A myriad of theories tend to give an explanation of distinct features that are inherent in child development. In developmental psychology, theories give an explanation of the learning and developmental stages of human growth. A child undergoes different stages of development during his or her upbringing (Bergin and Bergin, 2015) and no single theory does really provide an exhaustive explanation of how a child learns and develops. Literacy development in children is important in development. Literacy is the foundation of socializing with others, performing well at school, working and establishing independence. However, before children read and write, they need to develop building blocks for literacy, which is the ability to listen, speak, understand, draw and watch. This is explained by two child developmental theories: Cognitive Development by Jean Piaget and Psychosocial stages by Erik Erikson. This essay is therefore going to critically discuss literacy in child development and learning basing on Piaget’s and Erikson’s theories of development. The essay will also critically evaluate the key concepts from the two theories.
Piaget’s Cognitive Development Theory
Piaget had a belief that children think and tackle problems distinctively from grown-ups. The theorist believed that maturation, experience and balance have an influence on cognitive development (Stanton, 1993). Therefore, through studying the cognitive development of children and adults, Piaget came up with 4 sequential stages of cognitive development (Bremner and Slater, 2003). The stages do develop in a sequential format hence one cannot skip any since each of the stages is a building foundation on the accomplishments (Slater, Hocking and Loose, 2003).
The cognitive development stages as put forth by Piaget are as follows;
- Sensory Motor
The sensory motor stage begins from birth to 2 years of age. This stage involves the use of reflexes, motor activity with no symbols, for instance shaking a rattle. Learning at this stage also takes place through senses, which is infants cannot predict reactions and therefore learn through trial and error. Object permanence is also evident at this stage and infants around 7-10 months are able to be aware that objects do exist even though they can no longer be seen ((Slater, Hocking and Loose, 2003).
This stage occurs between 2-7 years of age. In this stage, children can make use of mental symbols and have an understanding of the world without having to see objects physically. There is also pretend play, such as, (mum, dad, pastor). Children make use of objects at this stage to represent other objects, for instance, carton for a baby’s cot (Luttz and Huitt, 2004). Consequently, animism and egocentrism is also prevalent at this stage (Slater, Hocking and Loose, 2003). For instance a child portrays egocentrism through telling a story and when the child forgets an important detail, he or she asks, “Did you not see?”
- Concrete Operational
This stage occurs between the ages of 7-11 years. Intellectual development is demonstrated through mental representation of actions, for instance, ability to draw a map to school. Manipulation of symbols does exist which results to concrete objects. Moreover, children at this stage are capable of serration, that is, they are in a position to arrange objects basing on serial order, for example, tall, taller, and tallest (Slater, Hocking and Loose, 2003).For instance, a child can be in a position to draw map to school and counts objects and differentiates them from smaller to bigger objects.
- Formal Operational Stage
Occurs from 12 years and above. This is the period from adolescence to adulthood. During this stage thinking is no longer tied on the basis of observable or imaginable concepts (Slater, Hocking and Loose, 2003). Basically, thinking is rational, abstract, and systematic and involves what is to be accomplished in future, what has passed and what is present. For instance, an adolescent may be thinking of how he or she will start a family and have a good job.
The distinctive features in Piaget’s theory of cognitive development is qualitative and quantitative.
Erickson’s Theory of Psychosocial Stages
Erikson’s theory of psychosocial stages of personality development was greatly influenced by Freud. Erikson’s theory provides qualitative changes in the way children develop literacy. Children are considered to be active learners and go through stages. Erikson believed that in each stage, human’s face crisis that need to be fixed so as to develop in a social and emotional way. Each of the stages revolves around positive or negative outcomes, nonetheless there is tendency of being at either end of the phase. The consequences of the stages are determined by a child’s environment, experiences and parenting strategies a child is exposed to (A basic introduction to child development theories, 2006).
Erikson classifies the psychosocial development stages in child development into four stages as follows;
Stage One: Trust vs. Mistrust
This stage takes place from infancy to one year (Hoffnung and Seifer, 2013). The important event at this stage is that a child develops trust when a parent or caregiver provides reliability, affection and care. In this stage, children begin developing literacy by engaging and interacting with people they come into contact with. The crisis is decide whether the child can trust the world and individuals in it while developing literacy or mistrust the people and the world.
Stage Two: Autonomy vs. Shame
The stage takes place from 2-3 years of age, which is early childhood. A child needs to establish a sense of independence and intellect over physical skills. Success results to autonomy whilst failure results to shame (Hoffnung and Seifer, 2013). This is a new crisis that must be dealt with in literacy development in a child. Children may also learn that coming up with independent decisions is a thing to be ashamed of. In most cases, this is a very challenging stage to caregivers. For instance, a child who is always given a “No” develops feelings of shame. Toilet training is one of the ways of developing some feeling of independence in children.
Stage Three: Initiative vs. guilt
Takes place at the age of 3-5 years. Success at this stage results to a sense of initiative while failure results to feelings of guilt. Erikson emphasizes that an individual’s personality develops from a child’s experiences and social interaction with important people in his or her life. In this stage, children have the eagerness to learn. Children learn to plan and also carry out the plans. Development of right and wrong also takes place in this stage. For instance, in this stage, a child should be given more time to explore the environment and learn about his or her environment which builds a sense on initiative.
Stage Four: Industry vs. Inferiority
This stage occurs between the ages of 6-11 years. A child needs to deal with new social societal and academic demands. Success at this stage results to feeling industrialised while failure results to inferiority complex. In this stage, children begin to be industrious and push towards realising their goals. Children brought up in a positive way will explore this stage in a positive way and have good feelings about themselves. However, children who receive negative comments from individuals they interact with will develop inferiority complex which will lead to negative thoughts in literacy.
Activities for Promoting Literacy in Young Children
Basing on Piaget’s and Erikson’s theories of development and learning, the two theories concepts can be applied into initiating activities that can help young children meet their specific developmental and learning needs as follows;
- i) Symbolic Development and Learning
Young children express feelings and ideas in different was. A child can be encouraged to creatively move like an animal for instance hop like a rabbit, painting in music to express the child feels about certain music, animal sounds such rattling of a snake with a ratting object, mental representation of actions, for instance draw a map to school, arrange objects basing on serial order, for example, tall, taller, and tallest or use of objects to represent other objects such as carton for a baby’s cot. Symbolic development is more of Piaget’s Cognitive Development theory.
- ii) Spoken Language
Young children make use of language to communicate feelings, ideas and questions. Children like to talk about their families and the people that are always surrounded with most of the time. An activity such as use of select figures to represent family can be used in to meet learning activities in children.
Yarn and straight pins can be used in this case whereby a teacher can create 10 brightly coloured yarns and straight pins of different sizes on a felt board in front of children and ask each of them to say as much or as little about their family. The teacher should avoid correcting any of the children’s descriptions. Such an activity helps in dealing with issues of shame, doubt, and mistrust and guilty and helps a child develop autonomy, feeling of independence and sense of initiative which is of great importance in literacy developing and learning. This activity is more focused on Erikson’s Theory.
Toilet training and play are also some of the major activities that can be planed for in young children to help that meet a sense of independence and learn about the environment that surrounds them.
Piaget’s and Erikson’s Child Development and Learning Theories
It is of great significance to note that all aspects of child development are interrelated. For example, new cognitive achievements come as a result of a child’s environment, experiences and parenting strategies a child is exposed to. This explains the similarity between Piaget’s Cognitive Development Theory and Erikson’s Psychosocial Stages of Development Theory. Literacy in child development is gradual and continuous. Children are considered as active learners and go through stages as explained by both Piaget’s and Erikson’s theory of child development.
Piaget continues to be a great influence on how we feel and think about children’s literacy development (Hoffnung and Seifer, 2013; Lourenco and Machado, 1996). Piaget’s cognitive development theory is of important due to the reason that he saw children as active participants in learning. Erikson also saw that children are considered active learners and go through stages. Erikson believed that in each stage, children crisis that need to be fixed so as to develop in a social and emotional way.
According to Williams, Sheridan and Sandberg (2014), the learning environment of a child is seen as complex because it comprises of multidimensional situations which include interaction, experiences and ability to achieve educational goals. The author’s further notes the children’s learning and development is tied to their social context in relation to the child and childhood. Piagets and Erikson’s theory portray the societal context of children development and learning. Both theories bring out the concept that children are active learners and go through a series of stages which are resolved in a social and emotional way.
The distinctive features in Piaget’s theory of cognitive development is qualitative and quantitative while Erikson’s theory provides qualitative changes.
Piaget’s cognitive development theory saw children as active participants in learning which is similar to Erikson’s theory but Erikson further notes that active learners; children also go through stages which have crisis that need to be fixed so as to develop in a social and emotional way
Consequently, Erikson’s theory gives us appropriate parenting strategies to help children reach their full potential. Children learn that they are autonomous and independent individuals who have control in their world. On the other hand, Piaget sees that there are individual differences in stages since the effects of the social environment may speed up or slow down the rate of literacy development in a child. He further states that the consequences of the stages are determined by a child’s environment and experiences a child is exposed to.
In conclusion, children undergo different stages of development and learning during their upbringing and no single theory does really provide an exhaustive explanation of how a children learns and develop. Piaget’s theory is of important due to the reason that he saw children as active participants in learning. Erikson saw that children are considered as active learners and go through stages, and in each stage, children’ crisis need to be fixed so as to develop in a social and emotional way. Piaget’s and Erikson’s theory provide us with concepts that can be used to meet children’s development and learning needs.
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