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Arnold Gesell and The Maturational Development

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Douglas Bell

on 27 August 2014

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Transcript of Arnold Gesell and The Maturational Development

Arnold Gesell and The Maturational (Nativist) Development Theory
Big Idea: Order & Predictability
Development is orderly, sequential, and predictable, and builds on earlier learning/skills
Gesell did hundreds and hundreds of hours carefully observing children's behavior
he noticed that there are sequences to development
he also stated that by observing the current skills, if you know the patterns of development, you will be able to predict what comes next.
these skills are calle milestones
milestones are skills or behaviors exhibited at certain points of the developmental continuum that let us know children are developing typically
the majority of these milestones were in the
physical development domain
Gordan, A. & Browne, K. (2014). Beginnings and Beyond: Foundations in Early Childhood Education, 9th ed. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth Cengage
Thelen, E. & Adolph, K. (1992). Arnold Gesell: The Paradox of Nature and Nurture. Developmental Psychology, 28, 3, 368-380.
Basic Introduction to Child Development Theories. Retrieved online from http://lrrpublic.cli.det.nsw.edu.au/lrrSecure/Sites/LRRView/7401/documents/theories_outline.pdf
Big Idea: Cycles of Equilibrium & Disequilibrium
children go through cycles of balance and transition called equilibrium and disequilibrium
the equilibrium cycles are easier to deal with than the disequilibrium cycles
parents and teachers can tell themselves "It's just a phase and it will pass" during the disequilibrium cycles
What it Looks Like in the Classroom
Teachers use play and child choice as a part of the learning environment
This is demonstrated through the use of centers or choiceboards
The teacher also provides a variety of activities through which the child can demonstrate his/her knowledge about a topic. This way the child's abilities and strengths can be utilized while showing what is known
The teacher uses careful observation of the child to be knowledgeable about where they are developmentally
teachers use many open ended materials so child level is automatically able to be implemented
teachers allow children to work on skills at their own pace whenever possible and avoid pushing children beyond their level
Maturational (Nativist) Theory Big Idea: Blooming Development
Development Blooms like a flower
child development unfolds much like a flower blooming
forcing the flower to unfold on your timetable damages the flower
allowing the flower to unfold on its own timetable and the flower is healthy and beautiful
How this Applies to the Classroom
teachers use observation and recording of child behavior
teachers periodically developmentally screen their children to identify possibility of delay
teachers plan experiences for their children that will support the strengths and abilties the children have exhibited
teachers carefully consider previous and follow up skills so that the scope and sequence of the curriculum builds on earlier learning
Example: the teacher puts out two piece puzzles during the first week of school, and 3-4 piece puzzles, the following two weeks before using mostly 6-8 piece puzzles.
More on Milestones
Gesell believed that children have a normed pattern of developmental milestones
He developed normed schedules of milestones that are used today
He observed and documented milestones in the areas of: motor, adaptive, language and personal-social
the patterns of the development and milestones are fixed sequences
the milestone patterns unfold naturally as a result of our unique biological makeup
the sequences are the same for all regardless of race or culture (some critics do not agree with this proponent)
Brief Biography
Presentation by Dr. Douglas Bell
watch this story being read (it illustrates this concept
Big Idea: Nature & Nurture
Gesell believed that environment had an influence on development but biology (nature) was the biggest influence
Biological forces provide the momentum for change to occur
Each child's unique genetic and biological makeup determines the rate of development
The environment should be changed and adapted to meet the individual genetic/biological prearranged timetables
2, 5, 10 and 16: Rejoice in the smoothness. Yeah!
2 1/2 , 5 1/2 to 6 and 11: Expect some rough patches and be ready to pick your battles as things “break up.” Don’t take it personally.
3, 6 1/2 and 12 : Embrace the rounded and balanced feel. Life is good.
3 1/2, 7, 13, and 15: Give them extra space and quite assurance at when they are “inwardized” and focused on themselves and their skills. For better or for worse, you’ll all survive.
4, 8, and 14: Provide the physical space and opportunities for activity when they are vigorous and expansive. Expect messes, literally and figuratively.
4 1/2, 9, and 15: Be patient and supportive at these more troubled phases when they can be both inwardized and outwardized and trying to sort it out. Count your blessings, stay strong.
Understanding Your Child Handout (go to link below for printable verision)

Born in Alma, Wisconsin

Strong proponent of “maturational” perspective of child development


Gesell received a doctorate in psychology in 1906 from Clark University. In 1911, he began a faculty position in education at Yale University.

Worked toward a doctorate in medicine, which he earned in 1915.

At Yale, he established and directed the Clinic of Child Development, where children’s achievements in terms of physical and psychological development were observed and measured.

Watch this video made by Dr. Gesell
(25 minutes long)
What this Looks Like in the Classroom
Teachers have more patience when a child is going through a cycle of disequilibrium
Children are given opportunities to correct behavior
Teacher guides behavior rather than punishes
Full transcript