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The Social Influences That Effect Childrens Learning Young People Essay

I shall be explaining how social influences have roles in children’s learning. I shall be using everyday experiences to demonstrate them. I will be looking at Four Grand Theories, although there are more, the Four I will mention are the important theories. I will be looking at mainly two of the theories in depth while only briefly mentioning the other two. I shall be supporting my points with evidence from psychological research studies.

I shall briefly explain the Four Grand Theories and how they work. Behaviourism is learning through discipline. Reinforcing appropriate behaviours, and punishment is used to decrease the inappropriate behaviour. Social Learning Theory shows children learning behaviours through imitating others around them and from watching television. Constructivism is learning through experience, and building knowledge of the environment and gaining the experience by our actions. Social Constructivism is learning through interaction. Whilst growing up we are given cultural tools that are passed down from our parents and even from their parents, these tools are anything from our language to, how to do something, interacting with others and learning at school.

Firstly, I shall explain further about the behaviourism theory. Behaviourism is how the environment can affect behaviours; by changing the environment we can change behaviours. There are two kinds of conditioning to improve behaviours; they are Classical Conditioning and Operant Conditioning. Classical Conditioning is when an instinctive reaction is learnt to an unrelated environment activity. Operant Conditioning is when behaviours are learnt through reinforcement and punishment, reinforcement increases a given behaviour and punishment decreases behaviour.

An experiment carried out by John B. Watson (1924) involved an eleven-month-old boy known as ‘Little Albert’ and a rat. On first presentation of the rat Albert showed no fear. However, after introducing a banging sound on a metal bar behind him when the rat was presented Albert became afraid. On the fifth presentation of the rat there was no banging but Albert still showed fear and withdrew. Albert also became fearful of furry toys, fur coats and a Father Christmas mask. This experiment shows how Little Albert was classically conditioned to associate fear with rats and furry things.

Another type of conditioning is Operant Conditioning. All behaviour is learnt by reinforcement and punishment. Reinforcement can be both positive and negative; positive reinforcement refers to the introduction of a stimulus (activity) that increases the frequency of behaviour.

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Negative reinforcement refers to the increase in behaviour with the removal of the unsympathetic stimulus.

Punishment takes three forms, positive punishment is when a unsympathetic stimulus decreases the behaviour, time-out is when a child is removed from a reinforcing stimulus to produce a decrease in their specific behaviour, and there is response cost when a child shows an unacceptable behaviour a penalty is given, which results in a decrease in the unacceptable behaviour. Penalties in children can ranges from the removal of tokens such as stickers, money, toys, and computer games. There can be many forms of rewards.

An experiment by B.F.Skinner (1905-1990) in which he invented a box designed for the use of rats to examine their behaviour through operant conditioning. In the early days behaviourists used animals to learn their behaviour and then advanced their research on to human learning. This box was named the Skinner Box, in the box was a lever. Once a rat was placed in the box and whilst moving around the rat accidentally pressed the lever, and food came out. The longer the rat was in the box the more it began to press the lever, which shows that the rat’s behaviour was increased to pressing the lever and other behaviours decreased. This is an example of positive reinforcement. However, the food was replaced with an electric shock when the lever was pressed, this saw that the rat did not press the lever so much, showing a decrease in behaviour towards the lever. This is known as punishment.

With reinforcement and punishment there needs to be consistency. However, this is difficult as adults are not always around at the time of children’s behaviour. Also, punishment can have long term effects on children as it can make children resentful and aggressive and whilst in others is can make children become withdrawn according to Huesmann et al., (2003).

An example of children’s everyday learning I shall use an example from my own child who has ADHD. As a parent I consistently use rewards and punishment. For example, if my child shows unacceptable behaviour he will lose time or completely lose his X-box (positive punishment) and when he is showing acceptable behaviour I give plenty of praise (positive reinforcement). In school his teachers use a form of time-out, he has a card that he keeps with him in class and if he feels himself getting frustrated he goes to the teacher and hands her the card and he is removed from the situation until he feels ready to carry on. When he has had a good day he will be award a green face sticker in his book, this increases his behaviour to earn the sticker (positive reinforcement).

To summarise behaviourism, it is best to reinforce behaviourisms with positive reinforcements and to deal with unacceptable behaviour with consistently applied punishments.

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Secondly, I shall be explaining about Social Learning Theory. A Canadian psychologist Albert Bandura (1924-) suggests that not only is children’s behaviours learnt as in behaviourism but also by watching the behaviours of those around them.

Bandura’s theory describes children’s learning by four connecting factors. For children to copy someone they must attend, retain, be physically able and be motivated. An experimental study carried out by Bandura (1965) involving a film of an adult and a Bobo doll. There were three versions of the film, all the same except for the ending. The adult was aggressive towards the doll and aggressive comments and non-aggressive comments. These films were shown to three groups of four-year-old children and Bandura observed these children whilst they watched the film. The first version of the film the ending saw the man receiving rewards and praise from another adult for hitting the doll, the second version saw the man being verbally and physically punished for his behaviour and the third version saw no response to the man’s behaviour.

When the children had watched the film they then went into a room with toys and a Bobo doll. The group of children that had seen the man punished for his behaviour imitated a less aggressive scenario compared to the two groups that saw praise, reward, and no consequences to the man’s behaviour. These last two groups Bandura saw no difference in the amount of aggression they showed towards the Bobo doll. The children were later told they would get a reward for imitating the behaviour of the man on the film and Bandura saw all the groups showed the same amount of aggression. This shows that behaviour was learnt through watching someone and seeing the man punished only lessened the aggression shown by that group of children. This explains Bandura’s four connecting factors; attend watching the man’s behaviour and the Bobo doll, retain what they saw as the repetition of the man hitting and verbally attacking the Bobo Doll, be physically able, the children imitated the man’s behaviour, be motivated, the children were later told that they would be rewarded.

An everyday example from Media Kit Part I, Video Band 2, Children of our Time, we saw a three-year-old boy called James. James lived with his parents who argued and mother hitting out at James’s older sister; father was more interested in playing his video games than take charge of James when mother was busy. James’s behaviour was totally imitating that of his parents he hit out and shouted at his peers in nursery and he hit his sister. James’s mother was cleaning the windows and James was outside cleaning the wall. This shows that James’s mother was his role model, he imitated nearly enough all the behaviour she displayed in front of him.

Television has a huge importance on children’s learning. Huston et al., (1981) found that young children who spent a few hours a week watching educational programmes achieved higher academic results three years later that children that did not watch educational programmes, also children that watched more

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hours of entertainment programmes had lower results than those that watched less.

Constructivism and Social Constructivism are not so similar. In Constructivism a psychologist called Jean Piaget (1896-1980) describes it as natural stages, he mentions four stages: Sensori-motor which is from birth to about two years old, we are born with instinctive behavioural patterns which we develop through consistent experiences, as we get older we begin to build schemas (linking one thing to another to develop the action of the environment). Stage two is called Pre-operational stage, from about two to six years old, children begin to use the schemas developed in stage one to perform tasks. Stage three is Concrete-operations, from around six to twelve years old, children begin to master their schemas and act according with their environment. Rules are understood on concrete experience. Stage four is Formal operations, from about twelve years onwards, children from this age can now be able to reason without it having to be concrete experience and can face problems and begin to deal with problems in a systematic and scientific way. However, not all children can adhere to this stage process, like children with learning difficulties that may be much slower and may never pass through all the stages. Children are individuals that learn at difference stages some may be faster than others, their environment has a lot to with it.

Social Constructivism is described by Vygotsky (1896-1934) as a cultural tool we inherit and develop through interaction with others. Children learn through school and interaction with their peers. Social Constructivism is similar to Constructivism, as we have discovered we are all born with certain inherited behaviours and we develop through learning stages and help from others in the form of parents, teachers and peers. As we get older we are more able to construct our behaviours for the environment.

Finally, to conclude all four theories are important in their own way and can socially influence the way children learn. I would say that children do not learn by one theory alone but a combination of all the theories with the possibility that one theory may features more than another, it depends on their environment, and the people around them, what they watch on television and what behaviours they have inherited and how they have been developed.

Word count: 1767


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