Developmental Learning Factors
Developmental learning factors help show the steps that each child goes through as they develop. Each stage or path takes different amounts of time for each child. However, the fact that the steps are sequential helps determine the needs and challenges for each child. Ideally teachers will provide instruction in the "challenge" region for each child. Vygotsky calls this region the "zone of proximal development. It is the level of at which the best learning occurs.
In the early elementary grades that challenge region can vary immensely within a classroom. An adept teacher may be able to challenge the upper level and mid level students. But due to the outside pressures of the SOL and other standardized tests, they are often forced to present material above the challenge level and faster than the lower students can absorb. If a student has not yet reached a certain developmental level, they cannot master material that requires that skill. They must be allowed to work at and master the concepts appropriate for their developmental level to be successful. This is most important in the early elementary years when students are not only learning cognitive skills but also learning about schooling and how school works. The outside forces which push teachers and students on an external arbitrary timeframe create negative stress and build in many children an unnecessary dislike for school and a sense of failure in themselves.