Hi! I’m Tiffany Berry, a Research Associate Professor in developmental psychology and practicing program evaluator at Claremont Graduate University’s Institute of Organizational and Program Evaluation Research (IOPER). I evaluate a variety of educational institutions, including schools, after school programs, districts, county offices of education, and textbook publishers, among others. Throughout my evaluations, I have consistently used principles in developmental psychology to inform my evaluation practice. I’d like to share a few of these principles with other evaluators, particularly those working in PreK-12 arenas.
Hot Tip: At the heart of these principles lies the notion of the “whole child”, a perspective that (1) emphasizes youth are embedded in multiple contexts (home, school, classrooms, etc.), (2) promotes measurement equality across developmental domains (social-emotional, cognitive, physical), and (3) recognizes that developmental tasks and milestones change across age.
Principle 1: Context. Urie Bronfenbrenner was the most influential theorist who promoted understanding of how youth develop in context. His bioecological systems theory includes five systems that range from individual face-to-face interactions (teacher–student) to contexts where the child is indirectly affected (e.g., parent’s workplace) to the cultural and belief systems that are embedded in our society (e.g., rituals, religion). Understanding the developmental context in which educational outcomes emerge will improve the specificity of our measurement and understanding of program effectiveness.
Principle 2: Domains. Development occurs across multiple domains – cognitive, social-emotional, and physical. These domains combine in an integrated fashion to yield the living, growing child. They are inter-related; each domain influences and is influenced by others. Children may demonstrate large growth in one domain, but not another. It is imperative to think broadly about domains, particularly in educational contexts when the emphasis is on cognitive domains. Without recognizing growth in social development (e.g., self-regulation skills) influences cognitive outcomes, we fail to capture a complete picture of children’s development.
Principle 3: Age-related changes. The constellation of contexts and domains changes across time. At each age, children must reach milestones for development to unfold successfully. Attachment in early childhood or a healthy sense of autonomy in adolescence are two examples of important developmental milestones. Educational outcomes are influenced by the extent to which programs and educational institutions align with what children need at particular ages.
Rad Resources: A good introductory text on Child Development is Lightfoot, C., Cole, M., Cole, S.R. (2009). The Development of Children, 6th Edition. New York: Worth Publishers, Inc. For information related to cognitive development, see Siegler, R.S. & Alibali, M.W. (2005). Children’s Thinking, 4th Edition. New Jersey: Pearson. For social development, see Shaeffer, R. S. & Alibali, M.W. (2009). Social and Personality Development, 6th Edition. Belmont: Wadsworth, Cengage Learning.
The American Evaluation Association is Educational Evaluation Week with our colleagues in the PreK-12 Educational Evaluation AEA Topical Interest Group. The contributions all this week to aea365 come from our EdEval TIG members. Do you have questions, concerns, kudos, or content to extend this aea365 contribution? Please add them in the comments section for this post on the aea365 webpage so that we may enrich our community of practice. Would you like to submit an aea365 Tip? Please send a note of interest to firstname.lastname@example.org. aea365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators.