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Probable Issues Impeding Learning Development

Question:

Discuss about the Cognitive Development and Epistemology.

There is no gain stating the fact that academic learning in school plays an integral role in the overall growth and development of a child. A child not only acquires academic knowledge through effective participation in the class activities, but his participation in the learning activities also facilitates his cognitive growth. The very way in which a child learns or what he learns plays an important role in shaping his life once he becomes an adult. In the present scenario, it is evident that Robert, the boy of 9 years is encountering learning difficulties, once he is admitted in his new school. Hence, in order to ensure his academic progress, it is important to develop an understanding of the probable issues impeding his learning development, and to explain what kind of learning activity and learning environment will help in his academic progress.

From the case given, it is clearly evident that Robert is confronted with problems in adjusting with a new learning environment. While he is failing to interact with other students of his class, his response rate to the academic curriculum has also gradually diminished. Hence, it has become imperative to understand the possible issues which are impeding his smooth academic development, and the issues can be analysed in the light of learning development theory. As far as Robert’s case is concerned, he comes to a new school, and for obvious reasons, he is unable to adapt to the changed environment. While friendship is one of the basic needs of a child of his age, he has been unable to make friends, and even strike conversation with his peers and teachers. According to the Psychosocial Theory of Erikson, the children aged between 5 to 12 years, experience the existential question if they can make it in the strange world of people and things, and consequently the need to establish connections, to share and cooperate, and to seek support, is high at this age group. This is the time when a child establishes connection with his peers, and becomes aware of his own identity more fully, and hence this stage is crucial for the development of self-confidence in the child. However, in case of Robert, the sudden change of environment is likely to affect his soft skills, as he feels ill at ease in the new environment. His inability to adjust in the new environment can end up discouraging all his academic efforts, and in case he is being ridiculed and punished for his failure, he might grow up to be an unconfident and insecure individual. It is a good thing that he has been encouraged to participate in sport activities, considering his passion for the same, and his accomplishments need to be praised for the same. Again, at the same time, Robert’s problem can also be explained with the help of Jean Piaget’s Cognitive Development Theory, as per which, the cognitive development of a child occurs over a period of 4 distinct stages- Sensorimotor Stage, Preoperational Stage, Concrete Operational Stage and Formal Operational Stage. Since Robert belongs to the Concrete Operational Stage (7 to 11 years), it is important to mention here that at this stage, a child tries conceptualize the external world he is coming in contact with, and creates logical structures that can explain his physical experience (Mischel et al., 2013). Since Robert has been exposed to a new world of education, comprising of a new academic curriculum, different teaching practice, and new friends, he is unable to develop his knowledge in a coherent pattern. However, as characteristic feature of his age, he still is able to understand the steps involved in the process, explaining the reason why he has been able to classify the objects in proper coherent order. Seriation and classification are the two important skills that he has been able to acquire. However, owing to the shift in school, he has not been able to develop the necessary numerical skills. However, his difficulty with writing and reading at this age, might be owing to his inability to grapple the new educational techniques, and hence to make things easier for him, he might be asked to make a list of words in the story that he does not know, find and write down their definitions, and finally get a friend to test him on your list.

Understanding Robert’s Learning Problem

Considering the problem Robert is encountered with, it is important to offer comprehensive solutions to his academic problems. While there is a variety of learning theories that can solve his problem, this development issue can be linked to the relevant learning theory, to understand how the practical application of the learning theory within the classroom can help in solving the problems. The Constructivist Learning Theory as propounded by Piaget is expected to be largely beneficial in the situation. According to this theory, a child constructs knowledge as well as meaning through social interaction, and human experience. The student embraces the role of an active learner, while the teacher acts as a mentor, supervising his performance, and guiding him as and when required (Siemens, 2014). Since Robert is feeling ill at ease in the new school environment, and cannot comprehend the teaching practices as followed in the school, it is better to opt out of the strict teacher-student learning practices followed traditionally in most of the schools. His inability to respond clearly shows his lack of interest and enthusiasm in class, which can de-motivate him. To arouse his interest in academic activities, Robert should be encouraged to participate in, open, activity-based classroom practices. The chief problem, Robert is facing currently, is that he is unable to adjust in the new learning environment, and in absence of many friends, is unable to find any intrinsic motivation to participate in the learning activities. The constructive approach, which relies on the use of real-world based, activity-oriented teaching practice, will help in generating confidence and enhancing self-esteem in the student, which in turn will motivate the child to engage in new learning activities (Duffy & Jonassen, 2013). This will help in reducing the role of the teacher, and will render greater power to the student, through the introduction of student-centric learning practice. This will help in eliminating a sense of discomfort and social awkwardness, Robert is encountering in the new learning environment. This will also facilitate his active involvement in class. At the same time, it should be remembered, that one of the reasons why this learning approach has been recommended for this case, is Robert’s poor numerical skills. Experimental research has clearly shown that the students in classes using the constructivist approach developed better number sense and at the same time they were able to come up with several representations of arithmetic values and expressions, leading to significantly better performance on numerical operations, compared to their age-mates using traditional teaching approaches. With the help of this approach, Robert would be able to represent the same numbers with several terms and at least two operations.

Proposed Solutions

For the implementation of the teaching practice, Robert will be asked to join hands with the students of class 4 grade, and solve the mathematical problems, in presence of the teacher. The inquiry-based teaching method will be followed, so as to arouse academic curiosity within Robert, and keeping him motivated. Instead of presenting pre-established facts and lessons before the student, the student will be asked to have a look at a scenario, and be given the autonomy to interpret the scenario as per his own cognitive ability and shared knowledge (Kiraly, 2014). Further, the teacher can arrange the desks in groups of four and each team of 4 students will be asked to work on an individual writing assignment, over the course of a class period. Throughout the class, the students including Robert, will be asked to write whatever they can understand seeing a picture, hung on the board, and they will share their work and provide suggestions to each other about each perception. While this will help in encouraging Robert to form social connection with his new friends, and develop familiarity with the classroom environment, it will also improve his comprehension and writing skills (Thomas et al., 2014). Again, the students after having completed reading a short story can be asked to narrate and complete a group story outline with each others’ assistance. This will help to improve Robert’s understanding of the story plot while also negotiating the language for the plot summary. The teacher will supervise the activities, and will assist only when asked.

The constructivist learning approach will be the most effective learning approach, suitable for the case at hand. The inclusion of an activity-based, learner-centric teaching practice will undoubtedly help in improving Robert’s concentration in class, arousing his interest in academic matters, even more intense. However, at the same time, it should be remembered that there can also be possible barriers with the implementation of this approach as well. For instance, the minimized role of the teacher may become doubly problematic since Robert himself might hesitate to assume the role of an active learner in the beginning. The absence of any form of positive or negative reinforcement may leave no scope for academic motivation for Robert. Hence, it is recommended that the teacher motivates Robert at every step, and if necessary, rewards him and his team for exhibiting an improved understanding of the lessons.

Reference List:

Duffy, T. M., & Jonassen, D. H. (Eds.). (2013). Constructivism and the technology of instruction: A conversation. Routledge.

Kiraly, D. (2014). A social constructivist approach to translator education: Empowerment from theory to practice. Routledge.

Mischel, T. (Ed.). (2013). Cognitive development and epistemology. Academic Press.

Siemens, G. (2014). Connectivism: A learning theory for the digital age.

Thomas, A., Menon, A., Boruff, J., Rodriguez, A. M., & Ahmed, S. (2014). Applications of social constructivist learning theories in knowledge translation for healthcare professionals: a scoping review. Implementation Science, 9(1), 54.

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