- DEVELOPMENTAL THEORIES:
- Brain Development in The Early Years
- DEVELOPMENTAL THEORIES:
At birth, the brain of a baby is only 25 percent of the weight of an adult’s brain, which is
1.5 kg. By the age of 3, it is 90 per cent of the adult weight and by the age of six, it is almost as large as it will ever be. However, some parts of the brain continue to grow even in adulthood. The fast growth of the brain in the first few years of a child’s life is a critical indicator of how important the early years are.
The brain is made of tiny building blocks known as cells which are also present in rest of the body. These cells are so tiny that they cannot be seen without the help of a strong microscope. When a baby is born, it has all the brain cells it will ever need. There are a hundred billion brain cells present at birth. Brain cells are also called neurons. Neurons are able to send and receive messages from other neurons. In fact, they are only useful when they connect with each other.
To better understand this, think of your brain as an office where the neurons are the office workers. Now imagine that none of the workers are allowed to talk or work with one another. How do you think that office will functions? Obviously, an office can only operate when the workers are allowed to talk and work with each other. Similarly, our brain can only work usefully when the neurons connect with each other.
When one neuron connects with another it forms a connection called a synapse. When we talk about brain development we are actually talking about the creation of synapses in a brain. One neuron can form synapses with many other neurons and so the number of synapses grows very rapidly. There are trillions of such connections in our brain making a kind of complicated web.
As shown in the figure, a young child of 02 years has twice as many synapses as that of an adult brain. As the neuron web grows, child’s abilities such as, memory, language skills, problem solving and intellectual capacity also grow. However, the neurons and synapses which are not being used eventually stop working and die. For example, vision (or eye sight) develops slowly during the first six months of life. If the ‘web’ of synapses that is responsible for vision is not stimulated correctly during these months, eye sight may not develop properly. As a result, if the baby’s eyes never see any light in the first six months, no synaptic connections would form and the baby would not have any vision.
The ability and rate, at which synaptic connections are formed, reduce significantly by the time adulthood is reached and only those connections stay put that have been strengthened during the early years. The simple mechanics of brain functioning portrayed in the figure, not only highlight the criticality of the early years, but also the significance of an enabling and nurturing environment for the holistic development of children. Although learning is a continuous, life long process, the extent to which we can realize our potential and what we become as adults, is largely determined by what we experience in our childhood. Scientific findings about brain development confirm what most of us already know....warm and loving attachments between infants and mothers/caregivers, and positive stimulation right from birth make a significant difference in children’s development. In the early years’ classroom, a warm, trusting, comfortable relationship is crucial for positive, holistic development.
So now the question therefore is “how do we best help children achieve the full potential of development of the brain?” There are several ways to achieve as theorised by ECCE philosophies and practices. Most of them define an enriched environment as one that includes a steady source of environmental support, nutritious diet, stimulates all senses, atmosphere free from stress, enjoyable, challenging, allows social interaction, promotes development, and gives the child a chance to assess the results of their actions, all in all allows the child to be an active participant rather than a passive observer (Diamond and Hopson, 1998).
This idea is reflected in what an ECCE classroom is perceived to be as a prepared environment. The prepared environment allows the link for a child to reach into his world. ECCE related educational philosophies define a prepared environment to consider the specific needs of the children with concerns to their age of development, it provides the children what they need in order to live such as, physical and emotional security. It should be aesthetically pleasing and inviting, this includes hygiene and appropriate furniture, and it has to have order. These are few of the main ideas but it is vital to mentions that the environment has to allow freedom of choice, it allows the children to act independently, and allow them to learn to take responsibility for their actions.
Piaget’s Theory of Cognitive Development
Piaget (1896-1980) a Swiss psychologist, who studied the intellectual and logical abilities of children, theorized that cognitive development proceeds in four stages that follow the same sequential order. His Cognitive Development Theory is hugely influential in the fields of education and psychology. He proposed that the thinking process develops through each of the stages, until a child can think logically. Understanding cognitive development helps us organize appropriate learning environments and plan developmentally appropriate learning activities. The following are Piaget’s four developmenta stages:
- THE SENSORIMOTOR STAGE (BIRTH – MONTHS/2 YEARS)
Even though Piaget was opposed to applying age norms to the stages, most researchers consider approximately the first two years of life to be the Sensorimotor Stage. Infants mainly make use of senses and motor capabilities to experience the environment. For instance, if infants cannot see or touch an object, they stop trying to find it. Once infants develop the capability to recognise that a hidden object still continues to exist, they start searching for it. The characteristic limitation of this stage is ‘thinking only by doing’. The sensorimotor infant’s main concern is developing motor control, and coordination with information from the senses.
- PREOPERATIONAL STAGE (2 – 7 YEARS)
The second stage in Piaget’s theory of development coincides with the preschool years. At this stage, children develop the ability to think symbolically and use language to express their thoughts, needs, feelings and observations. However, the preoperational child still learns from concrete material, while adults can learn in an abstract way. The preoperational child is also unaware of another person’s perspective. They exhibit egocentric thought and language.
Here are some limitations of preoperational thought. To begin with, the preoperational child lacks the concept of conservation. For example, a child is presented with two rows of apples that contain the same number of apples. When one row is lengthened without any change in the number of apples, the preoperational child states that the rows are not equal. The appearance of the objects gives the wrong impression about them. Children’s decisions are dominated by their perceptions.
Conservation does not happen simultaneously in all subject areas. Children can understand conservation of numbers around age 5-6, and understand conservation of substance, or mass at around age 7-8. Additionally, the preoperational child is likely to centre on only one dimension of an event and ignore other important details. Also,
children concentrate more on the static features of an event, than on the
transformations from one state to another. Children in the preoperational period, at times will see some relationships between particular cases while in actuality there is none. For instance, a child might say, “If an apple is red, then a green fruit is not an apple.”
- CONCRETE OPERATIONAL STAGE (7 – 11 YEARS)
The next stage generally represents the elementary grade years. The concrete operational child begins to think logically. Operations are associated with personal experience. Concrete operations allow children to classify several classes into a bigger group or to combine a number of classes in any order. Although objects are moved or reordered, no change takes place in their perception of the objects; they are able to conserve. Concrete operations also allow children to order objects in terms of more than one dimension and they can solve conservation tasks. The operational thought is reversible; the concrete operation child can operate an action, and then go back to the original condition. For instance, 3+2=5 and 5-2=3.
- FORMAL OPERATIONAL STAGE (11 YEARS AND BEYON
After roughly 11 years, students have the ability to consider many possibilities for a given condition. They are able to deal with propositions that explain concrete facts. They have the ability to use planning to think ahead. Most importantly, students at Piaget’s final stage of cognitive development increase their ability to think abstractly. They can solve complex and hypothetical problems involving abstract operations.
Formal operational thinkers can recognise and identify a problem. They can state several alternative hypotheses, execute procedure to collect information about the problems to be studied, and test the hypotheses.
- Vygotsky’s Theory of Sociocultural Development
Lev Semyonovich Vygotsky, a Russian psychologist who lived during the Russian Revolution, developed a theory of development known as the Sociocultural Theory of Development during the first quarter of the twentieth century.
As a proponent of the sociocultural perspective to development, Vygotsky’s outlook gained worldwide recognition and began to exert influence when his work was finally translated into English in 1962 and the importance of both sociocultural contexts of development and cross-cultural research was recognised.
Vygotsky’s main assertion was that children are entrenched in different sociocultural contexts through which their cognitive development is advanced through social interaction with more skilled individuals. His theory is mainly concerned with the more complex cognitive activities of children which are governed and influenced by several principles. Believing that children construct knowledge actively, Vygotsky’s theory is also one of those responsible for laying the groundwork for constructivism.
- ZONE OF PROXIMAL DEVELOPMENT
Vygotsky is most recognised for his concept of Zone of Proximal Development or ZPD pertaining to the learning of children. Children who are in the zone of proximal development for a specific task are almost able to perform the task independently, but not quite. With an appropriate amount and level of assistance, however, children are able to successfully accomplish the task.
The lower limit of a child’s zone of proximal development is the level of analysis and problem-solving reached by a child without any help. The upper limit, on the other hand, is the level of additional responsibility that a child can receive with the support of a skilled instructor.
As children are verbally given instructions or shown how to perform certain tasks, they organize the new information received in their existing mental schemas in order to assist them in the ultimate goal of performing the task independently. This emphasis on the concept of Zone of Proximal Development made by Vygotsky underscores his conviction that social influences, particularly instruction, are of immense importance on the cognitive development of children.
- MORE KNOWLEDGEABLE OTHER
The child is entrenched in a sociocultural backdrop, usually the home, in which social interaction with significant adults, i.e. the parents, is the crucial factor that affects the child’s learning. Adults need to direct and organize the learning experiences of a child to ensure that a child can master and internalize the learning.
Any person who possesses a higher skill level than the learner with regard to a particular task or concept is called a More Knowledgeable Other or MKO. This person may be a teacher, parent, an older adult, a coach or even a peer.
The concept of scaffolding is closely related to the concept of the zone of proximal development. Scaffolding refers to the temporary support given to the child by More Knowledgeable Others, usually parents or teachers that enable the child to perform the task until such time that the child can already perform the task independently.
Scaffolding entails changing the quality and quantity of support provided to a child in the course of a teaching session. The more-skilled instructor adjusts the level of guidance needed in order to fit the student’s current level of performance. For novel tasks, the instructor may utilize direct instruction. As the child gains more familiarity with the task and becomes more skilled at it, the instructor may then provide less guidance.
Children who experience more difficulty in task performance are in need of greater assistance and guidance from an adult. When the child has learned to complete the task independently, the scaffolds are removed by the adult, as they are no longer needed.
A major contribution of Vygotsky’s theory is the acknowledgement of the social component in both cognitive and psychosocial development. Due to his proffered ideas, research attention has been shifted from the individual onto larger interactional units such as parent and child, teacher and child, or brother and sister.
Vygotsky likewise called attention to the variability of cultural realities, stating that the development of children who are in one culture or subculture, such as middleclass Asian Americans, may be totally different from children who hail from other societies or subcultures. It would not be fitting, therefore, to utilize the developmental experiences of children from one culture as a norm for children from other cultures.
The theory has significant ramifications in education and cognitive testing. Vygotsky was a strong advocate of non-standard assessment procedures for the assessment of what and how much a child has learned and in the formulation of approaches that could enhance the child’s learning. His ideas have effected changes in educational systems through the increased importance given to the active role of students in their own learning process and the encouragement of teacher-student collaboration in a reciprocal learning experience.
- Bronfenbrenner’s Ecological Systems Theory of Child Development
American psychologist, Urie Bronfenbrenner, formulated the Ecological Systems Theory to explain how the inherent qualities of a child and the characteristics of the external environment which the child finds himself in interact to influence how the child will grow and develop. Through his theory, Bronfenbrenner stressed the importance of studying a child in the context of his/her multiple environments, also known as ecological systems in the attempt to understand his/her individual development.
A child finds himself simultaneously enmeshed in different ecosystems, from the most intimate home ecological system moving outward to the larger school system and the most expansive system which is society and culture. Each of these systems inevitably interacts with and influences each other and every aspect of the child’s life.
The Ecological Systems Approach organizes contexts of development into five levels of external influence which interlock. The levels are categorized from the most intimate level to the broadest, with the most intimate being the microsystem.
The microsystem is the smallest and most immediate environment in which the child lives. As such, the microsystem comprises the daily home, school or day-care, peer group or community environment of the child. Interactions within the microsystem typically involve personal relationships with family members, classmates, teachers and caregivers, in which influences go back and forth. How these groups or individuals interact with the child will affect how the child grows. Similarly, how the child reacts to people in his microsystem will also influence how they treat the child in return. More nurturing and more supportive interactions and relationships will understandably foster the child’s improved development.
Given two siblings experiencing the same microsystem, however, it is not impossible for the development of the two siblings to progress in different manners. Each child’s particular personality traits, such as temperament, which is influenced by unique genetic and biological factors, ultimately have a hand in how he is treated by others. One of the most significant findings that Bronfenbrenner unearthed in his study of ecological systems is that it is possible for siblings who find themselves within the same ecological system to still experience very different environments.
The mesosystem encompasses the interaction of the different microsystems which the developing child finds himself/herself in. It is, in essence, a system of microsystems and as such, involves linkages between home and school, between peer group and family, or between family and church. If a child’s parents are actively involved in the friendships of their child, invite friends over to their house and spend time with them, then the child’s development is affected positively through harmony and like-mindedness. However, if the child’s parents dislike their child’s peers and openly criticize them, then the child experiences disequilibrium and conflicting emotions, probably affecting his development negatively.
The exosystem, on the other hand, pertains to the linkages that may exist between two or more settings, one of which may not contain the developing child but affects him/her indirectly, nonetheless. Other people and places which the child may not directly interact with but may still have an effect on the child, comprise the exosystem. Such places and people may include the parents’ workplaces, the larger neighbourhood, and extended family members. For example, a father who is continually passed up for promotion by an indifferent boss at the workplace may take it out on his children and mistreat them at home.
The macrosystem is the largest and most distant collection of people and places to the child that still exercises significant influence on the child. It is composed of the child’s cultural patterns and values, specifically the child’s dominant beliefs and ideas, as well as political and economic systems. Children in war-torn areas, for example, will experience a different kind of development than children in communities where peace reigns.
The chronosystem adds the useful dimension of time, which demonstrates the influence of both change and constancy in the child’s environment. The chronosystem may thus include a change in family structure, address, parent’s employment status, in addition to immense society changes such as economic cycles and wars.
By studying the different systems that simultaneously influence a child, the ecological systems theory is able to demonstrate the diversity of interrelated influences on the child’s development. Awareness of contexts can sensitize us to variations in the way a child may act in different settings. For example, a child who frequently bullies smaller children at school may portray the role of a terrified victim at home. Due to these variations, adults concerned with the care of a particular child should pay close attention to behaviour in different settings or contexts and to the quality and type of connections that exist between these contexts.
- Erik Erikson’s Theory of Social Emotional Development
Every person has his or her own unique identity. This identity is composed of the different personality traits that can be considered positive or negative. These personality traits can also be innate or acquired, and they vary from one person to another based on the degree of influence the environment has on the individual.
The bottom line is that as human beings, we possess many characteristics that are honed in many different aspects that eventually define who we are.
Erik Erikson’s Theory of Psychosocial Development emphasizes the sociocultural determinants of development and presents them as eight stages of psychosocial conflicts (often known as Erikson’s psychosocial stages) that all individuals must overcome or resolve successfully in order to adjust well to the environment.
Erik Erikson’s Theory of Psychosocial Development
Erikson’s psychosocial theory of development considers the impact of external factors, parents and society on personality development from childhood to adulthood. According to Erikson’s theory, every person must pass through a series of eight interrelated stages over the entire life cycle.
- INFANCY: BIRTH-18 MONTHS OLD
Basic Trust vs. Mistrust – Hope
During the first or second year of life, the major emphasis is on the mother and father’s nurturing ability and care for a child, especially in terms of visual contact and touch. The child will develop optimism, trust, confidence, and security if properly cared for and handled. If a child does not experience trust, he or she may develop insecurity, worthlessness, and general mistrust to the world.
- TODDLER / EARLY CHILDHOOD YEARS: 18 MONTHS TO 3 YEARS
Autonomy vs. Shame – Will
The second stage occurs between 18 months and 3 years. At this point, the child has an opportunity to build self-esteem and autonomy as he or she learns new skills and right from wrong. The well-cared for child is sure of himself, carrying himself or herself with pride rather than shame. During this time of the “terrible twos”, defiance, temper
tantrums, and stubbornness can also appear. Children tend to be vulnerable during this stage, sometimes feeling ashamed and low self-esteem during an inability to learn certain skills.
- PRESCHOOLER: 3 TO 5 YEARS
Initiative vs. Guilt – Purpose
During this period, we experience a desire to copy the adults around us and take initiative in creating play situations. We make up stories with Barbie’s and Ken’s, toy phones and miniature cars, playing out roles in a trial universe, experimenting with the blueprint for what we believe it means to be an adult. We also begin to use that wonderful word for exploring the world—”WHY?”
While Erikson was influenced by Freud, he downplays biological sexuality in favor of the psychosocial features of conflict between child and parents. Nevertheless, he said that at this stage we usually become involved in the classic “Oedipal struggle” and resolve this struggle through “social role identification.” If we’re frustrated over natural desires and goals, we may easily experience guilt. The most significant relationship is with the basic family.
- SCHOOL AGE CHILD: 6 TO 12 YEARS
Industry vs. Inferiority – Competence
During this stage, often called the Latency, we are capable of learning, creating and accomplishing numerous new skills and knowledge, thus developing a sense of industry. This is also a very social stage of development and if we experience unresolved feelings of inadequacy and inferiority among our peers, we can have serious problems in terms of competence and self-esteem.
As the world expands a bit, our most significant relationship is with the school and neighbourhood. Parents are no longer the complete authorities they once were, although they are still important.
- ADOLESCENT: 12 TO 18 YEARS
Identity vs. Role Confusion – Fidelity
Up until this fifth stage, development depends on what is done to a person. At this point, development now depends primarily upon what a person does. An adolescent must struggle to discover and find his or her own identity, while negotiating and struggling with social interactions and “fitting in”, and developing a sense of morality and right from wrong.
Some attempt to delay entrance to adulthood and withdraw from responsibilities (moratorium). Those unsuccessful with this stage tend to experience role confusion and upheaval. Adolescents begin to develop a strong affiliation and devotion to ideals, causes, and friends.
- YOUNG ADULT: 18 TO 35 YEARS
Intimacy and Solidarity vs. Isolation – Love
At the young adult stage, people tend to seek companionship and love. Some also begin to “settle down” and start families, although seems to have been pushed back farther in recent years.
Young adults seek deep intimacy and satisfying relationships,
but if unsuccessful, isolation may occur. Significant relationships at this stage are with marital partners and friends.
- MIDDLE-AGED ADULT: 35 TO 55 OR 65 YEARS
Generativity vs. Self-Absorption or Stagnation – Care
Career and work are the most important things at this stage, along with family. Middle adulthood is also the time when people can take on greater responsibilities and control. For this stage, working to establish stability and Erikson’s idea of generativity – attempting to produce something that makes a difference to society. Inactivity and meaninglessness are common fears during this stage.
Major life shifts can occur during this stage. For example, children leave the household; careers can change, and so on. Some may struggle with finding purpose. Significant relationships are those within the family, workplace, local church and other communities.
- LATE ADULT: 55 OR 65 TO DEATH
Integrity vs. Despair – Wisdom
Erikson believed that much of life is preparing for the middle adulthood stage and the last stage involves much reflection. As older adults, some can look back with a feeling of integrity — that is, contentment and fulfilment, having led a meaningful life and valuable contribution to society. Others may have a sense of despair during this stage, reflecting upon their experiences and failures. They may fear death as they struggle to find a purpose to their lives, wondering “What was the point of life? Was it worth it?”
- LEARNING THEORIES
Learning theories provide the theoretical framework to understand and analyse how knowledge is absorbed, processed, and retained as a part of learning. Cognitive, emotional, and environmental influences, as well as prior experience, all play a part in how understanding, or a world view, is acquired or changed and knowledge and skills are retained. For ECCE teachers/stakeholders knowledge of established learning theories is vital to enable them in their role of helping children develop in a positive and healthy environment. For reference purposes the following two learning theories are included here to provide a baseline for teachers to probe further.
- Howard Gardner’s Theory of Multiple Intelligences-an Innovative Approach Towards Understanding Child’s Potential
Many educators have had the experience of not being able to reach some students until presenting the information in a completely different way or providing new options for student expression. Perhaps it was a student who struggled with writing until the teacher provided the option to create a graphic story, which blossomed into a beautiful and complex narrative. Or maybe it was a student who just couldn't seem to grasp fractions, until he created them by separating oranges into slices.
Because of these kinds of experiences, the theory of multiple intelligences resonates with many educators. It supports what we all know to be true: A one-size-fits-all approach to education will invariably leave some students behind. However, the theory is also often misunderstood, which can lead to it being used interchangeably with learning styles or applying it in ways that can limit student potential. While the theory of multiple intelligences is a powerful way to think about learning, it’s also important to understand
the research that supports it.
Howard Gardner's Nine Intelligences
The theory of multiple intelligences challenges the idea of a single IQ, where human beings have one central "computer" where intelligence is housed. Howard Gardner, the Harvard professor who originally proposed the theory, says that there are multiple types of human intelligence, each representing different ways of processing information:
- NATURALIST INTELLIGENCE (“NATURE SMART”)
This intelligence designates the human ability to discriminate among living things (plants, animals) as well as sensitivity to other features of the natural world (clouds, rock configurations). This ability was clearly of value in our evolutionary past as hunters, gatherers, and farmers; it continues to be central in such roles as botanist or chef. It is also speculated that much of our consumer society exploits the naturalist intelligences, which can be mobilized in the discrimination among cars, sneakers, kinds of makeup, and the like.
- MUSICAL INTELLIGENCE (“MUSICAL SMART”)
Musical intelligence is the capacity to discern pitch, rhythm, timbre, and tone. This intelligence enables us to recognise, create, reproduce, and reflect on music, as demonstrated by composers, conductors, musicians, vocalist, and sensitive listeners. Interestingly, there is often an affective connection between music and the emotions; and mathematical and musical intelligences may share common thinking processes. Young adults with this kind of intelligence are usually singing or drumming to themselves. They are usually quite aware of sounds others may miss.
- LOGICAL-MATHEMATICAL INTELLIGENCE (”NUMBER/REASONING SMART”)
Logical-mathematical intelligence is the ability to calculate, quantify, consider propositions and hypotheses, and carry out complete mathematical operations. It enables us to perceive relationships and connections and to use abstract, symbolic thought; sequential reasoning skills; and inductive and deductive thinking patterns. Logical intelligence is usually well developed in mathematicians, scientists, and detectives. Young adults with lots of logical intelligence are interested in patterns, categories, and relationships. They are drawn to arithmetic problems, strategy games and experiments.
- EXISTENTIAL INTELLIGENCE
Sensitivity and capacity to tackle deep questions about human existence, such as the meaning of life, why do we die, and how did we get here.
- INTERPERSONAL INTELLIGENCE (”PEOPLE SMART”)
Interpersonal intelligence is the ability to understand and interact effectively with others. It involves effective verbal and nonverbal communication, the ability to note distinctions among others, sensitivity to the moods and temperaments of others, and the ability to entertain multiple perspectives. Teachers, social workers, actors/public figures and politicians exhibit interpersonal intelligence. Young adults with this kind of intelligence are leaders amongst their peers, are good at communicating, and seem to understand others’ feelings and motives.
- BODILY-KINAESTHETIC INTELLIGENCE (“BODY SMART”)
Bodily kinaesthetic intelligence is the capacity to manipulate objects and use a variety of physical skills. This intelligence also involves a sense of timing and the perfection of skills through mind–body union. Athletes, dancers, surgeons, and craftspeople exhibit well-developed bodily kinaesthetic intelligence.
- LINGUISTIC INTELLIGENCE (”WORD SMART”)
Linguistic intelligence is the ability to think in words and to use language to express and appreciate complex meanings. Linguistic intelligence allows us to understand the order and meaning of words and to apply meta-linguistic skills to reflect on our use of language. Linguistic intelligence is the most widely shared human competence and is evident in poets, novelists, journalists, and effective public speakers. Young adults with this kind of intelligence enjoy writing, reading, telling stories or doing crossword puzzles.
- INTRA-PERSONAL INTELLIGENCE (”SELF SMART”)
Intra-personal intelligence is the capacity to understand oneself and one’s thoughts and feelings, and to use such knowledge in planning and giving direction to one’s life. Intra-personal intelligence involves not only an appreciation of the self, but also of the human condition. It is evident in psychologist, spiritual leaders, and philosophers. These young adults may be shy. They are very aware of their own feelings and are self-motivated.
- SPATIAL INTELLIGENCE (“PICTURE SMART”)
Spatial intelligence is the ability to think in three dimensions. Core capacities include mental imagery, spatial reasoning, image manipulation, graphic and artistic skills, and an active imagination. Sailors, pilots, sculptors, painters, and architects all exhibit spatial intelligence. Young adults with this kind of intelligence may be fascinated with mazes or jigsaw puzzles, or spend free time drawing or daydreaming.
HOW CAN THE MULTIPLE INTELLIGENCES THEORY GUIDE ECCE TEACHERS?
While additional research is still needed to determine the best measures for assessing and supporting a range of intelligences in schools, the theory has provided opportunities to
roaden definitions of intelligence. As an ECCE educator, it is useful to think about the different ways that information can be presented. However, it is critical to not classify students as being specific types of learners nor as having an innate or fixed type of intelligence.
For example, teachers can develop small quizzes with the help of online Multiple Intelligences Quiz maps aligned to Howard Gardner's multiple intelligences. This is a fun way to learn about how some of our tastes and interests can influence how we take in information. However, its results are not intended as a way to label people as naturalistic learners, musical learners, etc. Labelling creates limits, and when it comes to learning, we want to avoid restricting how we define student potential. People have much different intelligence and strength in one area does not predict weakness in another.
- Learning Styles
Among the recently renowned learning theories and themes one of the most talked about and relevant is “learning styles”. The term “learning styles” speaks to the understanding that every student learns differently. Technically, an individual’s learning style refers to the preferential way in which the student absorbs processes, comprehends and retains information. For example, when learning how to build a clock, some students understand the process by following verbal instructions, while others have to physically manipulate the clock themselves. This notion of individualized learning styles has gained widespread recognition in education theory and classroom management strategy. Individual learning styles depend on cognitive, emotional and environmental factors, as well as one’s prior experience. In other words: everyone’s different. It is important for educators and vital for ECCE teachers to understand the differences in their students’ learning styles, so that they can implement the best practices strategies into their daily activities, curriculum and assessments.
NEIL FLEMING'S VARK MODEL
The most relevant and appropriate learning styles model is by Neil Fleming who has proposed VARK model expanded upon notions of sensory modalities of Visual, Auditory, Reading/Writing and Kinaesthetic.
The VARK model acknowledges that students have different approaches to how they process information, referred to as “preferred learning modes.”
- Students’ preferred learning modes have significant influence on their behaviour and learning
- Students’ preferred learning modes should be matched with appropriate learning strategies.
- Information that is accessed through students’ use of their modality preferences shows an increase in their levels of comprehension, motivation, and metacognition.
Identifying students as visual, auditory, reading/writing or kinaesthetic learners, and aligning the overall curriculum with these learning styles, will prove to be beneficial for overall classroom management, allowing students to access information in ways they are comfortable with will increase their academic confidence.
- High Scope Approach
The High Scope Educational Research Foundation studies methods of early childhood education based on the methodology of the 1962 Perry Preschool study. It was founded in 1970 by psychologist David Weikart.
The Perry Preschool study has been noted for its "large effects on educational attainment, income, criminal activity, and other important life outcomes, sustained well into adulthood".
The philosophy behind High Scope is based on child development theory and research, originally drawing on the work of Jean Piaget and John Dewey. The curriculum was further developed to incorporate Lev Vygotsky's zone of proximal development and Jerome Bruner's related strategy of adult scaffolding. This method emphasizes the role of adults to support each child at their current developmental level and help them build upon it, under a model of "shared control" where activities are both child-initiated and adult-guided. The adults working with the children see themselves more as facilitators or partners than as managers or supervisors.
How to Teach
In a High Scope preschool program, teachers ignite children’s interest in learning by creating an environment that encourages them to explore learning materials and interact with adults and peers. The focus is on supporting early learners as they make decisions, build academic skills, develop socially and emotionally, and become part of a classroom community.
Active learning is at the centre of the High Scope Curriculum. It’s the foundation of young children gaining knowledge through their natural play and interactions with the environment, events, and other people.
Teachers act as partners, working alongside children and communicating with them both verbally and nonverbally to encourage learning. Key strategies for adult-child interactions are sharing control with children, communicating as a partner with children, scaffolding children’s play, using encouragement instead of praise, and taking a problem-solving approach to supporting children in resolving conflicts.
To create a predictable and active learning environment, teachers arrange and equip the classroom with diverse, open-ended materials that reflect children’s home, culture, and language. The room is organized and labelled to promote independence and encourage children to carry out their intentions.
A consistent framework for the day provides a balanced variety of experiences and learning opportunities. Children engage in both individual and social play, participate in small and large-group activities, assist with clean up, socialize during meals, develop self-care skills, and exercise their small and large muscles. The most important segment of the daily routine is the plan-do-review sequence, in which children make decisions about what they will do, carry out their ideas, and reflect upon their activities with adults and other children. These higher-level thinking skills are linked to the development of executive functions, which are needed to be successful in school and life.
Ongoing child assessment is also an underlying component of the High Scope Curriculum. Objective anecdotal observations of children collected throughout children’s natural play allow teachers to assess child progress and plan meaningful learning experiences.
- Blooms Taxonomy
Bloom's taxonomy is a set of three hierarchical models used to classify educational learning objectives into levels of complexity and specificity. The three lists cover the learning objectives in cognitive, affective and psychomotor domains. The cognitive domain list has been the primary focus of most traditional education and is frequently used to structure curriculum learning objectives, assessments and activities.
The models were named after Benjamin Bloom, who chaired the committee of educators that devised the taxonomy.
- The Cognitive Domain (knowledge-based)
In the original version of the taxonomy, the cognitive domain is broken into the following six levels of objectives. In the 2001 revised edition of Bloom's taxonomy, the levels are slightly different: Remember, Understand, Apply, Analyze, Evaluate, Create (rather than Synthesize).
Knowledge involves recognizing or remembering facts, terms, basic concepts, or answers without necessarily understanding what they mean. Its characteristics may include:
- Knowledge of specifics—terminology, specific facts
- Knowledge of ways and means of dealing with specifics—conventions, trends and sequences, classifications and categories, criteria, methodology
- Knowledge of the universals and abstractions in a field—principles and generalizations, theories and structures
Example: Name three common varieties of apple.
Comprehension involves demonstrating an understanding of facts and ideas by organizing, comparing, translating, interpreting, giving descriptions, and stating the main ideas.
Example: Compare the identifying characteristics of a Golden Delicious apple with a Granny Smith apple.
Application involves using acquired knowledge—solving problems in new situations by applying acquired knowledge, facts, techniques and rules. Learners should be able to use prior knowledge to solve problems, identify connections and relationships and how they apply in new situations.
Example: Would apples prevent scurvy, a disease caused by a deficiency in vitamin C?
Analysis involves examining and breaking information into component parts, determining how the parts relate to one another, identifying motives or causes, making inferences, and finding evidence to support generalizations. Its characteristics include:
- Analysis of elements
- Analysis of relationships
- Analysis of organization
Example: List four ways of serving foods made with apples and explain which ones have the highest health benefits. Provide references to support your statements.
Synthesis involves building a structure or pattern from diverse elements; it also refers to the act of putting parts together to form a whole. Its characteristics include:
- Production of a unique communication
- Production of a plan, or proposed set of operations
- Derivation of a set of abstract relations
Example: Convert an "unhealthy" recipe for apple pie to a "healthy" recipe by replacing your choice of ingredients. Explain the health benefits of using the ingredients you chose vs. the original ones.
Evaluation involves presenting and defending opinions by making judgments about information, the validity of ideas, or quality of work based on a set of criteria. Its characteristics include:
- Judgments in terms of internal evidence
- Judgments in terms of external criteria
Example: Which kinds of apples are best for baking a pie, and why?
- The Affective Domain (emotional-based)
Skills in the affective domain describe the way people react emotionally and their ability to feel other living things' pain or joy. Affective objectives typically target the awareness and growth in attitudes, emotions and feelings.
There are five levels in the affective domain moving through the lowest-order processes to the highest.
The lowest level; the student passively pays attention. Without this level, no learning can occur. Receiving is about the student's memory and recognition as well.
The student actively participates in the learning process, not only attends to a stimulus; the student also reacts in some way.
The student attaches a value to an object, phenomenon, or piece of information. The student associates a value or some values to the knowledge they acquired.
The student can put together different values, information, and ideas, and can accommodate them within his/her own schema; the student is comparing, relating and elaborating on what has been learned.
The student at this level tries to build abstract knowledge.
- The Psychomotor Domain (action-based)
Skills in the psychomotor domain describe the ability to physically manipulate a tool or instrument like a hand or a hammer. Psychomotor objectives usually focus on change and/or development in behavior and/or skills.
Bloom and his colleagues never created subcategories for skills in the psychomotor domain, but since then other educators have created their own psychomotor taxonomies. Simpson (1972) proposed the following levels:
The ability to use sensory cues to guide motor activity: This ranges from sensory stimulation, through cue selection, to translation.
Examples: Detects non-verbal communication cues. Estimate where a ball will land after it is thrown and then moving to the correct location to catch the ball. Adjusts heat of the stove to correct temperature by smell and taste of food. Adjusts the height of the forks on a forklift by comparing where the forks are in relation to the pallet.
Key words: chooses, describes, detects, differentiates, distinguishes, identifies, isolates, relates, selects.
Readiness to act: It includes mental, physical, and emotional sets. These three sets are dispositions that predetermine a person's response to different situations (sometimes called mindsets). This subdivision of psychomotor is closely related with the "responding to phenomena" subdivision of the affective domain.
Examples: Knows and acts upon a sequence of steps in a manufacturing process. Recognizes his or her abilities and limitations. Shows desire to learn a new process (motivation).
Keywords: begins, displays, explains, moves, proceeds, reacts, shows, states, volunteers.
The early stages of learning a complex skill that includes imitation and trial and error: Adequacy of performance is achieved by practicing.
Examples: Performs a mathematical equation as demonstrated. Follows instructions to build a model. Responds to hand-signals of the instructor while learning to operate a forklift.
Keywords: copies, traces, follows, reacts, reproduces, responds.
The intermediate stage in learning a complex skill: Learned responses have become habitual and the movements can be performed with some confidence and proficiency.
Examples: Use a personal computer. Repair a leaking tap. Drive a car.
Key words: assembles, calibrates, constructs, dismantles, displays, fastens, fixes, grinds, heats, manipulates, measures, mends, mixes, organizes, sketches.
Complex overt response
The skilful performance of motor acts that involve complex movement patterns: Proficiency is indicated by a quick, accurate, and highly coordinated performance, requiring a minimum of energy. This category includes performing without hesitation and automatic performance. For example, players will often utter sounds of satisfaction or expletives as soon as they hit a tennis ball or throw a football because they can tell by the feel of the act what the result will produce.
Examples: Manoeuvres a car into a tight parallel parking spot. Operates a computer quickly and accurately. Displays competence while playing the piano.
Key words: assembles, builds, calibrates, constructs, dismantles, displays, fastens, fixes, grinds, heats, manipulates, measures, mends, mixes, organizes, sketches. (Note: The key words are the same as in mechanism, but will have adverbs or adjectives that indicate that the performance is quicker, better, more accurate, etc.)
Skills are well developed and the individual can modify movement patterns to fit special requirements.
Examples: Responds effectively to unexpected experiences. Modifies instruction to meet the needs of the learners. Performs a task with a machine that was not originally intended for that purpose (the machine is not damaged and there is no danger in performing the new task).
Key words: adapts, alters, changes, rearranges, reorganizes, revises, varies.
Creating new movement patterns to fit a particular situation or specific problem: Learning outcomes emphasize creativity based upon highly developed skills.
Examples: Constructs a new set or pattern of movements organized around a novel concept or theory. Develops a new and comprehensive training program. Creates a new gymnastic routine.
Key words: arranges, builds, combines, composes, constructs, creates, designs, initiates, makes, originates.