My college course on Child Development informed me of many theories related to the development and mental capacity of children. It was really interesting to learn about these theories because they inform my teaching and give me an idea about the abilities of my students based on their ages and backgrounds. It is important to note; however, that these theories are not always true and they should not be used exclusively. A teacher should use good judgment when considering these theories when planning lessons. There are many theories that I believe will affect my teaching in the future.
Eric Erikson’s theory of identify development focuses on social experiences that influence one’s life. According to Erikson, life can be broken up into eight states of development. During each stage, an individual faces a challenge that he or she will hopefully overcome in a positive manner. Many elementary school children will be in the industry vs. inferiority stage of development. In this stage, children are learning to mastery skills in various areas, including reading and learning in the other subject areas. In order to develop a sense of industry, authority figures such as parents and teachers should provide this child with opportunities to learn new information and skills and complete tasks successfully. Children who believe they are not skilled in particular areas related to school will typically develop inferiority, which occurs when a student believes that he or she cannot complete tasks.
According to the Flow Theory by Mihalyi Csikzentmihalyi, a person typically experiences flow when he or she is intrinsically (i.e. internally) motivated to perform a task. This is similar to a feeling of being “in the zone.” Another way to view flow is by thinking of the saying, “time flies when you’re having fun.” In order for a student to feel flow in other areas, he or she should be guided into experiences in which the teacher allows the student to learn new skills and have a sense of control. The student and teacher should establish goals and the teacher should provide feedback to the student to keep track of his or her progress. By incorporating these experiences into lesson plans, a teacher can help increase a student’s intrinsic motivation.
This idea of combining more direct instruction with student centered learning coincides with the theory of constructivism—a student will succeed if he or she constructs the knowledge through various activities and experiences. According to Vygotsky’s social constructivism theory, knowledge is constructed through interaction with others, which occurs as the students work in groups using a hands-on approach to learning the material that was directly taught on previous days. Teacher directed learning will always be necessary because some topics, such as math, are too difficult to allow students to fully explore by themselves without any direct instruction. Therefore, a teacher can use scaffolding to support a child to where he or she needs to be. When using scaffolding, the teacher provides support to a student and slowly removes the support as the student shows competency in completed the task.
According to Bronfenbrenner’s bioecological theory of development, there are a variety of systems that affect the development of an individual. These systems include the microsystem, the mesosystem, the exosystem, the macrosystem and the chronosystem. The microsystem is the immediate environment surrounding an individual, which is typically associated with the family. The mesosystem is a connection of two or more microsystems, such as a connection between the family and school. The exosystem is the interaction of two or more environments, but one of these does not directly include the individual, such as a link between the family and the parents’ employers. The macrosystem contains broader cultures including beliefs and customs. The chronosystem reflects the passage of time related to the development of the individual. Bronfenbrenner’s bioecological theory emphasizes the “combined function of a person (or genetics) and the many systems that exist in the environment and interact to influence development” (Bohlin 31). These systems, especially major changes in these systems, will affect the development of the individual.
There are many theories of child development that I would like to refer to in the future when I plan lessons so I teach in a culturally responsive manner. It is important to understand students in terms of knowing what they are capable of and what type of lessons will benefit them the most. By examining these theories and other developmental theories, I can make sure that I meet the needs of my students and have accurate expectations of them.
- Bohlin, Lisa, Cheryl Cisero Durwin, and Marla Resse-Weber. Ed Psych Modules. 2nd ed. New York: McGraw-Hill, 2009. Print.