Critical Evaluation of Young People's Learning in Context of Learning Theory

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A critical evaluation of young people’s learning and development, with specific reference to the student’s own role in working with young people

Shaun Higgins

Introduction

The aim of the assignment is to discuss & define my critical-standpoint on theories of learning & adolescent-development, in relation to how these inform as well as challenge my youth-work practice.

In summary, it will discuss: an understanding of adolescence; the relevance of an understanding of adolescence to meeting young-people 's developmental-needs in youth-work practice; the relevance of identity to empowerment; wider issues of empowerment in practice; facilitating informal-learning; and the challenge of theory in practice.

What is Adolescence?

Kehily (2007), in exploring the history of ideas of adolescence, emphasises the existing difference between an idea of adolescence and an idea of youth, each having emerged from different research-traditions.

At the turn of the twentieth-century, G. Stanley Hall described adolescence as “a transitional period in the journey from childhood to adulthood, characterised as a period of 'storm & stress '” (Kehily on Hall, p.13): a time of extreme moods, thoughts & actions, engendered by physiological change and bodily development. Expanding on Darwin 's concept of evolution, he created a biogenetic psychological theory of recapitulation: one where, from birth to adult, each individual passes through the same stages that humankind has itself passed, in its evolution. Assuming that adolescent-development is determined by biological processes, and in making no account of environmental influence, his theory outlined an inevitable, predetermined, universally-applicable process; uninfluenced by society or culture (Muuss, 1996, p.16).

The more-recent sociological idea of 'youth ' centres its concern on the influence of culture on the development of a young-person: not only in terms of how youth are defined or positioned by society, but



References: Kehily, MJ (2007) 'A cultural perspective ' in Kehily MJ (Ed) (2007) Understanding Youth: perspectives, identities and practices London: Sage/OU Muuss RE (1996) 6th ed. Theories of Adolescence USA: McGraw Hill Coleman JC and Hendry LB (1999) 3rd ed NYA: National Occupational Standards in Youth Work (accessed Dec 2008), www.nya.org.uk/Shared_ASP_Files/.../5934A27C-65DB-4FD0-BF9E-73B040541096_LiverpoolStaffDevelopmentPolicy2002.doc Bandura, A Smith MK (1999) 'Learning Theory ' The Encyclopedia of Informal Education, www.infed.org/biblio/b-learn.htm. Last update: 30 Jan, 2005 Borzak (1981), quoted in Brookfield (1983), quoted in Smith, M Smith MK (1997, 2002) 'Paulo Freire and informal education ' The Encyclopedia of Informal Education, www.infed.org/thinkers/er-freire.htm Last update:01 Oct, 2008 Tight M (2000) 2nd ed Tennant M (2006) 3rd ed. Psychology and Adult Learning Oxon: Routledge

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