International recognition of the importance of early childhood development is a clear testament of how this field has rapidly developed (Edwards and Nuttall, 2009). There are various theories and perspectives which have been advanced to try and explain this field. Educators can use these theories and apply their pedagogical practices, to ensure that, children are able to get the best during their maturation and development stages. The theories do also assist the educators to make sense of different circumstances. In this discussion, I will evaluate various child development theories and how physical educators can apply them, in their pedagogical practices to ensure that these children have the best development.
The EYLF, according to Nolan and Raban (2015), suggest that various theories inform children development and learning approaches. These theories can be classified in five main ways namely: developmental, social cultural, social behaviorist, critical and post-structuralist theories. These theories do have their own strengths and limitations which requires the educators to ensure that instead of using only one theory, they can make use of a combination of these theories.
These theories argue of a universal pattern in the development of children. Learning and development of children follow a predictable pathway. They do focus on maturation and development of children. However, there are differences in opinions among the theories where some theorists e.g. Jean Piaget’s stage theory and Maria Montessori’s planes of development theory, believe that separate and distinct stages are involved in development with different ways of behaving in each and every stage. Others like Darwin are of the opposing opinion that throughout an individual’s lifespan, development will involve ongoing and gradual changes. This theory has some pedagogical practices associated with it which include facilitation of children’s learning by coming up with play based experiences and rich environments linked to learning goals which are more appropriate to children’s unique development. The educators can also try to observe and understand the children’s individual differences while having a good development interpretation. Physical educators should also push to ensure that the curriculum has been designed in a way that it follows the predictable pattern.
This theory evaluates the relationship between the society and children’s development. Borrowing heavily from Vygotsky and Rogoff who are renowned theorists, it proposes the need for educators to understand the role played by communities in the development of children. The theories argue that from a community perspective learning with and from others should be prioritized. Pedagogical practices which should be taken into consideration by educators includes taking lives of these children into account before developing expectations from them, use of responsive listening for a better understanding of children’s learning and a good understanding of the communities and societies associated with these children.
Social behaviorist theory
These theories do focus on the role played by experience in children in being able to shape these children’s behavior. The theory focuses more on the aspect of learning and of those conditions which will either enable learning or do constrain learning. As opposed to being child directed this approach is teacher directed. What is to be learnt is decided by the physical educators who communicates and directs this to the children to ensure they undertake the tasks communicated. Through these theories, children are able to distinguish between what is acceptable behavior from what is unacceptable.
This theory does argue that by the virtue of a child having rights, he should be able to make choices and decisions about learning and physical education. Those using these theories are interested in ensuring that there is a democratic society. These theories do enable educators to make decisions in relation to making changes to and improving their practices. Pedagogical practices which can be associated with this theory includes ensuring that during curriculum planning educators are able to adopt a good critical inquiry approach, coming up with strategies such as photographs and role play which helps the children discuss their answers.
This theory argues on the belief that, there is more than one way of learning or the multiple ways of learning approach. Knowledge, in this case is positioned and assumed to be relative. (Edwards and Nuttall, 2009). They also argue that there are many truths as compared to some other theories which talk about absolute truth. Children as also viewed as people who can be able to influence their own lives. This element is seen as questioning the developmental and socialization theories as children are seen to have shifting identities and complex as they participate and move between various social groups. Pedagogical practices which may be associated with these theories includes ensuring democratic participation of children and evaluation of power play between children with other children and children with the educators and looking at the effects of this power play.
All these theories, however, do point out on how children are able to move through the stages of maturation and development. They also aid the physical educators in facilitating the smooth and natural way in which people can pass through maturation stages while being able to answer the basic question in child development which is how our biological endowment or nature as well as all the other factors which influences development are positively taken into consideration. These theories and Pedagogical practices enable the children to pass through the maturation process.
- Aldrige, J. & Goldman, R., 2014. Child development theories. s.l.:s.n.
- Anning, J. Cullen & M. Fleer eds. Early Childhood Education: Society and Culture. London: Sage.
- Barblett, L., 2010. Why play-based learning? Every Child, Early Childhood Australia 16 (3)
- Bastable, S. and Dart, M., 2007. Developmental stages of a learner. Available at: http://www.jblearning.com
- Cherry, K., 2016. What are Freud’s stages of Psychosexual development? Available at: https://www.verywell.com/freuds-stages-of-psychosexual-development-2795962 (Accessed: 1 December 2016).