Discuss about the Early Childhood Development Several Theories.
Early childhood development is influenced by every experiences and interaction. Several theories have emerged because of intense research on children’s development. These include social child development and behavioural child development theories, psychoanalytic child development theories and others. These theories explain the various aspects of childhood development (social, cognitive growth, and emotional) (Wellington, 2015). This paper is a critical review of Piaget’s cognitive developmental theory. The paper presents an overview of the theory explaining its key concept. Further, a critical analysis of the theory is demonstrated and explained as to how the selected theory is applied to teaching and learning practices in educational settings.
Jean Piaget developed the theory of Cognitive child development, explains that the thinking pattern of children differs from that of the parents. The theory describes that a child plays an active role in obtaining worldly knowledge and is based on the observation of his own three children (Mischel, 2013). It explains that the developmental phase of the child involves building cognitive structures that is networked concepts, mental maps or schemes to perceive , understand and respond to physical experiences in their surroundings. During the development the child’s cognitive structures matures to perform complex mental activities than simple innate reflexes such as crying.
According to Balakrishnan et al., (2016), Piagt’s highly influential model of “child development and learning” there are four stages. These are sensorimotor stage that begins from birth till two years of age, followed by preoperational stage occurring in ages 2-7, the concrete operations in the ages 7-11, and formal operation that begins at ages 11-15. The concept of the stages is explained in the subsequent sections.
During the sensimotor stage, a child builds various concepts based on physical interaction with the environment and tends to perceive reality by repeating voluntary behaviours. At this stage a child is unaware of object permanence that is presence of physical objects even when out of sight. In the preoperational stage, a child struggles to conceptualise abstractly with concrete physical situations and does not depend on logic. Children are more egocentric in this stage. The physical experience accumulates at the stage of concrete operations Kolb, D. A. (2014). At this stage, a child is capable of building logical structures. They realise at this stage that their perception differs from others. The ability to solve abstract problems is attained at this stage of development. For example, a child can solve arithmetic equations with numbers instead of objects. They develop complex understanding of things and can explain their reasoning logically although their cognitive development is not yet complete. At this stage, children are active and motivated learners. When a child attains formal operational stage, the cognitive structures behave as those of adult. In this phase, a child is capable of conceptual and scientific reasoning (Wellington, 2015).
These cognitive structures are built on several principles. Piaget explained that a child is able to adapt with the environment because of two complementary processes- “assimilation and accommodation” (Mischel, 2013). A child perceives his or experiences with the environment based on the mental maps constructed. Repetition of experiences causes its assimilations into the cognitive structures of the child that establishes mental equilibrium. A different experience alters the equilibrium and hence a child erects sophisticated cognitive structures.
Piaget’s theory has significant impact on practice of education (Fosnot, 2013). The theory implies for “development appropriate education”. This involves educating students in an environment with curriculum, materials, resources and instruction that best suits their cognitive abilities and meets their emotional and social needs. His theory implies that a teacher must focus and appreciate children’s way of thinking and arriving at particular conclusion (Kolb, 2014). This type of learning experience built on current level of cognitive functioning of children. His theory implies that teachers must recognise the crucial role of student’s self initiated learning and active involvement in various activities. Piaget’s experiments with children led to conclusion that didactic teaching should be avoided (Cohen & Salapatek, 2013). Rather students should be allowed to discover things with spontaneous interaction with environment. His experiments revealed that students are better able to accommodate with their environment when they get the opportunity to act directly on the physical world. His theory strictly emphasise on avoiding “premature training”. Student should not be pushed to accept adult concepts in a quest to accelerate their development. It does not lead to true cognitive understanding (Balakrishnan et al., 2016). Piaget’s theory explains that the rate of development is different in different children although they all undergo same sages of cognitive development. Therefore, teachers must organise the classroom activities for small group of children rather than considering the whole group. Further, timely evaluation of each child’s educational progress should be made in reference to previous course of development. Individual child’s performances should not be standardised with same-age peers (Arnett, 2014).
As a teacher of school setting, I will apply Piaget’s theories in classroom to structure the preoperational development. I will make use of concrete pops and visual aids wherever necessary. I will make use of relatively short instructions and explain concepts with action and words. I will provide an environment for children to have range of experiences that will act as a premise to build concept learning and language. At the age of 2-3 years children, tend to have different meaning of same word or different words with same meaning. Thus it is appropriate that they are not expected to meet our point of view and rather I will tend to understand student’s expectation and help them utilise their imitation, memory and thought. I will involve students of 4-7 yeras more in practising reading comprehension and other skills, which will help, develop language and recognition of symbolic form. This will act as a building block for developing complex skills to solve hands-on problems. I will assign task for children of different ages based on their psychological maturity.
Conclusively, Piagets theory of cognitive development has made significant contribution in understanding child’s psychology and in the area of teaching. His theories are effective in developing strategies for “student-centered learning”. Theories of Piaget are significant and applied in modern education inspite of being criticised by other theorists regarding his underestimation of childhood abilities.
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