Child development theories guide teaching practices of children from birth to 11 years of age. One key issue shaping curriculum design is the development of learning standards. The arrival of standards into programs serving children from birth to 11years of age has challenged those who want to ensure the implementation of developmentally appropriate practices during a standards-based climate that emphasizes accountability.
In the late 2000s, leading researchers in early childhood education were beginning to provide guidance for ensuring that the needs of young children are appropriately addressed within this context. The practices that early childhood educators implement with children from birth to 8 have the greatest impact on child outcomes. Knowledge of those practices and the underlying theoretical orientation that supports them is essential in order for young children to receive “critical experiences.” There are four broad theoretical perspectives that guide practice in early childhood development: behaviourism and social learning theory, cognitive-developmental theory, sociocultural theory, and ecological systems theory.
B. F. Skinner (1904–1990) is most noted for his theory of behaviourism or more specifically operant conditioning theory, which is based on the premise that children's behaviour can be increased based on the presentation of reinforces and decreased through punishment (Berk, 2000). Social learning theory, created by Albert Bandura (b. 1925), expands on operant conditioning by adding the idea that imitation or observational learning increases the chances that children will learn new behaviours. Generally speaking, behaviourists believe that children's development is outside of their own influence, that it is shaped by environmental stimuli (Daniels & Shumow, 2003).
Jean Piaget (1896–1980) is credited with the cognitive-developmental theory that “views the child as actively constructing knowledge and cognitive development as taking...
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