Last week I attended a very interesting presentation at the Thompson Center, hosted by the Institute of Government and Public Affairs out of the University of Illinois. The speaker, Dr. Daryl Greenfield from the University of Miami, presented his research on science education and school readiness.
One of his assertions is that teachers of young children should focus their energy (at least partially) on domain general skills rather than domain specific skills. What are domain specific skills? These are the long list of academic skills we think children should be able to know or do by the time they reach kindergarten. Think “cutting, pasting, coloring within the lines, skipping, hopping, writing with a pen or pencil, counting by 1s, 5s and 10s, rhyming, writing letters and numbers, recognizing symbols, etc.” The list goes on and on.
For many teachers of young children, the focus on these domain specific skills provides a framework for learning. It makes sense. You present materials for gluing, and over time, with exposure and support, young children learn how to use glue appropriately.
Dr. Greenfield says that we should shift the focus to domain general skills which are a much better predictor of school readiness and ultimately academic success. What are domain general skills? These are the big foundational skills that encompass all areas and domains. These include; approaches to learning, executive functioning skills, perseverance, motivation for learning, intrinsic interest in learning, etc. The idea is that if children are strong in the domain general skills, their domain specific skills will not be a problem. However, the reverse is not necessarily true.
The child who can write his name at 3 1/2 does not necessarily have perseverance or resiliency, but the child who learns to persevere will learn what he needs to because of that larger foundational skill.
What do you think? True or false? Partially true or partially false? How do you teach domain general skills to your children?