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The relationship between theoretical perspectives and early years curriculum models Essay

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Piaget believed that children are mini scientists and that they create their own understanding in response to their experiences. He also believed that children can self-motivate themselves without the need for rewards. Children are also able to adapt their knowledge to their experiences. Piaget believed that if a child has a comfortable and safe environment that it will allow a child to explore and interact more efficiently. Encouraging recreational sessions will allow a child to recreate real life circumstances. Piaget assessed and monitored children independently and specified that education and free play would educate independent learning rather than being fed knowledge.

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Piaget believed that a child learns in different stages;

Sensorimotor – 0-2 a child understands the world through senses and actions
Preoperational – 2-7 a child understands through language and mental images
Concrete operational – 7-12 a child understands the world through logical thinking and categories
Formal operational – 12 years + a child understands the world through hypothetical thinking and scientific reasoning

Each stage is broken down further and being able to assess which stage a child is at enables the educator to provide the suitable resources required. Children learn from first hand experiences and educators are only required to offer suitable resources. Although Piaget assessed and monitored children independently this would have had no benefit on teamwork assessments with peers and group activities.

Montessori’s theories

Montessori theories have supported work in schools for over 100 years. It is a child focused approach of teaching and learning. It is built on specific observations on children between 0-19 years. Independence is a major factor in this theory and environments that are sensibly planned assures that a child will develop physically, psychologically and will advance in independent learning successfully. While being treated equally and justly individuals are taught on their own personal needs which promotes curiosity and passion. As all children are different, Montessori’s main aims for this theory are;

• Respect the individual – personal hand-on approach – unforced knowledge
• Absorbent mind – exploring freely – ensuring independent learning experiences
• Sensitive periods – identify certain growth stages allowing full potential to be met
• A prepared environment – readily obtainable resources for specific needs and interests
• Auto education – independent learners progress and learn life skills necessary for their future

B.F. Skinners theoretical perspective on learning

Skinner believed that all behaviour is learnt meaning it can be unlearnt. By replacing the negative behaviour with positive behaviour and response gives a base for learning. By emphasising and modelling good behaviour imitates what is expected. Skinner believed that behaviours happen in school when a child doesn’t understand. Teaching a child to listen teaches them to change their behaviour and reflect. Skinner alleged that children are capable of learning in 2 different ways;

1. Children learn to avoid the negative in the attempt to receive the positive – Receiving a reward for positive things increases the likelihood of the child receiving positive reactions
2. Giving a punishment for a negative behaviour also gives a child reason to avoid negative and concentrate on positive

Skinner believed that making education enjoyable would be effective in controlling behaviours. He did not believe in punishments but positive reinforcement to adapt and influence students.
It is believed that if you want to apply Skinner’s theories into your school you must have;

• Positive incentives for behaviour
• Reward positive before reprimanding negative
• Ensure immediate reward to allow an association
• Provide on task feedback
• Adapt instructional material and approaches suitably
• Children must understand preconditioned skills before moving on
• Reinforce positive behaviours

J.H Pestalozzi’s theory

The Swiss education reformer, influenced by Rousseau, born in Zurich, is known as the most dedicated philosopher to fight for inclusion in schools and reforming the education system. A whole child approach to his methods, Pestalozzi believed that all children should learn through playing and exploring and should be able to peruse their own fun from what interests them personally. Understanding the needs of a child and knowing their background will enhance their performance. 3 main important aspects of Pestalozzi’s methods are;

• Head – intelligence and knowledge
• Heart – emotions and understanding
• Hands – strength and dexterity

Pestalozzi’s methods still have huge influences on the modern education system.

It is claimed that, in Pestalozzi’s methods, a child learns independently, what happens to special educational needs pupils? These pupils need structure and routine, so arguably his methods were not intended for SEN children and the growing population. 1 in 7 children are recognised as having special needs or a disability, meaning 13.6% would not be educated effectively. Considering most of the national curriculum was formed in 2014, it is questionable, is it up to date enough to meet the demands of the ever-growing change in society?

Skinner is the only main figure in history to advise on a combination of social and political interpretations on behaviourism. He formed a theory of what a model society would be like designed around behaviourism. He’s a great promoter of free will and believes that our behaviour is modelled around our setting. Hans Khon believed that Skinners theory of rewards was not a motivation for behaviour but merely a preventive measure for the natural and deliberate behaviours. He also believes that Children should have morals and make their own conscious decisions. Skinner argues the fact that all language is purely learnt but, philosopher Chomsky disagrees and believes that language is inborn and is developed over time. Evidence has recognized that rewards in fact are a great triumph in education. Epraise.com have many success stories and have helped pupils achieve their milestones.

It is thought that Skinners discoveries were unreliable as his experiments were performed on animals and not humans. Although this may be the case, engagement on learning is successful through incentives and rewards as this is evident in modern classrooms and has been used in many studies including ‘incredible years’, which is practiced and taught at the school I am currently working in.
Rewards are a great incentive, but It is argued that motivation is not found in the absence of rewards. So, is the reward system just disguising natural undesired behaviours? It is argued that if this theory wasn’t working why is it still used today? Do children conform through forced motivation or are they naturally motivated?

Skinners theory is actively used in many up-to-date schools around the world and is used successfully. At Heronsbridge school, many of Skinner’s methods are used daily. There is a weekly ‘special mention’ assembly for achievements, a weekly ‘pupil of the week’ award, assemblies play a PowerPoint of great accomplishments caught on camera for the whole school to see, but also instant rewards such as merits and free time are given out for instant recognition of their successes. ‘Incredible years’ is a method of positive reinforcement used at Heronsbridge, where negative behaviour is not acknowledged and rewards for positive behaviours are given as an incentive to encourage and inspire pupils as in Skinner’s philosophy. As this theory works well in Heronsbridge school, it may not work as well in other settings.
As Heronsbridge is a SEN school, careful attention is given to the specific requirements to pupil’s individual needs. With regards to Jean Piaget’s theories and Montessori’s, Heronsbridge also pays close attention to the specific need of the child, being educational or medical, and encourages total independence on the pupils who are able. It is argued that, if a child is left to learn independently, then what would happen to children with special educational needs? Being able to plan what is taught will have a huge impact on SEN children. Surely the curriculum should ‘fit’ the child not the child ‘fit’ the curriculum?
Heronsbridge implements the Jean Piaget theory of individual assessments. Pupils are frequently monitored and assessed individually through instep testing, LNF testing and annual reviews to ensure pupils are placed in the correct setting the following year, and then targets are set accordingly. No two children have the same targets and as the students are all at different levels of education, Montessori’s theory of mixed aged classes is reinforced throughout the leavers department.

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