Developmental Interaction: Educating Early Childhood Teachers Everywhere

January 31, 2010 at 4:14 pm Leave a comment

posted by Rachel Theilheimer ’74, chair of teacher education at BMCC/CUNY

Virginia Casper (Bank Street Graduate School faculty member) and I recently wrote and edited Early Childhood Education: Learning Together, an introductory textbook for early childhood students. We had support from Bank Street’s Publications and Media division and lots of input from early childhood colleagues. McGraw-Hill published it in November 2009.

About four years ago, McGraw-Hill approached Bank Street for an introductory ECE book. Virginia and I took that as a challenge to translate the Developmental Interaction Approach into action. Of course, we defined DIA in several places. Here’s a discussion of DIA from chapter 7 of the book:

Developmental interaction as it was formulated at Bank Street reflects the beliefs that as children grow and develop, their thoughts and emotions work together and that children learn from engaging with the world. The approach informs teachers about children through a theoretical framework, rather than prescribing a particular way to teach. Democratic ideas influence the teacher’s decisions about content, practices, and the social and physical environment. Developmental interaction regards the young child as a maker of meaning who is actively engaged in making sense of the world. Teachers help children expand their understanding of themselves and their surroundings through extensive curriculum that builds on the children’s questions and concerns while teachers thoughtfully add their own questions to enrich and deepen the children’s inquiry.

Based on principles of development and interaction, school is a place to promote competence in all areas of children’s lives and help them both take charge of their learning and work with others. It is an active community connected to the social world, not an isolated place for learning lessons. This means that the school shares responsibility and power with children’s families and neighborhood institutions.

Defining DIA was tricky, because in some ways it is easier to say what it is not (prescriptive, one-size fits all, authoritarian, isolated from real life) than what it is, although it very definitely represents certain values.

The real issue for us, though, was to write a text that was not prescriptive, while holding on to values of democracy, social justice, and deep respect for children – their feelings as well as their intellects. We tried to do that by providing discussions and examples of how teachers introduce issues of social justice in their classes. We introduced discussions and examples of family partnerships and the ways in which teachers can learn about children and their cultures through relationships with families. Whenever possible, we used stories and questions that turn the reader to herself to reflect and apply the topic at hand to her own experiences and points of view.

To what degree did we succeed? What should we be thinking about as we anticipate the possibility of a second edition? We turn to the extended Bank Street community for feedback. See the book in McGraw Hill’s catalog. See an interview with Virginia and me about the book at

Rachel graduated from Bank Street in 1974 and is currently the Chair of Teacher Education at Borough of Manhattan Community College/CUNY, where she teaches early childhood courses.  As you now know, she is co-author, with Virginia Casper, of Early Childhood Education: Learning Together.

Entry filed under: dialogue, early childhood, professional development, teacher education.

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Some of Our Past Bloggers

Alisa Algava ‘08, leader of a small Hudson Valley progressive school
Gloria Arenson ’58, psychotherapist
Bill Ayers ‘84, UIC professor, Chicago
Fred Baumgarten ‘84, writer/musician/naturalist/father
Keith Berman '03, founder/president of Options for College and Bank Street’s LinkedIn moderator
David Bowles ’08 (SFC ’93), museum educator at the Rubin Museum of Art
Elena Canaras ‘07, Special Education teacher, Hawaii
Virginia Casper, Bank Street faculty member
Jim Clay ‘88, director of a Washington DC Quaker preschool
Mary DeCamp Cotterall ‘87, Reading Specialist, Michigan
Judy Coven ’77, retired public school teacher and former Antioch University faculty member
Leslie Day '93, adjunct instructor at Bank Street and author of Field Guide to the Natural World of New York City
Mary Louise (Molly) Day ‘76, Lab School teacher, Chicago
Liezel de La Isla ‘99, Prague International School teacher
Diane Trister Dodge '70, founder and president of Teaching Strategies, Inc.
Meghan Dunn ’08, 3rd grade teacher, Brooklyn
Steven Evangelista ’01, co-director Harlem Link Charter School, NYC
Janine Fetters ‘02, Senior Associate of Parent Engagement at NACCRRA
Dena Florczyk '88, middle school teacher and founder/director of The Nigerian School Project
Hollee Freeman '94, writes about parenting issues for the alumni blog and was featured on BSCAA's April 2012 Career Panel
Ellen Galinsky '70, is President and Co-Founder of Families and Work Institute and author of Mind in the Making: The Seven Essential Life Skills Every Child Needs
Joanne Ruvolo Gannett ‘84, Columbia College art history professor, Chicago
Joan Goldstein ‘67, sociologist and educator
Margot Hammond, Director of the Center for Early Childhood Professionals
Carol Hillman ‘67, early childhood educator, author, and Long Trip co-leader
Pam Jones ‘05, Bank Street advisor and instructor
Lee Klinger Lesser ‘87, trainer for the Parent Services Project
Preminda Langer ‘97, teacher trainer
Claire Milam ’97, life coach, Austin, Texas
Rabin Nickens ‘03, Speaker, Trainer and Educational Consultant
Beth Norford ‘89, consultant and former School for Children teacher
Susy Ogden ‘97
Marion Palm ‘95, Leadership in the Arts alum, writing tutor, poet and singer
Jessica Poser, assistant professor of art education at UIC, Chicago
Jesse Pugh '76, BSCAA President
Meg Rauen ‘06, former Chicago elementary school teacher, NY
Linda Reing, Bank Street Director of Alumni Relations
Rosalind Rothman '62, retired NYC teacher and guidance counselor
Kyla Ryman '92/'97, educational coach and consultant
Ariel Sacks ‘06, middle school teacher, Brooklyn, NY
Linda Appleman (Guidall) Shapiro ‘81, psychotherapist and author
Barbara Silver ‘80, literacy consultant and former NYC first grade teacher
Andrea Penny Spencer, former Associate Dean of Academic Affairs at Bank Street
Debbie Stone ‘84, former teacher/co-director of High Valley School
Rachel Theilheimer ‘74, chair of teacher education at BMCC/CUNY
Theodore Timpson ’05, founder/president of Young Spirit Foundation
Eleanor Traubman '95, is Editor in Chief of Creative Times, a blog which promotes NYC's performing, visual and literary arts
Allison Warren '08, new mom, recent grad, and early childhood teacher
Max Weinberg ‘03, Francis Parker School teacher, Chicago
Ted Wells ‘07, 4th grade teacher at The Park School, Brookline, MA
Tracy Wiessbrod ’03, kindergarten teacher and stay-at-home mom

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