Harvard Educational Review
  1. Making Sense of Developmentally and Culturally Appropriate Practice (DCAP) in Early Childhood Education

    By Eunsook Hyun

    New York: Peter Lang, 1998. 192 pp. $29.95.

    As teachers and educators approach the new millennium, we are urged to change our approaches to educating a diverse spectrum of young children. In response to this growing expectation, Eunsook Hyun contributes to this important movement with her book, Making Sense of Developmentally and Culturally Appropriate Practice (DCAP) in Early Childhood Education. In this book, which reports the results of her study of prospective early childhood teachers, Hyun provides a process by which teacher educators can conceptualize developmentally and culturally appropriate practice in the education of early childhood teachers. The goal is to bring awareness to diversity in the form of students’ races, genders, ethnicities, sexual orientations, and religions. In addition, Hyun supports the idea that teachers teach and learn in environments that require in-depth reflection of their own lives and values. She argues that having a personal understanding of our own biases is an important step toward truly legitimizing developmentally and culturally appropriate practice in the education of young children.

    Hyun cautions that educators have advocated multicultural education without grappling with the multiple ways in which they define and actualize this in educational practice and philosophy. To include preservice teachers among those educators who have bypassed this important step, she writes, “Most multicultural educators and researchers agree that to function cross-culturally and to ensure an education that values diversity and multiple/multiethnic perspectives, prospective teachers must be helped to reflect on and examine their own cultural identity and values” (p. 31). Hyun proposes that teacher educators should encourage prospective teachers to focus on their own definitions and understandings through writing their autobiographies.

    To illustrate her ideas and demonstrate them in practice, Hyun provides the reader with a well-organized description of how she conceptualized a process by which teacher educators can enhance the teacher education process. This process, outlined chapter by chapter, includes ways that preservice teachers can think more deeply about their own practice. For example, she begins the book with an overview of her understanding of “What Is Appropriate Practice” (ch. 1). In this chapter, Hyun provides a thorough review of the existing literature that deals with cultural considerations in classroom learning and teaching. She cites various researchers who, in the study of multicultural education, have called our attention to the influences of culture on learning. She adds to this literature by arguing that developmentally and culturally appropriate education should be experienced by all children and that all children, not only children of color, should experience an anti-biased curriculum.

    In chapter two, “Culture and Development in Children’s Play,” Hyun discusses the inherent links between play and culture by presenting cross-cultural perspectives. She finds in her review that play is culturally grounded, that is, it influences development and cultural learning. While play may be seen as supplemental to the classroom, it is important for teachers to realize that play has been demonstrated to influence how children see and understand the world around them. Hyun believes that if teachers were able to clearly identify “emerging cultures” found in children’s play, “it would allow early childhood practitioners to interact with children in culturally relevant and congruent modes” (p. 21). At the heart of this book lies the argument that teachers need to foster ways in which they can develop the ability to have a multiethnic perspective.

    In chapter three, “An Autobiographical Approach toward Developing Multiple and Multiethnic Perspective-Taking Abilities,” Hyun introduces autobiography as a way for teachers to begin to articulate their multiethnic perspective-taking. She states, “The autobiographical approach with field-based teacher preparation courses creates room for prospective teachers to experience and develop multiple and multiethnic perspective-taking in relation to their growing sense of critical pedagogy” (p. 41). In the process of reflecting on and writing about their experiences, prospective early childhood teachers can explore how they develop an understanding of diverse cultures and how this understanding relates to their teaching. Hyun further suggests that this approach might be used together with practitioner internships and coursework in teacher education programs. In addition to the writing of their autobiographies, teacher educators are encouraged to provide theory to support their beliefs that prospective teachers should engage in such reflections. In chapter four, Hyun cautions teacher educators about teaching about ethnic characteristics. She warns educators to use their knowledge about specific ethnic cultures “extremely carefully so as not to make any assumptions about cultural characteristics in a way that would negatively influence a truly pluralistic society” (p. 68). Also in this chapter, Hyun suggests ways in which teachers can add to their own growing understandings of cultural diversity by observation and interaction with families of diverse cultural backgrounds. Important in all of this is the critical feedback provided through supervision of teacher educators that is addressed in chapter five.

    In chapters six and seven, Hyun reports how she introduced prospective teachers to Developmentally and Culturally Appropriate Practice (DCAP) teaching approaches. Using a social phenomenological approach, Hyun explores how teachers construct and reconstruct their understandings of their world. First, she provides a thorough description of the methods by which she helps teachers make sense of DCAP. Then she presents the cases of two preservice teachers, Ana and Carrie, who participated in the study and explored their practice as it relates to DCAP. Into these Hyun weaves the existing research on this topic that corroborates her findings.

    Making Sense of Developmentally and Culturally Appropriate Practice (DCAP) in Early Childhood Education is an important book for those interested in diversifying their instructional approaches. It highlights the importance of teachers’ reflecting on their practice and the effect of cultural influences on educational practice. While Hyun states that this is a book for both students and teachers of early childhood education, I believe teachers at other educational levels can benefit from this work as well. It makes a strong case for DCAP as it documents the process by which teachers come to understand, in their terms, what DCAP means to them and to their practice.

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