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I will be writing a reflective account of what I have learnt in the module. It is a thinking process, as Boyd and Fales (1983) write. They state that reflection is about the process of internally examining and exploring an issue of concern triggered by an experience, which creates and clarifies meaning in terms of self, i.e., the person who has the experience, and which results in a changed conceptual perspective. I will compare, contrast and analyse the 5 main areas of learning and exploring. These are:-
The role of the Adult
While studying the module, I visited arrange of places to observe children learning and exploring and taking notes on how each area (stated above) is important in the development of the child. I visited a museum, a day play centre and the zoo. Through the reflective account, I will take into consideration what I found out on my visits. Different theorist believe one area of explore and learning holds more importance in a child's development compared to the others. I will also reflect upon these theories and analyse their effectiveness as well as making a self conclusion on whether on area holds more importance then the other.
Babies and young children learn to make sense of their world by actively investigating what it contains and through social activity with significant people. Being an active learner goes beyond physical actions; it also involves the child's five senses, children's interactions with the environment leads to mental actions, through which they construct ideas about what they are encountering. As they come across objects, situations, people and ideas, they adjust and structure their knowledge by trying to make sense of their experiences. Children's interactions enable them to construct ideas and create a framework of thinking and learning that helps them to develop as learners. I clearly saw this; while I was observing children at the zoo, children structured their knowledge by questioning what they saw for example "What animal is that?" "Why does that animal have strips?" Children actively build their own meanings by applying, revising and reapplying what they know. In this way they learn about the many aspects of their environment. Like the other five areas of the module, active exploration helps in the child's development. Active exploration, can integrate both play and the role of the adult to make the child's environment a more enjoyable to provide a positive learning environment. Chris Athey (1990) supports such learning practises, as he stated that "when children are actively learning they are developing the mental structures that help them to think and move on; there are sometimes referred to as schemas" engaging children in active exploration depends mainly on understanding and building on what each child is familiar with, knows and can do. I found that active exploration plays a important part in a child's development both physically and mentally. It is a form of healthy independent learning, which can be applied at a young age, without the child realising, they are learning.
Play is recognised as an important part of the child's development. Through play, children learn to explore the world around them, develop and practise skills they use throughout their lives. Play is defined as behaviour that is freely chosen, personally directed and fundamentally motivated. Through play, children learn the skills necessary to effectively participate in their world through play. Play provides children with natural opportunities to engage in concrete and meaningful activities that enhance physical, language, social, and cognitive development. During play, children increase their knowledge and understanding of self, others, and the physical world around them. Solitary play is simply that-play that a child engages in alone. The child is totally absorbed in the activity and is not reliant upon the actions or words of others. Examples of solitary play include an infant shaking a rattle in her crib and a preschooler quietly looking at a book by herself. Children of all ages engage in solitary play. Play is an extension of the person. Piaget theorised that to a child play is work. An action repeated for its own sake becomes part of a play sequence. Accidentally touching a sound-making toy often prompts a small child to repeat the action so that they take control of the sounds made. In this way the universe becomes less threatening and more familiar to a tiny person making their tentative mark on a huge, complicated and confusing world. I saw child playing, while I was at the day centre, two four-year-old children pretend to go grocery shopping. One child methodically checks her grocery list and asks her friend what they need to buy. The other child places pretend groceries consisting of empty cans and boxes into his grocery sack. Once his sack is full, he asks his friend if she has any money in her purse to pay for the groceries.
Role of the Adult
The role of the adult plays a very important part in the development of the child's development, both cognitively and physically. The adult can be a parent, guardian or even an educational practitioner. Lindon (1993) stated "Adults have the power to make major difference to children's lives and their development......they have a responsibility to help children through more difficult phases and support them in dealing with experiences that threaten their development and wellbeing". The adult's values and principles should be passed on, ensuring it will positively help the child's development. This is represented well in the Training and development Agency project's 'Learning Cycle'. By using the 'Learning Cycle' early practitioners can develop their educational approaches. These stages are
Observing Learning- Observing a child, allows the practitioner to identify the child's interests, strengths and weakness. These observations can be documented in many forms i.e. video, small notes and placed in the child's file, mapping.
Interpreting Learning- Review the observation with another practitioner and make a learning plan for the child.
Planning Learning- The Practitioner should be able to provide a learning environment, where the child can develop. This can be done after the pervious stages are successfully completed.
Contexts for Learning-The learning materials should stimulate and challenge the child, so the child develops their interests as well as learning new ones.
Supporting Learning-The practitioner guides the child, to allow them to extend and challenge their thinking.
These stages follow the theory of Bruner's scaffolding learning. The activities provided in scaffolding instruction are just beyond the level of what the learner can do alone (Olson & Pratt, 2000). These supports may include the following:
A compelling task
Templates and guides
Guidance on the development of cognitive and social skills
These supports are gradually removed as students develop autonomous learning strategies, thus promoting their own cognitive, affective and psychomotor learning skills and knowledge. Teachers help the students master a task or a concept by providing support. The support can take many forms such as outlines, recommended documents, storyboards, or key questions. Vygotsky, believed that the adult played an important role in the student's development and came up with the theory of 'The Zone of Proximal Development' (ZPD). The ZPD is the distance between a student's ability to perform a task under adult guidance and/or with peer collaboration and the student's ability solving the problem independently. According to Vygotsky, learning occurred in this zone.
Communication is the passing of information from sender to receiver. This can be done in a range of ways, such as:
Communication can be verbal and non-verbal. Reggio Emilia promotes good communication as one of their principles. The children on Reggio Emilia are encouraged to describe their understanding in the "100 languages" they are taught, this consists of drawing, sculpture, dramatic play and writing. Clear communication is vital in an early year setting, as misunderstanding can lead to children not performing to the optimum. I saw clear communication in the day centre I visited. They encouraged clear communication, but having both verbal and non-verbal forms of communication, ensuring all the children understood; what would be taught that day and during the tasks, what need to be done. This was achieved by the teacher explaining the task and showing pictures and object to the children. Clear communication is important, as it ensure the teacher has the children's attention, while teaching. According to Vygotsky the acquisition of language as the most significant moment in the course of cognitive development, where words that already have meaning for mature members of a culture group come to have those same meanings for the young of the group in the process of interaction. Vygotsky, humans use tools that develop from a culture, such as speech and writing, to mediate their social environments. Initially children develop these tools to serve solely as social functions, ways to communicate needs. Vygotsky believed that the internalization of these tools led to higher thinking skills.
Thinking Skills are conscious mental processes that you use to do things like: classify, evaluate, sort, question, analyse. Bruner's cognitive theory is used in many educational settings today. As Bruner (1966) stated "learning is an active process in which learners construct new ideas or concepts based upon their current/past knowledge" Piaget developed structures of the mind acquired, even constructed knowledge, and that knowledge was therefore not of only one area. Rather it varied from one observer to another, according to the individual's life experiences and stage of development. Paiget's stages of development are:-
Sensori-motor stage (birth - 2 years old) -- Child interacts with environment through physical actions (sucking, pushing, grabbing, shaking, etc.) Object permanence is discovered (things still exist while out of view).
Pre-operational stage (ages 2-7) -- Child is not yet able to form abstract conceptions, must have hands-on experiences and visual representations in order to form basic conclusions. Typically, experiences must occur repeatedly before the child grasps the cause and effect connection.
Concrete operations (ages 7-11) -- Child is developing considerable knowledge base from physical experiences. Child begins to draw on this knowledge base to make more sophisticated explanations and predictions. Begins to do some abstract problem solving such as mental math, etc. Still understands best when educational material refers to real life situations.
Formal operations (beginning at ages 11-15) -- Child's knowledge base and cognitive structures are much more similar to those of an adult. Ability for abstract thought increases markedly.
Through the module I have learnt a range of skills as well developed knowledge in children's development and learning. I have understood the importance of all the areas I have learnt in the module and the part they play in the development of the child. Although, each area has it's individual importance, I found that collectively all the area learnt in the module help in some way in the development of the child. The module has taught me a new aspect and way of learning.