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Camila Ferreira Marques Y1767726

TMA 01
Children are active in constructing their own learning. To what extend do the four theories in chapter 2 theories of development support this statement?

How children learn has long been debated and theorized. Through the years, four 'grand theories' have emerged from 4 contrasting views of how children learn and develop: behaviourism (development as discipline), social learning (development as experience), constructivism (development as natural stages) and social constructivism (development as interaction). This essay will compare and contrast these four theories in terms of their general explanations of what learning is and how it happens. Look at their commonalities and differences, as well as their strengths and weakness, in terms their usefulness and of how they perceive the role of children in their own learning. This essay will argue that from the four grand theories, behaviourism see childrens as passive recipient of environmental influences that shapes their behaviour, therefore it provides the less support to the statement that children are active in constructing their own learning, when compared to the other 3 theories. Behaviourism is based on the premise that psychology must be a science of observable behaviour, without reference to mental processes that cannot be observed. Research often involves animals and its assumed that the same general principles apply to all animal species including humans (Oates, Sheehy and Wood, 2005, pp.53). Behaviourism defines learning as a change in behaviour as a result of experience and is referred to as conditioning (classical and operant conditioning) (Oates, Sheehy and Wood, 2005, pp.51). Classical conditioning, developed by Watson (as cited in Oates, Sheehy and Wood, 2005, pp.52) involves learning by association between a stimulus and a response, known as contingencies. An example of how classical conditioning works is the experiment conducted by Watson and Rayner, (Oates, Sheehy and Wood, 2005, pp.53) known as Little Albert where an 11-month-old toddler was conditioned to be afraid of a white rat and later, through the process of generalisation, to all different kind of furry things, such as furry toys, furry coat and even Father Christmas mask. In operant conditioning proposed by B. F. Skinner (as cited in Oates, Sheehy and Wood, 2005, pp.53), the individual learns that a particular behaviour produces a particular consequence. Operant conditioning happens where there is an increase or decrease of a voluntary behaviour by use of reinforcement or punishment techniques (Oates, Sheehy and Wood, 2005, pp.54). Time-out or removal of favourite objects or tokens, are example of punishment techniques intended to decrease undesired behaviours. Reinforcement (positive or negative) to increase a particular behaviour is used to increase desired behaviours (e.g pleasant stimulus presented or aversive stimulus removed). According to Skinner for punishment to be effective it has to be contingent (immediate), severe and consistently applied, which makes it almost impossible to achieve outside the laboratory, and further only suppresses behaviour temporarily (Oates, Sheehy and Wood, 2005, pp.56).
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Camila Ferreira Marques Y1767726

Further, as argued by Huesmann et al. (2003) punishment as a learning tool can stimulate aggressive behaviour or suppress, but the long term consequences are often not known. Punishment only shows the child what not to do, for behaviour to change effectively the child need to learn what alternative behaviour is appropriate and then being reinforced for doing it. For this reasons, contemporary techniques for behavioural change, such as Applied Behavioural Analysis (ABA) based on behaviourism do not use punishment, but select appropriate behaviours as teaching targets and increase their frequency through reinforcement techniques (Oates, Sheehy and Wood, 2005, pp.57). One of the advantages of behaviourism lies in its utility as a form of direct communication with children who are too young to speak or who otherwise are difficult to communicate with. According to Keenan (1997), practice shows that ABA can be used successfully to help autistic and ADHD children and those operant principles can be successfully applied in changing behaviour. From the behaviourism perspective, learning is as a primary consequence of environmental influences, where behaviour is learned and maintained by its consequences; therefore the child agency in their own learning process is not recognized. Behaviourism has been strongly criticized for being too mechanical or too simplistic approach to learning and for ignoring childrens thoughts, beliefs interpretations of a situation, further it does not seem to explain all the other things that children learn in areas such as language, cognition and social behaviour (Oates, Sheehy and Wood, 2005, pp.58). Children do not only learn from the consequences of their behaviour, Social Learning Theory challenges behaviourism by recognizing that children learn by observing the behaviour of others and the outcomes of those behaviours rather than just being conditioned to behave in a certain way. They recognize a more active part that a child can play in learning from the environment. Bandura (1962) argues that behaviour is to a large extent socially transmitted. Learning occurs through exposure, acquisition and acceptance. By observing others experiencing reinforcement or punishment influences which behaviour a child attends to and is motivated to reproduce. In an experiment, known as the Bobo doll to study childrens tendencies to imitate (Oates, Sheehy and Wood, 2005, pp.60), Bandura found that the children who watch the aggressive behaviour being rewarded imitate much more the aggressive behaviour than the children who witness the aggressive behaviour being punished. Research findings (Bandura, 1962; Bandura, Ross and Ross, 1963a) also shows that the more remote the models are from reality, the weaker the tendency for children to imitate their behaviour. Social learning theory has instigated an ongoing debate about television being either positive or negative influence on young children. For example Kytomaki (1998) argues that family conditions in which TV is watched also have an impact on how children model behaviour. However, Davidson (1996) argues that research shows that amount of violence that 8-yearold children watch is a better predictor of adult aggression than other factors such as socioeconomic conditions. Others such as Huston et al (1981)) argue that if TV can influence childrens development in a negative way, they can also be influenced in a positive way; therefore television also has the potential to be a positive influence. Research shows that childrens who watch educational programmes such as the Sesame Street, has higher
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Camila Ferreira Marques Y1767726

academic scores three years letter when compared to those who did not watch educational programmes. Baduras work show us that learning can occur without reinforcement, however just like behaviourism, Social Learning theory places emphasis on external factors but it goes beyond it, in the sense that it argues that behaviour not only can be shaped by its consequences but also can be modelled. It takes into account that children extract general principles from what they observe, and children are viewed as being more active in their own learning, however, it does not tell us about what children think or the cognitive changes that are taking place. Piagets stage theory also known as Constructivism focus on cognitive development and argues that children go through a process of developmental stages which are universal and each has its own characteristics. Children develop progressively more sophisticated mental representations of the world (schemas), through the processes of motivation, assimilation and accommodation, where external events are assimilated into existing understanding. However unfamiliar events, which don't fit with existing knowledge, are also accommodated into the mind, thereby changing the schema and introducing new adaptive possibilities.(Oates, Sheehy and Wood, 2005, pp.65). Jean Piaget based his theory on observations and simple studies of his own children; but later many other children were systematically studied (.(Oates, Sheehy and Wood, 2005, pp.63). He argued that children go through 4 developmental stages, where the child becomes increasingly competent at acting in more complex ways on the environment ( (Oates, Sheehy and Wood, 2005, pp.63)). To determine when a child passed from one stage to the next, Piaget administered a set of experimental tasks each being linked to a stage like for example the conservation task to test the understanding that a quantity will be the same spite of any transformation of the way in which is presented (Oates, Sheehy and Wood, 2005, pp.67). Piaget recognized that childrens thinking is qualitatively different to that of an adult. He saw children as active, independent agents in their own learning and more important that the influences of parents and teachers. Although, he did value the role of peer interaction as important to foster cognitive development (Oates, Sheehy and Wood, 2005, pp.68). Piagets ideas were used to support pedagogic principles of discovery learning, where the role of the teacher is seen as a facilitator to learning rather than a role model which children should imitate as supported by. Further the view that learning is an individual and constructive process differed sharply from the prevailing behaviourism perspective, which made it a revolutionary approach at the time of its publication. According Donaldson (1978) who has criticized the conservation task, under certain conditions young children are able to operate at levels above those predicted by Piagets theory. For example simple modification to Piagets conservation tasks, by Light et al. (1979) showed that many children can grasp concepts earlier than predicted by Piaget, as long as it makes sense to them. Further Piagets theory has been criticized by Vygotsky, for not giving enough importance to social and cultural context (Oates, Sheehy and Wood, 2005, pp.70).

Camila Ferreira Marques Y1767726

Lev Vygotsky's, a Russian psychologist and philosopher in the 1930s who is most associated with social constructivism theory came independently to much of the same conclusions as Piaget about the constructive nature of development, however he differed in the role he ascribe to the social and cultural world surrounding the child (pp.71). Vygotsky claimed that cultural tools such as language play a very important role in learning. Through social interaction, children approapriate ways of thinking relevant to that particular social context and is supported by it, as opposed to children constructing their own as defended by Piaget. According to Vygotsky, the inventive use of tools is what makes us humans. (pp.71). The role of language is one of the main differences between Vygotsky Piaget. For Piaget, was a simple reflection of mental ability (pp72) and intelegence precceds language and is indpendnt of it. On the other hand, Vigotsky proposed that language had to functions: inner speech for mental reasoning and external speech for communication with other people. He suggested that the two functions arise separatedly , but around the age of 2 years old they merge and language becomes internalized for the purpose of thought and the social environment is reflected in childrens reasoning (pp.72). Between the age of 3 and 4 children often talk to themselves, a process identified by piaget as egocentric speech (pp.73) which desapears as the child gets older, however Vygotsky did not believe that the speech deasapear , rather he saw it as part of the process of internalising social speech (pp.73).Evidence supporting Vygosky explanation was found when children are presented with tasks of increasing difficulty, when their conscious use of self talk is seen to increase in order to guide teir efforts (pp73). For Vygotsky, self talk is crucial process in the development of inner speech and thought. Vygotsky agree with most of constructivism principles; however he saw development embedded within its social and cultural context and stressed the importance of cultural tools such as language (Oates, Sheehy and Wood, 2005, pp.71). According to Vygotsky (as cited in Oates, Sheehy and Wood, 2005, pp.71) its through social interaction that ways of thinking begins to be appropriated by children, in contrast to Piagets argument that children construct their own learning. For Piaget, language was a mental ability, whereas Vygotsky (1986) proposes that language is an instrument that allows the social environment to become part of children reasoning. As argued by Vygotsky (1978) all the higher functions (thought and language) originate as actual relations between human individuals. He also argued that adult tuition and contact with more able others was very important to children development. People of different abilities working together can create what he called a zone of proximal development (ZPD). For Vygotsky (1934) formal instruction had the potential to enable childrens development and foster metacognition. As opposed to Piagets view that learning is an individual endeavour and the role of teachers and parents is minimized. Social constructivism principles have been applied mostly in helping deaf-blind children and those with special educational needs how to communicate with others by developing language skills which support cognitive development and by bringing education into a theory of psychological development (Oates, Sheehy and Wood, pp.74). However Vygotskys theories have been criticized for not taking into consideration the childs view point. Crain (2000) has argued that Vygotskys ideas could led to pressure to start children on a formal curriculum before they are ready, ignoring the child needs to develop their childish capabilities. However one argument against such criticisms is that waiting until a child is ready for instruction is waiting until the child does not need teaching (pp.75).
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Camila Ferreira Marques Y1767726

In conclusion, all 4 grand theories have similarities and differences, some strengths and weaknesses. Social constructionism appear to offer a broader more complete explanation of child development, however all 4 theories have contributed to our understanding of how children learn by focusing on different aspects of the learning process. One of the commonalities is that they all value the environment in which a child is raised, but they differ in terms of the how important it is to the childs development process. They also differ in terms of how active they see the child, in constructing their own learning. Overall for behaviourism the child is a passive, reactive and predictable recipient of learning experiences therefore this theory when compared to the other 3 grand theories, does not support the statement.

References : Oates, J., Wood, C., and Grayson, A., (2005) Introduction, in Oates,J.,Wood, C., and Grayson, A. (eds) Psychological Development and Early Childhood, Oxford, Blackwell/Milton Keynes, Open University. Woodhead, M., (2005) children and development, in Oates, J. ,Wood, C., and Grayson, A. (eds) Psychological Development and Early Childhood, Oxford, Blackwell/Milton Keynes, Open University. Oates, J., Sheeny, K., and Wood c., (2005) Theories of development, in Oates, J. ,Wood, C., and Grayson, A. (eds) Psychological Development and Early Childhood, Oxford, Blackwell/Milton Keynes, Open University. Bandura, A. (1973) Reading B: Learning through modelling, in Oates, J., Sheehy, K. and Wood C. (2005) pp.85-86. Bandura, A.(1962), Reading B: Social learning through imitation in Oates J., Sheehy, K. and Wood (2005) pp.57. Bandura, A., Ross D.,and Ross, S.A. (1963a), Reading B: Imitation of film-mediated aggressive models in Oates J., Sheehy, K. and Wood, C. (2005) pp.85-86. Crain, W.C., (2000) Theories of development: concepts and applications in Oates J., Sheehy, K. and Wood , C. (2005) pp.75. Huesmann, L. R., Moise, J., Podolsky, C.P. and Eron, L.D. (2003) Longitudinal relations between childhood exposure to media violence and adult aggression and violence in Oates J., Sheehy, K. and Wood , C. (2005) pp.85-86. Kytomaki, J., (1998) Parental control and regulation of schoolchildrens television viewing, in Oates J., Sheehy, K. and Wood , C. (2005) pp.62. Davidson, J.,(1996) Menace to society in Oates J., Sheehy, K. and Wood , C. (2005) pp.62 Donaldson, M., (1978) Childrens mind in Oates J., Sheehy, K. and Wood , C. (2005) pp. 69
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Huston, A.C., Wright, J.C. and Wartella, E., (1981) Comunicating more than content: formal features of childrens television programmes in Oates J., Sheehy, K. and Wood , C. (2005) pp.62. Light, P. H., Buckingham, N. And Robbins, H., (1979) The conservation task as an interactional setting in Oates J., Sheehy, K. and Wood , C. (2005) pp.69. Vygotsky, L. S. (1934/1986) Thought and language in Oates J., Sheehy, K. and Wood , C. (2005) pp.72-74. Vygotsky, L. (1978) Mind in society: the development of higher psychological processes in Oates J., Sheehy, K. and Wood , C. (2005) pp.73.