Teachers can use theories and findings from developmental psychology to improve the quality of learning that takes place within the classroom by changing the learning methods and social conditions that typify an educational classroom. This essay will attempt to show that although there are many psychological ideas that have theorised and researched different ways to educate; the most successful of these are drawn from Experiential learning. The vast scope of research on child development within developmental psychology forbids a full dissection of all key theorists in this brief essay; therefore I have limited the theoretical discussion to research and examples originating from the works of Carl Rogers, Jean Piaget and Lev Vygotsky.
Although there is some disagreement, the bulk of psychological theory suggests that the techniques educators are currently using to develop learning potential in educational settings are inadequate. The approach of the different schools of thought, point out that educators do not centre on the socio-cognitive development of their pupils and provide differing examples of where the educators and the educational system has failed to facilitate student development. Theoretical examples can be drawn from Rogers who believed that education needed to person-centred (Rogers cited in Kirschenbaum and Henderson:1989 :p326); Lisi who expressed that peer learning was undervalued and discovery learning would dramatically enhance learning potential (Lisi :2002:p1) and Vygotsky who felt the educators needed to be integrated into the learner's experience(Mooney:2000:p82.) This direct and indirect assault on the current educational process coupled with educators scornful attitude towards the theories which many feel have little practical value, create a difficult environment for developmental psychology and education to have productive dialogue (Mooney:2000:p5.) Bearing this in mind the argument proceeding will draw from a pedagogy which has real practical experience, Experiential Learning.
In the broadest of terms it can be suggested that Experiential Learning addresses the needs and wants of the student. Rogers provided a full explanation of how teachers could influence the learning capabilities of their students, with an overarching precondition;' the facilitator of education is sufficiently secure within him/herself and experiences a necessary trust in the capability of others to think and to learn for themselves (Rogers cited in Kirschenbaum et al:1989:p327.) The Rogers method of looking at education was similar to his therapeutic approach and it can be argued reasonable, since the successful relationship between therapist and client shares similarities to the teacher and student relationship. Both these relationships are attempting to develop the social and/or cognitive abilities of the person.
The full explanation that Rogers suggested for pedagogical use, at times fit neatly into a Piagian conception and at other times a Vygotskian conception of learning. Although traditionally Piagian and Vygotskian theory appear to stand at odds with each other due to the practical applications in opposing constructivist and behaviouralist examples of teaching practise, a further analysis of Experiential learning through the explanation Rogers laid out for teachers to facilitate learning explain how teachers can inform classroom practise in both mainstream and humanistic schools.
Brookfield (1983: 16) noted that two understandings of experiential learning have emerged from various papers, which suggests an explanation for the different practical implications. Experiential learning is in some instances used to describe direct experience with the material being studied. Students in this understanding of experiential learning will relate to and apply knowledge, skills and emotions to the subject...