P E P S I
There are five distinct areas of development that form a "hands-on"
devise for understanding youth and recognizing patterns that contribute
to actions and behavior. These areas give a frame of reference for looking
at an individual and also provide a sense of continuity about normal and
predicable changes in children over time. “PEPSI” refers to the five areas
of progressive and continuous changes in the human essence that make up
a developmental perspective of growth.
Physical: Gessell, Ilg, and Ames are medical doctors who spent a life time working with children. Their research about stepwise development of physical traits, motor development and some of the social and emotional growth of children is rich and thoroughly validated. Their work is based on tens of thousands of children in the United States during this century. They wrote a number of books about the subject, and many parents learn about development through their writings.
Emotional: Erik Erikson had a psychoanalytic background. His work is based on a psycho-social viewpoint. Strengths include his deep thinking about development in adolescents and across the life span, extending the notion of human development from infancy through old age. It is difficult to separate the various facets of personality into emotional and social distinctions, so much of his work on personality development overlaps into the social realm as well. For purposes of our PEPSI screening, his theory is primary in the area of emotional development. His ideas are very complex and deep, and add an important understanding about human beings and relationship.
Philosophical: Kohlberg took the moral development work of Piaget into account in his theories about the development of moral reasoning. There is a strong component of cognitive psychology in his work. The impact of ego development in children is also part of his framework. Kohlberg, and researchers since then, agreed on one set of findings that is critical to this screening. There is a developmental process that occurs with respect to gaining moral reasoning or a philosophical perspective about life. Depending on the level of philosophical development, the way life experiences will be viewed and explained, changes through life in predicable ways that appear to be sequential.
Social: There is a mixture of theories utilized in the compilation of the social development theory. Coopersmith’s material on esteem, Loevinger’s work on ego development, Kegan’s work on individual and the ability to see viewpoints of others, social referent from Gessell and Ilg, concepts from social learning theory and Maccoby’s work with family systems are brought together. Because of the strong influence of social learning theory, information about social development seems to be more a pulling together of bits and pieces of human development. The research is far from conclusive, and there are wide variations based on cultural upbringing and the imperatives of a youth’s subculture. There is some evidence that the research is societally skewed. It is not so much evidence suggesting a racial bias, gender bias, a social class bias, a possible disparity with respect to modern cultures and “folk” or village development, but that all of these factors contribute to a person’s view of the world. These factors are also part of the people who study children and those who set up and quantify the findings. Each set of findings is “grounded” in the world view of the person looking for answers. It is even a part of what questions seem important or inform the research. In general, the findings given in this material focus on modern youth in modern cultures, and take the vantage point, that in looking at human development we see more similarities than differences.
Intellectual: Piaget and Inhelder researched intellectual development. They are not the only developers of concepts about cognition. Vygotsky, Bruner and Bloom also offer important insights into how we learn. We use Piaget’s perspective because of his constructs of assimilation and accommodation. They are a critical part of understanding how we construct meaning and how we accumulate a world view. Piaget’s initial studies of cognitive processes were conducted on his own children, but since then many of his concepts have been replicated on large numbers of children.
There is some disagreement about how a teacher can encourage or "hurry" cognitive development, how much importance to give Piaget’s ideas with respect to altering curriculum, but there appears to be little question that his ideas provide a better understanding of the cognitive domain. [Please note that PEPSI is not meant to be a comprehensive accumulation of all significant theorists. It is a didactic tool for helping teachers accumulate and utilize developmental knowledge in learning about students. It is assumed that the practitioner will bring additional information and areas of expertise to its use.]
Deepening the Understanding of the Person The average individual progresses along a continuum of development in all the categories which distinguishes him or her as a human being. “What makes us human?” --- has been a question pondered and answered and reanswered by many great thinkers, but in the end, there is always that elusive unsaid ‘something’ that distinguishes human life from all other known life forms.
There may be disagreement about the purpose of life, the value of human existence, but through observation and study of children, there is a consensus as to what is considered a normal development. In the following pages we are bringing together, in a visual summary, what is theoretically considered a pattern of normal child development. It is put together in outline and chart form as a “hands-on’ devise for better understanding the child, recognizing and accepting typical child behavior, and also as an information base. The visual representation may be an assist in screening.
The progressive and continuous changes in the human organism include the physical, the intellectual, social, ego, emotional and moral as a system of development occurring at different periods in an individual life. Five charts are included first to provide a spatial and then a linear representation and growth continuum of these areas. They are presented as “V” charts, to represent the developmental nature of growth. Growth and development is initiated at the apex of each chart and it is presumed that the student cycles around and upward with experience and age.
FIVE DEVELOPMENTAL “V” CHARTS (Click on the word to view each
chart and then use the BACK key at the top of your browser to return to
Learning about Students with the PEPSI Assessment
Creating a PEPSI
The student behavior can be compared, one age at a time, using the developmental age charts. Go through this sequence for each one of the five developmental (PEPSI) areas and then prepare an overview of the youngster's progress. A hands-on set of age charts have been provided to assist in acquiring the techniques. A sample of a PEPSI protocol follows.
Age and stage outlines are recorded on the blank PEPSI model to give
a visual representation
The following is an example of the process, shown with PEPSI charting.
The first step is to seek additional information from the parents. During the interview, which could be conducted with or without the boy, Mr. Clark will get a list of the concerns, and also ask for instances of positive behavior. He will work to get a sense of how radical the differences are between the acceptable earlier behaviors and the current concerns. It is important to rule out illnesses or any catastrophic changes in the family. It is surprising how often a parent sees an event as unimportant, while a child finds it devastating.
It may be helpful to
ask for a family history, to
inquire if either parent feels that the student is behaving as they did
as an early adolescent, and to
determine if some of the frustration is being fueled by significant others
(in this case other teachers in the middle school) who are voicing new
disapproval of the teen. Asking the parents to
keep a journal for a week may also assist in establishing current behaviors
as well as the kinds of things the parents find most egregious.
As a next step, take the list of behaviors and make comparisons with the age/stage charts. It is usually easiest to lay out the charts for the student's chronological age and the levels on either side. Thus, initially, Mr. Clark pulls out the charts (3 of them in this example) for ages twelve, early adolescence and late adolescence. As comparisons are initiated, it becomes clear that there are many areas that are uncertain or unknown.
It is impossible in an interview and an informal observation session to have enough information to make a definite decision and we do not conduct a PEPSI to form a diagnosis or label. There may be an opportunity to call the parents and discuss some of the questions which arise. The same questions might be broached with previous teacher.
Remember, however, this is an initial screening. It is a time to look for impressions, establishing a starting point, becoming familiar with one youngster rather than looking for a label or diagnosis.
Because Mr. Clark (our teacher in this example) is a caring professional, he will assist the parents in their quest for answers. As the teacher of 90 youngsters, Mr. Clark could not do this extensive work up on every child in the middle school. However, by giving the parents support and getting to know Jason better, he is developing trust and relationship. These are important elements in a service industry - and teaching is a service as well as a dedication. Mr. Clark will continue to learn about each student in the class over time. Although he will not do a PEPSI for each youth in the beginning, he will work toward accomplishing a PEPSI on students who seem to be having difficulty, as expediently as possible.
As Mr. Clark gathers data about Jason, he gets an initial sense that frequently occurs -- that many of the concerns can be addressed by assisting the parents to recognize a positive developmental occurrence. As Brazelton (1983 ) noted, there is typically a disorganization or disequilibrium that occurs to children just as they begin to take on the next level of behaviors.
This often confuses and upsets adults. After several months of coping with behavior sets, the parents or teacher feels the problems are stabilized. They know what to expect from the youth and the child has become equilibrated with the last set of new behaviors. As a new growth spurt begins there is a typical destabilization. There may be a sense of futility from care givers. Last year we worked on lying and getting homework done on time. We made great progress and he had completely stopped lying. Now, all of a sudden we're back to lying , but now he's sneaky and deceptive about it,and that's not all, he gets nasty and belligerent when he’s caught. We're further behind than when we started.
In moving into the new developmental stage, many of the consolidated skills are disrupted, almost like a regression. The disorganization is actually a step forward, signaling a new array of skills on the way, but the immediate evidence does not reassure parents and may feel like the last straw for a teacher who has been investing so much in helping a youth. Often the time right after Christmas break is very different in the classroom because many of the students moved to a different developmental level through emotional growth that occurred during the break.
Another pointer that suggests advancing development is the sudden onset or change in behavior patterns with no other precipitating factors. And, as the charting for Jason is laid out, many of the offending behaviors show up on the chart of the early adolescent. Naturally this is inconclusive. The PEPSI model was developed and is best used to assist in sorting through those things that are normal and those that are more anomalous.
Intervention may still be advisable - after all the family is expressing a sense of frustration and pain. However, it can be from a belief that health is building, a “person is becoming . . .” perspective. The milieu allows for more optimism, a little humor. . .
"It came to pass, it didn't come to stay" can be asserted in amusement;
"Well, Mr. and Mrs. Doe, unfortunately, your son Jason is acting his age."
It is certainly possible, as well as desirable, to teach parents and care givers positive ways to optimize the student's growth. It also alleviates a great deal of concern, grief and guilt - freeing up energy for better coping, if the parents can be reassured that what is happening is normal, and that a child's growth often signals that the parents are providing a good environment, since stability and security are vital links in allowing the child to move to new stages. It is helpful for the youngster, too, if the parents feel they can understand the normalcy in what the youngster does. Of course this advise belongs to educators, as well. Sometimes we need to step back and consolidate successes and see growth as fragmented and messy when we feel discouraged because our efforts and energy don't create the immediate changes we hope for, or bad days are mixed in liberally with baby steps forward.
It is possible, even likely, that the PEPSI charting will show areas which are advanced or strengths for the youth as well as areas with apparent delays. These can be developed as part of the educational plan. In this sense, it might be possible for the parent to come to the teacher for help with the child’s lying, and after the developmental charting, for the lying to become secondary and the family interaction to become the main area for work. If the PEPSI screening turns up a need for the parents to focus on improvement of relationship and communications in the family system then the teacher wisely refers the parents to appropriate community counseling and family services.
For Jason’s parents, looking at the lad's school work and report card were not good clues to the real issues or cognitive capability, and that is frequently the case when a youth is viewed as being at risk. From Mr. Clark’s perspective, Jason was no more disruptive or out of control than most youngsters of thirteen. By helping the family see that Jason is moving along a developmental continuum, Mr. Clark made a difference in Jason’s family life and probably averted esteem issues for Jason.
Most youth who create disturbances in the classroom are actually manifesting developmental delays that create a sense of frustration for the teacher and for other students. By developing PEPSI charts, it is possible to begin to see common patterns. Seeing these patterns then helps the teacher to work with the student more effectively rather than seeing the student as dysfunctional.
Students who are unusually bright, advanced in cognitive and moral reasoning ability, frequently show social and emotional delays. Having learned to work with adults, they may be lacking in good social skills with other adolescents. In other cases, having thought alone and kept to themselves, they may be missing trust or interest in peers, which looks very much like emotional immaturity. Understanding the potential for different types of advanced or delayed development assists the teacher to make sense of many student behaviors which have previously been viewed with alarm. Recognizing and being able to explain unusual behavior patterns assists in understanding, accepting and then moving the student forward in those areas of delay. No one area of delay becomes overemphasized. More gifts are valued.
Some students have permanent developmental blocks. For instance, severely mentally challenged youngsters are not just delayed, there are areas where they will never completely reach maturity. By understanding the pattern of intellectual delay that is paired with normal physical development the teacher can work with the student at the appropriate intellectual level, fully understanding the futility of expecting the 15-year-old Down’s girl, who is really more of a four-year-old, to behave as a teen, yet also recognizing how adult the child looks.
Looking at this diagram of a typical developmental array for a Down’s teen clarifies how age mates might misunderstand the mature woman body who skips down the street expressing delight, wonderment and excitement about Dorothy and the Wizard of Oz. It provides a frame of reference as teachers work with her in Mixed Chorus when she cannot remember the lyrics. It builds better understanding and acceptance for peers who sit next to her at lunch while she giggles about her twinkies and milk.
The PEPSI screening process can be learned in a brief period of time. The information base is well established, reasonably objective and well researched. The use of the information is more subjective. As the educator practices the model, reliability will increase. The ability to recognize behavior patterns will become sharper with increased familiarity with the factors and dimensions of development. The PEPSI screening tool can be useful, even during the learning process. It is vital to appropriate utilization to recognize the basic assumptions inherent in the tool.
Philosophical Understandings about Developmental Screening 1.
The PEPSI assessment model is based on an humanistic philosophy, a belief
in health and positive growth and maintains a human-centered focus.
It is essential, in reading developmental charts, to remember that human development is nearly always sequential but it is not necessarily age-specific to any individual. Thus the "norm" or general guidelines for twelve-year-olds will actually be accurate for approximately 68% of children who are twelve. The other 32% of the class will be beyond those guidelines or will not have reached them. Theoretically, with a class of 30 students and five differing areas of development, one or two students would be developmentally appropriate or "normal" across all levels and the other 28 students would probably fall above or below the guidelines in at least one area. Given this understanding of youngsters and their growth, the teacher, rather than labeling the student as abnormal, might set the goal for progress in the slower area and guide the youth to enjoy areas of strength as well. Safety, high expectations and relationship are keys to optimal growth.
Once the teacher recognizes a developmental disparity, a goal can be generated to address growth. In addition, the teacher will be able to facilitate student progress through increasing safety and structure in the classroom environment when a youngster is working to improve skills or increase levels of development. Student energy can be enhanced by showing pleasure in strengths as well as focusing on concerns. It is also useful to provide practice in missing skills which would be likely to come next, according to the indications from the charting. Again, the teacher who rewards close approximations rather than focusing on errors will be assisting the young person to develop freely at an optimal level.
The Whole Person
Review of steps in a PEPSI Screening
Assisting Student Development
In addition to ascertaining a student's PEPSI, it is important to see the child as pursuing a life journey which is developmental. Many times adults respond to childish antics with "Act your age". Generally the child is acting in an appropriate manner for the age and stage in which s/he is currently performing. The discomfort comes in the lack of understanding on the part of the adult, that the child's behavior is most often purposive and not intentionally disruptive.
Recognizing the student's developmental steps and adult responses and behaviors which facilitate development and foster better understanding. The following chart provides an overview of developmental tasks for youngsters and the adult responses which facilitate completion of the developmental work.
to add knowledge of other human factors as well to properly work with
students: The nature and personality of children, social background, biological
and psychological needs, levels of development and capacity to learn contribute
to better understanding.
To use a metaphor, medical science only progressed as the true nature of each function of the human body was studied and understood as an interplay in a complex system. Consequently that knowledge was used to improve the dynamics of treating the patient. Doctors who chose to treat one ailment in isolation often created a bigger problem for the patient's entire system. Good doctors learn to look at all of the patient's symptoms, at those things which are working well, not just at the disease. They calculate the risk of treating a small ailment with something which might permanently damage a major system. For instance, many eye ailments can be treated with the application of mercury. Unfortunately, mercury is a strong poison and even in small internalized doses it will kill a person. In a sense that old saying applies: "The operation was a success but the patient died."
The teacher looks to the whole person and works to synchronize the growth energy inherent in the student, the special gifts and talents, traits and abilities. The teacher assists the youngster to capitalize on those parts of the course of study that harmonize with the developmental tasks at hand and the idiosyncratic potentials of each student. As the expert teacher combines understanding of the student’s needs, the developmental strengths and weaknesses, the level of autonomous or heteronomous response and the learning needs and abilities, there is a deepening of ability to move the student forward, to attend to the youth as a loved one, to help the child accept personal responsibility to move forward.
Instead of engaging in power struggles or fruitless battles to get tasks accomplished, learning takes on a power of its own. The student, feeling understood, given a safe and secure environment, empowered to fully utilize intrinsic motivation, accomplishes each day what cannot be done by push and shove in a year.
The effective educator places emphasis on understanding each individual student, recognizing individual patterns of growth, and designs ways to reflect on the nature of people. By combining awareness of human development patterns and the specific patterns of individual students, s/h can be alert to ways to implement best practice in the classroom.
Bloom, B. S. (1968). Learning for mastery. Evaluation comment,
1(2). Los Angeles, CA: University of California, Center for the Study
of Evaluation of Instructional Programs.
You could move directly into an assignment that utilizes the PEPSI model now.
To do so, you would go to PEPSI observations.
You may wish to continue with your readings.
E-mail J'Anne Ellsworth
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Course developed by J'Anne Ellsworth
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