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Theories of Development Essay

Jean Piaget (1896 – 1980) Piaget focuses on cognitive development; he was all about the child centred approach, he believed children are active learners and make sense of the world through their own experiences. Piaget believed that a child develops through a series of pre-determined stages to adulthood and said that a child needs to be at a specific stage of development to learn new concepts. His theory is concerned with the children rather than all learners and it focuses more on the development and not so much the learning which means this theory doesn’t really co-inside with learning of information and specific behaviours.

Piaget influences current practise because the EYFS states that we need to have a balance of child initiated activities and children can be independent learners. We also have free flow within the setting which will highlight the child centred approach that Piaget believed in. He has also influenced the approach to managing children’s behaviour through looking at a child’s moral development through their point of view rather than an adult.

Sigmund Freud (1856 – 1939) Freud focuses on the psychoanalytical theory; he was particularly interested in the development of characteristics and personality. Freud believed we have an unconscious mind that is split into three parts and this this makes up our personality; the id, ego and superego. The id is where all our desires and needs come from and can be known as the selfish and passionate component of our personality e.g. a baby will cry and cry to be fed, not thinking of how tired their parent/carer may be.

The ego is where we start to consider consequences of our actions and is known as the common sense part of our personalities e.g. if a child wants something but knows they have to ask nicely or wait patiently they will do so in order to meet their needs or desires. The superego is where we start to think about the moral requirements, if you have misbehaved your conscience will affect your ego and make you feel guilty, if you are being rewarded for something good, your ego-ideal will reward your ego with pride and confidence. Freud believed that with age these stages will develop in your personality. Freud influences current practise because we now think about the child’s wants and needs from their point of view. We wouldn’t take away a small child’s comforter because their id has made them believe they want it and need it, they would become very distressed if we did so.

Abraham Maslow (1908 – 1970) Maslow had a humanist approach to his theory, his theory was about motivation and personality, he believed in a hierarchy of needs and these needs needed to met in order fulfil their potential or ‘self-actualisation’. He believed you would have to reach all previous levels of the pyramid to become a fulfilled person. Maslow believed motivation and personality are linked to our basic needs being met.

He also believed that every person has the potential to become self-actualized however some factors can hinder progress i.e. a family’s income being affected through the parent losing their job would affect a few of the hierarchy points. Maslow influences current practise within the early years setting because the professionals need to think about the environment that is being created for the children as well as developing strong relationships. We need to try and meet the basic needs such as warmth, food, shelter and to form a good relationship we need to provide love, care and promote self-esteem.

Albert Bandura (born 1925) Bandura has a social learning approach to his theory and this is another behaviourist approach. Bandura believes in conditioning through positive and negative reinforcement, and through observing people around you (observational learning). He believes that if one observes another person they will pick up and learn how to act in certain situations through modelling another person’s behaviour.

Bandura’s behaviourist approach shows he does believe that not all observed actions will lead to a change in behaviour, if a child observes someone they may just take in the information rather than modelling what they have observed. Bandura influences current practise because we praise positive behaviour in order for children to do it again and ignore negative behaviour in hoping the children wouldn’t repeat it. We also act as good role models for the children to observe and copy our behaviour i.e. being polite with please and thank you, sharing and being kind to our friends.

B. F Skinner (1904 – 1990) Skinner is known for developing the behaviourist approach but he also has the operant conditioning approach to his theory. He believed we would shape behaviour; we would promote desired behaviour with rewards such as stickers, praise, attention and treats, and positive reinforcement would help aid in learning. He also believed in reinforcing undesired behaviour with punishment in hoping this would stop children from repeating this behaviour. He also believes the rewards and reinforcement should be done in good time after the behaviour has occurred or it would not have the desired effect i.e. straight away, if delayed it may not register to the child what behaviour caused for this.

The rewards and reinforcement shouldn’t be expected all the time so frequency needs to be considered, its best to not reward or reinforce every time, this would mean they wouldn’t expect it all the time and would constantly show wanted behaviour because unexpectedly they would receive a reward and would want this again. Skinner influences current practise because we have behaviour policies that families have to comply with. We also praise good behaviour and when a child achieves something we reward with stickers. We try to avoid undesired behaviour happening again by using punishments such as time out.

John B. Watson (1878 – 1958) Watson was a behaviourist theorist; his theory is that classical conditioning offers a basic explanation of how a child can develop through learning by association, e.g. when the fire bell goes off, children will associate it with lining up. Some of his work was based on showing phobia’s and association, e.g. some children have a fear of needles because they associate this with the pain they felt before. Watson influences current practise because we now have routines and have set areas for certain activities, e.g. when we are sat at the red table this will be for arts and design.

Social Pedagogy Social pedagogy is about the holistic wellbeing and education, it is a shared responsibility between parents and society as a whole. It develops children and young people’s knowledge of what is expected of them as an individual in society. It helps them gain skills in learning, coping with emotions and physical skills; it’s there to teach children and young people how to become a valued member of society. Social pedagogy has a hands on approach to the younger generation and believes that it is not just up to the parents to do all the upbringing but it is the society too. Social pedagogy influences current practise because the Eyfs states that we should work in partnership with the parents, we also have government run settings such as sure start and these other help to families who haven’t had the best start in life.

All of the theorists have different approaches and views but all give something to the current practise that we work alongside with.


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