A professor from West VirginiaUniversitys Davis College of Agriculture, Forestry and Consumer Sciences has studied the effects of parentsinfluence on preschool curricula and how teachers can help parents understand how a developmentally appropriate classroom will benefit their children.

“Instead of focusing on a childs ability to be independent and work well with others, parents of children enrolled in preschool tend to be more focused on their ability to read and write,”said Barbara Warash, professor of family and consumer science and director of the WVU Child Development Laboratory, or Nursery School.”This simple fact puts a lot of pressure on preschool teachers to deviate from maintaining a developmentally appropriate classroom.”

“Developmentally inappropriate instruction for 3-5-year-olds would involve structured activities where children have to sit for long periods of time, doing things such as practicing printing on worksheets,”Warash said.”Appropriate activities for children in this age group should involve movement and choices so that the children are not all doing the same thing at the same time.”

The pressure of standardized tests and parentsurging teachers to utilize more formalized instruction have made it difficult for preschool teachers to follow a developmentally appropriate curriculum for young children, Warash explained. In West Virginia, standardized testing begins in kindergarten, causing teachers to accelerate the learning process in order for their students to know the necessary information that will appear on the test.

Warash feels formal instruction involves more attention to worksheets and less to play, an imbalance that is inconsistent with the developmentally appropriate classroom.”Parents tend to want more formal instruction, where they see worksheets and the evidence that their child is learning. This could very well have an impact on preschool curriculum,”she said.

As director of WVU s preschool for 20 years, Warash knows from experience how teachers and parents interact. She conducted a survey to achieve a better understanding of how parents of children enrolled in the preschool felt about developmentally appropriate curriculum.

Results from the survey suggest that some parents have an understanding of developmentally appropriate curriculum, while others doubt the overall effectiveness of the practice. However, many parents felt very positively towards utilizing play as an educational tool.

“The interesting finding was that it was mothers who tended to favor more formal methods of teaching,”Warash noted.

Preschool teachers should offer parents a helping hand when it comes to understanding the age-appropriate curriculum their child needs, Warash said. WVU s Nursery School offers a wide variety of opportunities to help parents become familiar and comfortable with their childrens curriculum.

“During the first parent meeting at the University preschool, parents are able to do some of the same activities that their child will be involved in as we explain what their children will be gaining academically from the activity,”Warash said. Speaking with parents individually about what their child is doing at preschool is another example of how teachers can help parents understand the importance of developmentally appropriate curriculum.

Warashs research was published recently in The Journal of Early Education and Family Review.

“In a time when young children are enrolled in numerous activities and programs, and are pressured to do more than just have fun, we as early childhood educators must be the advocate of the young child,”she said.