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The Psychology of Child Development

Keith Sawyer

Four Approaches
Behaviorism Constructivism Evolutionary psychology Socioculturalism

1. Behaviorism
Classroom example Learning analysis

Classroom Example
Consumer mathematics class Class objective: learn to estimate answers for division problems

Lesson Plan
Review from last class: mental math Lesson: compatible numbers Worksheet: Practice problem-solving skills

Learning Analysis
Classify the learning task Analyze the task Break down the task into prerequisite skills Break down each prerequisite skill into lower-level prerequisite skills Result: Construct a learning hierarchy

Four Approaches
Behaviorism

Constructivism
Socioculturalism Brain science

Constructivism vs. Behaviorism


What is learned? behaviors vs. knowledge Constructivism is cognitivist: not only behaviors, but also knowledge is learned Behaviorism: Learning is associationist, continuous, linear Constructivism: Not learning but development; qualitative stage transitions

Piaget: The Philosophical Context


Where does knowledge come from? Behaviorists are empiricists all knowledge derives from experience The rationalists reject empiricism and argue that some knowledge is innate or a priori: it does not require experience Kants synthesis proposed a priori basic categories Piaget proposed that these basic categories are not innate but are learned, but not in the way that behaviorists believed

Piagetian Concepts
Development occurs in stages In each stage, learning proceeds differently due to different schemas For Piaget, these schemas correspond to Kants basic categories of knowledge (For other researchers, a schema can be any abstract knowledge structure)

Constructivist Principles
Children create their own knowledge Children are active, not passive The child as scientist: hypothesis generation and testing Childrens learning is mediated by their mental schemas New schemas emerge from the child actively interacting with the environment

The Schema
The schema: an elementary psychological structure Each stage has its own schemas Childrens learning is mediated by their mental schemas New schemas emerge from the child interaction of the old schema and the environment: a dialectic

Assimilation and Accommodation


Development is driven by a continuing equilibrium between assimilation and accommodation Assimilation: The child imposes an existing schema on the world (play) Accommodation: The modifies the schema to fit the world (imitation)

Implications of Constructivism
Rote learning is bad Drill-and-practice is bad Instead, place children in an environment rich in objects Give children freedom to explore and choose their own activities Schemas enable generalization and transfer

Critiques of Piaget
Stage transitions may not be qualitative but rather more quantitative or continuous Stage transitions dont occur at the same time in all domains (for example, speech vs. drawing) Piagets theory is limited to science and math After a stage transition, older ways of knowing sometimes remain Yet, Piagets theory remains influential; Neo-Piagetians are extending Piaget (emotional development, artistic development)

Four Approaches
Behaviorism Constructivism

Evolutionary psychology
Socioculturalism

Evolutionary Psychology
A modern version of maturationism Chomskys theory of language The broader claim: Human minds are designed (by evolution) to learn certain kinds of things easily These views contrast with both behaviorism and constructivism

Four Approaches
Behaviorism Constructivism Evolutionary psychology

Socioculturalism

Socioculturalism
Because so much adult knowledge is contextualized in group settings, learning should also take place in social communities. Learning as apprenticeship, as a junior member of the team Children construct some kinds of knowledge more effectively through social interaction

Implications of Socioculturalism
Use collaborating groups for learning Combine different grades and levels in a group Assess the groups performance, not the individual members Adults work together with learners, rather than lecture at them

Comparing the Four Approaches


Behaviorism Constructivism Evolutionary psychology Socioculturalism