High-quality instruction, especially for at-risk children, is what matters in early education (Brown, 2010; Chien et al., 2010; Goldstein et al, 2013; Howes et al., 2008; Reynolds et al., 2014). Developmentally appropriate practice (DAP) is identified in research as a feature of high-quality instruction and best practice in early education (Squires, Pribble, Chen, & Pomés, 2013). Using transcendental phenomenology, this study identified the beliefs and practices of early education teachers in Minnesota school-based PreK-4 programs and their alignment to DAP principles, guidelines, and teaching strategies as defined by the National Association for the Education of Young Children (2009). By investigating the lived experiences of nine, highly-skilled early childhood teachers of prek-4 students, the research explored their beliefs and practices, specifically looking at teacher selection and implementation of instructional strategies in relation to DAP. It further explored the elements which contribute to teachers’ success and/or barriers to implementation of DAP. Data was gathered through interviews of the participants. Data analysis and report of the findings was done through a process called transcendental phenomenological reduction (Moustakas, 1994). This process resulted in the identification of themes that were summarized in a textural and structural description of the teachers’ experiences. The findings indicated that the teachers have strong beliefs of DAP and are confident in their ability to provide DAP aligned instructional practices. The teachers reported that barriers such as time, assessment, and meeting the differentiated learning needs of students, impact their ability to implement DAP. They reported that supportive supervisors, colleagues, having an open-mindset, and reflective practices serve as drivers of successful DAP implementation. The ability to balance the expectations of the setting while maintaining flexibility to meet the learning needs of students is key to successful DAP implementation.
Date of Degree
Doctor of Education (EdD)
Ritter, J.R. (2019). A phenomenological study of the implementation of developmentally appropriate practices of highly-skilled teachers in school-based, early education settings [Doctoral dissertation, Minnesota State University, Mankato]. Cornerstone: A Collection of Scholarly and Creative Works for Minnesota State University, Mankato. https://cornerstone.lib.mnsu.edu/etds/954/
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