Monday, February 8, 2010

Two Contrasting Theories of Child Development, Learning, and Child Psychology...

Albert Bandura was of the school of Behaviorism, thus enabling him to
evolve the theories into what is now considered Social Learning Theory.
According to Bandura’s thought, the most influential form of instruction
is modeling the behavior (Berk, 2008). The primary focus for Social
Learning Theory is learning (Berk, 2008). Learning can be altered by
impairments in listening and processing, as well as, memory (Berk,
2008). However, the foundation of Social Learning Theory relies on the
concept of Behavior Modification (Berk, 2008). With Behavior
Modification positive reinforcement is used to encourage appropriate
responses and punishment or negative outcomes are the consequence of
undesirable behavior (Berk, 2008). Bandura did not subscribe to the
thought that all behavior was motivated by positive reinforcement;
rather he modified the concept to allow for learning behavior by
observed reinforcement of others. Bandura utilized the behavior
modification ideology and took it a step further by asserting that
children actually create a specific set of behavioral rules from what
they observe which enables self efficacy or expectations and beliefs
regarding their own behavior (Berk, 2008). These rules are reinforced by
observed rewards and punishment for the behavioral rules they perceive
(Berk, 2008). Therefore, children ultimately choose models for their own
behavior that emulate the perceived standards they have created (Berk,
2008). Furthermore, according to Bandura, as children engage in new
experiences, their perception of the world and the rules of behavior
evolve to consider this new information (Berk, 2008). One of the
downfalls of Social learning Theory is that it does not allow for
environmental influences to be a factor in behavior or learning (Berk, 2008)

The key to behavior modification is that it must
be consistent and appropriate to the task. As Bandura points out, skills
such as listening, processing, and memory can impair the learning
abilities. In the professional area of teaching adults with
developmental disabilities life skills, Social Learning theory is
utilized with behavior modification. The basic foundation of teaching
skills to individuals with cognitive delays, physical impairments, and
behavioral issues that interfere with daily life is to model new skills,
assist with these new skills whenever possible eventually fading to
independence with the skill, followed with reinforcement for completion
of the task. It is critical that the task requested be appropriate for
the individual level of functioning. As Bandura points out with his
theory, self efficacy, or expectations of self emerges, and if the
individual perceives that they have failed or unable to complete a task
or skill, they will develop a poor concept of self and abilities.
Whereas, if the tasks presented are small and within reach of the level
of functioning, once achieved, the individual will perceive themselves
as able to make accomplishments and learn.

Contrary to Social Learning Theory is Piaget's theory of Cognitive
Development. Piaget's theory focuses on the cognitive and intellectual
aspects of behavior ( Capella University, 2010). Cognitive Development
suggests that children learn through interaction with stimuli, not from
rewards or punishment received for new learning (Berk, 2008). Piaget
also claimed that in regards to intellectual growth, development occurs
in four distinct stages ( Capella University, 2010). The determinant for
the development is seen in how the child is able to receive, interpret,
and process new information ( Capella University, 2010). The first stage
occurs from birth to two and is coined Sensorimotor stage ( Capella
University, 2010). At this time of development the child relies on sense
to obtain information and conclusions are created from this input (
Capella University, 2010). The child is also able to understand object
permanence ( Capella University, 2010). From age two to seven, the child
engages in the Pre-operational stage ( Capella University, 2010). At
this time language emerges and the child is able to assign symbols and
representation to categorize and understand stimuli such as words,
images, numbers, etc. However, this classification is based on single
characteristic ( Capella University, 2010). The Concrete stage is
present from ages seven to eleven ( Capella University, 2010). The
child is able to recognize multiple characteristics of stimuli and
comprehend that one stimulus may be present in multiple categories (
Capella University, 2010). This suggests logical thinking and sequencing
( Capella University, 2010). Finally, from age eleven on is the Formal
stage in which the individual is able to utilize their own knowledge
base to form conclusions and to process abstract concepts ( Capella
University, 2010). Some of the opposition of Cognitive Development
Theory points out that individuals may develop at different rates, not
in set time frames as Piaget suggests. Furthermore, interaction with a
stimuli or familiarity with a stimulus may increase the skills with this
stimulus regardless of the cognitive stage of development.

Personal experience as a mother sways this writer against Piaget's
theory. This writer has observed many children in the day care class
whose skills vary tremendously, although in the same age group.
Furthermore, as opponents of Piaget s theory suggest, interaction with
certain skills will allow for increased knowledge and efficiency with
these tasks, regardless of age group. Children exposed to advanced
cognitive concepts on a regular basis begin to acknowledge and process
these concepts, forming constructs and placing them in their knowledge
base for future use. Furthermore, Piaget does not consider the cultural
influences that promote or impair learning. Exposure to academics and
learning environments increases the cognitive skills, whereas, children
with little stimulation will not have the experience with cognitive
stimuli reference for comprehension and understanding of concepts. A
child in a third world country without educational opportunities is not
going to share the same cognitive stage as a child who received early
childhood educational services and formal education.

References Capella University. (2010, January 11). Human Development
Theorists. Retrieved January 12, 2010, from Course Media Capella
http://meida.capella.-edu/CourseMedia/HumanDevelopmentTheorists Berk, L.
(2008). History, Theory, and Research Strategies. In L. Berk, Infants,
Children, and Adolescents (pp. 2-49). Boston: Pearson.

Valerie Poling

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