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Student Observation 2 (Child Development)

What We Saw

During music time, three children including three-year-old Charlie immediately ran over to the only piano in the classroom. The teacher then explained to the three children, “We have to take turns, because everyone wants to have a turn at the piano. Let’s wait patiently so all our friends can have a turn.” Charlie immediately began looking around and then picked up a small maraca. With the maraca in his hand, he walked over to a mat and laid down. He shook the maraca a few times, looked over at the piano and then looked back at the maraca. After doing this several times, he started humming to himself while shaking the maraca.

What It Means

During music time, Charlie was able to avoid frustration by substituting a new goal for himself with the maraca instead of the piano. Substituting a new goal means that a child is able to pick another activity that they enjoy in place of the first and be comfortable with doing that activity instead. By using this impulse control technique, Charlie was able to focus his attention on the maraca and distract himself from the piano. At one point, he even hummed to himself and moved further away to regulate his emotions more easily. The ability of children to self-regulate emotions is an early predictor of their ability to calm themselves without acting out (frustration tolerance), to be less impulsive in years to come, and to do better in their future schooling.

Student Observation #1 is exemplary in several ways. It used a course concept with precision, defining it and even listing the four steps we use in teaching it. It linked the concept to the specifics of the observation and provided its own example of how the parent might have used the parenting skill. In the final sentence, it also explained the developmental significance of the concept. Finally, the writing was admirably succinct, with no unnecessary words. The second student observation is even more succinct (the student cut its length almost in half while revising the first draft).

At the end of the semester, each student packages several of their observations into a newsletter for the programs at which they observed, written in an informative and entertaining style that the program can distribute to its participants. The programs really appreciate these, and do actually copy and distribute them. The students understand that they have produced something of value, which they could use as a work sample when applying for jobs.

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