Outline some of the theories which seek to explain an area of
development in the child. Drawing upon observations that you have made in
schools, discuss the significance of these theories for the teacher in planning
effective learning situations.
There are three main areas of child
development; intellectual, language and social and emotional. These theories
are often questioned and modified by different psychologists who believe factors affecting a child’s development
can change over time, therefore altering a child’s experience of developing.
Throughout this assignment I will focus on social and emotional development
specifically. Social and emotional development is a child’s ability to
understand the feelings of others, control their own feelings and behaviours,
and build relationships (Gov.uk, 2017). The assignment will outline both Erik
Erikson’s (1963) and Daniel Goleman’s (1995) theories on social and emotional
development whilst making links to effective learning situations I have
observed during my professional placement learning.
Erik Erikson (1963) proposed a theory of human
development comprising eight stages from infancy to adulthood, taking four
stages up to the age of 12 years and four further stages into adulthood. This
theory is known as the ‘eight stages of man’. During each stage of development,
the child should experience a ‘psychosocial crisis’, which can have a positive
or negative outcome for personality development (Slater, 2003). According to
Erikson (1963), each stage demands resolution before the next stage can be negotiated.
Failing to complete a particular stage can result in reduced ability to complete
further stages, and therefore results in an unhealthy personality and
Erikson (1963) called the first stage “trust
versus mistrust”. He believed that during infancy, patterns of trust or
mistrust are formed that can influence a person’s actions or interactions with
others for the rest of their life (Erikson, 1950). During this stage, the
infant is to be uncertain about their surroundings and the world in which they
live in. To resolve feelings of uncertainty, infants seek stability and
consistency of care within their primary care giver (Simply Psychology, 2018).
If the care received is reliable, consistent and predictable, the infant will
develop a sense of trust, which in turn will carry with them to other relationships,
giving them a developed sense of self-security. If the care has been
inconsistent, unreliable or harsh, the infant will carry a sense of mistrust
with them in other relationships. This can result in anxiety, mistrust in the
world and their surroundings, and heightened insecurities (Faris and McCarroll,
Consistent with Erikson’s views, John
Bowlby (1970) believed that the relationships built on trust have a direct
impact on later behaviours. Bowlby (1970) called this attachment theory. He explains
that the sense of trust that is established when a baby’s needs are responded
to is the basis for attachment. Attachment can be described as the bond that is
formed between the infant and the primary caregiver, usually mother and baby.
Bowlby (1970) recognised that on this basis of trust, a child begins their emotional
Bowlby’s attachment theory was based
on his work with teenagers that demonstrated troubled behaviours. He found
similarities in their family histories. Many of the teens had unstable lives in
their early years and, more specifically, had no stable mother present. Because
of this, they were unable to make the important attachment Bowlby discuses.
Children who develop secure attachments with their primary caregivers are
observed to be “more mature and positive in their interactions with adults and
peers than children who lack a secure attachment” (Jack P. Shonkoff and Deborah
A. Phillips, 2000).
The second stage of development, according
to Erikson, is ‘Autonomy versus shame and doubt’. This stage occurs between the
ages of 18 to 36 months. Between these ages children begin to explore their own
independence. For example: clothing or feeding themselves. Erikson (1963)
states that it is crucial to the child’s development that parents allow their
children to explore the limits of their abilities in an encouraging
environment, whilst protecting them from a sense of constant failure. If
children are encouraged and supported during this stage they become more
confident in their own abilities. Parents should be patient, when children are
experiencing this stage of development as shame and doubt are the natural opposites
of childhood autonomy. Erikson (1963) believed that parents that over control
their children, risk increased shame and such behaviour can break the child’s
willingness to explore the boundaries of their independence. This will lead the
child to become overly-dependant and risks lowering self-esteem.
Based on observations from my
professional placement learning (PPL), I have witnessed children successfully
negotiate this stage. Children clearly exploring their abilities often use the
phrase ‘I’ll do it’ and ‘my turn’ when engaging in tasks or activities, such as
fastening coats, and using a pencil. The majority of the children I observed
demonstrated a sense of confidence in their abilities to complete these tasks. However,
I also observed children showing signs of being ‘stuck’ in this particular
phase. These children rarely completed tasks without encouragement. A clear
lack of confidence was noticeable when asked to complete tasks individually or
unaided. To support children through this stage, the class teacher put in place
a number of different effective learning situations. Firstly, encouraging
independence through positive language. Children using phrases such as ‘I can’t
do it’ are simply informed ‘they can’ and are given guidance on how to complete
the task on their own. Secondly, encouraging children to ask peers to help them
before asking any member of staff. There is a strong emphasis on the children
being self-sufficient, and rather than allowing the staff to complete tasks
such as tying laces and fastening buttons, children are encouraged to ask the
children able to complete the tasks to assist those who can’t. This method was
extremely effective as it encouraged autonomy. Children were praised when they
either; asked peers for or gave others assistance. This skipped any sense of
shame or doubt as the focus wasn’t on children’s ability to complete tasks,
rather on their ability to solve them.
third stage of Erikson’s theory is called ‘initiative versus guilt’. Children
begin to experience this stage between the ages of 3-6. During this psychosocial
crisis, children display great curiosity about the world around them and “begin
to assert their power and control over the world through directing play and
other social interaction.” (Wagner, 1997). This stage involves the child interacting
with other children, and asking many questions. They are talkative and tend to
experiment and learn through imaginative play. This allows the children time to
explore their interpersonal skills through initiating activities such as
planning and making up games. If the children are given this opportunity, they
develop a sense of initiative and can feel secure in their abilities to make
decisions and lead peers.
Conversely, if taking initiative has a
negative response, either through criticism or control, children develop a
sense of guilt. This can often take place when parents restrict initiatives in
an attempt to protect the child. Children who negotiate this stage successfully
feel the capacity to initiate their actions confidently, rather than with guilt
and self-doubt (Darling-Churchill, 2016).
From my observations, this stage of
development is highly significant and feeds into teachers planning most. During
this stage children must be allowed room for expression of imagination. To
enable this form of expression the class teacher prepared ‘effective play
tools’, such as various natural, simple materials, and role-playing. Ready-made
toys often inhibit this expression, as there is very little that can be done
imaginatively with most of them. For example, a cardboard box can become a car
or shop, but a ready-made car cannot become anything other than what it is. It
can only be manipulated.
Planning effective learning situations
like this allows the teacher to control the learning without restricting the
children, as the ‘tools’ available have been carefully selected to avoid negative
responses such as criticism to protect, in turn lowering the possibility of the
children feeling a sense of guilt.
The fourth stage of Erikson’s
theory of psychosocial development is ‘industry vs. inferiority’. This stage
occurs between the ages of 6 and 12 years old and involves observation,
reflection and learning. At this stage, school is beginning to take an important
role in the child’s life. Friends and peer groups will also become more
significant in these years as they will be the child’s main source of
self-esteem, meaning they will feel the need to impress their peer groups to
feel a sense of accomplishment. They will do this by showing off certain
competencies that are valued by society and their peers. If children are
reinforced by teachers, adults and peers for their initiative, they begin to
feel industrious and confident in their abilities. If they do not receive this
reinforcement, as it is being restricted by parents, teachers or peers, they may
begin to feel inferior and doubt their abilities. This sense of inadequacy can
damage the child’s sense of identity.
Throughout my PPL, this stage of
development was heavily considered when planning, as the sense of inferiority
is seen as detrimental to the children’s development. Many children feel
discouraged when others can perform skills that they have not yet accomplished.
To avoid a heightened sense of inferiority, the class teachers encouraged the
students to set realistic goals for themselves. Setting both academic and
personal goals is encouraged. The goals set are revisited each term and this
allows the pupils the opportunity to monitor their own progress. This gives
each student the chance to clearly witness their own achievements.
Erikson’s (1963) theory is important as
it gives professionals a clear depiction of what emotions a child is
experiencing at specific ages. Having this knowledge allows parents and
teachers to monitor a child’s social and emotional development and plan
effective learning situations that will benefit their development and support
children who are finding certain stages particularly challenging.
Daniel Goleman (1995) developed the
Emotional Intelligence Theory. Emotional intelligence is known as the ability
to understand and manage your own emotions, and those of the people around you.
Goleman identified the five key elements of emotional intelligence as: self-awareness,
self-management, social awareness, relationship management, decision making. These
five competencies help children and adults, recognise, understand, manage and influence
both their emotions and the emotions of others (Kasapi and Mihiotis, 2014).
The first element of Goleman’s (1995)
theory is self-awareness. This relates to the child’s ability to identify and
recognise their own emotions and how they can affect others. Self-awareness
allows the child to become aware of their personal strengths and weaknesses and
allows them to reflect on the impact their emotions have on themselves and others.
According to Goleman, children who demonstrate self-awareness are much more
self-confident and are aware of their self-worth and capabilities.
From my classroom experience, teaching
children self-awareness plays a significant role in day-to-day activities, as
the children’s emotions make a huge impact on the learning taking place. Many of
the children I observed were very in-tune with their emotions and were able to
express why they were feeling certain emotions. However, some children were not
yet aware of the impact their emotions or moods had on others. To encourage
this, the class teacher implemented a lot of partner and group work, so children
had numerous experiences of working with and considering others. Another
technique used to develop self-awareness was ‘reflection time’. This was time
given to children who had misbehaved or were not demonstrating their ‘expected
behaviours’. The class teacher would calmly spend a short time with the child
asking them how they think their behaviour affected others, encouraging them to
develop this sense of self-awareness.
Self-management is the second competency
explained by Goleman. This describes the child’s ability to control their
impulsive emotions and actions and redirect them. During this stage of
development, children should begin to assert some self-discipline and allow
themselves thinking time before they act on their emotions (Kasapi and Mihiotis,
2014). Goleman describes this stage as ‘difficult for young children’ (Goleman,
1995). Children who display self-management refrained from verbally or
physically attacking others and rarely made rushed or emotional decisions.
Enhancing their communication with peers and other adults much more effective.
Children who have not yet learned how
to manage their emotions let feelings of anger or frustration consume them.
This was evident whilst on PPL, as when children felt defeated they would often
display negative behaviours or use phrases such as ‘I quit’ or ‘it’s not fair’
when playing group activities. To overcome this, the class teacher used
positive encouragement by using phrases such as ‘good try’ and ‘maybe next
time’. For children who tend to display feelings of anger and rage, the teacher
would aim to direct them away from the situation and introduce some breathing
techniques or counting activities that aim to destress the child and allow them
time to think about the emotions they are feeling before acting on them
impulsively. This technique proved to be highly effective, as redirecting the
child and allowing them thinking time often lead to them thinking more deeply
about the emotion they were currently feeling and assess any consequences of their
actions, encouraging them to avoid making rash decisions.
The third of Goleman’s five
competencies is social awareness. Goleman described this as the ability to take
the perspective of, and empathise with, others (Casel.org, 2018). Children displaying
this skill are beginning to understand social and ethical norms of behaviour.
The ability to understand the emotional makeup of others and show empathy, allows
the child to accept and appreciate that their society is diverse and instils a
sense of mutual respect for others.
Embracing diversity is one of the key
values celebrated within my placement school, as many of the children are from
very different backgrounds. Therefore, many of them are very socially aware and
have been embracing diversity from a very young age. However, to really
encourage social awareness, the school and the class teacher have displays
around the building displaying and celebrating different family types, skin
colours, and religions. Also, taking this skill into consideration, the older
children within the school have been communicating via email with different
school students from around the world, sharing stories and information on their
norms, values and traditions. This again increases awareness of social
diversity and further allows the children to appreciate their society and the
world around them.
The fourth competency is related to the
child’s ability to build and manage relationships with a range of different
people and groups. This skill is vital for development as it allows the child
to communicate clearly, listen well and cooperate effectively with others. Children
who develop this skill well are able to disregard feelings of social pressure
and negotiate conflict constructively, seeking and offering help when needed,
in turn giving them confidence in their abilities to interact and socialise
The class teacher implemented this
particular skill into her planning by exploring different forms of writing,
including narrative, persuasive and descriptive. Exploring these different
forms of writing allows the children to communicate for different purposes. Through
writing they are able to advise, persuade, argue, and to entertain, developing
a wide range of different communication skills, enhancing their abilities to
build relationships with a diverse group of people. Secondly, this skill is
implemented by encouraging children to communicate with people they wouldn’t
usually interact with. For example, the older children within the school are
given the responsibility to ‘buddy’ younger years. Partners are expected to
build a relationship based on guidance and respect. This gives both ages the
opportunity to interact with different people, with different needs supporting and
developing their ability to manage different relationships.
Finally, the fifth competency Goleman
(1995) developed is responsible decision-making. Goleman described this skill
as the ability to make constructive choices about behaviour and social
interactions. This skill allows children to evaluate the consequences of their
actions and assess how their actions might affect the physical and emotional well-being
of the people around them. To implement this skill successfully, children have
to identify, analyse and reflect on their actions, young children can often
find this skill challenging.
Throughout my placement it was clear
that younger children needed some assistance with responsible decision-making.
To assist children with this skill, the class teacher and support staff would
often remind children of how certain behaviours are rewarded and others have a
consequence. This constant reminder to the children enabled them to evaluate
the consequences of certain actions and make a constructive choice to display
more positive behaviour. However, responsible decision-making didn’t solely
relate to behaviour choices. Children found decision-making most difficult when
having to be selective with their choices and share resources with other
pupils. To assist the development of this skill, the class teacher would often
give children the opportunity to be selective, for example: asking them to pick
one coloured pencil or pick one toy they would like to play with. Some children
would find selecting one pencil/toy difficult as they would want to use them all.
To overcome this barrier, the teacher would explain why they were having to
make the choice of using just one of the resources and would often use
effective questioning, such as ‘how would you feel if you couldn’t play with
any toys because all the other children had taken them?’, to help the child assess
how their actions might affect the other children within the class. This use of
effective questioning gave children the support they needed to make the correct
decisions, enhancing their decision-making skills.
All of Goleman’s competencies play an
important role in a child’s social and emotional development. Planning
effective learning situations to support children in developing these skills
enhances the child’s ability to understand the feelings of others, control
their own feelings and behaviours, and build relationships (Gov.uk, 2017).
To conclude, both Erikson and Goleman’s
theories are useful in explaining how children develop both socially and
emotionally. They are significant frameworks that enable teachers to closely
monitor the children’s development and plan effective learning situations to
support the children’s development. Erikson’s descriptive theory clearly
presents opposing statements representing the challenges a child can faces
during their development, whereas Goleman’s theory explains five different
competencies or skills that result in a healthy social and emotional well-being
if the skills are developed (Goleman, 1995). Although both theories are significant
in explaining children’s development, Erikson’s theory is much more descriptive,
enables teachers to closely monitor where each child is in their development,
and highlights the issues that may arise if a child doesn’t progress through a
particular stage, allowing teachers to create much more effective learning
plans for children at different stages, or for children that are ‘stuck’ within
a certain stage.
(Word count: 3080)
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