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Theories about How Children Develop and Learn

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    There have been many theories on how children develop and learn, some of the theorists who influence the educators of today on how to best teach children. Jean Piaget Cognitive Piaget studied the thinking and logic of children and he believed that children had different logic to adults. Piaget started his theory by observing and studying his own children and concluded that children learn and build their ideas on what they see and experience, not by what they are taught. The more the children see and gain in experience the more their schemas would change and develop as they add new information.

    This is known as constructivist theory, coming from the word to build Schemas: a child’s construction and conclusions of thoughts and ideas. Piaget believed there are 4 stages of biological development to show how the brain grows. Assimilation:Child constructs a theory Equilibrium:the schema stays the same according to their experiences to confirm their idea Disequilibrium:Child has doubts and questions their ideas and tries to work it out Accommodation: Child adjusts her thinking and schema according to the new information.

    Piaget theory proposed that children could not fast track through the stages of development and that children would go through but same order (sequence) but would reach stages at different ages depending on their rate of development. Children with disability can have difficulty progressing through the stages and may stop and not proceed any further without intervention. Cognitive age stages of development StageAgeFeature Sensori-motor0-2 Child gains control over their body and uses their enses to understands and recognises objects around them Preoperational stage 2-7Children develop their skills and begin to use language and believe that see and have the same thoughts as them Concrete operational 7-11Practical stage Children begin to use reasoning by applying rules and strategies to their thinking so we less easily deceived by appearances Formal operational11 +Children can think abstractly by multiplying and reading in their head. B. F Skinner Operant Conditioning

    Skinner’s theory was based on the work of Edward Lee Thorndike who with the results of conditioning behaviour of animals, this was called the ‘law of effect’. Skinner went on to further develop this theory by looking at the causes, consequences and reinforcement of behaviour and called his theory ‘Operant conditioning’. Skinner divided his theory into 3 types of actions, Positive, Negative and Punishments. Skinner believed that by repeating and reinforcing the required behaviour people would get desired outcome.

    Positive reinforcement, praise, stickers, this would be the most effective for learners as they would enjoy the pleasant feeling and would learn and want to keep repeating this pattern of behaviour to achieve and feel successful Negative reinforcement this would be unpleasant for the receiver, they would not like the unpleasant feeling and learn to stop the unwanted behaviour. Punishments this would stop negative behaviour to allow change and stop repeated bad behaviour quickly.

    He believed that reinforced or attention giving behaviour would be repeated and that by ignoring or not reinforcing behaviour, that would it would change and stop and that punisher would weaken and stop behaviour altogether. Albert Bandura – Social Learning Bandura’s theory was based on the belief that children learn through a process called modelling in which children learn through observing and copying from the people and the environment around them, if they are interested enough. Bandura developed this theory further by exploring the cognitive aspects of memory and the retrieval of memory.

    Children will first copy behaviour, and characteristic, positive or negative from the people nearest and influential to them, parents, siblings, friends, teachers, and animals, and from the environment around them, TV characters. Children will continue with the pattern of behaviour depending on the type of response they get. For example, if they get positive reinforcement they will continue as they are getting positive attention which in turns makes them feel good about themselves, which feeds their self esteem, ego and ‘vice versa’ for negative reinforcement. See Skinner) John B Watson Behaviourist Watson’s theory was based on the ideas of classical conditioning of Ivan Pavlov who used animals for research and believed that they could be taught anything by watching and copying others. Watson further developed the theory applying it on people’s behaviour, based on the conditioning and training of behaviour and on the belief that anyone could be taught anything as we are all born with the same abilities, disregarding feelings and emotions.

    Watson believed that we are all born with blank minds, environment determines our behaviour, and behaviour is the result of stimulus and responses. In my setting a SEN school, Watson’s theory is very evident in current practice. The school environment is children centred, it is bright, warm, colourful, stimulating and safe and celebrates achievements by displaying photos of children achievements around the school. The teaching in my class is stimulating, consistent and repetitive at the beginning of each day and each lesson.

    This is done to train, teach the children the routine of their day and what behaviour is expected of them and to safeguard them in a quick effective way. The children eventually learn to follow the expected behaviour without thinking. For example when the buzzer (stimuli) goes they know it’s the start of the day, and they are expected: 1. To line up in their groups, 2. Walk to their classes quietly 3. Take out their books ready for lesson.

    When the fire alarm (stimuli) goes off, they know they are expected to line up at the door and wait for the teacher to take them to the safety station. (4) Abraham Maslow – Humanist Maslow believed that individuals have a range of personal needs, which he prioritised into a hierarchy of needs, starting with the basic ones at the bottom of the pyramid. These, he believed, need to be satisfied first, before being able to progress to the next higher levels, in order to reach your personal potential and fulfilment.

    He believed that fulfilling the basic needs (physical) of food, warmth clothing, and shelter you would then feel emotionally ready for the next stage and so on through the stages of development: physical, emotional, social and intellectual. He believed that these stages are often disturbed through changes of personal needs and circumstances, like divorce, loss of job, home, so people will fluctuate up and down the hierarchy while striving (human motivation) to seek fulfilment and personal growth to reach the top of their potential, self- actualization.

    These factors can have severe affect on the progression of development and learning as we have seen earlier in other units. (5) Maslow hierarchy of needs In my setting Maslow’s theory is very evident in current practice. The school and staff follow government legislation in order to meet children’s individual needs for example UN convention on rights of child 1989, Child Act 2204, Childcare Act 2006, Education Act 2002, and SEN code of practice2002, DDA 1995/2005. (5) The school vision and ethos, we strive for the development of confident, motivated and independent learners in a sociable, safe and accessible environment; supported by communication and engagement between home, school and partnerships. (6) The school provides financial and parenting advice for families, breakfast club, and healthy lunches and after school clubs, transport and support from multi agency professionals working in school such as nurses, physiotherapist etc. Sigmund Freud – Psychoanalytic

    Freud’s theory was the working of the unconscious mind, thus what we say and do without the realisation of it. The unconscious mind is split into 3 areas: Id, Ego, Superego, and deals with the confliction between them. Id (it): the selfish part of the mind where it is unable to consider people’s needs, but considers only its own desires and needs. For example a newborn baby cries when he/she is hungry, no matter what time of day it is and will carry on with this behaviour, until they get what they want, or until their needs are satisfied.

    Ego (I): the developing mind as the child start to recognise and understand their actions, consequences and the environment around them and plan ways of how to get what they want and the best way to do it. The ego seeks pleasure to satisfy its needs (id) avoiding consequences of pain. The child learns that by behaving well will get positive results and rewards. For example the best way to get a sticker is to do good work. Superego (above I): further development of the mind, where the child develops a conscience and learns to reason and to distinguish right from wrong ()

    Freud believed there are five stages of 0-1yrs, 2-3yrs, 4-5yrs, 6-12yrs, 13-18yrs of childhood and that if a person did not pass through these stages in a satisfactory way, they could be become stuck and could result in a fixation, which would affect their behaviour and personality. In my setting a SEN school, Freud’s theory is very evident in current practice. I support the children by talking to them, to help them express their feelings and frustration. The school provides pastoral care, to support them through any severe emotional and sexual problems.

    PHSE lessons to help them understand the changes their bodies are going through. We have behavioural policies with rewards and sanctions used to reinforce positive behaviour. (7) Social Pedagogy Social Pedagogy is the humanist framework to support the wellbeing, happiness, learning development and growth of children. Its holistic approach looks at the children as a whole, through family, health, education, spiritual life, the children can then grow up to be well rounded individuals, who can be responsible for themselves and their actions, to able to form positive relationships and can be included into society.

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