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Throughout this essay I will examine and discuss some of the theories for the development of childrens learning. Perkins 2009 says that Neuroscientists are at pains to remind us that we are only at the beginning of understanding what happens with the brain. He considers that the most successful and conveyable professional skills of a teacher may more "closely resemble an art than a science," (Perkins 2009, quoted in Barnes, 2011, p.112). I believe this relates strongly to the question 'Is learning a Science?' and I will discuss my view towards this statement while investigating two models of learning. The models of learning I have chosen are Brain Based learning and Montessori.
Brain Based learning is a theory that is focused around the structure and function of the brain at different stages of its development. This way of suggested learning incorporates many different concepts including: problem based learning; practical simulations; and multiple intelligences linking to Gardner. When a child takes part in brain based learning it is suggested that it 're-wires' pathways and helps the child to use the brain at its full potential. When linking this with the curriculum and education, "Teachers must immerse learners in complex, interactive experiences that are both rich and real. One excellent example is immersing students in a foreign culture to teach them a second language. Educators must take advantage of the brain's ability to parallel process," (Caine and Caine, 1995, p.113).
Brain Gym was devised and developed in recognition of this importance of stimulating the brain and allowing children to utilize it to the maximum potential for learning. It was developed by Dennison and his wife and is designed as an active learning strategy which builds a greater capacity for memory. It involves short active exercises which are designed to stimulate the brain so that it is more ready to learn and be receptive to a variety of information. This in turn makes it more likely that the brain can retain and recall the learned information when needed. Advocates of Brain Gym would argue that regular practice of this strategy enables children to become better, more receptive learners, Bassett (2011) believes that "all movements are easily adaptable for sports, music, drama, and arts. By using the Brain Gym movements regularly, students will be: more settled, more receptive, more responsive and ready to listen and learn in a relaxed 'whole-brain' way."
These specific set of movements involved in Brain Gym can also help to co-ordinate the eyes, hands and whole body; Dennison (2011) claims that "the interdependence of movement, cognition and applied learning is the basis of their work." This technique has been widely used in many schools to initiate learning and keep children on task and receptive to learning by stimulating both sides of the brain. In addition, some schools have reported dramatic improvements in memory, concentration, relationships, self- responsibility and academics, but whether this is due purely to the fact that children react positively to an active learning approach and a break in the usual learning pattern is not clear as it has no scientific basis and Dennison is not medically qualified and therefore unable to make medically sound judgments on brain function. Nevertheless the fact that schools report positively on the impact of Brain Gym is in itself a good thing for the development of children's learning because it shows an improving trend and a positive approach to the idea of active learning to stimulate the brain.
Active learning is something that the theorist Maria Montessori has advocated for many years as an alternative way of developing learning for children and this has become known as the 'Montessori' approach to learning. The theory behind this approach explores the views and ideas around play and how a child initiates their own learning and can harness their ability to learn through the use of experience and senses, partly linking to Piaget's theory that also focuses on the child being an 'active learner'. Montessori believed that if an environment should be designed to meet every child's needs then an adult should take a back step when it comes to learning. Pound (2006, p.30) states "Montessori wrote that 'the child can only be free when the adult becomes an acute observer. Any action of the adult that is not a response to the children's observed behaviour limits the child's freedom." There are many schools around the world that participate in this approach to learning. The Guardian (2006,) suggests that "schooling that focuses on personal development rather than exams produces more mature, creative and socially adept children". I feel that this is a very valid point as logically it is difficult to say how children are performing better when they have the stress of tests and deadlines. There is also evidence that states:
"Montessori children are ranked above average on such criteria as turning working in on time, listening attentively, asking provocative questions and adapting to new situations." (North American Montessori Teachers' Associations, 2011)
It could be argued that this shows that with the advanced skills that Montessori children may possess they may be considered for better job prospects in their future life. A well-known research study was done in 2006 where parents won places through a lottery system to send their child to a Montessori school in America. Throughout their education the children were tested for mental performance, academic abilities and social and behaviour skills. The concluding evidence was that "Scientists believed that Montessori education fosters social and academic skills that are equal or superior to those fostered by a pool of other types of schools." (Guardian, 2006)
Even today in mainstream pre-schools and primary schools Montessori learning is sometimes threaded through the EYFS curriculum, with an emphasis on how we can celebrate children's learning at their own pace and value skills and subjects not just writing, reading and mathematics. This is linked with the way that many Foundation Stage classrooms structure and arrange activities for children to participate in through their choice and independence (Child Initiated Learning). Lillard (2005, p.22) believes that "little input of the Montessori approach in Mainstream schools would make all the difference, such as learning to write before they can read and practicing grip for a pencil through the use of lifting wooden cylinders."
Despite this the evidence for Montessori learning is limited as it is mainly based around Montessori's own observations and ideas and there has only been one main research study done in 2006; which could suggest that the approach may be subjective and not necessarily valid especially as the sampling was limited compared to how many children realistically go through this way of education. According to K12 academics (2012) "Some parents believe the Montessori environment leaves the children too free while others see the Montessori method as stifling to creativity. Some see Montessori schools as elitist prep schools for preschoolers while others question Montessori teaching priorities." Throughout my research of Montessori I have discovered two main theorists that critique this way of learning, Dewey and Kilpatrick. They believed that "Montessori was too restrictive, and didn't adequately emphasize social interaction and development," (K12 Academics, 2012). Dewey contradicts Montessori as his theory is that a society shapes a child and the constant experience and education will guide a child through their development.
On the other hand Kilpatrick "criticized her stories and theories for taking too narrow of a view of the function of the school. He criticized Montessori for not knowing the doctrine of formal discipline, even though she was practicing it. The materials were criticized for being too restrictive, inhibiting the teacher." (Critiques of Montessori theory of development, 2012) It would seem that although her theories are seen by some as lacking some direction and discipline, practitioners have found some of the strategies and ideas useful and effective to use in non-Montessori schools but by applying their own structure for discipline and functionality. This would appear to support Perkins view stated in my opening paragraph that teaching is more of an art than a science because teachers are very adept at creating strategies out of a combination of techniques so that they can build the essential blocks for children to learn creatively and efficiently.
In conclusion, I believe that children are unique individuals with unique attributes, talents and characteristics. My stance is that everyone learns in their own way, at their own pace and with their own technique and perhaps it could be argued that learning is a combination of science and art. Theorists and neuroscientists over many years have been studying how we learn and have never come up with a definitive answer. I think this is because as humans, we are all so diverse. I believe that learning is not purely a science but more of a combination of many experiences that aid children's learning in and outside the classroom. It is up to us as teachers to ensure that these experiences are as rich and as vital as possible.
Bassett, D. (2011). Brain Gym. [Online] Available: <http://www.liveandlearn.net.au/.> [Accessed 2nd January 2013].
Caine, R.and Caine, G. (1995) Making Connections: Teaching and the Human Brain. Wheaton: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development
Critiques of Montessori's Theory of Development. (2012). Critiques of Montessori's Theory of Development. [Online] Available: <http://students.cis.uab.edu/nwms85/critiques.html.> [Accessed 11th November 2012].
K12 Academics. (2012). Criticisms of Montessori.[Online] Available: <http://www.k12academics.com/alternative-education/montessori-method/criticisms.> [Accessed 10th November 2012].
Lillard, A(2005) Montessori: The Science behind the Genius. Oxford: Oxford University Press Ltd
Masalinks (2008) News Night Brain Gym part 1 and 2. [Online video], 22nd April 2008. Available from: <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YjRhYP5faTU> [Accessed 5th November 2012].
North American Montessori Teachers' Association. (2011). Are Montessori children successful in later life?. [Online] Available: <http://www.montessori-namta.org/FAQ/Montessori-Education/Are-Montessori-children-successful-later-in-life.> [Accessed 11th November 2012.]
Perkins.(2009) Quoted in: Barnes, J. (2011) Cross Curricular Learning 3-14. London: SAGE Publications Ltd
Pound, L. (2006) How Children learn: From Montessori to Vygotsky. London: Practical Pre-schools Books
Pritchard, A (2009). Ways of Learning- learning theories and styles in the classroom. Oxon: Routledge.
Rockett, M and Percival, S (2002). Thinking for Learning. Stafford: Network Educational Press Ltd.
The Guardian. (2006). Research shows benefits of Montessori education. [Online] Available: <http://www.guardian.co.uk/education/2006/sep/29/schools.uk.> [Accessed: 10th November 2012.]
Critical Reading Frame
Author/s, (surname and initial(s): Pound. L
Date of publication: 2006
Title of article/book: How children learn
Place of publication: London
Name of publisher: Practical Pre-School books
How I will Harvard Reference this title in a Reference list: Pound. L (2006) How children learn, London, Practical Pre-School books.
How I will Harvard Reference this text in the body of my work: Pound (2006, plus page number if I make a direct quote)
General Synopsis of Article/Chapter:
This book summarises many different theorists by giving individual details about the theorists themselves and the theory that they promote and work towards.
The article within the book that I have chosen to analyse and use in greater detail sums up Vygotsky's life, writing, theory and his influence on educational development. It includes references to key dates and information about where to find out more.
Subheadings make the article clear and easy to read and break down the information into sections. I decided to focus on Lev Vygotsky as this is what interested me the most.
Vygotsky was home tutored for many years until he was enrolled into grammar school and He studied medicine at university from the 1913 to 1917 but switched to law during his first term.
Before experiencing poor health when he was 23, he became involved in children's education focusing on children with disabilities. After this he became a researcher and did many experimental studies in educational psychology.
Vygotsky emphasises the vital role that language plays in the development of abstract thought. He places great stress on the importance of the labelling process in the formulation of concepts.
"Experience of talking with adults about familiar everyday experiences as crucial, not only for building up knowledge of language but also for an awareness of particular ways of thinking and interpreting their own experiences," (Pound, 2006, p.40). This is in some opposition with Piaget's view that relevant language follows the development of a concept.
"Children do not simply react to the words that are used but interpret the context, facial expression, and body language to understand meaning," (Pound, 2006, p.40).
The 'Zone of Proximal Development' describes the gap between what a child can do alone and what they can do with help of someone else more skilled or experienced. However, "Piaget believed that learning was dependent on the child's readiness to learn," (Pound, 2006, p.40).
During his research he objected to measure children's abilities through intelligence tests (for example the 11+ now a days) believing that what could be observed about how the child went about a task could reveal as much as the score of any test.
"Vygotsky believes that social and cognitive development works together. While Piaget believed that knowledge come from personal experience, Vygotsky emphasises the importance of families, communities and other children," (Pound, 2006, p.40).
Play and imagination are important to learning and development.
Vygotsky's theory supports the apprenticeship approach. This is a popular theory where the learner learns from someone more experienced or competent. This has evolved into the peer marking approach and apprenticeship view of learning and things such as reading at home etc.
"It could be argued that there is not enough emphasises on the children's role in their own development," (Pound, 2006, p.41).
Pound describes Vygotsky's theory in detail by outlining positive and negative characteristics I feel these have influenced many people in education.
Critical Reading Frame
Author/s, (surname and initial(s): Barnes, J.
Date of publication: 2011
Title of article/book: Cross -Curricular Learning 3-14
Place of publication: London
Name of publisher: SAGE Publishers Ltd
How I will Harvard Reference this title in a Reference list: Barnes, J. (2011) Cross-Curricular Learning 3-14. London: SAGE Publishers Ltd
How I will Harvard Reference this text in the body of my work: Barnes (2011, plus page number if I make a direct quote)
General Synopsis of Article/Chapter:
The section on 'What does Neuroscience tell us about Cross-Curricular Learning?' within the chapter it focuses on neuroscientists view on learning and the thinking process. It outlines ideas why different emotions affects the brain and the theories that are related with this way of thinking.
New improved technology is helping to become more confident in discovering ways in which they think and learn
"Teachers tend to hold to an 'experiential' truth based on qualitative interpretation of their everyday experience in the classroom," (Barnes, J., 2011,p.111)
"Neuroscientists are at pains to remind us that we are only at the beginning of understanding what happens in the brain and how it relates to action in the world." (Barnes, J., 2011, p.112).
Neuroscientists believe that the complexity of our brains and ability to learn has made the success of the human race.
"Neuroscience offers independent corroboration of what teachers already 'know' about emotional and sensory engagement in learning," (Barnes, J., 2011, p.112)
Teachers should know something about the brain and how it works
Thinking is not a simple process
"The thinking elements of the brain- aspects of memory, planning, monitoring, learning, language, feelings, emotions, spirituality and self-consciousness itself- we call our mind," (Barnes, J., 2011, p.114).
It is believed that exercising or simply using the connections in the brain help to continue the process of learning.
Each brain is wired up differently making us unique therefore helping towards the link that we all learn differently
"Neuroscience might prompt teachers to consider their use of the: multi-sensory, personal security, emotionally significant, intellectually challenging," (Barnes, J., 2011, p.117).
Children while at school should explore all the senses, be physical and social, and be fully aware of emotions and their impact.
While the brain is maturing and growing at its fastest, children are under so much stress through exams etc that they enter a never ending cycle of demoralising and destroying some cells.
Critically discuss the extent to which you agree with the indicators within standard 7 in terms of effective classroom management.
Behaviour management is a focus for teachers on managing the behaviour of the pupils in their classroom so that the environment can be conducive to learning and all pupils can access tasks in an appropriate and effective way that moves their learning forward.
There can issues to contend with ranging from low-level disruption to extreme aggressive behaviour, defiance and bullying. Teachers are increasingly finding it necessary to employ a variety of tactics and strategies in order to maintain an effective learning environment. To enable them to do this Pritchard (2009, p.81) feels that "by taking an open and sensitive approach, and by finding out as much as possible about the individual children, goes some way towards alleviating some of the difficulties - knowing the child lies at the heart of effective support."
Bearing this in mind, I believe that this standard is a vital part of teacher training in order to make it clear that teachers are accountable for enabling their pupils to learn in an effective manner. For this to happen teachers need to know how to manage and maintain pupil behaviour in a way that does not stifle creativity or infringe on basic human rights and this can often be solved by "simply knowing why a child behaves differently from other childrenâ€¦ helps you to determine the best strategy for dealing with the child's difficulties," (Jacques and Hyland, 2003, p.117). This is vital because in order to teach effectively teachers have to understand and work with a wide diversity of needs, expectations and cultures. However, understanding how they behave is an issue that has been occupying psychologists for many years and assuming that teachers gain a full understanding of the behaviour of each child in a class is unrealistic. Nevertheless knowing how to seek advice and support from within and outside the school system is essential for any teacher when faced with a child they struggle to manage. By using support, teachers can learn with the child to manage their behaviour in an appropriate and productive way that builds mutual respect leading to effective learning.
I consider that this is not always easy due to the extreme demands placed upon teachers today; parents and society expectation for pupil behaviour has dramatically changed over the years and teachers are now having to rely heavily on people skills and philosophical strategies and techniques in order to simply get children through the classroom door and interested in learning: This strongly links to Vygotsky's theory of the zone of proximal development, "the width of the zone is determined by how fast or how much the child is able to learn from and with the teacher," (Alexander, 2010, p.97). I feel that without people skills and a variety of techniques, to bring the children into the classroom and encourage them to progress in education teachers will struggle to gain respect and interact effectively with children.
In this respect the language of the standard is precise in that it indicates that the most essential aspect of behaviour management is to set a good example of behaviour yourself as the teacher. Research done by Morris and Morgan in 1999 looked into the effects that teachers have on children's learning and behaviour, "the children in the study made it clear that they behaved differently for different teachers and that some teachers commanded , and received, more respect than others," (Jacques and Hyland, 2003, p.121). In order to do this we need to 'take responsibility' and promote the correct ethos in classrooms so that children know what to expect in terms of expectations, rewards, sanctions and mutual respect. I regard these attributes as essential to classroom management and the root of behaviour management which can then lead to effective learning in a caring environment. Barnes (2011, p.277) believes that if we as teachers are "Identifying, describing and praising specific examples of 'good' behaviour as it occurs, it keeps children aware of these expectations." This approach has been adopted by many schools in their behaviour policies and can work very well if introduced at an early stage in a child's school life and reinforced by all staff but again some children will need this modelled consistently because they lack the example or expectation.
The standard emphasises the clear expectations for teachers with regard to behaviour management, which is also quite dictatorial with its use of words such as 'discipline', 'authority and 'decisiveness'. This may be due to the fact that the standards were produced when there was a big focus by the government to recruit people from the military to the teaching profession in "2011 to date there were 4151 applications - 737 places. In other words, ex-military personnel will form an absolutely minuscule proportion of the Teach First workforce in the coming years," (Gilbert, 2011). However, it does in my view; make the requirements of the standard clear and concise so that the expectation for teachers is easily measurable.
On the other hand this type of recruitment drive could be seen as demeaning to teachers as it is "being presented by the government in such a way that denigrates teachers in the profession by suggesting that we need to call in the military to solve the discipline crisis in our schools," (Gilbert, 2011). This perception of a crisis is perhaps born out of the general break down of society's attitude towards the teaching profession - teachers are seen by many parents as having an easy life with lots of holidays instead of respected as highly skilled professionals who work very hard to educate and the future generation. This attitude is passed on to the children and this lack of respect is often reinforced by the parent's negative responses to discipline and behaviour management by the school.
The expectations in the standard does not take into account the diversity of our society and the expectations of parents, for example; many parents have different views on what is acceptable behaviour in a classroom "if a child is chaotic, aggressive and defensive, or does not know how to manage itself in a group setting or form friendships, it will be at a considerable disadvantage," (Alexander, 2010, p.85). The varying backgrounds of children may mean that there are social and behavioural issues associated with religious or medical conditions and these need to be managed more sensitively than the norm.
Control of behaviour in a classroom situation is important not only from an academic learning point of view but also from a social point of view, indeed Bandura (1986) states behaviour is learned from the environment through the process of observational learning, "Experimental studies have shown that exposures to aggression on film and television may serve to mediate aggressive behaviour in children," (Bandura quoted in Cooper, 1999, p.121).
Bandura also addressed the importance of reinforcement and punishment as children progress through the education system and often become attached to peers and by doing so fall in to a 'trap' of imitating each other. However, Bandura testifies "If a child imitates a model's behaviour and the consequences are rewarding, the child is likely to continue performing that behaviour if it is reinforced."
It could then be argued that if children are allowed to behave badly then this can become endemic and causes the class teacher considerable problems. I therefore feel that learning good behaviour can be done through demonstration of peers and yourself as a teacher.
The intrinsic motivation of these strategies can be an effective tool because if children are interested and excited to learn they will want to behave well; "becoming the centre of attention for other children, even just for a few minutes, can be a powerful reward for a child who might be finding the attainment of success in school work difficult," (Cooper, 1999, p.125). Although if this is the case then Pritchard (2009, p.10) believes that "if rewards come unexpectedly, intrinsic motivation will remain high," which is something that I feel teachers need to keep in mind.
The extrinsic motivation in a classroom is of great value here because children are motivated by the rewards or recognition that can be achieved by behaving in a specified way as referred to in the standard pointers. However, if "extrinsic rewards are used, it is important that everyone receives one for their best efforts...as it is vital to maintain high self-esteem," (Pritchard, 2009, p.10). Rewards and sanctions within behaviour management are important in order to let the child know that they are either behaving how they are expected or whether their behaviour is unacceptable. However, many people argue that "rewards can belittle or demean a learning experience and rewarding children for all learning and behaviour is likely to cause the child to lose interest in the learning and just want the reward," (Pritchard, 2009, p.10).
Teachers need quality activities, planning and learning to ensure they are able to manage the behaviour of a class of children which links to the standard indicators and in my opinion, if they are excited and enthusiastic to learn and want to learn, then they will engage effectively and be interested and well-motivated which in turn can lead to good behaviour management.