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Healthy Risk?
Developmental Psychology
I had the privilege of sitting in on a Development Psychology course late last week during which the class observed Adam Jones' baby twin boys as part of their lesson.

The two psychology classes offered this term have begun the term investigating the social and physical development in infants, comparing observations with the study of various theories that have evolved over time.

The class' reading assignment the night prior to my observation noted that when babies are born, they have some fundamental capacities. While much prior research declared babies were either a blank slate or miniature adults, students sought to find a balance between the two extremes.

Adam's discussion led students to explore the idea that foundational social skills have evolved out of the ability of infants to read others' body language. The following short video illustrates both our students engagement with the content and the simple fact that having two babies visit a class commands an audience. Adam illustrates the concept of object permanence and while his boys did not quite grasp the idea that if an object leaves their line of vision, it still exists, in a few short months, they will.

Later in the period, Adam discussed the notion that babies are born with unconscious assumptions about how the world works. As humans develop, however, they develop conscious beliefs that can clash with these assumptions. Watching development closely will reveal moments of confusion when they try to reconcile their beliefs with their prior assumptions.

The class ended with a discussion of the term maturation - a recurring theme throughout the term. Students identified maturation to mean 'the development of an individual along a certain time frame,' that there is a sequence to growth and development that must occur in a given order.

While the Developmental Psychology course is currently studying the maturation milestones of infants, their curriculum will soon bring them to discussions surrounding their own development as adolescents. For our population of just over 350 teenagers, each individual finds themselves at a different point in their own developmental process.

Self-study can be a painful process where areas are explored that you would rather leave untouched. However, it can also be an incredibly powerful experience, when we each wrestle with that clash between conscious beliefs and prior assumptions.

The most current developmental research has proven that while innate abilities and tendencies are present in infants, it is mostly experience that teaches them. As students move into an exploration of their own development later in the term, understanding the experiences that have shaped their own lives to date, as well as recognizing the opportunity for future experiences, will be an important part of the learning process.

For a school that has shaped its academic curriculum to emphasize exploration and experiential learning, it behooves us to continually look at how we can best shape the experiences of our students. How effective are our teaching styles? Our course offerings? Our class sizes? Our balance of rigor and support?

A willingness to consistently engage in self-reflection as an institution will ensure we are best serving our students, while offering courses that engage students in this process will result in similar transformations academically.
This group from the Class of 2013 (prior to heading out on their Orientation) is now beginning their college search process and taking upper level courses.
This group of 9th graders from 2008 is now preparing to graduate in a few short months.
See any familiar faces from the picture above?
Tucker and Myles have grown up a bit since this picture was captured during their ninth grade year!
Ben's academic journey has been filled with adventures, while his work in the classroom has evolved tremendously during his four years at Proctor.
The same with Nicole and Rosie, both have taken full advantage of the academic opportunities presented them.
Peter's experiences on Mountain Classroom last spring broadened his academic perspective, while his AP courses this year have him geared up for college next year.
These ninth graders are excited about what the next four years will hold for them and it is our responsibility as a school to ensure the experiences to which they are exposed transform their educational journey.