THEORY: DAP Developmentally Appropriate Practice (Part 3): The Affective Domain

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The affective domain is one of the three domains in Bloom’s Taxonomy (the other two being cognitive and psychomotor) which looks at attitudes, motivation, willingness to participate, appreciation, enthusiasms, valuing what is being learned; the emotional or feelings domain.

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As educators, we spend a fair part of our day supporting our learners with their affective development. We comfort young children when their parents leave; we offer genuine praise to children when they have worked carefully through a challenging maths problem; we support children by providing an oral script to assist them to enter a play group of their peers. I have heard some teachers pronounce that this is not part of their job, that they are not babysitters or counsellors. But these educators fail to recognise the importance of establishing warm and supportive class environments which help to facilitate emotional health and resilience in young children. John Hattie found that these relationships and components were influential (some very highly) in student learning outcomes and achievements (Results of over 0.4 indicate a better than average response). For example:

Teacher-student relationships 0.72

Classroom behaviour 0.8

Concentration/persistence/engagement 0.48

Motivation 0.48.

As educators we MUST see it as part of our job to actively build components into the everyday curriculum that promote children’s growth in managing intense feelings and emotions, understanding others’ feelings, becoming self-aware, making personal decisions, and handling stress (Kostelnik, M. J., Soderman, A. K., & Whiren, A. P. (2014). Developmentally appropriate curriculum: Best practices early childhood education.). Children’s emotional development is complex and affects whether children learn to communicate with others well, are able to be insightful and assertive, affects their self-acceptance, and supports them in taking personal responsibility (Lantieri, 2008).

Emergence of the emotional self

Erik Erikson described the stages that emerge in the early years, from birth to age 12. Seeing human development on a continuum characterised by opposite emotional poles in each of the stages. Children are most successful when their overall affective development falls towards the positive pole.

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From – adapted from:

Children younger than 10 years old, therefore, are generally unable to associate the source of their emotions with what happens in their minds. So that they would be unaware of subtle clues from others when their behaviour is inappropriate . How key adults reposed to their negative emotions is an important response for children and can lead to children doubting themselves and becoming disconnected form their emotions. It is also an important job for teachers to support children in developing their ability to be empathetic of others, which is a critical component of emotional development.


Self-awareness and sense of competence

At school there are forces that result in children building internal pictures of themselves, we need support them to create pictures where they are capable and valued, not inept and unimportant. Whilst this concept of oneself changes throughout a lifetime, the foundations become fixed from as early as 8 or 9 years old. Their own perceptions of themselves: intellectually, physically and emotionally etc, – Slef -esteem. These perceptions evolve from the daily interactions that children have with others, the demands that placed on them and the resulting emotions from experiences. As children spend a great deal of their day at school, school plays an important part in this development. High self-esteem comes from:

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From: Kostelnik, M. J., Soderman, A. K., & Whiren, A. P. (2014). Developmentally appropriate curriculum: Best practices early childhood education (5th ed.). Essex: Pearson Education Limited.


Concepts of Emotional Intelligence

Research and common sense has found that helping young people develop good social and emotional skills early in life, supports their long-term emotional health and well-being. See Daniel Goleman, (1997) Emotional Intelligence, who suggests that children are less equipped to communicate effectively with others if they have not had the opportunities to form concrete skills that identify and manage their emotions.

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When might might we need to do more?

When coping with stressors, children use similar sorts of strategies that we as adults use. For example, denial, regression, withdrawal, impulsive acting out. These can be seen as clear-cut signs that children might need additional support to cope with stressors. Additional signals are:

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It is then important to evaluate whether the child is emotionally healthy and are they are to function in a healthy manner. There are lists that are available for this (See: Hendrick and Weissman, 2009), however, comparing the child against the cohort and your experiences of other children at this age, talking to colleagues and even health-care professionals, will help you to evaluate if further intervention is needed.

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How educators can support their learners

1). promote children’s emotional awareness and sense of worth

2). help children express their emotions to others and to assert themselves appropriately

3). use literature to expose children to characters who respond to emotions in a variety of ways and discuss these

4). provide empathy for children’s fears and concerns

5). examine your own emotional reactions and be a model to your children about how to problem solve when you are under pressure

6). help children develop a greater self-understanding

7). plan activities where children can explore their physical and social qualities

8). document children’s progress

9). when helping children modify their behaviour, be patient, firm and objective

10). promote children’s ability to meet age-appropriate expectations for self-discipline

11). set effective limited with clearly defined expectations

12). never ignore difficult behaviour or problems such as lying, stealing or cruelty to self or others

13). create an emotionally supportive and low-stress environment

14). enhance children’s growing sense of autonomy and initiative by giving them frequent opportunities to make choices and decisions

15). challenge children using scaffolding techniques, to perform tasks slightly beyond what they can do easily on their own

16). help children to be reflective and evaluate their accomplishments

17). make it easy for children to use materials and equipment independently



Educators needs to guide their learners towards more fully integrated interpersonal and interperonsal strengths. Make it a focus in your classroom and work with families and the community before and whilst children are part of your school.


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