Learning Theorists Piaget (1896-1980) described development as going through different mental processes. He believed that all children pass through the stages but environmental influences on children will vary the ages each stage is reached. A child who is given more learning opportunities will develop faster by progressing through the stages at a faster rate. Therefore play and children activites facilitated by an adult increase he rate of development.
Sensory Motor Stage: Birth to 2 Years-An enormous amount of growth and development takes place in the first two years of life. During that time span, children go from being completely helpless to walking, talking, and to a degree, being able to make sense of the world around them. One of the most important milestones that children achieve in their first few years, according to Piaget, is their mastery of “object permanency,” or the ability to understand that even when a person or object is removed from their line of sight, it still exists.
Early on, children are only able to perceive things that are right in front of them, but as they mature, they understand that if a ball rolls under a chair and they can no longer see it, it still exists, under the chair. This is an especially important understanding for children, helping them to have an increased sense of safety and security since they can now grasp the fact that when mum leaves the room, she hasn’t disappeared, but will soon return. Preoperational Stage: 2-7 Years-Once object permanency is achieved, children move onto this next stage, which is marked by a number of advancements.
Language skills develop rapidly, allowing kids to better express themselves. Also, children in the preoperational stage are egocentric, meaning that they believe that everyone sees the world the way that they do, leaving no room for the perspectives of others. For example, a child will sometimes cover their eyes so that they cannot see someone and make the assumption that the other person now cannot see them, either. A major indicator of this stage is called conservation, or the ability to understand that quantity does not change just because shape changes.
Concrete Operations Stage: 7 to 11 Years-During the concrete operations stage, the centristic thought process is gradually replaced by the ability to consider a number of factors simultaneously, giving them the ability to solve increasingly complex problems. Also, kids at this stage can now understand how to group like objects, even if they are not identical. Another important developmental advancement that occurs during this phase is seriation, the ability to place things in order according to size.
Formal Operations Stage: 11 and Beyond-In the final phase of cognitive development, children hold a much broader understanding of the world around them and are able to think in abstract ways. They are also able to hypothesise possible outcomes to a given problem and then think of ways in which to test their theories. Children in the formal operations stage learn to use deductive reasoning to draw conclusions, which opens them up to a wider base of knowledge than ever before. Les Vygotsky (1869 – 1934) had similar theories to Piaget. He also saw an adult role as important in children’s learning.
His theories accepted that a child learns actively by using the information in the environment but looks towards a more social setting for learning. He believed strongly that language had an important part to play in a childs learning, and that interaction between a child and others in their community was hugely beneficial to a child’s language development. He developed the theory known as the zone of proximal development (ZPD). This is the time between learning or the next level in development, he stated the next level was only obtainable by a child’s interaction with an adult.
This theory emphasises the importance of a teacher in a child’s learning. His theory recognised that adults in a child’s environment have an important part to play in the child’s learning. A second aspect of Vygotsky’s theory is the idea that the potential for cognitive development depends upon the “zone of proximal development”(ZPD): a level of development attained when children engage in social behavior. Full development of the ZPD depends upon full social interaction. The range of skill that can be developed with adult guidance or peer collaboration exceeds what can be attained alone.
The major difference between Paiget and Vygotsky were, Piagets believed a child would learn through their environment quite independently whereas Vygotsky put huge emphasis in the social setting aiding the learning process. Jerome Bruner (1915-date) agrees that cognitive development is highly related to the systematic social interaction between a child and a parent, peer or teacher. Nevertheless, Bruner’s theory of cognitive development can be more linked to Piaget’s theory. Bruner settled on the idea that children evolve through different modes of represention in their intellectual development.
He introduced three modes of representing understanding, namely, enactive, iconic and symbolic. The iconic representation stage involves using images, pictures or photos that outline an action to represent knowledge while the more primitive enactive mode involves representing knowledge solely through physical actions and thus is very compatible to Piaget’s sensorimotor stage. The symbolic mode, however, includes using, for example, symbolic or pretend play for representing cognitive advancement.
Bruner’s theories have been very influential in child play and music instructing sessions and represent a conclusive bridge between Piaget and Vygotski’s theories. More recently, Bandura’s theory has come to encompass the above mentioned behaviour, environment, and cognition. An example of the three elements working together and influencing one another may be: A dedicated music student practices diligently and becomes proficient at her craft. Her success increases her confidence and self-esteem, showing that her behaviour (the hard work) influenced her thinking process (the increased confidence).
Before long, her music instructor offers the student and a few of her equally ambitious peers the opportunity to participate in a special recital and they happily agree. The recital is a big hit, encouraging other parents to enrol their children with this instructor, so at this point, the environment (the glorious recital) influenced behaviour (parents flocking to register their children for classes) and behaviour (those same parents actions) has influenced the environment (the teacher now adds more classes and buys herself a brand new car with the proceeds of her success! ).
The wonderful recital prompted the belief that other children could benefit from instruction, thoughts that influenced the environment and vice versa. Albert Bandura’s (1925- date) studies concluded that environment causes behaviour but that behaviour causes environment, too. He referred to this idea as “reciprocal determination,” believing that an individual’s actions and the actions of the world around him are intertwined. As his work progressed, he further stated that personality is an interaction of outside influences (environment), behaviour, and an individual’s psychological processes.
Bandura conducted hundreds of studies, each of which helped lead him to similar conclusions – increasing in depth as the years progressed. Bandura’s early research work focused primarily on observational learning (sometimes called imitation or modelling), which is simply learning from observing the actions of others. He believed that once someone had witnessed another’s behaviour, they may be inclined to adopt this behaviour as their own, ultimately building it into their personality profile. For example, children who are raised in violent households may then act in a similarly aggressive manner when interacting with their peers.
It would seem from looking at the basics of Bandura’s Social Cognitive Theory that by changing one or more aspects of influence, specific (and hopefully positive) outcomes could be achieved. For parents hoping to provide their children with the tools needed to grow into healthy, happy, responsible people, this is a heartening thought. Parents who raise children in a caring, supportive environment can certainly contribute to their children’s abilities to develop good self-esteem, enabling the children to better deal with outside situations and influences that they are sure to encounter now and then.
If you follow Bandura’s theory a little further, it would suggest that self-confident children will affect the world in constructive ways, continually expanding the line of good outcomes. The idea that every person is a catalyst for change (either positive or negative) should certainly motivate parents to offer their very best to their children! Skinner(1904-1990) believed in Behavioristic theories. When studying behaviorist theories you investigate the role of learning in the development of personality.
The psychologist study conditions and situations that affect the learning of behavior. His first theory was of reinforcement. When a behavior is reinforced, or rewarded the chances of that happening again are likely. He is saying by reinforcement if the person knows they will get rewarded for it they will continue to do it. Skinner noted that the learning process should be divided into “a very large number of very small steps and reinforcement must be contingent upon the accomplishment of each step. Skinner also stated that by making the steps of learning small, the frequency of reinforcement can be increased and the frequency of being wrong is reduced. Another theory was that of punishment. He says in this way he does not approve. Skinner says that punishing a child for something will make him not do it again and that is good in some cases, but what if your parents are abusive. He says that the theory of rewarding is the way to go and punishment is not strengthening behavior, it is lessening the likelihood of that behavior to happen again. I think his theory is correct in some ways.
Many behaviourists stand by the fundamentals of this belief but feel that Skinner was short-sighted in believing that cognition doesn’t play an important role. Social Cognitive Theory emphasises the principle that behaviour, environment, and cognition operate together, each exerting important influence on the others. In my opinion this is the best one, but I do believe in punishment also. In some cases you need rewarding and in some cases you need punishment. Although I do not fully agree, I like the thought of rewarding and that will increase the chance of that behavior happening again.