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Theories of child development::Early childhood education

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Theories of child development

The Developmental Interaction Approach is based on the theories of Jean Piaget, Erik Erikson, John Dewey and Lucy Sprague Mitchell. The approach focuses on learning through discovery.<ref>{{#invoke:Citation/CS1|citation |CitationClass=journal }}
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{{#invoke:citation/CS1|citation |CitationClass=book }}</ref> > Jean Jacques Rousseau recommended that teachers should exploit individual children's interests in order to make sure each child obtains the information most essential to his personal and individual development.<ref>McDowall Clark, R (2013). Childhood in Society . London: Learning Matters.</ref> The five developmental domains of childhood development include:<ref name=dh>{{#invoke:citation/CS1|citation |CitationClass=book }}</ref>

  • Physical: the way in which a child develops biological and physical functions, including eyesight and motor skills
  • Social: the way in which a child interacts with others<ref>{{#invoke:citation/CS1|citation

|CitationClass=book }}</ref> Children develop an understanding of their responsibilities and rights as members of families and communities, as well as an ability to relate to and work with others.<ref>{{#invoke:citation/CS1|citation |CitationClass=web }}</ref>

  • Emotional: the way in which a child creates emotional connections and develops self-confidence. Emotional connections develop when children relate to other people and share feelings.
  • Language: the way in which a child communicates, including how they present their feelings and emotions. At 3 months, children employ different cries for different needs. At 6 months they can recognize and imitate the basic sounds of spoken language. In the first 3 years, children need to be exposed to communication with others in order to pick up language. "Normal" language development is measured by the rate of vocabulary acquisition.<ref>NIH (2011) Speech and language development milestones, USA: NIDCD: (accessed 15 April 2014).</ref>
  • Cognitive skills: the way in which a child organizes information. Cognitive skills include problem solving, creativity, imagination and memory.<ref name="Neaum2013">{{#invoke:citation/CS1|citation

|CitationClass=book }}</ref> They embody the way in which children make sense of the world. Piaget believed that children exhibit prominent differences in their thought patterns as they move through the stages of cognitive development: sensorimotor period, the pre-operational period, and the operational period.<ref>Doherty, J. and Hughes, M. (2009). Child development: theory and practice 0-11. Harlow: Longman.</ref>

Vygotsky’s socio-cultural learning theory

Russian psychologist Lev Vygotsky proposed a "socio-cultural learning theory" that emphasized the impact of social and cultural experiences on individual thinking and the development of mental processes.<ref name="Cole 1978">{{#invoke:Citation/CS1|citation |CitationClass=journal }}</ref> Vygotsky's theory emerged in the 1930s and is still discussed today as a means of improving and reforming educational practices.

Vygotsky argued that since cognition occurs within a social context, our social experiences shape our ways of thinking about and interpreting the world.{{#invoke:Footnotes|sfn}} Although Vygotsky predated social constructivists, he is commonly classified as one. Social constructivists believe that an individual's cognitive system is a result of interaction in social groups and that learning cannot be separated from social life.<ref>{{#invoke:Citation/CS1|citation |CitationClass=journal }}</ref>

Vygotsky proposed that children learn through their interactions with more knowledgeable peers and adults. His concept of the zone of proximal development (ZPD) is the difference between what a learner can do without help and what a learner can do with help.<ref>{{#invoke:citation/CS1|citation |CitationClass=book }}</ref> According to Vygotsky, "what is in the zone of proximal development today will be the [child’s] actual developmental level tomorrow".<ref name="Cole 1978"/> This theory heavily influenced contemporary early educational practices by increasing focus on material within the ZPD. Vygotsky proposed that children should be taught materials that employ mental processes within the ZPD.

ZPD encourages early childhood educators to adopt "scaffolding", in which a teacher adjusts support to fit a child’s learning needs.<ref>{{#invoke:Citation/CS1|citation |CitationClass=journal }}</ref> Scaffolding requires specially trained teachers, a differentiated curriculum, and additional learning time. Vygotsky advocated that teachers facilitate rather than direct student learning.<ref>{{#invoke:Citation/CS1|citation |CitationClass=journal }}</ref> His approach calls for teachers to incorporate students’ needs and interests when developing curricula. Every student should actively participate in a reciprocal interaction with their classmates and educators.

Vygotsky’s socio-cultural learning theory has also proven especially important for the education of the mentally disabled. According to Vygotsky, "special education was the creation of what he called a ‘positive differential approach’; that is, the identification of a disabled child from a point of strength rather than disability".<ref>{{#invoke:Citation/CS1|citation |CitationClass=journal }}</ref> Providing the appropriate scaffolding enables students with special needs to develop abstract thinking.

Piaget’s constructivist theory

Jean Piaget's constructivist theory gained influence in the 1970s and '80s. Although Piaget himself was primarily interested in a descriptive psychology of cognitive development, he also laid the groundwork for a constructivist theory of learning.<ref>{{#invoke:Citation/CS1|citation |CitationClass=journal }}</ref> Piaget believed that learning comes from within: children construct their own knowledge of the world through experience and subsequent reflection. He said that "if logic itself is created rather than being inborn, it follows that the first task of education is to form reasoning." Within Piaget's framework, teachers should guide children in acquiring their own knowledge rather than simply transferring knowledge.<ref>{{#invoke:Citation/CS1|citation |CitationClass=journal }}</ref>

According to Piaget’s theory, when young children encounter new information, they attempt to accommodate and assimilate it into their existing understanding of the world. Accommodation involves adapting mental schemas and representations in order to make them consistent with reality. Assimilation involves fitting new information into their pre-existing schemas. Through these two processes, young children learn by equilibrating their mental representations with reality. They also learn from mistakes.<ref>{{#invoke:Citation/CS1|citation |CitationClass=journal }}</ref>

A Piagetian approach emphasizes experiential education; in school, experiences become more hands-on and concrete as students explore through trial and error.<ref>{{#invoke:Citation/CS1|citation |CitationClass=journal }}</ref> Thus, crucial components of early childhood education include exploration, manipulating objects, and experiencing new environments. Subsequent reflection on these experiences is equally important.<ref>{{#invoke:citation/CS1|citation |CitationClass=web }}</ref>

Piaget’s concept of reflective abstraction was particularly influential in mathematical education.<ref>{{#invoke:Citation/CS1|citation |CitationClass=journal }}</ref> Through reflective abstraction, children construct more advanced cognitive structures out of the simpler ones they already possess. This allows children to develop mathematical constructs that cannot be learned through equilibration — making sense of experiences through assimilation and accommodation — alone.<ref>{{#invoke:Citation/CS1|citation |CitationClass=journal }}</ref>

According to Piagetian theory, language and symbolic representation is preceded by the development of corresponding mental representations. Research shows that the level of reflective abstraction achieved by young children was found to limit the degree to which they could represent physical quantities with written numerals. Piaget held that children can invent their own procedures for the four arithmetical operations, without being taught any conventional rules.<ref>{{#invoke:Citation/CS1|citation |CitationClass=journal }}</ref>

Piaget’s theory implies that computers can be a great educational tool for young children when used to support the design and construction of their projects. McCarrick and Xiaoming found that computer play is consistent with this theory.<ref>{{#invoke:Citation/CS1|citation |CitationClass=journal }}</ref> However, Plowman and Stephen found that the effectiveness of computers is limited in the preschool environment; their results indicate that computers are only effective when directed by the teacher.<ref>{{#invoke:Citation/CS1|citation |CitationClass=journal }}</ref> This suggests, according to the constructivist theory, that the role of preschool teachers is critical in successfully adopting computers.<ref>{{#invoke:Citation/CS1|citation |CitationClass=journal }}</ref>

Kolb's experiential learning theory

{{#invoke:main|main}} David Kolb's experiential learning theory, which was influenced by John Dewey, Kurt Lewin and Jean Piaget, argues that children need to experience things in order to learn: "The process whereby knowledge is created through the transformation of experience. Knowledge results from the combinations of grasping and transforming experience." The experimental learning theory is distinctive in that children are seen and taught as individuals. As a child explores and observes, teachers ask the child probing questions. The child can then adapt prior knowledge to learning new information.

Kolb breaks down this learning cycle into four stages: concrete experience, reflective observation, abstract conceptualisation, and active experimentation. Children observe new situations, think about the situation, make meaning of the situation, then test that meaning in the world around them.<ref>{{#invoke:citation/CS1|citation |CitationClass=web }}</ref>


Early childhood education sections
Intro  Context  Learning Through Play   Theories of child development   The practical implications of early childhood education  The Perry Preschool Project   Early childhood education policy in the United States   International agreements   Notable early childhood educators    See also   Notes  External links  

Theories of child development
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