2.3 Explain how theories of development and framework to support development influence current practice. In this work I will refer to the main group of psychologists that are associated with child development and their consequent impact on the way we care for and teach our children. It is clearly a vast subject, but I hope to identify the most important theories and show how they are implemented in order to provide each child with the greatest chance of reaching their potential. Psychologists have spent whole lifetimes studying how we develop socially and emotionally. Some of the key theories are described below. Psychodynamic Theories Psychodynamic theories of personality are strongly influenced by the work of Sigmund Freud, and emphasise the influence of the unconscious mind and sometimes forgotten childhood experiences on personality. Psychodynamic theories include Sigmund Freud’s psychosexual stage theory and Erik Erikson’s stages of psychosocial development. Sigmund Freud believed the three components of personality were the id, the ego, and the superego.
The id is responsible for all needs and urges, while the superego for ideals and moral. The ego then moderates between the demands of the id, the superego, and reality in order to produce a satisfactory conclusion or compromise. Erik Erikson discusses psychosocial stages, and believed that personality progressed through a series of stages, with certain conflicts arising at each stage. Success in any stage depended upon successfully overcoming these conflicts He placed importance on the role of culture and society and the conflicts that can take place within the ego itself, whereas Freud emphasised the conflict between the id and the superego.
According to Erikson, the ego develops as it successfully resolves difficulties of a specifically social nature. This involves establishing trust in others, developing a sense of your own identity within society, and helping children prepare themselves for their future. Erikson furthers Freudian ideas by focusing on the ego as ever-changing and creative, and he believed that the stages of personality development continued throughout our lifespan. Behavioural Theories These suggest that personality is a result of interaction between the individual and the environment.
Behavioural theorists study observable and measurable behaviour, and reject theories that take internal thoughts and feelings into account. B.F.Skinner Skinner believed that children learn through experience or conditioning. He coined the term ‘operant conditioning’, meaning simply changing behaviour by the use of reinforcement which is given after the desired response. Neutral operants are responses from the environment that neither increase nor decrease the probability of a behaviour being repeated. Reinforcers are either positive or negative responses from the environment that will increase the probability of that behaviour being repeated. Punishers are responses from the environment that decrease the likelihood of a behaviour being repeated. The punishment weakens the behaviour.
As children we constantly try out different behaviours, and learnt from their consequences, sometimes the hard way! Positive rewards/reinforcements for good behaviour are the basis of many behaviour management techniques. Albert Bandura Bandura developed the idea of ‘modelling’ or social learning, based on the idea that children will instinctively copy the adults around them. Bandura’s experiment where children watched a film of adults hitting dolls suggests that children learn social behaviour such as aggression through the process of observation learning, i.e. by observing the behaviour of another person. This study has important implications for the effects of media violence on children, in that the learned aggression was seen as acceptable behaviour. There is much evidence that a child who witnesses or experiences violence at home may also develop aggressive behaviour. Conversely, a child who witnesses kind or thoughtful behaviour can be seen to develop these qualities because of their need to emulate the behaviour of familiar or significant others.
These theories emphasise the notion of free will and individual experiences in the development of personality. Humanist theorists put forward the concept of self-actualisation, defined as an inherent need for personal advancement that will motivate and influence behaviour Abraham Maslow wanted to understand what motivates people. His theory was that individuals possess motivational ideas that are not linked to rewards or unconscious desires. In 1943, Maslow stated that people are motivated to achieve certain needs, when one of those needs is fulfilled, that person will move on to fulfil the next and carries on in this way. The original ‘hierarchy of needs’ five-stage model is as follows; 1. Biological and Physiological needs- air, food, drink, shelter, warmth, sex, sleep.
2. Safety needs – protection from elements, security, order, law, limits, stability, and freedom from fear. 3. Social Needs – belonging, affection and love, from family, friends, romantic relationships, work colleagues. 4. Esteem needs – achievement, independence, status, dominance, prestige, self-respect, and respect from others. 5. Self-Actualisation needs – fulfilment of personal potential, seeking personal growth and ultimate experiences. Carl Rogers was a humanistic psychologist who agreed with the main assumptions of Abraham Maslow, but added that for a person to “grow”, they also needed an environment providing them with genuineness (openness and self-disclosure), acceptance (to be viewed with unconditional positive regard), and empathy (being listened to and understood).Without these, Rogers thought that relationships and healthy personalities would not develop as they should, and likened this to a tree being unable to grow without sunlight and water. Rogers also believed that every person has the ability to achieve their goals, wishes and desires in life. Self-actualisation was the term that was used to describe this pinnacle of development.
This theory puts forward that genetics are responsible for personality. Research on’ heritability’ (defined as ‘the extent to which genetic individual differences contribute to individual differences in observed behaviour’) suggests that there is a link between genetics and personality traits. Psychologists in this area assume that behaviour and experiences are caused by activity in the nervous system of the body. Things that people think, feel, say and do are caused by electrochemical events occurring within and between the neurones that make up their nervous system, in particular those in the brain. Because the development of the brain is determined (at least partly) by genes we have inherited, then it seems reasonable to assume that behaviour could be seen to be influenced by genetic factors.
Our inherited genes are also thought to be the result of evolution, so psychologists in this area also reason that behavioural and psychological characteristics may have evolutionary origins. Hans Eysenck linked aspects of personality to biological progressions, for instance he proposed that introverted people had a high level of brain arousal, leading them to avoid stimulation. Conversely Eysenck believed extroverts had lower levels of brain arousal, which led them to seek out exciting experiences.
Social psychologists argue that behavioural reasoning is almost impossible without reference to relationships with others, and also suggest that culture, especially that of social learning and language, has a critical impact on thought and behaviour. It could be said that the biological approach to behaviour focuses on genetic and biological influences to the exclusion of social and cultural influences. However, the biological approach has contributed an enormous amount to our understanding of the fundamental processes of behaviour, and has provided explanations for a range of psychological disorders such as depression.
Cognitive psychology focuses on the way in which we process information, then looks at how we treat the information, or stimuli, and finally how this treatment leads to our response. There is a great interest in the variables that connect stimulus/input and response/output. Cognitive psychologists study these internal processes including perception, attention, language, memory and thinking, resulting in a huge amount of research into how children develop intellectual skills. Jean Piaget Piaget showed that intelligence is the result of a natural sequence of stages and that it develops as a result of the changing interaction between the child and its environment. Children are born with a basic and genetically inherited mental formation on which all subsequent knowledge and learning is based. Piaget became intrigued with the reasons children gave for their wrong answers on the questions that required logical thinking. He believed that these incorrect answers revealed important differences between the thinking of adults and children, the common assumption in psychology was that children are less competent thinkers than adults, but Piaget showed that young children simply think in a completely different way.
Piaget’s theory differs from others in that he is only concerned with children, rather than all learners, and focuses purely on development. Children construct an understanding of their environment, and then will experience differences between what they know and what they discover in the world around them. These ‘adaption processes’ enable the transition from one developmental stage to another, one of the most well-known of these are ‘schemas’, which a child will develop to help make sense of a changing environment. For example, a child may think that all dogs are black because they have a pet dog that is black, so on seeing a white dog, the schema will need to change to cope with this new information. Jerome Bruner Bruner believed that as children develop they use different ways of representing the world around them. In his research on the cognitive development of children he proposed three modes of representation: Enactive (0 – 1 years) This appears first, and involves encoding action-based information and storing it in our memory.
For example, a baby might remember the action of shaking a rattle in the form of an actual movement, so it is a muscle memory. Iconic (1 – 6 years) This is where information is stored visually in the form of a mental images. For some people this is a conscious happening. This could explain why it is very often helpful to have diagrams or illustrations to accompany written or verbal information, so that the information can be visualised. Symbolic (7 years onwards) This develops last, and is the storing of information in the form of a code or symbol. Symbols are flexible, and can be manipulated, grouped, classified etc., so the child is not limited by actions or images. In this symbolic stage, knowledge is stored primarily as words/language, or mathematical symbols. These are known as modes of representation, and rather than being orderly stages of development, they are only loosely sequential and are gradually integrated into each other.
Bruner’s work also suggests that even a very young child is capable of learning any material as long as the work is worded or presented appropriately. Lev Vygotsky Zone of Proximal Development. This is where the potential learning capabilities of a child is determined through problem solving under adult guidance, or by interactions/collaborative working with more capable peers. Sociocultural Theory. Vygotsky also suggested that human development results from energetic interaction between individuals and society, where children learn gradually and continuously from parents and teachers.
This was put forward in 1936, by psychologist Gordon Allport, and unlike other theories, the trait approach focuses on the differences between people, and how the combination and interaction of similar traits creates a unique individual. Trait theory is aims to identify and measure these individual personality characteristics. A ‘Big Five’ theory emerged, which represents five fundamental traits that interact to form our personalities. The exact labels for each dimension are not set in stone by psychologists, but the following are used most commonly Extroversion Agreeableness Conscientiousness Neuroticism Openness Most people would agree that people can be described adequately based upon their personality traits, but there are some problems with this theory as it doesn’t address how or why personality differences develop, and also that traits can be a poor predictor of behaviour. The National Curriculum is a government framework that sets out a clear, full and constitutional right to learning for all pupils. It determines the content of what will be taught, and sets achievement objectives for learning.
It also determines how their performance will be assessed and reported. A successful national curriculum should be clear and comprehensive, and convey a full understanding of the skills and knowledge that young people will gain at school. It should allow schools to meet the individual learning needs of pupils, whilst developing a strong character and ethos that is rooted in their local communities. It also provides a clear framework for all those involved in education to provide support for young people in their pursuit of further learning. Alongside the national curriculum is a government initiative known as ‘Every Child Matters’, or ECM. This applies to children and young adults up to the age of 19, or 24 for those with disabilities. Its main aims are that every child, whatever their background or circumstances, has a right to the support they need in order to- stay safe be healthy, enjoy and achieve, economic well-being positive contribution It is one of the most important policy initiative and development programmes in relation to children, and was introduced partly in response to the shocking death of Victoria Climbiè in 2000.
In the past it has been felt that children and families have received poor service because of the failure of professionals to either understand each other’s roles or to work together effectively. The agencies in partnership may include children’s centres, early years, schools, children’s social work services, primary and secondary health services, playwork, and Child and Adolescent Mental Health services (CAMHS). ECM was an attempt to eliminate this poor service, stressing the importance of all professionals working with children, and making them aware that working together in the interests of the child was of the utmost importance. Reading through the aims and initiatives in both these government-led frameworks there are clear correlations with some of the work that has been carried out by psychologists into child development.
Piaget’s work was extremely influential in developing educational policy and teaching. A review of primary education by the UK government in 1966 was based strongly on Piaget’s theory, and the result of this review led to the publication of the Plowden report in 1967. Discovery learning was the idea that children learn best through doing and actively exploring, and was seen as central to the transformation of our primary school curriculum.it was also suggested there should be more flexibility in the curriculum, using the environment to learn, and to recognise the importance of each child’s progress not just measurable evaluations. Piaget’s theory is based upon biological maturation, promotes the notion of ‘readiness’ as being important, in other words, the right time for certain information or concepts to be taught is when they have reached the appropriate stage of cognitive development. A learner, according to Piaget, should be active, not passive, because problem-solving skills cannot be taught, they must be discovered. In the classroom this translates as pupil centred learning, where the role of the teaching staff is to facilitate learning rather than by direct tuition. Within the classroom the following methods are used; Focus on the learning process, not just the end result.
Use active methods that involve rediscovering, or reconstructing ‘truths’ Use both collaborative and individual activities, as children can learn from each other as well as on their own. Devise situations that present problems for the child to solve. Regularly evaluate development levels so that appropriate tasks can be set for children. For Bruner, the purpose of education should not be just to impart knowledge, but to facilitate a child’s thinking and problem solving skills, so they can then be transferred to a range of situations. Bruner opposed Piaget’s notion of readiness, and argued that it was a waste of time trying to match the difficulty of subject material to a child’s cognitive stage of development. This means students are held back by teachers as certain topics are deemed too challenging so must only be taught when the teacher believes the child has reached the appropriate state of cognitive maturity.
Bruner believed that a child of any age is capable of understanding complex information, and proposed the idea of the ‘spiral curriculum’. This is teaching that is structured so that complex ideas can be taught at a simplified level first, and then re-visited at gradually increasing levels of difficulty later on. Teaching this way should lead to children being able to solve problems by themselves. We can see then that the role of the teacher should not be to teach information by rote learning, but instead to facilitate the learning process. A good teacher will design lessons that help children discover the connection between small amounts of information. To do this a teacher must provide children with the information they need, but without organising it for them A contemporary educational application of Vygotsky’s theories is known as “reciprocal teaching”, and is used to improve the children’s ability to learn from text. In this method, teaching staff and children work together in learning and practicing four key skills: summarising, questioning, clarifying, and predicting.
In my voluntary work at Lady Bay Primary, I use this when reading with children, either individually or in groups. Often the children offer the extra information even before I have prompted them. This is the beginning of a gradual reduction of the teacher’s role in the learning process. Vygotsky is also linked to instructional ideas such as “scaffolding” and “apprenticeship”, in which a teacher or more advanced peer can help structure or organise a task so that a child can work on it successfully. Vygotsky’s theories are relevant to the current interest in collaborative learning, suggesting that when working together in groups there should be different levels of ability so the more advanced children can help those who are working at a lower level of ability. Again this is a system that works well within my class of year 1’s, and they help and encourage each other in the task almost without noticing. B.F.
Skinner’s research into behaviour modification has translated into the classroom in several ways, token economy and behaviour shaping. Token economy is a system in which targeted behaviours are reinforced with tokens (secondary reinforcers) and are later exchanged for rewards (primary reinforcers). Tokens can be in the form of fake money, buttons, poker chips, stickers, etc. and rewards can range be anything from snacks to privileges/activities. Within our school we use this system, in more than one guise. Our ‘dragons gold’ tokens are given out for a variety of different positive behaviours, and after reaching a certain amount the child is able to choose an activity as a reward.
An even simpler way of instilling positive reinforcement in behaviour modification is by giving compliments, approval, encouragement, and affirmation when appropriate. The current practice in any child/young people’s development programme needs to meet certain requirements aimed at their maturity level. It must also respect a child’s psychological needs and promote feelings of safety, security and belonging. By promoting interactive learning, and building conceptual understanding a curriculum will uphold and encourage the advancement of learning abilities, and provide children with a solid foundation on which to build their life and learning skills.
Courtney from Study Moose
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