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Background information on the child
The little boy in question (known as Greg Booker from here on - to protect his real identity) is 3 and three and quarter years old. He has attended nursery since the age of 3 and a half. Greg came for two pre visits to the nursery and both times it was observed that he did not want to leave mum's lap and was unwilling to access the activities available, nor was he encouraged too by mum. In a group or class situation he is quiet and shy and does not like to talk to his peers and you can see he feels awkward around them. He has made little attempt to make friends within the group, selecting only one other child that he likes to stand with. Greg has made firm attachments to all the adults within the setting and will happily talk freely to them.
(1)"Yet there is another group of children in our midst whose behaviour should be just as much a cause of concern to us, a group whose needs are different but just as important, and who are apt to get lost in the noise and confusion of modern life. They are the quiet children, the painfully shy, the withdrawn, the anxious, the friendless - the 'invisible children' (Makins, 1997).
but when he feels comfortable with an adult he is confident to talk to them clearly and concisely.
Background information of the family
Greg lives with mum and dad and has one older sister they live within a nuclear family environment. All grandparents and aunts and uncles live in Scotland. Greg's older sister attends the school attached to the nursery, she never attended nursery but upon entering the reception class took a very long time to settle (6 months to be precise - information obtained from reception class teachers). Mum realised that by not letting his sister attend the nursery setting was a mistake and freely admitted that she did not want the same for her son.
Observed behaviour of parent and child on entering the setting
When mum drops Greg of at nursery, she will come into the setting pick him up and kiss and cuddle the child excessively before leaving, however he is not distressed when mum leaves although Greg was distressed on his first day at nursery and then did not cry from day two at the setting. Mummy has always told Greg that he is her baby and she will often say in his presence, "you are my baby, I don't want him to grow up and I'm going to be lonely when he goes up to reception class". Other parents have commented that when Greg is invited to birthday parties, mum will stay and Greg will remain seated on mummy's knee for the duration of the birthday party, whilst other children are confident to stay by themselves.
Mum recently approached me to say that she was organising a party for Greg's fourth birthday, but when mum asked him for the names of the children he wanted to invite, he said he only wanted to invite two of the children from the setting.
OBSERVATION OF BEHAVIOUR FROM CHILD
After mum drops of Greg at the setting he is unsure what to do as suddenly mum is not there to make the decisions for him, he is suddenly in a very independent situation where he needs to make decisions for himself, up to this point mum has made all the decisions.
Greg displays the behaviour of non-communication with his peers as well as non-participation at activities. Greg has not really developed good access strategies - he is very much a spectator. If an adult sits at an activity with him he will quite happily sit and chat and take part in the activity, but if the adult gets up to leave the activity he will get up and also leave the activity and just stand up and be hesitant as to what to do next - its almost like he is wanting the adult to make the decision as to what he is going to do next. (See Appendix B of observation on child).
(2)"Piaget (1932/1968) investigated children's conceptions of rules by interviewing them about their games. He found that young children said that game rules were invented by adults (or God) and that it would be wrong to try to change them. This finding led Piaget to characterize young children as having "heteronomous" conceptions of rules" Nobes, G, Pawson, C, (Jan 2003)
He will not join another activity, rather hopping from one foot to another, gazing toward the adults in the room. He has been known to cry if he is unsure what to do next. Occasionally he will just stand and look at what other children are participating in. Greg attends five morning sessions, Monday through to Friday.
He displays this behaviour at nearly every single session that he attends. Through the strategies presented over a period of 4 weeks it is hoped to raise Greg's social skills and self esteem to enable him to make choices and to interact with his peers appropriately.
Because Greg was chatty and comfortable with all members of staff, we did not really think that Greg had a problem and we entertained the fact that he was happy to verbalise with us and sit with the practitioners, it was not until we had stopped and looked at who he actually played with and what he plays with that we became aware that things were not as they should be.
How could this behaviour been learnt
- Learned behaviour
- Family relationships
- Lack of social interaction
- Harsh criticism
- Fear of failure
THE STRATEGIES AND THEIR OUTCOMES
Strategy one - The first strategy was to simply to reward Greg with verbal praise and a sticker on the sticker chart whenever he attempted to interact with activities or if he attempted to communicate with his peers whilst at an activity, this worked well as we could see he looked happy and smiled when receiving the praise, we made sure he knew exactly why he was receiving a sticker. We presented him with a sticker chart and explained that after receiving ten stickers he could go in the dip box, to receive a gift, he enjoyed counting down the stickers to dip box day.
Strategy two - Our second strategy in week one was to ask Greg which children he liked at nursery, we were surprised that he told us that he liked all the children who are the socially competent and confident. So when these children began to act out roles within the imaginative play area we encouraged Greg to join in. Before involving Greg I praised the children already playing
within the imaginative play area rather than praising him at this stage. This involvement was quite successful but at first I had to participate in some side by side strategy work with Greg I asked Greg just to watch me join these children at first, I then asked Greg if he wanted to join in with me and the children, he did so eagerly, after a while I stepped back, I told Greg that it was not important to ask if he could join in as I did not want him to be rejected by the others, the more confident children to include Greg in their play, which they did and you could see from Greg's face how much he enjoyed this. But after about 15 minutes Greg stopped being involved and he stood once again by himself and the other children continued to play on without him. So both myself and Greg continued this routine everyday and with a little gentle encouragement by the end of the week, Greg got up to 35 minutes of imaginative play with the others, without myself being present. He was interacting well with others and they were engaging him.
RELATING THIS BEHAVIOUR TO BEHAVIOUR THEORISTS VIEWS
Strategy One. Thorndike an influential psychologist in America carried out many experiments in which he would place cats in cages (he called them puzzle boxes) he would then encourage the cats to escape using a piece of fish to tempt them, the cat did escape only after pressing a lever down they did this by coming across the right sequence of moves, by chance. When put back into the cage, the cat escaped much quicker. Thorndike argued that the cat has learnt by trial and error a view shared by Skinner another twentieth influential psychologist he argued 3"that behaviour is learnt through a process of trial and error, if a particular behaviour is systematically rewarded then we will repeat it, if it is punished, then we will avoid it". Legge, K, Harari, P, (2000)
In educational settings that are two main types of reinforcements used, intrinsic and extrinsic.
4"Extrinsic reinforcement is presented to an individual by other people - either deliberately (for example by offering a child a financial reward to do a chore" ......Intrinsic reinforcement on the other hand comes from within the individual and may consist of, for example, the feeling of satisfaction a student may have when s/he hands in work on time and thereby feels in control of his/her own studies". Legge, K, Harari, P, (2000).
There are two types of secondary reinforcement - social or material. Social may be just a simple well done from the teacher or a gold star. This was the case for Greg in strategy one. Material reinforcement is when the object given may be more of a concrete object e.g. sweets or money.
Strategy Two - Albert Bandura a cognitive psychologist stated,
5"learning occurs mainly through observation and imitation. By observing others, not only do we learn how to do things, but also we can predict the likely consequences of our actions ...Bandura describes the ways in which we are motivated to observe and imitate other people's behaviour in terms of reinforcement. For example, it may be that we are directly reinforced for imitating others - that is, we receive some kind of reward when we copy someone else. Young children for example, are taught from an early age that adults, and their own parents, or elder siblings in particular, are suitable role models" Legge, K, Harari, P, (2000).
Facilitation - 6"one way of encouraging children to carry out a task that they may be uncertain about is to let them see someone else doing it first" Legge, K, Harari, P, (2000).
Before this assignment was carried out our setting had never had a key worker system in place simply because we were worried that when members of staff were off sick, the children in their key worker group would suffer but we realise this is a mistake as very often children who join the nursery need help with settling in even after the initial crying stage, when they seem to go quiet. James and Joyce Robertson concluded that:
7"at the moment of separation there are tears of angry protest followed by apathy when mother does not respond. The worst outcome can be denial, which is the decision by the child not to love or trust again because it leads to heartbreak. Obviously this has a dire effect on the child's subsequent relationships". James and Joyce Robertson witnessed these three stages repeatedly when researching the effect of separation on children in hospitals or nurseries. Select Committee on Work and Pensions 10th February 2003, (accessed on 4th April 2007) http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm200203/cmselect/cmworpen/564/564we35.htm
I personally, am not so keen to use intrinsic rewards as after a while these intrinsic rewards lose their meaning, they must be given sparingly if to have the desired effect and as the person moves through life, they will meet situations where there will be no physical reward.
8"Social versus material: it may seen that material rewards, such as money or toys, would be more valued by children than social rewards such as approval and would therefore be more effective in modifying behaviour. However, social reinforcement is commonly used in classrooms, and there is a great deal of evidence to indicate that it is, in fact, more effective than offering material rewards". Legge, K, Harari, P, (2000)
The targets set within the IEP will be reviewed regularly which means progress he makes will also be carefully monitored. Finally, we wanted to set achievable targets for Greg within the IEP to allow him to be empowered. He may not be encouraged to be independent at home but we hope that we can eliminate some of the behaviours he has exhibited from the setting.
- 1(Makins, (1997), The Invisible Children-Nipping Failure in the Bud, London, David Fulton Publishers.
- 3,4,5,6,8 Legge, K, Harari, P, (2000), Psychology and Education, London, Heinemann.
- 2Nobes, G, Pawson, C, (Jan 2003) 'Children's Understanding of Social Rules and Social Status' Merrill-Palmer Quarterly, Vol 49, No 1, pp77-79
- 7Select Committee on Work and Pensions (online 10th February 2003), http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm200203/cmselect/cmworpen/564/564we35.htm
- Bruce, T, Meggitt, C (1999), Child Care & Education, Hodder and Soughton, London
- Legge, K, Harari, P, (2000) Psychology and Education, Heinemann
- (Makins, (1997), The Invisible Children-Nipping Failure in the Bud, London, David Fulton Publishers.
- Roffey, A, (2006), Helping with Behaviour, Routledge, Oxon
- Rogers, B, (2004), Behaviour Recovery, Paul Chapman Publishing, London
9.20am - Greg is just standing around, picked up something, standing by the train table, looking at other children playing, looking at other children, and walking around the table.
9.25am - Called Greg over and asked him what he would like to play with, he said the train set so practitioner asked him to join at the train table. Has not joined in, standing behind one of the others.
9.30am - Greg is now at the train table moving the trains around the table, (no other child is at the table now.
9.35am - One child has joined the table but neither this child or Greg communicate, the other child is younger though.
9.40am - Greg moved away from the train table and is at the computer table, he is standing behind two children, the two children on the computer at chatting happily together, Greg is staring at the screen. Practitioner has asked if Greg would like a go and has said No and walked away.
9.45am - Practitioner has asked him to participate in adult led activity, Greg is enthusiastic, sits down, complete a craft activity, is chatting and laughing with practitioner, talking about life at home, what he is making, Easter time in fact his manner is gentle and sweet and confident
9.59am - Greg smiling and happy, has messy hands, goes to bathroom to wash them.