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Maturationist Theory

There are various learning and development theories that revolve around the education of children of various age groups. Learning theory defines the Process Of Retaining Knowledge in different ways and with different objectives. It is often based on educational psychology and different perspective on learning. In this paper learning and development theories are ideal for children of the age group four to six years are discussed. The students of this age group are usually entering kindergarten or preparing to move to the next grade. It is the very early stage of their formal education. Hence, different approaches can affect their learning process for a significant time. There have been multiple theories that have provided a diverse explanation of early childhood development in relation to learning. This paper focuses on two learning and development theories - Maturationist and Behaviourist. Maturational theory, also known as Gesell's Maturational Theory focuses on very early childhood and the role of education in their development (Reich-Shapiro,2019). Therefore, the theory is quite appropriate for the age group selected for the paper. The theory is also considered suitable for younger kids like infant toddlers.  The other approach is behaviourist theory. This theory focuses on the analysis of an individual’s environment.  The environmental factors can influence their learning pattern as well as behaviour. Through this theory, factors that can have a relatively longer impact on a child’s development can be examined.  It reflects the importance of the learning environment in an individual’s capabilities of retaining knowledge and their overall education process. 

The age group considered here is from four years to six years old. These children are at the initial stage of their education. The theoretical perspectives selected to analyze the impact of early childhood education are Maturationist and Behaviourist approaches.

The maturational theory is based on the impact of social and environmental factors on the child’s education. Arnold Gesell is a  widely acknowledged theorist who documented motor, speech, cognitive, and social development in children with their growth and maturation (Wanjohi, n.d.). His theory was developed around the aging of children rather than their learnings from life experiences. Various developmental components are highly dependent on biological processes. Through Gesell’s findings, it can be implied that a child’s growth period is predictable in terms of sequence although the timing and character of sequence may vary (Bergen, 2017). The mentioned approach focuses on internal processes which suggest that child's growth can be compared to any organism or a plant (Saracho, 2021). So, their growth and learning flow is fixed according to a biological plan.  It also considers genetic characteristics as well. It includes different physical and mental capacities, talents, preferences, and personalities. The behavioural change observed can be associated with nervous system development.  The pattern, speed of change, and quality of change are dependent factors like genetic components, general personality, and health both physical and mental. Along with that, there are some environmental factors as well. However, the understanding of the biological developmental process can create a concrete foundation for a child’s early education. According to the deliberation by Ring & O’Sullivan (2018), early education has a significant impact on the development of interests and abilities and helps them reach their full potential. The maturation approach determines a child’s readiness for school and learning based upon their age and biological factors. It is much similar to what is usually followed in traditional schooling.  It can help in understanding the learning process of the child according to their mental and physical development along with their ability to communicate. Many primary school educators have expressed concern regarding a child’s capability to follow daily school routines, fulfil literacy and numeracy expectations, and, function effectively in a classroom while engaging with numerous other classmates. According to a study by Rouse, Nicholas & Garner  (2020), educators value the social and emotional well-being of children apart from academic skills and knowledge. These concerns can be addressed with the biological maturity of children. Older and mature children are expected to have better social and communication skills. It can also help them adjust to the school’s environment. In addition, it makes the academic learning process easier by reducing the stress of social adjustment. The study conducted on children of turkey regarding school readiness concludes that children’s age is one of the decisive factors when predicting the child’s readiness for school (Özgünlü, 2017)  The Maturationist approach ensures that children already develop basic skills for survival in elementary school so they can easily focus on learning new skills and complex subjects in school. The approach considers chronological age as the indicator of maturity and the ability to gain these skills. Although the theory might be applicable to many children however it fails to identify some risk factors.  As mentioned, the theory largely depends on the biological development of children with age. It is expected that children will acquire certain skills and abilities with the growing age due to the growth of the nervous system. However, some children with special needs might not reach the same level of maturity as other children of their change.  The theory sets various milestones for children of various ages and the tasks they might be able to perform after reaching that age. This sets strict criteria for development without the consideration of several other factors. A maturation approach might result in the neglect of children with special needs. These children might fall behind in learning when compared to other students with the same resources due to differences in their physical or mental development. The maturation theory doesn't consider these factors and differences in the ability and growth of individual children due to biological factors.  This shortcoming cannot be ignored as an exception. According to a study conducted by Zablotsky et al. (2019), in the age group of 3-17 years, the prevalence of developmental disability has increased. This includes physical impairment, learning challenges, and impairment in language and behaviour as well. This implies that a large population of children from the age group of four to six years might be left out in the learning and development domain when the mentioned theory is applied. In the paper review by Guralnick (2017), it is stated that children with intellectual disabilities display a unique pattern in development as well as learning. Therefore, the sequential pattern of growth and learning described in the mentioned theory will not be suitable for them. 

Behaviourist Theory

In my view, the theory is useful as it is based upon biological factors such as Motor development. Motor development includes physical development and the ability to use the body for performing various tasks (Logan et al,2018). In my opinion,  it is essential for younger children to develop gross motor skills to start formal education and learning. The age group selected here is between four to six years old. These children develop fine motor skills when they enter elementary school. The research by Zeng et al., concludes that the students of age 4-6 years have shown improvement in motor skills and cognitive development due to the physical activities conducted in pre-school. However, for proper functioning, they need gross motor skills. The maturational theory emphasizes age as a factor and associates it with the nervous system and motor skills development (Colombo-Dougovito, 2017).  The theory gives and generalized idea to understand early childhood education and learning. Children with neurodevelopmental disorders might face a delay in motor development (Wilson et al.,2018). Hence, they might not have the same motor skills required for entering pre-school with students of the same age. 

The behaviourist theory focus es on the impact of the external environment on the learning and development of students in early childhood.  It is based upon the principles of behaviourism.  In the study of behaviourism, the environment around a subject is controlled (Brau et al.). Their reaction and behaviour are studied based on the changes in the environment. The theory considers learning as a process that can cause permanent behavioural change due to learning from experience.  Therefore, implies that learning is only influenced by physical, material, or environmental variables (Clark). However, it doesn't focus on other aspects like the internal process, physical development, emotions, and thoughts. The behaviourist theory is based upon the following assumptions: a.) Behaviourism is associated with physically observable behaviour and not internal occurrences like thoughts. b.) Behaviour can be simplified into one stimulus that is response. c.) The behaviour of an individual can be defined by the environment ( McLeod,2017).  The mentioned theory considers that children are born with a blank slate or tabula rasa. This means they acquire everything from experience.  They learn from the stimuli provided to them. Their response can be converted to learning by various kinds of reinforcement.  In the case of a favourable response from children they are rewarded with praise and for a negative response, they are punished. It also encourages learning through modification in the behaviour of children.  Positive and negative reinforcement help students reflect upon what behaviour is praised and which behaviour is disregarded by the educator (Mrachko et al.,2017). The positive acknowledgment of growth, learning, and development through a child's behaviour. In early childhood, behaviourist theory can solve the problem of communication. During the early years, children often phase difficulty in expressing themselves as well as understanding. Feedback or consequences for their actions can help them learn from their past experiences. The education system has experienced a major change after the Covid-19 pandemic. Educational organizations were forced to move to a virtual platform to continue teaching ( Tadesse et al.,2020). This resulted in online teaching for children of selected age groups ( 2-4 years old) too.  Research conducted by Kaplan, on the subject of behaviourism theory and online education concludes that the theory could be beneficial in creating a positive environment. The approach involves reducing negative stimuli by discouraging undesired behaviour that resulted in less repetition of that behaviour.  The virtual platform has created a gap in interaction and exchange between learner and educator. However, following the behaviourist approach can increase interaction and make it a learning experience for students. The mentioned theory is often associated with teacher-centric learning (Serin,2018). In the learning approach, the teachers hold absolute authority and are completely in charge of the education. This often results in less collaboration with students as well as reduced involvement of learners in creating the content of various tasks. The teacher-centric approach has received a lot of criticism as it is based upon behaviourist theory and therefore considers students as passive. This means it does not favour active students. However, this might not be an issue when the focus is on early childhood development or the students of the age group between zero to five years. The age group of children is not expected to be involved in developing the learning content. Their learning process mostly involves following instructions given to them. In case of failure in the task, the teacher can express displeasure or teach them about the failure through consequences. This approach can be beneficial for younger children with intellectual disabilities. Intellectual disability can be defined as an individual's ability to learn and perform according to social expectations ( Lee et al.,2019).  For these individuals, the learning process is comparatively slower. They face difficulty in social skills and decision-making as well. The behaviourist approach can help them cope in a formal education system without these skills.  They will get direct and explicit instructions from the educator and a teacher-centric learning method can help in addressing their problem with processing information and remembering it.  These students are encouraged to use illustrations and reflect on their own experiences and learn from them (Algahtani,2017).  Since most students with intellectual disabilities have difficulty retaining or recalling what they have learned, experiences or illustrations are more suitable to teach them about concepts. Apart from that, their good learning behaviors can be reinforced through a physical reward like a small gift or a toy. The theory is already considered a possible learning solution for children on the autism spectrum (Bal et al.,2021). In the paper by Agarkar (2017), it is stated that the theory is ideal for science education. This is because of its focus on two aspects - a.) transmitting information and b.) remedial instruction.  Transmission of information means that scientific laws and information can be taught to children without diving into the methods behind them. It is suitable for the selected age group of 4 to 6 years as the lessons that are part of their curriculum are mostly introductory (Larimore,2020).  The other part is remedial instructions. It focuses on identification and remediation when a student fails to follow an instruction. Apart from conceptual learning, it also improves the learning skills of students by providing them with motivation. 

Childhood Education and Development

 From my standpoint, the behaviourist approach is quite beneficial for children with special needs. Like maturational theory, there are various learning approaches that do not take learners with disabilities into consideration. However, the mentioned learning theory can help in the improvement of their learning and development skills for them. Apart from that, I also believe that it is similarly advantageous for other children as well. Learning from experience will help them in their development and retain knowledge for a longer period. Reinforcement of appropriate behaviour through reward solves the problem of communication. Apart from that, it enforces discipline at an early age. 

Conclusion 

From the above discussion, it can be concluded that both the selected theories maturational theory, and behaviourist theory have a notable impact on the learning and development of young children falling in the age group of 4 years to 6 years old.  The maturational theory focuses on the age of children to determine the level of their understanding and learning.  The growth of a child and their abilities is considered to be in patterned form. That means each age can be considered a stage with a milestone. Although the theory is applicable in traditional schooling methods as physical development along with biological development is important for a  child to fit into the school routine. For fine motor skill development in preschool, it is essential that their gross motor skills are properly developed. However, it leaves out those who encounter delayed development and disability challenges. The theory gives a generalized idea and does not include those who reach the milestone at a later age. On the other hand, the behaviourist theory is based upon the idea that children can learn from experiences and the external environment rather than internal processes. According to the theory, education is in charge of providing instructions and the learner is expected is follow.  In case of success or failure in meeting these expectations, the behavioural change is enforced with rewards or punishment. This theory works where maturational theory is not applicable, that is for the learning of students with special needs. The theory can help those with intellectual disabilities. These students often lack the ability to retain knowledge that is taught through traditional methods. However, for them, it is much easier to recall what is learned from experience or illustrations. The approach is already adopted to teach children with autism.   

References

Agarkar, Sudhakar C. "Influence of learning theories on science education." Resonance 24.8 (2019): 847-859.

Algahtani, Faris. "Teaching Students with Intellectual Disabilities: Constructivism or Behaviorism?." Educational Research and Reviews 12.21 (2017): 1031-1035.

Bal, Aydin, et al. "Culture, context, and disability: A systematic literature review of cultural-historical activity theory-based studies on the teaching and learning of students with disabilities." Review of Education, Pedagogy, and Cultural Studies 43.4 (2021): 293-337.

Bergen, D. (2017). What Arnold Gesell would advocate today. Childhood Education, 93(3), 199-203.

Brau, Bekki, Nathan Fox, and Elizabeth Robinson. "Behaviorism." The Students' Guide to Learning Design and Research (2020).

Clark, Kevin R. "Learning theories: behaviorism." Radiologic technology 90.2 (2018): 172-175.

Concerns Regarding Children's Learning and Development

Colombo-Dougovito, Andrew M. "The role of dynamic systems theory in motor development research: How does theory inform practice and what are the potential implications for autism spectrum disorder?." International Journal on Disability and Human Development 16.2 (2017): 141-155.

Guralnick, Michael J. "Early intervention for children with intellectual disabilities: An update." Journal of Applied Research in Intellectual Disabilities 30.2 (2017): 211-229.

Kaplan, Danielle E. "Behaviorism in online teacher training." Psychology 9.04 (2018): 570.

Lee, Keun, Marco Cascella, and Raman Marwaha. "Intellectual disability." (2019).

Larimore, Rachel A. "Preschool science education: A vision for the future." Early Childhood Education Journal 48.6 (2020): 703-714. 

Logan, Samuel W., et al. "Fundamental motor skills: A systematic review of terminology." Journal of sports sciences 36.7 (2018): 781-796.

McLeod, S. A. "Behaviorist approach." (2017): 1-9.

Mrachko, Alicia A., Douglas E. Kostewicz, and William P. Martin. "Increasing positive and decreasing negative teacher responses to student behavior through training and feedback." Behavior Analysis: Research and Practice 17.3 (2017): 250.

Özgünlü, M. (2017). Factors associated with school readiness in Turkey (Master's thesis, Sosyal Bilimler Enstitüsü).

Agarkar, Sudhakar C. "Influence of learning theories on science education." Resonance 24.8 (2019): 847-859.

Algahtani, Faris. "Teaching Students with Intellectual Disabilities: Constructivism or Behaviorism?." Educational Research and Reviews 12.21 (2017): 1031-1035.

Bal, Aydin, et al. "Culture, context, and disability: A systematic literature review of cultural-historical activity theory-based studies on the teaching and learning of students with disabilities." Review of Education, Pedagogy, and Cultural Studies 43.4 (2021): 293-337.

Bergen, D. (2017). What Arnold Gesell would advocate today. Childhood Education, 93(3), 199-203.

Brau, Bekki, Nathan Fox, and Elizabeth Robinson. "Behaviorism." The Students' Guide to Learning Design and Research (2020).

Clark, Kevin R. "Learning theories: behaviorism." Radiologic technology 90.2 (2018): 172-175.

Colombo-Dougovito, Andrew M. "The role of dynamic systems theory in motor development research: How does theory inform practice and what are the potential implications for autism spectrum disorder?." International Journal on Disability and Human Development 16.2 (2017): 141-155.

Guralnick, Michael J. "Early intervention for children with intellectual disabilities: An update." Journal of Applied Research in Intellectual Disabilities 30.2 (2017): 211-229.

Kaplan, Danielle E. "Behaviorism in online teacher training." Psychology 9.04 (2018): 570.

Lee, Keun, Marco Cascella, and Raman Marwaha. "Intellectual disability." (2019).

Larimore, Rachel A. "Preschool science education: A vision for the future." Early Childhood Education Journal 48.6 (2020): 703-714. 

Logan, Samuel W., et al. "Fundamental motor skills: A systematic review of terminology." Journal of sports sciences 36.7 (2018): 781-796.

McLeod, S. A. "Behaviorist approach." (2017): 1-9.

Mrachko, Alicia A., Douglas E. Kostewicz, and William P. Martin. "Increasing positive and decreasing negative teacher responses to student behavior through training and feedback." Behavior Analysis: Research and Practice 17.3 (2017): 250.

Özgünlü, M. (2017). Factors associated with school readiness in Turkey (Master's thesis, Sosyal Bilimler Enstitüsü).

Reich-Shapiro, M. What is Child Development?.

Ring, E., & O’Sullivan, L. (2018). Dewey: A panacea for the ‘schoolification’epidemic. Education 3-13, 46(4), 402-410.

Rouse, E., Nicholas, M., & Garner, R. (2020). School readiness–what does this mean? Educators’ perceptions using a cross sector comparison. International Journal of Early Years Education, 1-15.

Saracho, O. N. (2021). Theories of Child Development and Their Impact on Early Childhood Education and Care. Early Childhood Education Journal, 1-16.

Serin, Hamdi. "A comparison of teacher-centered and student-centered approaches in educational settings." International Journal of Social Sciences & Educational Studies 5.1 (2018): 164-167.

Tadesse, Seble, and Worku Muluye. "The impact of COVID-19 pandemic on education system in developing countries: a review." Open Journal of Social Sciences 8.10 (2020): 159-170.

Wanjohi, A. Child Development Theories. Retrieved 31 March 2022, from https://www.kenpro.org/papers/childhood-theory.htm

Wilson, Rujuta B., Peter G. Enticott, and Nicole J. Rinehart. "Motor development and delay: advances in assessment of motor skills in autism spectrum disorders." Current opinion in neurology 31.2 (2018): 134.

Zablotsky, B., Black, L. I., Maenner, M. J., Schieve, L. A., Danielson, M. L., Bitsko, R. H., ... & Boyle, C. A. (2019). Prevalence and trends of developmental disabilities among children in the United States: 2009–2017. Pediatrics, 144(4).

Zeng, Nan, et al. "Effects of physical activity on motor skills and cognitive development in early childhood: a systematic review." BioMed research international 2017 (2017).

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