THEORY: DAP Developmentally Appropriate Practice (Part 6): The Social Domain

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In today’s society we can see technology has made it so that some people spend less time socialising with others and instead engaging in solitary activities, so that their social skills are not practised. What would society be like in the future if we no longer needed to interact with others?

From birth through to 8 years old, children are discovering how to establish and maintain relationships with others. As time passes, they are also exploring their contributions to the well-being of the social

communities in which they participate. What would happen if as educators we ignored or did not cater adequately for these needs?

This chapter discusses the importance of educational institutions catering for their students social development needs. It discusses the 4 essential facets of children’s development and education that are interconnected whilst also being important on an individual level.

  • social skills (learning to interact with one another) – social competence,
  • socialisation (learning tlevalues, beliefs, customs and rules of society)
  • social responsibility (developing respect for individual differences and functioning as contributing members of their community)
  • social studies (exploration of people’s interactions in and with their social and physical environments, past and present)

One way that teachers address these components by establishing a community within the learning environment so that their students can learn these through authentic situations as well as through planned interventions. Some say that the classroom functions as a “human relations laboratory” for the children to experience interactions and situations within. The learning space is a highly-valuable tool for educators to utilise, especially with the younger years, but not exclusively.

Think about: What does the sense of community in your learning space unconcsciously tell the children about what you deem to be value and important skills to learn? What is the ‘operational’ curriculum (McGee, 1997) that your students are studying, often unintentionally? 

The need for human association is basic and until this essential need has been met, children are unable to move into the realms of other areas of learning, e.g. academic, cognitive. This emphasises the need for educators to spend some instructional time of social development as it “is not simply “icing on the cake” but an essential ingredient for learning of all kinds.” (Kostelnik, Sideman & Whiren, 2013, p.292).

There are 3 aspects that are considered to be critical to children’s social development as they directly affect their lives in early education: their relationships with their peers; their relationships with adults; and being able to appreciate diversity and respond as a member of a community. As educators we need to be aware of the negative impacts that  disharmonious relations can on children’s abilities to concentrate and hence, their academic achievement. Supporting our students to become more successful with their friendship strategies should be a goal of all teachers. Friends provide us with stimulation, assistance, companionship, social comparison, affection and a sense of belong, as well as giving children an arena to explore themselves and their abilities to take on different roles in society. We seek quality friendships rather than worry about quantity, but should also remember that some people seek a wide range of friendships rather than one “bestie”.

Whilst I have already embedded this TEDtalk on other posts, I really think it is worth viewing. Dr Peter Gray discusses the decline of play in children and the detrimental effects that it has on children’s development. After seeing first hand the need for children to feel safe and be able to play in order ease any anxieties after natural disasters such as the Christchurch earthquake, I think it a very important lesson for educators.

See: McGee, C. (1997). Teachers and curriculum decision-making. Palmerston Nother: Dunmore Press – for an introduction to conceptualising curriculum.




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