The main factors which affect pupils learning
Behaviour Theory by B.F. Skinner (1904-94) thinks that pupils like to repeat enjoyable experiences and avoid those that are not. This has its relevancy in learning experiences and behaviour so a child who has learned that working with construction toys is enjoyable would like that to be repeated. Similarly if a child is praised for working at a particular task, this serves to reinforce his/her desire to repeat the experience. He calls this positive reinforcement. Negative reinforcement is where an unpleasant stimulus is removed – this leads to an increase in the behaviour. A child who finds the classroom environment noisy may well learn better in a quiet room with a teaching assistant (TA). They may therefore unconsciously continue to behave in a way that means they have to receive extra help.
General principles of Jean Piaget’s cognitive theories:
1. Children are constantly striving to improve their cognitive development by exploring their environment around them. As such, real objects and “concrete experiences” will assist any new discovery.
2. The adult’s role is to provide children with appropriate experiences in a suitable environment to facilitate the children’s instinctive ability to think and learn.
3. A child will move through four stages of cognitive development. He will accomplish major cognitive tasks in each stage before moving on the next. Please see Appendix 1.1 for Jean Piaget’s four stages of cognitive development.
4. Children’s current stage of cognitive development will determine how effectively they can learn.
5. A child’s language and communication skill was developed at birth and hence they are not important to a child’s cognitive development. Any use of language is considered as his cognitive achievement. But he recognised the importance of language in a later stage.
6. Children in general are not able to understand other’s view points and as a result are not able to communicate accurately and effectively to others.
7. In play children learn through constant interaction with the environment to develop concepts of how the world works. He termed these concepts, or mental constructs schemas. Schemas are the means a child makes sense of systematized information about the world. The simplest of schemas of a young child is acquired through his immediate sense. Any new experience is assimilated into the existing schema and will become part of the child’s thinking by the restructuring of that schema. He called this restructuring, accommodation. Assimilation and accommodation that is the acceptance of new experiences and adjustment of our ideas in how we adapt to our environment and learn.
Lev Vygotsky stated that children will learn better if helped by knowledgeable individuals, thus the importance of families’ communities and other children. Read also about the role of cognition in learning
The Zone of Proximal development – he described as the gap between what a child can do alone and what they can do with the help of someone more skilled or experienced, who could be an adult or another child.
He is interested in two aspects of play. He thought that play and imagination were important to development and learning. He believed that play provides the zone of proximal development.
He argued that cognitive development is an “active adaptation” to the environment and not maturation of intellectual processes. The child interaction with other people helps him to develop through language and logical reasoning. Language is the key to this interaction.
Jerome Bruner expounded the scaffolding learning theory. Adult support is paramount, recognising where and when this support is needed and when it should be removed. Children’s learning structure should be flexible and changing when children gain knowledge. As long as presented in an “appropriate way”, a child is capable of learning any subject at any age, he stressed.
Bruner theory of children’s mental development
– Enactive thinking: Children understand the world through action. Much of a child’s learning and experience at this stage comes through playing.
– Iconic thinking: manipulation of images or “icons” in child’s thinking about the world. Iconic thinking
– Symbolic thinking: able to manipulate abstract concepts using more complex symbolism and language.
Adults can be a great help to children in their thinking, because adults can be like a piece of scaffolding on a building. He viewed language as central to cognitive development as it is used to represent experiences; and past experience/knowledge is organised and made more accessible through language.
Followings are some of the other factors that have an effect upon learning.
Abraham Maslow (1943) addressed the needs factors as vital in pupils’ self esteem and motivation to learn. All needs must be met consecutively before an optimum learning capacity can be reached. Physiological needs: the needs of the body, like access to the toilet, to food, to drink and so on. Unless this basic need is satisfied, energies will not be released to enable learning. Safety needs: the need to feel secure, stability, familiarity and protection. Belonging needs: a feeling of need to belong to part of the class, year group, friends and the school. If this need is met, then the brain will move from reptilian mode to the limbic system where emotions, self identify and values and most important. This area of brain controls long-term memory and attention. Esteem needs – a feeling of need to be valued, respected, recognised and appreciated within the group that each child has an important part to play in the team.
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