Thursday, May 22, 2014

Five Domains of Development: Providing a Picture of the Whole Child

by Dr. Cynthia Dewey

As educators, we understand that how children learn is connected across multiple learning domains. For example, how children approach a learning task is connected to their cognitive development, their emotional-social development, their health and physical development, and their language development and communication skills. Observing for behaviors within these developmental domains helps us to get a more complete picture of what children know and are able to do. How well children perform in one area impacts how well they’ll perform in others, which could ultimately affect whether or not they reach their potential.

It is important to us, in the NC Office of Early Learning, to utilize Learning Domains and a whole child lens as the K-3 Formative Assessment is developed. The five domains included in the K-3 Formative Assessment are: Approaches to Learning, Cognitive Development, Emotional-Social Development, Health & Physical Development, and Language Development & Communication.  


The following examples from the NC Foundations for Early Learning and Development demonstrate what each domain might look like in K-3 classrooms.

Learning Domain
Classroom Application


Approaches to Learning


·         During a class meeting, the teacher may listen and respond to students as they share thoughts.
·         Encouraging students to think about new ideas and/or approaches.
·         Helping students to think and talk through different approaches to problems.
·         Ask probing questions to help students stay focused on task.

Emotional and 
Social Development
·         Allow students to participate in discussions related to classroom decisions and helping to establish rules and routines.
·         Read a familiar book and discuss each character’s feelings or reactions.




Cognitive Development


·         Making planning a regular part of the day.
·         Introduce a problem and encourage students to come up with as many solutions as possible.
·         Field trips to museums, galleries, plays, concerts and other cultural events.
·         Provide opportunities for students to respond through music, movement, dance, dramatic expression, and art.
·         Involve students in school and community service projects.
·         Prompt thinking and analysis by asking open-ended questions.
·         Have students use the scientific method of inquiry.



Health and 
Physical Development
·         Several periods of active physical play each day that includes child-directed play and adult-directed play, with the adult participating in the activities.
·         Students regularly use a variety of hand-held tools and objects (pencil, crayons, scissors, manipulatives, etc.).
·         Provide opportunities for students to practice self-care skills independently as they are able (open milk carton, zipping jacket, packing up book bag, etc.).
·         Practicing a fire drill and talking about the students’ responses.
Language Development and Communication
·         Model good conversational skills and encourage students to use them.
·         Provide and share fiction and non-fiction books that stimulate children’s curiosity.
·         Give students frequent opportunities to write for a variety of purposes.



Dr. Cynthia Dewey is on the NCAEE board and serves as the Director for Region 3. Cynthia recently celebrated her 10th year of service in public education in North Carolina. She is passionate about her work serving children, teachers, and families at the NC Department of Public Instruction in the Office of Early Learning. To learn more about the exciting work in the Office of Early Learning visit the wikipage. Prior to her work in NC, Cynthia served in Ohio and South Carolina as a classroom teacher, literacy specialist, district administrator, and literacy professor. Her career in education spans 27 years. You can connect with Cynthia on twitter.

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