Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Individual Differences and Learning

Individual Differences

As a developmental psychologist I know that children are born with differences.  One of the earliest differences is in temperament, recognizable shortly after birth.  As any parent or teacher will tell you, kids are individuals first and members of a “category”—sex/sexual orientation, cognitive ability, language development, social/emotional skills—secondarily.  Parents with more than one child or of twins recognize differences early on. Even in infancy, one of our twin daughters was active and spontaneous, the other quiet and thoughtful.  And I saw the same range of differences from early on in our twin granddaughters.  More recently as a Kindergarten volunteer, I have seen real differences in children across classrooms. 

We value differences in children and try to nurture their development.  I believe that excellent teachers do that too—value differences and nurture individual children.

I am concerned about particular kinds of differences—differences in privilege, opportunity, and learning.  More specifically, I am concerned about and committed to advocating for children trapped in the “achievement” gap and children born with a learning disability.  And so, in the roles of developmental psychologist, speech/language pathologist, and special education/learning “specialist,” I have focused on and will bring to this blog resources on early language, literacy and learning.  I will try to bring information and ideas from sources that advocate for these children, especially those that focus on the 3 to 3 range—3 months to 3 years to grade 3.

For me, probably due to my earliest training in elementary education and speech/language pathology, a natural starting place is language development.  I have written extensively about language development on another blog (Dialogue about Language, Literacy, and Learning), covering the 5 areas of language development: phonology, morphology, semantics, syntax, and pragmatics.  You can follow those posts, starting with: Early Language Development:
 An Overview (March 19, 2014) with information from the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association—“Hearing and Understanding and “Talking”.

Over time, the focus here will shift to literacy and, more specifically, reading because it is so central to learning and to school success and because so many of our vulnerable children are vulnerable because they cannot read “at grade level.”

Learning to use language and to read is not just about the children.  Learning involves adults who have the power to help children learn.  So the blog will also focus on teachers and parents and the role they can and sometimes do play in helping children to learn language and literacy skills.  In advocating for children and their growth we really need an ALL IN orientation.  Responsibility goes beyond parents and teachers. Others in education and the larger community also have roles to play; and I will address those roles and contributions as I find good sources and examples.

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