Friday, March 21, 2014

Dispositions for Learning in Young Children

A disposition can be described as a habitual inclination or tendency. As it relates to learning, one might think about a child's inclination to learn or attitude toward learning. Lilian Katz, Ph.D., an international leader in early childhood education visited DCM in 2009. This column includes some of the valuable insight Katz shared regarding the impact dispositions toward learning can have on young children. 

Impact of Dispositions on Learning 
Katz defines dispositions as “habits of mind or habits of intention.” Katz states that dispositions are different than knowledge/understanding or skills and can have an impact on learning. The acquisition of knowledge and skills alone does not guarantee that they will be used and applied (Katz, 2009). Katz further describes that a child may acquire reading skills, yet if her disposition to read is damaged, reading may become an area of struggle. “Dispositions cannot be learned from instruction. Dispositions can become damaged by instruction if too early or formal,” says Katz.

Developing the Innate Dispositions That Support Learning – 
Curiosity, Creativity, and More
According to Katz, the younger the child, the more important it is to strengthen dispositions. She suggests that it is useful to distinguish between academic and intellectual dispositions. While academic means specific bits of information, intellectual points to the process behind thinking, reasoning, and understanding.

Intellectual dispositions include the desire to analyze, theorize, be curious, and be creative. To strengthen these dispositions, Katz suggests asking open-ended, thought-provoking questions, such as What do you want to find out? Why? and How do you...? In addition, adult modeling can play an important role. Katz states, “Many dispositions are learned from being around people who have observed dispositions and who make their dispositions observable.”

This article also published in Positively Naperville--a local, reader supported, monthly newspaper published in Naperville, Illinois. Positively Naperville has been supported by a great group of local businesses, organically growing four pages at a time since it was first printed issue in September 2001.

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