Explain how children and young people’s development is influenced by a range of personal factors. Personal factors are those which are part of the genetic make-up of a child (nature, not nurture). As such, they cannot be changed, although their influence upon development can be addressed to give children the best possible chance to achieve their potential. Personal factors influencing development include: • Health status: From common colds to serious illness, a child’s health status will impact upon their development in some way. Frequent colds or other mild illness, for example, could mean low school attendance rates which not only impacts on a child’s classroom learning but can also affect a child’s social and emotional development by having less exposure to playing with peers, less time to form meaningful friendships and missing out on the opportunity to grow in confidence and social skills. A child with a chronic illness, such as juvenile arthritis, may suffer the same disadvantages due to frequent hospital appointments.
In addition, suffering chronic pain can render a child less able to concentrate, thus affecting their cognitive development. Not being able to play the same games or not being able to take part fully in PE lessons or afterschool clubs can affect a child’s confidence. In turn this could affect a child’s language and communication development. Moreover, these disadvantages are on top of the more obvious effects of a serious disease – in the case of arthritis, problems with bone development and growth. When one aspect of a child’s development is significantly influenced, other aspects will also be influenced. Although Teachers and Teaching Assistants cannot cure arthritis, they can certainly mitigate the effects of the disease on aspects of development other than bone growth. • Disability: Physical disability, such as cerebral palsy, can affect a child’s development in a number of ways.
For example, they may be bullied or ignored by other students because they appear different, which will affect their social and emotional development. Speech acquisition will be delayed due to the disability, which can in turn delay intellectual or cognitive development. Cerebral palsy affects muscle control and coordination, so it will be difficult for a child to partake in some school learning and playing activities which will influence that child’s social, emotional and cognitive development too. A less visible disability might be autism, which affects how a child reads social situations and communicates with others. The pattern of communication development is thus influenced directly by the disability, which will have a knock-on effect on other aspects of development. • Sensory impairment: Sensory impairment, such as sight or hearing impairment, will directly affect a child’s development. With hearing impairment, for example, a child will be delayed and may be restricted in language and communication development.
The severity of the impact will often relate directly to the severity of the impairment. Even a child with slight hearing impairment will struggle to hear the teacher in a classroom with background noise and will find group work difficult. This impacts upon the child’s cognitive development and his social development. Finding conversations difficult can affect a child’s confidence and his behavioural development could be affected. Depending upon other factors, he may deal with his impairment by disruptive behaviour (to cover up his difficulty) or he may shun attention – both behaviours impact negatively upon other aspects of development. As with other personal factors, Teachers and TAs can lessen negative impact on development by being aware of a child’s impairment and providing circumstances, resources and support which considers the child’s position. • Learning difficulties: specific learning difficulties cover such difficulties as dyslexia, dyscalculia, dyspraxia and ADHD.
These children will need additional support in order to maximise their potential in class. A dyslexic child will struggle more than her peers to acquire confidence in reading and writing, which can affect other areas of cognitive development. Her confidence may also suffer, and she may suffer frustration and anger at not being able to do what her peers can do with ease (read a sentence; differentiate between b and d). Whilst considering the effects of personal factors on child development it is worth mentioning that some factors may influence development in an advantageous way. For example, a dyslexic child may be able to think more creatively about certain types of problem solving, or they may be very artistic. This can have a positive influence on social and emotional development. Every child is an individual and the better that personal and external influences on development are understood, the better that child can be supported as she grows, learns and develops.
• Genetic inheritance: A child not only inherits physical attributes from his parents, but also character traits such as sensitivity or gregariousness. Both will influence his development, along with other personal and external factors. For example, a child who inherits long limbs from his parents may develop physically at a different rate than his peers. He may be more prone to growing pains, which may affect him emotionally and he may look older than his real age which can cause some problems if adults or peers treat him differently. Some tall children may become self conscious of their height as they mature and may even begin to stoop, particularly in their teens as they begin to want to conform, which in turn can affect the physical development of back and neck joints. As well as inheriting physical and character traits, there are also genetic abnormalities, such as Down Syndrome. Down Syndrome children typically have learning difficulties and often face physical problems such as heart defects and hearing impairment. Teachers and TAs can not change the child’s genetic makeup, but we can influence development and help every individual to achieve their potential.
Explain how children and young people’s development is influenced by a range of external factors. External factors affecting a child’s development are the experiences and interactions with his world and the people in it (nurture, not nature). Unlike personal factors, they are subject to change. In a school setting we can change the way we work with a child and provide opportunities to counteract any negative influence of external factors on a child’s development. A recent example might be the decision of UK government to provide free school meals to children up to KS2. This policy is, in part, an attempt to shrink the gap between children who are well nourished and those who with family backgrounds and circumstances which may mean they are less well provided for at lunchtimes. Good meals for everyone in turn leads to improved socialisation and better learning in the afternoon, which is a positive effect on children’s cognitive, social, physical and emotional development. Examples of external factors influencing development are:
• Poverty and deprivation: Poverty and deprivation can have a negative effect on a child’s development in many ways. In poorer countries people may not have access to education, medicine or adequate nutrition. Poverty affects child development to such an extreme in these circumstances that countries such as Sierra Leone and Angola still have under-five mortality rates of over 160 per 1000 live births (compared to 5 or under in UK and most of Western Europe) [http://www.childmortality.org/ ].Closer to home, children growing up in poverty in this country also typically suffer ill effects on their development. Poor nutrition adversely affects physical development of healthy bones, muscles, teeth and leads to more frequent illness; poor and/or crowded housing means less access to outdoor space or safe areas to play in which can hinder a child’s natural curiosity and socialisation and so delay cognitive and social development. Children may also be self-conscious if they cannot afford to dress up on non-uniform days or go on school trips.
This can potentially affect their sense of self worth and have a negative effect on emotional and cognitive development. Of course, it is too simplistic to say that more money means optimised child development. As teachers and TAs we can have a positive effect on a child’s development where poverty or deprivation is an issue by providing appropriate opportunities and support. For example, funded school clubs, providing resources that may not be available at home and equipping parents/carers with strategies to encourage their children’s development. • Family environment: Home circumstances have a huge part to play in influencing a child’s development. Even in a home where a child is loved and supported, factors such as a family bereavement, moving house or parents separating can impact upon a child’s development. Some homes are chaotic and/or violent which usually has a very negative effect on a child’s development and behaviour. Some families do not regard a child’s school life as important and do not or cannot offer the support that a child needs to develop cognitively to his best ability.
As we have seen, when one aspect of development is affected adversely this almost always impacts on other aspects of development. Children without positive role models are significantly disadvantaged in their social and emotional development. A stable, loving and consistent family background can mitigate other negative factors (personal and external) on child development to a very significant extent and an understanding of family background can go a long way towards optimising a child’s development in a school setting. • Background: Cultural, racial and ethnic backgrounds can affect a child’s development in a number of ways. For example, it is not uncommon for bi-lingual children to have delayed language development in the early years (as their brains grapple with two languages) – though the ability to speak two languages can be a cognitive advantage as the child grows older. In school, it is important to consider a child’s background in the preparation and delivery of learning experiences.
For example, including and recognising a child’s cultural heritage in class can help that child to assimilate, boosting their confidence and social and cognitive development (and the development of their classmates!) • Looked after/ care status: A child is most often looked after by a local authority because his own parents are unable to look after him or have neglected him. Looked after children are often moved around regularly and may be in a situation where they do not know whether they will return to live with their parents or not. Separation and attachment issues are not uncommon in these children and regularly moving school and home environments can hinder their emotional and social development as well as their schooling (and cognitive development). • Education: Education does not begin at school, but from a child’s earliest days at home. Enriching experiences, which promote curiosity and a love of learning, give babies and young children strong foundations for sustained cognitive development at school and throughout childhood.
As a child’s understanding of the world around him increases, so his ability to verbalise and socialise grows. Conversely, poor schooling, low school attendance and lack of educational support at home or at school can impact negatively not only on school work but on a child’s personal development generally. If a child is not engaged and challenged intellectually, and if he does not develop a love and habit of learning he cannot develop to his full potential or make the most of his life. • Personal choices: As children get older and begin to take responsibility for their own wellbeing, their choices can affect their development.
For example, choosing to eat healthily and exercise regularly will help healthy, strong physical development. Knock-on effects might be improved social skills through team sports, for example, and good self-esteem, which helps social and emotional development. For teenagers, choosing to smoke, take drugs or drink alcohol will have a negative effect on physical, emotional and intellectual development.
Every child develops individually and uniquely. A child’s development is influenced positively and negatively by a myriad of both external and personal factors. It is essential for professionals working with children to understand and consider what those influences might be and to consider the individual when providing the right support, circumstances and resources to maximise the potential of each child and to support their development positively.
Explain how theories of development and frameworks to support development influence current practice.
There are many different theories about the way that children learn and develop. Educational practice has changed over time as theories influence teachers and educational decision makers. For the Teaching Assistant, an understanding of some of the main theories of development and their current use in practice will help them to understand how and why a particular practice works and supports the child.
Maslow (Humanist theory)
Abraham Maslow (1908 – 1970) was an American humanistic psychologist – a psychologist who based his theories on the humanist belief that every person has an innate desire to reach their full potential (which he called ‘self-actualization’). He is most famous for developing the concept of a hierarchy of needs, whereby human needs are organised in a hierarchy (most typically represented as a pyramid). He suggested that humans (including children) can only progress towards ‘self-actualization one step at a time – that basic needs must be met before a person can move on to satisfy the next need on the hierarchy.
(diagram from http://physicalspace.wordpress.com/category/man-society/)
The above diagram represents Maslow’s 7-tier hierarchy, which is a development of his original 5-tier version. It is important for people working in school because it includes cognitive needs, which relate directly to school work and learning. Thus, until basic physiological needs of food, water, sleep etc are met, a human cannot develop his relationships, self esteem, learning and so on.
Maslow’s theory has had a very significant impact on classroom management and teaching and can be seen in force in UK schools every day. Teachers and educational leaders are very much aware of the whole child – the holistic development of that child. Thus, if a child is not performing very well academically teachers will assess whether needs further down the hierarchy are being met. If a child is hungry, he will not be able to develop academically because food is a basic need at the bottom of the pyramid and learning is much further up. Similarly, if a child is not doing well at school, a teacher or TA may consider whether that child’s self esteem needs or relationship needs are being met. Creating a welcoming and safe school environment in which each individual feels valued is an educational norm today, demonstrating the humanist theory’s direct impact on current practice in schools.
Social pedagogy is the term applied to a humanistic development framework. It is an extension of the hierarchy of needs and considers the holistic development of a child not only in school but in his whole life: family, health, spiritual life, community. This humanist framework to support development is in practice today through such initiatives as the Team Around the Child (TAC) where a child’s teachers, social workers, health professionals etc work together to support a child and his holistic development.
Piaget (Cognitive Theory)
Cognitive psychology is concerned with the way that people learn and think. In particular, Jean Piaget (1896 – 1980) studied cognitive development in children, which lead to his theory that children think and learn differently from adults. (Until then, the assumption had been that children learn in the same way, just less effectively.)
Piaget suggested that children develop ‘schemata’ (singular: ‘schema’) to help them understand and learn about the world. A schema can be likened to an index card of knowledge about a thing or situation. Each time the child encounters that thing or situation he will subconsciously consult the schema to test what he already knows about it with the real (new) evidence before him. If he discovers new information about the thing/situation he may add that information to the schema. Importantly, he will want to seek reassurance before he adds the information. Piaget suggested that when a child discovers information additional to that in his existing schema about a thing or situation, the child feels a sense of disequilibrium and wants confirmation of its validity before adding the information to his schema. This is known as assimilation. Furthermore, when a child discovers conflicting information about a thing/situation he will experience disequilibrium and will need to adjust (edit) existing schema or create a new schema. This is known as accommodation. Once assimilation or accommodation has occurred, equilibrium is restored (called equilibration) and the learning moves forward.
Piaget’s theory is therefore represented in current practise by a move towards ‘hands-on experience’ in the classroom. Children need to experience things first hand in order to assimilate and accommodate new information to their schemas, achieve equilibration and move their learning on. For example, science lessons at school will involve experiments where the children discover and test existing theories and predictions. In maths, too, children are encouraged to predict and test new knowledge against existing knowledge in order to assimilate information, understand and learn.
Piaget’s theory also recognised 4 stages of child development. Cognition happens differently at each stage and the stages are universal and always happen in the same order, though not at the same rate, according to Piaget. Piaget stated that the ages he applied to each developmental stage are an indication of the average age that a child reaches each stage. The stages are: • sensorimotor stage (birth – 2 years): A baby uses his senses and motor skills to understand the world around him. Piaget identified understanding ‘object permanence’ as a key development for children of this age – i.e. understanding that a ball is still under a blanket, even though you can’t see it. • preoperational stage (2 years – 7 years): Piaget identified ‘egocentrism’ as a key feature of this stage.
He suggested that whilst children at this stage are becoming adept at using language and roleplaying to help understand their world, they are not yet able to see things from any other viewpoint than their own. (Other theorists later contested this observation.) • concrete operational stage (7 years – 11 years): Piaget believed that children of this age are able to think logically about concrete events, though they have not acquired the ability to think in more abstract terms. • formal operational stage (adolescents up to and including adults): In this final stage the actual experiences/objects are no longer required in order to problem solve – a child can now think theoretically and abstractly.
Piaget’s 4 stages of development are recognised in current practise in that children are not expected to reason and think abstractly at primary school age. They are encouraged to rely upon what they see and know and discover in class and around them in order to progress their learning.
BF Skinner (Operant conditioning theory)
Skinner built upon the ideas of behaviourist theorists such as John B Watson (1878 – 1958). Behaviourism states that everyone is born with their mind as a blank slate (‘tabula rasa’) and that all behaviour is a result of stimulus.
Skinner took this further and credited learners (children) with a more active role in their learning in that they will choose to behave a certain way based on past experience. In the tradition of behaviourism, though, he believed that the best way to understand behaviour is to look at its original cause and its effect.
Skinner introduced the idea of ‘reinforcement’ (both positive and negative)
which is very much in current use by teachers, parents and carers across the UK. Positive reinforcement means rewarding desirable behaviour and learning, which will make the child wish to repeat that pleasant experience (and so behave well/work hard). Sticker charts, achievement awards and systems such as school ‘team points’ are examples of Skinner’s theory in action.