Exploring children's learning
Exploring children's learning

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Exploring children's learning

6 Conclusion

At the beginning of this course we recalled four views of development. The ‘grand theories’ reviewed here can be seen to capture elements of those views:

  • development as discipline – behaviourism;

  • development as experience – social learning theory;

  • development as ‘natural stages’ – constructivism;

  • development as interaction – social constructivism.

However, these theories have more in common with each other than such an overview suggests.

Activity 6

0 hours 15 minutes

This activity will help you to begin to think about the similarities and contrasts that exist between the four theories explored in this course.

Consider which of the following statements apply to each of the theories. Put a tick in the boxes to indicate the statements that apply to each theory. When you have done this, compare your table to the one provided at the end of the chunk.

Here is a copy for you to print out (PDF, 1 page, 0.1MB)

View document [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)]

Behaviourism Social learning theory Constructivism Social constructivism
The environment is important.
Innate factors drive development.
Experiencing consequences of behaviour affects development.
Observing other people affects development.
Interacting with peers can promote development.
Interacting with adults can promote development.
Children are active in constructing their learning.
Development during childhood occurs in a predetermined sequence.

Answer

Here is a copy of the answers for you to print out (PDF, 1 page, 0.1MB)

View document

Behaviourism Social learning theory Constructivism Social constructivism
The environment is important.
Innate factors drive development.
Experiencing consequences of behaviour affects development.
Observing other people affects development.
Interacting with peers can promote development.
Interacting with adults can promote development.
Children are active in constructing their learning.
Development during childhood occurs in a predetermined sequence.

What you may notice is that the theories have more in common than one might at first realise. For example, all the theories value the environment the child develops within, although they differ in the extent to which they see the environment as central and what aspects they see as of key significance. Behaviourism is perhaps the most extreme ‘empiricist’ position, but the environment is also seen as important in each of the others: ‘environment’ in the sense of other people and their behaviours (Bandura); environment as affording opportunities for exploration and therefore cognitive development (Piaget); and environment as culture and social interaction (Vygotsky). That is not to say that nativist theories of child development do not exist, but they often only explain one aspect of child development (e.g. language development), rather than offering a grand theory. Moreover, contemporary theories are less clearly identifiable as ‘nature’ or ‘nurture’, but recognise the impact of both internal and external influences on development, although some will see either the environment or innate abilities as ‘driving’ the development of emergent skills.

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