Explain How Theories of Development and Frameworks to Support Development Influence Current Practice

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There are many different theories of development that help us to understand children’s behaviour, reactions and ways of learning. All equally important as they influence practice. To begin with there is Piaget’s constructivist theories which look at the way in which children seem to be able to make sense of their world as a result of their experiences and how they are active learners. He also suggested that as children develop so does their thinking. Piaget’s work has influenced early years settings into providing more hands on and relevant tasks for children and young people. In other words the children are ‘learning through play’. Teachers are working out the needs of children and plan activities accordingly.

Vygotsky is another theorist but of cognitive development. Vygotsky suggested that children were born to be sociable and by being with parents and then with friends they learned and gained understanding from them. He suggested that people in early years setting working with children should extend and challenge their thoughts in order for their potential development to be achieved. As well as the need for adults to work alongside children Vygotsky also felt that children could guide and develop each others potential by encouraging them to do tasks together. Evidence of this can often be found in my setting. One example would be reading buddies where children in the infants are paired up with a child from the juniors and they read to their buddy for 10 minutes every day.

The behaviourist approach to learning suggests that behaviour is learned from environmental factors, rewards and punishments. For example if you touched a flame from a candle and it burns you then you learn not to touch a flame again because you know that you will get burned. Behaviourists often call this conditioning. This was demonstrated in John B Watson’s famous experiment where he used a small boy called little Albert and created a phobia of rats in him. This would now be classed as unethical. Although this type of conditioning is not used in practice with young children it does help us to have an understanding of phobias in young children such as loud noises or fear of needles.

B.F. Skinners theory of operant conditioning is probably the most commonly used theory in practice in early years settings. Skinner suggested that people draw conclusions based on the consequences of their behaviour when exploring the environment. He divided the consequences into three areas. The first area being positive reinforcers where people are likely to get something they desire if they repeat a certain behaviour. He suggested that this was the most effective way to encourage new learning. This can be seen in early years settings where by children are rewarded for good behaviour this lots of praise, attention, stickers or treats. This will help children to carry on showing good behaviour until such a time when it is learned. Second is negative reinforcers which are used to stop something from happening but the behaviour is also likely to repeated. Just like when a child is going down a slide but doesn’t like going fast so they use their hands on the sides to slow themselves down. The third is punishers, which is a behaviour that you learn to stop doing e.g. if you receive a shock from an electric fence then you learn to stay away from it.

Skinner also found that there are unexpected positive reinforces such as when a child behaves badly just to get the attention of their carer. Once they get the attention even if they are scolded they will repeat the bad behaviour to get the carers attention again because getting the attention is the reward. Sometimes it is better to ignore bad behaviour unless the child is doing something that could harm them self.

Albert Bandura was another theorist but he believed in the social learning theory. Although he accepted the principles of conditioning he also believed that there was...
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