“Critically examine the work of three selected authors from the readings in the Resource Booklet in relation to how children develop and learn and how teachers and other adults impact upon this process. Reflect upon the impact the knowledge gained from this reading has had on your own developing understanding of your role as a teacher.”
I have been asked to critically examine and discuss the work of three selected authors and to compare and contrast their views. I will link this theory to my experience of working with children, and give my own views and how this has developed my understanding in my role as a trainee teacher.
The readings I have chosen to discuss and compare are: An Introduction to Children’s Learning (Ray Potter), The Significance of Young Children’s Personal, Social and Emotional Development (Dowling M) and How Children Learn (Curtis A, O’Hagan M).
Potter discusses how behaviourism and cognitive development are the two most widely regarded theories in the approaches to learning and how these theories have implications for teaching. ‘Behaviourism is a theory of learning focusing on observable behaviours and discounting any mental activity.’ (Pritchard 2008:6).
He discusses several theorists and how their theories help children learn, and how teachers manage learning more effectively in the classroom. He talks about behaviourism and how children learn from life experiences. ‘Behaviourist claims that we are what we are, not because of innate intelligence or genetic factors, but solely due to our life experiences’. Potter (cited in Jacques et al 2004:63). Skinner, a pioneer in behaviourism, believed that behaviour could be controlled through ‘conditioning’, the act of rewarding desired behaviour (positive reinforcement) and ignoring undesired behaviour (negative reinforcement). Many of Skinner’s theories branch from his animal experiments, whereby he would reward with food and punish when saw unacceptable behaviour. This is highlighted in An Introduction to Children’s Learning (Potter), as to how this theory has been adapted in today’s schools. “Conditioning occurs in many schools in the morning when the children first arrive in the playground. They will be playing and talking to each other when they see their teacher come into the playground. The children will immediately line up in front of their teacher ready to go in to school”. This I observe everyday in my school setting.
In the Introduction to Children’s Learning (Ray Potter) it states that children achieve well through the “behaviourist psychology which goes back many years to Pavlov and Skinner, thus children learn by listening carefully to get the correct stimulus and through the repeated reinforcement of correct responses”. This is evident in schools today, whereby teachers encourage children to chant and repeat facts across the curriculum. This is in the hope that repetition will result in the information becoming innate, consequently allowing the children to regurgitate at the drop of a hat, but it could argued do the children lose the meaning. One has to ask however, how successful is this for all children? Biggs (cited in Leask 2009:89) ‘A pupil’s motivation influences the learning strategies they adopt. A pupil with an instrumental motivation is likely to adopt reproducing or rote learning strategies.’ Do children retain this knowledge?
We know now after many years of research that not all children benefit from the dated ‘talk and chalk’ style of teaching. The philosopher Confucius cited in Ray Potter’s In the Introduction to Children’s Learning, pondered the theory “I do and I understand”, this was later developed by Piaget who based his cognitive theories and ‘emphasis on doing, activity and experience... children learn through interaction with their environment’. (Kitsen et al 1997:2) ‘Piaget was actually keenly aware of the importance of social factors in children’s learning.’