Empathy in Infant-Aged Children: Advanced Developmentally Appropriate Course

In the Spring semester, Boulder Journey School Teacher Education Program (BJSTEP) graduate students enroll in ECED 5104: Advanced Developmentally Appropriate Curriculum (ADAC). Throughout the semester, the graduate students engage in curriculum development through action research in order to better understand learning and teaching, documentation as a form of assessment, and partnering with students around the development of a contextually meaningful curriculum. Through this process, they also encounter opportunities to make an impact beyond their classroom walls.

To read more about the ADAC course, view this post.

Join Kayla Chung, 2017-2018 BJSTEP graduate student for an exploration related to her work in the ADAC course.


My practicum experience this year is in the older infant classroom working with children ages 9-16 months. In the ADAC course, I am actively learning how a contextually-emergent curriculum is developed in close collaboration with the children, my co-teachers, my instructors, and my colleagues. The primary means of creating a contextually-emergent curriculum in the infant room is through an Action Research Project. The question I have chosen to research is:

How do relationships support the development of empathy in infant-aged children?

Within this question, there have been two sub-questions that have helped guide my thinking in the classroom with the children:

  1. How do objects/materials support the development of empathy with the infants?
  2. How do relationships within the classroom, the school, the families, and the community support the development of empathy with infants?

Before I could begin my work of implementing experiences, observing, documenting and analyzing documentation, and planning for more experiences, it was necessary for me to understand how empathy is defined and expressed by citizens of the relationship groups I was researching. I sought to understand the perspectives from the children, my co-teachers and colleagues, the families, and the community surrounding these individuals.


 

“Listening means being open to differences, recognizing the value of another’s point of view and interpretation. Thus, listening becomes not only a pedagogical strategy but also a way of thinking and looking at others.”

-Carlina Rinaldi, President, Foundation Reggio Children – Loris Malaguzzi Center

The Families’ perspectives:

I asked the families of our classroom to share their meanings of empathy and how they have seen empathy expressed by their children. I appreciate their ideas, as they have opened my eyes to the special and unique identities that are represented by each family unit. It was important for me to display their responses in the classroom to have these identities felt and known. I also felt that unity was important to represent in our classroom, and highlighted some of the common attributes that were present in all of the responses – Empathy is:

Reflection Understanding See & Feel Care Connect

Each infant joined the classroom with their individual history of experiences and ways of understanding the world, especially within the social realm of relationships. In understanding how the families in our classroom see and experience empathy, I am better equipped to understand how their perceptions have shaped their children’s ideas and actions related to empathy. Just as each infant is learning and being shaped by their experiences with the many relationships they have now, they are gaining the necessary foundation for who they will become later.


I hope that you will continue down this journey with me, and I look forward to sharing more with you about the discoveries I am making with the children, families, co-teachers/colleagues, and the global community.

Please feel free to reach out through the comments section below this post, as well as sharing your own definitions and ways you’ve seen empathy expressed!

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