Theory Reflection Paper

Description of the Setting

Learning is one important aspect that makes human beings become different from all other beings in the world, and which also makes them maintain their natural position on earth; which is to take care of animals and use natural resources wisely to sustain life on earth. Thus, learning is appreciated as the greatest form of achievement and the better it is, the greater the achievements are. Learning begins from the early stages of childhood development and a good understanding of how learning can be made effective during these stages contributes to a successful and well-nourished individualism in later life. Thus, various theories have been developed that have explored the learning capabilities of children during their early stages of life in which call for child care givers to make use of certain learning techniques that are more advantageous to aid children learning. All these theories agree that children are very active learners from their early stages of life and what they learn begins to shape up their behaviors and cognition. However, these theories tend to compete in terms of their suggested learning techniques (Nath). The theories covered in this study are Skinner’s, Piaget’s, and Vygotsky’s, in which the paper has attempted to analyze them and their arguments put into practical test. The learning environment considered in this study represents a diverse of physical contexts, cultures and locations that aid learning in children. They cover both inside and outside classroom while putting cultures of each setting into consideration, and their individual organization of learning. The results obtained from the tests are used to identify improvements needed in regards to each of the three theories. The findings of the study conclude the paper.

Theory Analysis

Skinner Theory

Different childhood development environments make people become individually different. In that, individual behaviors have been modeled and strengthened in different ways. At the childhood development stages or, in particular, for school going children, teachers are tasked with the responsibility of identifying at what point learning can easily take place to bring out the desired outcomes in every student. This is mostly in regards to the individual differences that each student represents in the classroom (Hebb 45). However, Skinner informs that it is not so easy for the teacher to ensure that each child is responding positively to the learning instructions provided, that are intended to change or improve their behaviors. Thus, Skinner theory is said to provide a computer-based solution to assist teachers in this scenario. That is, computer-aided instructions are used to educate each child while providing feedback at the same time. The main assumption made in this theory is that child’s behavior or learning is molded through reinforcement and also when the child makes his or her responses back (86-89).

Vygotsky Theory

Vygotsky theory emphasizes on the need to improve childhood learning in a social environment that is comprised of an adult who is more knowledgeable to influence improved learning on children. Vygotsky is compelled that children go through a suitable zone of learning known as “Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD),” which is created by the difference between the ability of the child to learn more and the child’s capacity to learn independently. At this stage, Vygotsky stresses the importance of the child improving his or her learning with the aid of another more knowledgeable person than when learning alone. This contributes greatly to the child’s cognitive growth. Thus, this theory informs that children initially develop their learning by interacting with others within their environment and with other persons as well (that is, in school and out of school environments) and these collectively mold their general learning, which they portray individually. Moreover, culture should also be included in this context of childhood learning to enrich general learning. These collective efforts, in Vygotsky’s view, help in solving problems in the society, perhaps in terms of preparing students to become productive and reliable future citizens (Vygotsky 79-81). Assumptions made in this theory are that: (a) children are able to learn when they interact with older people; (b) the ZPD stages of learning begin from the first years of childhood development and are very important to child’s life since his/her thoughts and also language development are highly dependent on these stages; (c) mental work activities start from socially related tasks; (d) that children can solve problems that are more difficult to them with the help of older persons; and (e) childhood activities that are more difficult improve child’s learning (Hebb 48).

Piaget’s Theory

This theory is explained to establish that cognitive development of children is achieved with the aid of the experiences they go through and their maturity. That is, from the knowledge the gain from their experiences they begin to organize every idea to understand the reality of the world around them. As they mature, they also start taking note of what idea is important and which one is not. Further, as they continue to grow and experience more, new ideas are generated, which improves their understanding more. Thus, it is compelled that humans begin to learn by incorporating new knowledge that improves the one that is already in existence. Besides, as one continues to mature, the ideas found important are accommodated. Generally, Piaget’s theory is highly dependent on the environment that the child grows in and how he or she interacts with it to improve learning. Assumptions made here are that children are quite active when they are growing up and there exist suitable environments that are quite rich with tools to aid learning needs of children. This rich environment is one that is comprised of social and physical elements. Another assumption is that learning processes in children up to adulthood take place in stages and it becomes more complex as the child becomes more mature (equilibration) (Piaget 28-30; Woolfolk 46-48).

Theory Analysis: Practical Tests and Teaching Analysis of Each of the Three Theories

Skinner Theory

Practical test from a behaviorist perspective

Observation

When I was given the opportunity to observe how learning was taking place in a kindergarten 7 class, using computer aided technique, what I observed was that children were given an arithmetic problem to solve following computerized instructions which were audio-visual. The computer provided a formula and it instructed students how to count balls and add and give an answer. After learning how to count and add, with the aid of teacher, students were given a computerized question which they were supposed to follow the instructions given. The computer responded back according to the answer that each of the students gave. That is, if wrong, they were directed again and if correct, they were congratulated and given another arithmetic question. This I saw was repeated a number of times until the students mastered how additions are done. This method of learning I found was good as each child got the attention needed. An improvement that would be needed here is that the teacher need to monitor closely each child how he or she is faring on at an individual level and provide further physical assistance should a child fail to respond as expected.

Practical test from a cognitivist perspective

What I can say helped the children develop cognitively while learning using computers was the incorporation of the rewarding and punitive elements. That is, when children were congratulated after each successful performance and punished to repeat a sum again when they failed. Here, they identified what were the right steps to follow to get it right and what were the wrong steps that made them fail. I also saw this working to reinforce good ideas and weaken bad ideas. An improvement that can be made here is that the technique should also be improved to include fun filled activities.

Practical test from a socialculturalist perspective

From my observation, children got motivated more when the teacher attempted to make children tackle tasks in groups. I saw children enjoyed sharing ideas and even those that faced difficulties before when they worked alone were able to understand more where they were failing. I found this method of learning from individual to group work to be very enriching and which should be strongly encouraged. From the cultural perspective, I can say was basically learning to appreciate contributions made from each group member.

Vygotsky Theory

Practical test from a behaviorist perspective

I attempted to test the applicability of this theory when I monitored how an older person trained a three year old child to build a simple house using building blocks. These blocks were of different colors and each color chosen to represent doors, windows, walls and roof. The person involved the child several times in building the house together. This was initially started by putting blocks that matched colors together and then picking each block to build the house. When the person saw the child was now able to do it alone, he decided to allow the child do it alone while he observed from far. The child showed great work and this was especially with the use of the colors. The problem was that the windows and the doors were wrongly placed but the child was able to match the colors of the blocks properly. Suggestions that I can make here is that tasks given should begin with those that are very simple first and then improved as the child grows.

Practical test from a cognitivist perspective

From this perspective, I can say that child’s cognitive development majorly depended on how the person responded to the child’s work. Here, I observed the person clapping when the child came up with a reasonable structure that was color matched and the child was happy. This showed that the child new that she had done the right thing. However, for wrong attempts, I observed it from other different tasks where the trainer made the child realize she had faulted.

Practical test from a socialculturalist perspective

As a socialculturalist, I advised the person to try and see child’s performance when she built the blocks with other children of slightly different ages. In this attempt, the trainer showed a sample of a completed house the way it looked and left it for the children to do it on their own. This was done and completed very first using two other children of four and five years. And when the child was asked to do it alone, more improvements were seen with very few mistakes. This I can say that group work motivated the child to learn more and increased team work facilitated her learning. As I had mentioned earlier, the practice of valuing ideas from other group members begins to build a cultural background in children and this I saw. In fact, the child was informed to follow a sample picture drawn of a house on the package. And the child was seen making references to this picture as she worked. An improvement that can be made is that each child’s learning ability needs to be well understood in order to come up with suitable methods of learning for the children. That is, there are those who might be slow learners and others that are fast learners as well.

Piaget’s Theory

Practical test from a behaviorist perspective

My observation in regards to this theory was based on studying the behavior of a child when left alone in some physical location that was well equipped with new toys that the child was unfamiliar with. I gathered that children are able to learn more from their curiosities. This child made attempts to find out what the things around him were. This he achieved by playing with the things, tasting them, appreciating their textures, and trying to understand their differences, and how they related to each other. Another observation I made was when the child was given older toys that he was already familiar with and this I saw did not interest him much only those that were his favorites. Improvements that can be made here are ensuring that the physical tools are safe for children to play with.

Practical test from a cognitivist perspective

Here I can say that the child can begin to know what is right when they don’t get hurt and what thing is wrong when they are hurt. Suggestions made here is that an older person’s guidance is also needed to aid child’s cognitive development, and also allowing the child to play with his other age-mates to improve his cognitive skills as well.

Practical test from a socialculturalist perspective

Motivational factors here I say were strongly felt when the child played together with other children while they relying on the adult guidance on what was wrong or right, and even helping them when they were in need. What I suggest can be improved here is allowing children of slightly different ages to play together to improve learning.

Conclusion

What I have gathered from the theory and practical tests is that all these theories complement each other since they all have their own individual weaknesses. This implies that one cannot rely on one theory alone to aid childhood learning. Also, I have realized that each of them is quite relevant to childhood learning.

Work Cited

Hebb, D. O. Chapter 2: The Science of Life-Span Development. (n.d). Web. 8th May 2015 <http://highered.mheducation.com/sites/dl/free/0070905738/80324/LSDChap02_1.pdf>.

Nath, Baiju. “Major Language Theorists Influencing Learning of Mathematics. Theories of Language in Learning Mathematics.” 2010. Web. 8th May 2015 <http://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/ED512896.pdf>.

Piaget, J. The Selence of Education and the Psychology of the Child. (1969). Print

Skinner, B. F. “The Science of Learning and the Art of Teaching.” Harvard Educational Review xxiv. 2(1954): 86-97. Print.

Vygotsky. Mind in Society. 1978. Print

Woolfolk, Anita. “Educational Psychology”. Cognitive Development and Language. (n.d). Print

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