be the center of focus, it can all be fun-a game--and zones of proximal development can be observed.

A core assessment of whether an activity uses scaffolding is to notice engagement. High engagement, excellent scaffolding. Low engagement, reconsider the task rather than push for engagement. Play with blocks can easily illustrate this concept. Children tend to engage in towers, roads, and buildings. If asking what kind of a block a piece is gets an adequate answer, there was engagement. If it doesn't, the educator can move back to things like noting that it is a large or small block. Would you like another one that size? may educate using scaffolding on what the child is beginning to understand.

I could give many examples, but if the caregiver understands the concept they will assess engagement and modify scaffolding automatically. Understanding a concept well makes our thinking automatic, and saves time and energy. Further, success, seeing a child develop in front of your eyes, makes a job meaningful and usually means fewer frustrations.

Child development and scaffolding needs to be on the minds of caretakers all the time, right behind their love of children, and supporting their love of children. That means that training goals are secondary tasks. Any other development of young children is less likely to be adequate for the goal of successful living.



------------------------------
Jack Wright
Success With Children
St. Ignatius MT
------------------------------



16.  RE: BIOLOGY AND EARLY CHILDHOOD EDUCATION

Posted 08-20-2017 01:31 AM
I do understand, Jack, how scaffolding gets misconstrued when individual needs are overlooked. I never liked the term much myself, and my colleague Janet Gonzalez Mena writes about Magda Gerber's view on "selective intervention" in her seminal text for caregivers combining a child-centered philosophy with problem-solving strategies, and a thorough discussion of diversity -  Infants, Toddlers, and Caregivers - that serves as an ideal introduction to curriculum and care for infants and toddlers.


The approach to caregiving that underlies the text is based on Magda Gerber's Educaring® philosophy combined with a bold new approach to the extensive 62 years of research done by her late colleague, pediatrician Emmi Pikler. Focusing on the concept of respect in child care, both pioneers based their curriculum around responding to each individual child's needs in a warm and sensitive manner. 


As opposed to teaching toddlers something, the following example demonstrates respectful child-led feeding relationships as reported by an aware RIE® student discerning joy in a child care program:
    "I observed snack time "snack time" that was unrushed, quiet and calm, an enjoyable experience. and it was a beautiful example of believing the infants (aged 9 to 15 months) capable. The snack was announced and the children given the opportunity to bring themselves to the gate, and enter the kitchen and pick their own chair. The caregiver who assisted with snack time had a wonderful, respectful presence. She assisted the infants as needed but allowed them the opportunity to do things for themselves. She believed the infants were capable individuals and treated them as such. The plates and cups were appropriately sized as were the table and chairs. The caregiver sat with them at the table. She was a calming, patient, caring, presence at the table and the whole experience was a joy to watch."



------------------------------
Elizabeth Memel, M.A.
RIE® Associate
Resources for Infant Educarers®
Los Angeles and Ojai, CA
------------------------------



17.  RE: BIOLOGY AND EARLY CHILDHOOD EDUCATION

Posted 08-21-2017 08:53 AM
Elizabeth, nice response. Thank you.

------------------------------
Jack Wright
Success With Children
St. Ignatius MT
------------------------------



18.  RE: BIOLOGY AND EARLY CHILDHOOD EDUCATION

Posted 15 days ago
Biology has expanded our understanding of children thinking. Biologically they are thinking without words prenatally, as they adjust to their environment including it's noises. Before they have words they think about attending to people and things. By the time they are five they are using clusters of information organized partly by words, and have 100 billion neurons making 10,000 three-dimensional connections, which is a quadrillion neural connections putting together knowledge about their life. Now they can really think, including abstractly. Piaget had a much simpler concept of children's thinking.

I'm reviewing this information because it leads to my conclusion that we only need three assessments of children's behaviors, and no labels describing behaviors negatively. (Labels too easily set ineffective attitudes in early childhood educators.)  If we understand the biology of learning, all we need to assess is what has a child learned that is being expressed in a behavior, what they are now learning from this situation I'm involved in, and what I want them to learn.

With this understanding about the role of learning in children, when we see a disruptive behavior we will gain important information wondering what this child has already learned. Has this behavior somehow worked in the past--been learned? Now we can think about what our interaction will further teach this child. Will the child learn about cooperation, fairness, understanding, and other positive possibilities? Or will they just learn that disruptive behaviors work best when you're bigger? Then it will be effective early childhood education to consider what we want this child to learn.

Influencing the thinking of children is far more effective over time than behavior modification. It does take more time initially, but it saves far more time in the future. I'm hoping we can discuss this topic further.

------------------------------
Jack Wright
Success With Children
St. Ignatius MT
------------------------------



19.  RE: BIOLOGY AND EARLY CHILDHOOD EDUCATION

Posted 14 days ago

Well-stated Mr. Wright.

As an early childhood educator of more than forty years I agree with your thinking.

Elanor

 

Elanor Cato

PreK Teacher

Beauvoir, the National Cathedral Elementary School

Elanor.Cato@cathedral.org

202-537-5201

 






20.  RE: BIOLOGY AND EARLY CHILDHOOD EDUCATION

Posted 13 days ago
"...that a child is being obstinate by way of multiple refusals, we are not as likely to see what the child needs to develop in their brain that will sustain the learning necessary to obey the commands of caregivers. The behavior may appear to be obstinate, but it is a lack of education, of brain development."

I've embarked on my own path of brain education, and through this study and practice I have become less inclined to enforce the rule that my students must "obey the commands of caregivers". Instead, I have learned to put my own expectations aside - even when it may come into conflict with classroom scheduling/routines, etc. - and truly focus on supporting and understanding the will of my children.

One book in particular, that I have read and that has had an impact on how I engage with children is, THE THREE LAWS OF PERFORMANCE: Rewriting the Future of Your Organization and Your Life, by Steve Saffron & Dave Logan ( Jossey-Bass, 2009). This book has transformed how I view others, how I react to others, and how I use language to speak with others. The 3 Laws of Performance are:

1. How people perform correlates to how situations occur to them.

2. How a situation occurs arises in language.

3. Future-based language transforms how situations occur to people.

Lisa Delpit, an educational researcher, discovered through her own research:

"We do not really see through our eyes or hear through our ears, but through our beliefs. To put our beliefs on hold is to cease to exist as ourselves for a moment - and that is not easy - but it is the only way to learn what it might feel like to be someone else and the only way to start the dialogue."

Her research is in alignment with what I learned in Love & Logic - we must do unto others as they would have us do unto them (the Silver Rule). As teachers, we unfold rather than mold.



------------------------------
Mary Russell
Journeys Out Yonder
Boulder CO
------------------------------



21.  RE: BIOLOGY AND EARLY CHILDHOOD EDUCATION

Posted 13 days ago
​Dear Jack, I find your post extremely interesting.  My question for you is this - where do we assess what they children are curious about or what makes them individually different from the next child?
Deb

------------------------------
Deborah Schein
Minneapolis MN
------------------------------



22.  RE: BIOLOGY AND EARLY CHILDHOOD EDUCATION

Posted 13 days ago
Hello all - this is an interesting discussion. And, indeed, if "Epigenetics" works for helping people create authentic, loving relationships with all children ... then I'm all for it.
Secure attachments and loving relationships are important for developing emotional memory templates in the brain.
My new book (out next year) called "Everyone Needs Attention," will address secure, authentic and loving relationships. If it helps the genes ... even better! Kudos to everyone who cares for and loves all children.

------------------------------
Tamar Jacobson, Ph.D.
Professor
Rider University
Lawrenceville, New Jersey
------------------------------



23.  RE: BIOLOGY AND EARLY CHILDHOOD EDUCATION

Posted 13 days ago
I'm excited that biology is being so well accepted by responders to my post.

Elanor, it warms my heart that someone with 40 years of experience is so open to new ideas.

Mary, your statement about putting expectations aside is a core to improving early childhood education. I'm glad you're reading books like the one you mentioned.

Deborah, great questions. Noticing what children are curious about is to notice what they are ready to learn, it's where our responsiveness is scaffolding. In addition, it is important that we get children thinking about things they need to be curious about. Open-ended questions can help develop children's engagement in new subjects. Individuality is the result of the quadrillions of neural connections that are made when experiencing our constantly different environments. At least that's a brief answer.

Tamar, I sure agree with you about authentic loving relationships, and want to emphasize that they are supported by the social skills that develop when children have been assisted in regulating emotion and impulsivity, thus obtaining adequate social skills.


------------------------------
Jack Wright
Success With Children
St. Ignatius MT
------------------------------



24.  RE: BIOLOGY AND EARLY CHILDHOOD EDUCATION

Posted 12 days ago
Thank you for this. Excellent  explanation of children's behavior and how we can best support their learning.

------------------------------
Marie Bergh-Cook
Cape Fear Community College
Wilmington NC
------------------------------



25.  RE: BIOLOGY AND EARLY CHILDHOOD EDUCATION

Posted 12 days ago
Thank you Mr. Wright for reinforcing the importance of focusing assessment on positive indicators of children's thinking. An important skill early childhood educators will need to develop is to observe and document what children are thinking. This seems to be a subjective process at best. What practices do you suggest to make the assessment process as valid and effective as possible?

------------------------------
Linda Boss
Lewistown PA
------------------------------



26.  RE: BIOLOGY AND EARLY CHILDHOOD EDUCATION

Posted 12 days ago
I'm jumping in here midway and hoping my comments aren't redundant to this conversation. I think the most important thing to keep in mind when assessing children's thinking is the difference between what concrete observable evidence and the inferences we make based on that evidence. I work in early science education and am always trying to help teachers figure out children's emerging ideas about the world and how it works so they can provide ongoing experiences for children that build on or challenge their early ideas (ideas like heavy things sink, plants are not living, birds are not animals etc etc). As teachers we can obtain information from what children tell us, from their behavior, from their interactions with materials and living things, from their drawings, from their demonstrations, from "their one hundred languages". Only then can we make inferences about what they are thinking (although of course there are some developmental patterns in children's thinking). The more information we have, the more accurate our inferences are likely to be. The challenge is that in our fast-moving and busy teacher lives (and as a natural human tendency) we often make inferences about children based on too little information and rely too heavily on language as a way of getting information....and this often results in underestimating children and their thinking.

------------------------------
Cindy Hoisington
Education Development Center
Waltham MA
------------------------------



27.  RE: BIOLOGY AND EARLY CHILDHOOD EDUCATION

Posted 11 days ago
Cindy, your points about children's thinking are well taken. Developing their interest in science is not different from developing their interest in social skills. I especially like your warning about understanding what children are thinking. I'm not suggesting that we will know the thinking behind a certain behavior, just that considering what they are thinking as the cause of the behavior can lead to better solutions than just judging the child to be naughty.

------------------------------
Jack Wright
Success With Children
St. Ignatius MT
------------------------------



28.  RE: BIOLOGY AND EARLY CHILDHOOD EDUCATION

Posted 9 days ago
 
Prior to understanding children's thinking, it is of prime importance to establish a genuine, trusting relationship with the child.   We want children to feel appreciated as individuals, as opposed to being members of a group.  Children then can respond openly to the WH questions we pose, where educators can then record authentic responses that can identigy faulty reasoning and direct our scaffolding of children's learning needs.
 
CecileTousignant
Consulting,Training and Coaching in Early Education and Care
dba Child Tools Consulting (CTC)
56 BurnapSt.
Fitchburg, MA 01420
978-790-1466





29.  RE: BIOLOGY AND EARLY CHILDHOOD EDUCATION

Posted 5 days ago
Cecile, thank you for adding the relationship issue to this discussion. Relationship for child development is always individual, and crucial for successful teaching.

All: I'm surprised that no one has been upset with this biological language discussion. There were two people evaluating my presentation of this kind of thinking at the McCormick Leadership Conference who were upset with me. Biological language challenges some of our core beliefs. Finding children to never being naughty, only learning, affects our attitudes about adults. Biological language takes morality out of the description of people. It still describes whether behavior is pro- or anti-social, but it can no longer be used to describe a person. I welcome disagreement. This is new stuff. that means for me that I could be wrong.

------------------------------
Jack Wright
Success With Children
St. Ignatius MT
------------------------------



30.  RE: BIOLOGY AND EARLY CHILDHOOD EDUCATION

Posted 11 days ago
Linda, I'm glad you're interested in children's thinking. To answer your question, visiting the child's home will help a good deal with knowing what a child is thinking when they demonstrate both effective and ineffective behaviors. What is most important is just to know that all behaviors arise from a child's thinking--mostly unconscious. Thus, rather than being impatient with a child's behavior, we may find effective responses just realizing that they have learned the behavior and can learn to modify it for the better or the worse. We are, at such a time, the environment influencing the genes that determine the behavior. A common example would be noticing if a behavior appears to be impulsive: namely, something the child wouldn't have done if they had thought about it. Then an educator would work on regulating the emotion that energizes the impulse. This approach is very different, and developmental science thinks it is more effective, than trying to change the behavior directly. That's said briefly, but I would welcome further discussion of readers are interested.

------------------------------
Jack Wright
Success With Children
St. Ignatius MT
------------------------------