Developmental Theories

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“All developmental theories can be distilled into one powerful statement – if there is no development, there is no learning.” Do you agree? Use examples from some of the theories that you have encountered to justify your response.

Over the years, many psychologists, scholars, mathematicians, teachers and counsellors have pondered this exact statement. I, at the risk of being predictable, agree with this statement but then also think that the idea can be reversed – saying that without learning, there will be limited development. This is not a hasty decision, the studies of Piaget and Vygotsky, along with numerous others cited in Educational Psychology (Woolfolk and Margetts, 2007) and academic journals all point to the conclusive outcome that development is essential to learning.

Development, on a biological, social, emotional and cognitive level is defined in Educational Psychology as “certain changes that occur in human beings…between conception and death” (Woolfolk and Margetts, 2007) and “[these changes] are generally assumed to be for the better and result in behaviour that is more adaptive, more organised, more effective and more complex” (Mussen, Conger and Kagan, 1984). Development is therefore essentially PROGRESSION. Another source even says “the development of children unfolds along individual pathways whose trajectories are characterized by continuities and discontinuities, as well as by a series of significant transitions” (Shonkoff and Phillips 2000), showing that development is a process and a period of transition.

Jean Piaget (1954) is explained in Educational Psychology to believe that “our thinking processes change radically, though slowly, from birth to maturity because we constantly strive to make sense of the world” (Woolfolk and Margetts, 2007). Piaget also “began to suspect that the key to human knowledge might be discovered by observing how the child's mind develops” (Papert, 1999). He then went on to discuss the term...
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