There are many theories regarding how children develop. In the following tasks, you will look at how these theories relate to the children or young people you are supporting.
You will need to research the following theories of development and then write about the main points of each theory.
1. Cognitive/ constructivist (Piaget)
Jean Piaget 1896-1980, a Swiss researcher who worked from the 1920’s onwards, known for his research in developmental psychology, studied under C.G Jung and Eugen Blueler, involved in the administration of intelligence tests to children and was interested in the types of mistakes children make across various ages. Studied the reasoning process across various age groups. Theorized cognitive development proceeds in four genetically determined stages that always follow the same sequence and order – age and stage of development.
Three stages of cognitive development, thinking and learning are a process of interaction of the child with their environment, construct knowledge based on cognitive structure and experiences. Develop understanding by use of schemas – mental concepts, assimilation – make information fit, accommodation – change information to fit, equilibrium – mental balance of information. Stages – Sensorimotor 0-1.5 /2yrs, Preoperational 2-6/7yrs, concrete operations 6-12yrs, formal operations 12yrs to adulthood. Developed his own theories by watching his own children. Believed children adapt ideas when come across new information and change their original plan. For example: given milk in a beaker – they associate milk in every beaker until given water or juice in a beaker. As children develop so do their ways of thinking. Influence current practise – to develop more child-centred teaching – to work out a child’s needs and plan activities accordingly, provide more hands on relevant tasks in early years settings i.e. learn through play.
2. Psychoanalytical (Freud)
Sigmund Freud – 1856 – 1939, experiences in early childhood influence later development, assumes sexual factors are major factors even in early childhood. Personality structures ID, Ego, Superego. ID – basic instincts and pleasure seeking, part of human personality, driven by the needs of the body i.e. hunger – a baby cries to be fed but doesn’t and can’t consider those around them. Ego – To meet ID’s needs, to work out how to meet desires. Develops as the child learns behaviour may affect how needs are met. i.e. for a baby to cry but then learned to smile in situations as more likely to get their demands met. Superego – development of the conscience and moralistic which comes in later childhood, child may develop conflicting views to those of the ego, seen as punishment through guilt or if the ego is seen to behave well the superego will promote pride. Believed the human psyche is made up of two basic drives self-preservation and libido, libido being the psychic energy which drives individuals to experience sexual pleasure. Believed humans went through five stages in childhood (oral, anal, phallic, latent, genital), if the individual makes it through the five stages smoothly they then become a well-developed adult, dwell too much in one stage they then become fixated. Influence current practice – Freud’s work has not stood up to scientific scrutiny, the parts that have become useful and adapted are those that link the minds with the unconscious actions, this can be seen when a child covers their mouth when they say something they shouldn’t this can be seen as a defence mechanism, also when a toddler snatches a toy of another child as they do not realise the needs of the other child. Through Freud’s thinking of personality structures there are aspects which have been applied to mental health awareness and well-being, helped those working with children to see a link between conscious and unconscious actions.
3. Humanist (Maslow)
Abraham Maslow – 1908-1970, humanistic American psychologist who developed a theory of self-actualization, the theory centres around what individuals need to become and stay healthy. He was originally interested in behaviour and studied the work of John Watson, he acknowledged the work of Freud also especially in the presence of the unconscious mind, he differed in the way that he did not believe individuals are driven by the unconscious mind. Maintained that everyone regardless of age, race, gender, or culture have the same basic needs, knowledge of ourselves was more important. These needs then form a theory of human motivation, these needs are then interrelated in a way that they form a hierarchy or pyramid, each one then builds on the next. The most basic of needs must be met before the next can be met. The first tier of the pyramid is critical to an individual’s survival, physical needs such as health, food and sleep, this then goes onto safety and security, social needs, self-esteem and then finally self-actualisation (purpose, interests, hobbies, mental stimulation). Humanistic psychology is built on an individual own free will. Influence current practice – the above can be seen and is very relevant to child development and care, based on his hierarchy of needs a child who has not had their basic needs met for example hunger / thirst will then struggle to learn and concentrate as these must be met 1st. a solution of this is morning snack time in between lessons whilst also having drinking water freely available throughout the day, seeing a child’s most basic needs will then help them to develop, grow and learn. Schools also need to provide and promote a caring safe environment, this is in order for children to feel safe like they do in their home, a home from home surrounding.
4. Social Learning (Bandura)
Albert Bandura – 1925 to present – American psychologist a behaviourist – one that accepts the principles of conditioning, he did however state that learning takes place through observing others in their surroundings rather than it being taught or reinforced, cognition – notice activity, remember it accurately, known as social learning. Where you see a child copy or imitate the behaviours they see of others either adults or their peers they do so spontaneously and not because they are told to do so. One famous study is that of the bobo doll in 1961, this is where children were shown a film of adults beating up a doll and also shouting at it aggressively, the children were then allowed into the room with the bobo doll. They then copied and imitated the behaviours seen even though there were nurturing toys to play with the doll. This then evidenced an important break away from behaviourist theories that stipulated behaviour is directed from reinforcement or reward. Influence current practice – Children and young adults learn a lot from watching and observing behaviours of those in their social surroundings, influence on that of current practices are to be a positive role model as children will often imitate the behaviour, if aggressive or frustration is demonstrated by an adult then this will then most likely be imitated by the child, learning is acquired through observation and imitation.
5. Operant conditioning (Skinner)
Burrhus Frederick Skinner 1904-1990 – stated that learning is based on consequence following on from a particular behaviour (humans and animals alike will learn through exploring and draw their own conclusions), a process which modifies behaviour through positive and negative reinforcement. Developed his ideas from work he did with rats and pigeons (skinner box where a rat learnt to operate a lever in order to be fed) then applied his logic to children, said that breaking down tasks into smaller parts has advantages. This can be seen when we repeat those experiences we enjoy but avoid those the we do not. Became as relevant for learning as it did for behaviour. The idea being that behaviours that are reinforced are likely to continue and those that are punished will then stop. For example, a child who is praised for working well at a task will want to do the same again – skinner called this positive reinforcement. Negative reinforcement focuses on the negative choice to be changed, for instance removal of positive event, if child continues to make wrong choices the sanction is they will lose their free choice / golden time or be lowered down the good behaviour chart. Was seen to be similar to John Watson as he thought learning was gradual and continuous. Influence current practice – operant conditioning is used in everyday working with children, giving repeated praise for behaviours and choices that we wish to carry on, being a positive role model demonstrating the right behaviours and choices, rewards and sanctions. It is important for adults working with children to be consistent and follow through with rewards and sanctions in order for the above to be achieved effectively. Also can be seen in the breaking down of tasks / learning objectives are then achieved by completing smaller tasks and achieved.
6. Behaviourist (Watson)
John. B. Watson – 1878-1958 American psychologist and theorist, he believed all learning was a gradual and continuous process and that development is a sequence of specific conditional behaviours. Believed that animals and humans are born as a ‘blank canvas’ and all have the same abilities – anybody can be taught anything and it does not depend in innate ability – it comes through watching and observing others, emphasis on environment not hereditary. Observed behaviours considered to be more important over those like thinking, this is because behaviours can be observed and monitored. Believed that behaviours come from the individuals environment and then a response to it. Watson was heavily influenced by the study of Ivan Pavlov, his study into dogs who were conditioned to associate the sound of a ringing bell with food being delivered therefore salivating, then sounding the bell on numerous occasions with no food of which then the dogs began to stop salivating, he then named this ‘classical conditioning theory’. Watson discounted emotions and feelings and purely based his findings on that individuals can be taught / trained / conditioned in order to promote a response. it was Watson and Pavlov’s theories that impacted upon skinner. Influence current practice – we use these theories today by rewarding good behaviour and sanctioning negative behaviours, good behaviours are often rewarded with praise, stickers, golden time, increased privileges and others positive motivators. Negative or wrong behaviours are discouraged by the system in place i.e. move down the trophy chart, lose golden time, lose privileges, reported to those at home. Can also be demonstrated through a child copying a simple tune on a recorder.
7. Social Pedagogy.
A humanistic framework to support development. A framework which influences current practice by creating a holistic way of working with children, seeks to bring together theories and concepts from sociology, psychology and education. The child is always to be central in all aspects and involvement, socially constructed and can differ between cultures, and contexts, as well as at the time it takes place. Treating the child as a whole makes sure all of their individual needs can and are met especially those with additional needs.