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Major Theories Associated with Child Development

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What makes a good teacher? It is more than just knowing the subject matters that one teaches or mastering the teaching skills by planning effectively. A good teacher understands educational psychology and human development. Educational psychology is simply the study of learning and teaching (Slavin, 2009). Educational psychology does not teach a teacher how to teach, but rather give them the discernment to make good and effective decisions in regards to their students. As educator, our first concern should be about the welfare of our children. Educational psychologists carry out research on the nature of students, principles of learning, and methods of teaching to give educators the information they need to think critically about their craft and to make teaching decisions that will work for their students (Slavin, 2009).

Development is very crucial to learning. The term development refers to how people grow, adapt, and change over the course of their lifetimes, through physical development, personality development, socioemotional development, cognitive development, and language development (Slavin, 2009). Uniquely, science of human development, seeks to understand how and why people of all ages and circumstances change or remain the same (Wikipedia 2010. This paper will discuss the major theories associated with child development, in addition to, what makes a good and effective teacher; and how both affect the development of children.

Summaries of Theories

Each theory is important to the child development. Psychoanalytic theory emphasizes that human actions and thoughts originate from unconscious impulses and childhood conflicts. Erikson's version of psychoanalytic theory emphasizes psychosocial development, specifically as society's culture, and parent's responds to children (Slavin, 2009). Erikson described eight successive stages of psychosocial development, each involving a developmental crisis that occurs as people mature within their context.

Behaviorists, or learning theorists, believe that scientists should study observable and measurable behavior. Behaviorism emphasizes conditioning, a learning process. The process of conditioning occurs lifelong, as reinforcement and punishment affect behavior (M., 1977). Social learning theory recognizes that much of human behavior is learned by observing the behavior of others. The basic process is modeling. Children are particularly susceptible to social learning influences. Cognitive theorists believe that thought processes are powerful influences on human attitudes, behavior, and development. Piaget proposed that children's thinking develops through four age-related periods, propelled by an active search for cognitive equilibrium (Smagorinsky, 1993). Sociocultural theory explains human development in terms of the guidance, support, and structure provided by cultures and societies. For Vygotsky, learning occurs through social interactions, when knowledgeable members of the society guide learners through their zone of proximal development (Slavin, 2009).

Learning Theory and its importance

Learning is commonly defined as a process that brings together cognitive, emotional, and environmental influences and experiences for acquiring, enhancing, or making changes in one's knowledge, skills, values, and world views (Wikipedia 2010). Learning as a process focuses on what happens when the learning takes place. Explanations of what happens constitute learning theories. A learning theory is attempts to describe how people learn; thereby helping us understand the inherently complex process of learning.

No two persons learn in exactly the same way. Van Brummelen states that each person has unique gifts from God. Some people learn better deductively; others, inductively. Some learn better through visual stimuli; others, though aural-oral ones; still others, through kinesthetic ones. Some people need things to try things out concrete setting; other reflects abstractly. Some persons learn well through individual study; other prefers the give and take of discussions with others. Some like to sketch about what they're learning; other benefits from explaining their strategies orally or in writing. That is why it is important to understand the different types of learning theory (Brummelen, 2009). We need to take into account the variations of learning styles, so that we can plan learning in a way that it celebrates the diversity of all learners and that every student feels comfortable.

Effective teacher and learning environment

Effective teaching is more than knowing the subject matter. Effective teachers not only know their subjects but also can communicate their knowledge to students. Effective teaching is not a simple matter of one person with more knowledge transmitting that knowledge to another. Rather it demands the use of many strategies. (Slavin, 2009) Effective teaching includes, motivating students, managing the classroom, assessing prior knowledge, communicating ideas effectively, taking into account the characteristics of the learners, assessing learning outcomes, and reviewing information. What makes a good teacher is the ability to carry out all the tasks involved in effective instruction. Effective teachers are warmth, enthusiasm, and caring. They have a great concept of subject matter knowledge and knowledge about how children learn.

What is intentionality teaching?

Intentionality means doing things for a purpose; teachers who use intentionality plan their actions based on the outcomes they want to achieve (Slavin, 2009). They are constantly thinking about the outcomes they want for their students and about how each decision they make move children towards that goal. Teaching involves planning and preparation and decision making

Intentional teachers uses a wide variety of instructional methods, experiences, assignments, and materials to be sure that children are achieving all sorts of cognitive objectives, from knowledge to application to creativity, and that at the same time children are learning important affective objectives, such as love of learning, respect for other and personal responsibility. (Slavin, 2009) Intentional teachers achieve a sense of efficacy by constantly assessing the results of their instruction; constantly trying new strategies if their initial instruction didn't work; and constantly seeking ideas from colleagues, books, magazines, workshops, and other sources to enrich and solidify their teaching skills. Teacher who are intentional, critical thinkers are likely to enter their classroom equipped with knowledge about research in educational psychology. (Slavin, 2009)




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