Recent Question/Assignment

Teaching Period 1, 2014
EDU10004 Theories of Teaching and Learning
Assessment 2: Essay Word limit: 1500 (+/- 10%) Weighting: 30%
Due date: 9am AEST Friday 1 May (Week 8)
Assessment overview
This assessment activity is designed to engage you with an in-depth study of contemporary
learning theories. You will need to outline various views and perspectives on learning and
critically examine each one against current thinking around theories of teaching and learning. As
part of this process, you will need to discuss various perspectives on learning and which ones
have lost or gained support with the majority of people. Be sure to provide adequate evidence
from the literature to support your suggestions and claims.

Assessment details
This is an individual activity involving two parts:
Part one: Create a Venn diagram to compare two different theories. Submit the diagram as part of
the assessment and write about the key differences between these two theories (500 words).
Part two: Write an essay that examines the perspectives of learning in your chosen theories and
clearly outline examples of the benefits and limitations of each theory. Use references and
research to support your discussion.

A Web 2.0 tool such as Gliffy ( can be
used to create your Venn diagram.


In the Swinburne Student Toolbox you can find a link to this page
( on Referencing and Resources where you can learn
about how to find and reference the resources you’ll need for this essay.

Assessment criteria
1. Clear and concise description of various perspectives on learning.
2. Clear and concise description of the two theories of learning and teaching, including the
limitations and benefits.
3. Evidence from contemporary literature on theories of learning and teaching.
4. Adherence to APA guidelines and referencing tips.

Week 5: Behavioural perspectives
This week is focused on Behaviorism, a school of thought that has been extremely influential in educational psychology. Behaviorism can perhaps be best summed up by the following quote from the famous psychologist John B. Watson:
-Give me a dozen healthy infants, well-formed, and my own specified world to bring them up in and I'll guarantee to take any one at random and train him to become any type of specialist I might select -- doctor, lawyer, artist, merchant-chief and, yes, even beggar-man and thief, regardless of his talents, penchants, tendencies, abilities, vocations, and race of his ancestors.-
John B Watson. (Watson, 1928)
By the end of the week you will be able to:
• understand the key ideas and theorists who have researched learning from a behaviourism perspective
• recognise the main characteristics that distinguish classical conditioning from operant conditioning?
• describe the benefits and limitations of behaviourism
• describe the difference between behaviourism and social learning theory.
The learnng objectives you cover this week are:
2. Describe what is meant by learning theories and articulate their benefits and limitations.
3. Describe and compare different learning perspectives and relate them to contemporary theories of learning.
From this point in the unit onward, as the theories explored become more complex, we've provided


An overview of behaviourist perspectives
Theorists Key ideas Implications for teachers Implications for children
Pavlov (1849-1936) – classical conditioning Behaviour is learned and can also be unlearned. Building connections between stimuli and responses, task analysis and reinforcement. Children can gradually acquire skills with practice.
Watson (1878-1958) – stimulus response Inappropriate behaviour can be replaced by appropriate behaviour. Changes in children’s behaviour can occur mostly in relation to how we might respond to the behaviour. Can be beneficial in teaching skills but can
also be limited in terms of child’s input if the adult
does not discuss choices with the child.
Skinner (190401990) – operant conditioning and reinforcement Rewards can be used to encourage positive behaviours ranging from a positive statement about a child’s behaviour to tangible rewards such as star charts. Teachers avoid reinforcing inappropriate/undesirable behaviour. Children who are behaving inappropriately
from situations that have triggered that behaviour
can be removed from the situation.
Thorndike (1874-1949) – active learning Teachers model appropriate behaviour and provide children with verbal and non-verbal cues to elicit desirable behaviour. Consequences for behaviour can be effective,
especially if they align with the situation.
For example, if you continue to throw sand at
other children you will not be able to stay in
the sandpit.
Bandura (1925 – social learning –choice, modelling and imitation

Organisational table for Week 5

Reinforcement theories such as that proposed by Skinner (1904 -1990) proposed that in addition to the role played by maturation in children’s development, their behaviours are shaped by environmental conditions and systematic reinforcements. From a behaviorist perspective growth and development are seen to be a result of connections established between stimulus input and behavioral responses that are shaped by a wide variety of reinforcers such as food, drink, praise, a smile or a new toy. The role of the adults is to provide these reinforcements. Therefore development is seen as a process of the individual learning increasingly complex and refined ways of acting as a result of the consequences and rewards that have followed the behavior.
If you use a behaviorist perspective in teaching you would:
• assess and provide what you feel is necessary in response to behavior in the belief that children acquire many favorable and unfavorable responses simply by watching and listening to others around them
• apply a set of practical procedures that combine reinforcement, modeling and the manipulation of situational cues to change behavior
• make decisions about when it is appropriate to use consequences, reinforcement, rewards or punishment to either reinforce positive behavior or deter negative behavior.
Many experiments were, and some still are conducted on animals and to a lesser extent on humans, to determine their response to stimuli like food and pain. Keep this in mind when you are reading about these theories in the readings. Two examples of these include Harry Harlow’s controversial experiments conducted in the 1960s and John Watson’s little Albert experiment. Harlow demonstrated the powerful effects of love. By showing the devastating effects of deprivation on young rhesus monkeys, Harlow revealed the importance of a mother's love for healthy childhood development. Watson taunted a young child with a series of stimuli including a white rat, a rabbit, a monkey, masks and burning newspapers to observe the baby's fear reactions.
Behavioural theories provide good explanations for certain kinds of learning but poor explanations for other types of complex learning. Operant conditioning, for example, is better than other theories at explaining the rote acquisition of information such as times tables or song lyrics, the learning of physical and mental skills, and for guiding children's behaviours. In these situations, the focus is on performing behavioral tasks rather than developing a learner's cognitive structure or understanding. Although classical conditioning frequently is dismissed as irrelevant to human learning (Pavlov's initial research paradigm involved dogs salivating), this type of learning provides an explanation of how and why people respond emotionally to a wide variety of stimuli and situations. The many types of emotional reactions acquired through classical conditioning include: reactions such as racism for a particular person or group, phobias and fears, and being influenced by another person. However, they are very poor at explaining how individuals come to understand complex ideas and phenomena.
Benefits and limitations
One of the strengths offered by behaviourist approaches is that they are clinically tested models that have been reproduced and therefore can be defined as theories. This scientific model is also one of behaviourism's weaknesses as life does not take place in a laboratory, under test conditions. Another limitation of this approach is the use of rewards and punishment that may not develop intrinsic motivation for learning. A child raised in entirely behaviourist circumstances can become reliant on external approval and rewards.
Application of behavioural theories to practice The task of the teacher is to design and control the learning environment and the students’ learning. On the basis of this assumption:
• Assess the entry behaviours of children – what they can already do.
• Decide what you want children to learn and express these decisions in the form of learning outcomes
• Analyse what is involved in the learning tasks.
• Develop a sequence of learning tasks that move from the simple to the complex.
• Design assessments and criteria that enable you to measure children’s learning in relation to your objectives.
• Use guidance, feedback and rewards to reinforce the key points of learning and the process of learning. Group consequences
• Rewards or punishments given to a class /group as a whole for adhering to or violating rules of conduct
• Good behaviour game Token economy programs
• Tokens earned for academic work and positive classroom behaviour can be exchanged for desired reward. Contracts
• Agreement between teacher and student specifying behaviour and its reward or punishment
The behavioural theories also fail to take into account any biological factors that influence a person’s decisions, because of this it is widely criticised for being reductionist and too simplistic. Some critics have described the behavioural therapies as being dehumanising and unethical. Further discussion of the benefits and limitations associated with behaviourism, are in this week’s reading.

The first reading this week examines classical and operant conditioning with a particular focus on early childhood practice. This is a useful reading as it contextualises behaviourism within teaching and learning for young children. This reading has also provided a spark for the first activity for this week:
Gray, C., & Macblain, S. (2012). Learning theories in childhood. London Sage Publications Ltd. (Chapter 3 pp. 29-42).
The next reading extends and broadens the discussion about classical and operant conditioning with approaches to guide children’s behaviour and social learning theory:
Duchesne, S., McMaugh, A., Bochner, S., & Krause, K.-L. D. (2013). Chapter 4. Behavioural views of learning Educational psychology: For learning & teaching (4th ed.). South Melbourne: Cengage Learning.
You can find links to this week's readings appropriately formatted using APA style by clicking this link to the References page.

Week 6: Developmental Perspectives

Learning about child development involves understanding new terms and complex concepts and theories. However, at this stage in your studies you are expected to have an ‘introductory knowledge’. It will be helpful that you have an understanding of each domain of development typically referred to as social, cognitive, language, emotional and physical development. Each domain of development is dependent on, and influences, all other domains of development. It is also important to understand that development does not occur in isolation but in the context of the child’s family and culture, which is referred to as the ‘social environment’. Many of the units in your course will explore developmental theories in more depth. So, by the end of this week you will be able to:
• engage and reflect upon child development concepts and theories
• explore factors that influence child development
• explain developmental domains and milestones
• describe aspects of cognitive development according to Piagetian and Vygotskian theory
Learning objectives met this week are:
2. Describe what is meant by learning theories and articulate their benefits and limitations.
3. Describe and compare different learning perspectives and relate them to contemporary theories of learning.

An overview of cognitive developmental perspectives
Theorists Key ideas Implications for teachers Implications for children
Jean Piaget
(1896-1980) Development is a result of particular environmental contexts and genetics.
Certain milestones need to be achieved before new learning can occur.
All children have needs that must be met if they are to thrive and develop to their potential. Programs are play based There is a strong focus on minimal interference and on the notion that children learn through play.
Professionals observe and record children’s behaviour based on developmental domains.
Developmentally appropriate practice (DAP) deems certain learning tasks as either inappropriate or appropriate. DAP has been the dominant western early childhood discourse from 1989 – 2009. Developmental milestones are useful
tools to assist professionals plan
programs for children but are not
the only indicators of when
children might be able to manage
a task.

Children may be held back from
aiming to high or completing tasks
that are too difficult or pushed
to achieve tasks where they have
not met the developmental milestone.
Lev Vygotsky Access to developmentally appropriate play fosters development in all areas Zone of proximal development and scaffolding learning – so the teacher is important not only to set the environment. Collaborative learning with adults
and children
Arnold Gesell (1880-1961) Gesell is a maturationist; his descriptions of developmental patterns in childhood emphasise physical and mental growth that he saw as determined primarily by heredity. Checklists and tools to track developmental growth and learning were important to make sure children were on track. Testing and comparisons
Bowlby (1907 - 1990) Attachment theory Consideration of attachment and emotional links to learning – influence of separation anxiety. Strong focus on mother as primary
caregiver but also the importance
of attachment to learning.
Organisational table for Week 6

Week 6 concept map

Domains of Development
Learning about child development involves understanding new terms and complex concepts and theories. However, at this stage in your studies you are expected to have an ‘introductory knowledge’. It will be helpful that you have an understanding of each domain of development typically referred to as social, cognitive, language, emotional and physical development. Each domain of development is dependent on, and influences, all other domains of development. It is also important to understand that development does not occur in isolation but in the context of the child’s family and culture, which is referred to as the ‘social environment’. Many of the units in your course will explore developmental theories in more depth. Each domain of development is important in its own right and influences and impacts upon the other domains of development. Developing an understanding.
Rather than giving you a vast list of key concepts that underpin Developmental Theory, this week you will distil the key concepts from the information and readings provided. In your groups you will discuss the commonalities and threads that run between and link these theories. The theories provided below are not presented in any particular order of either preference or prevalence, they have however, been selected for their relevance to the early childhood educator.
Maturational perspective
Maturation refers to changes that result from a person’s individual, biologically determined developmental pathway. It is mostly determined by internal signals although can be influenced by environmental impacts like nutrition but this is not the driving force. For example, when teeth erupt an infant is ready to eat solid food. Nature can shape processes after birth, most clearly through genetic programming that may determine whole sequences of later development. The term maturation, used by Gesell (1925) describes such genetically programmed sequential patterns of change. Changes in body size and shape, changes in muscles and bones, and changes in the nervous system all may be programmed in this way. The timing of these changes may differ from one child to another, but the basic sequence is essentially the same for all children. They are part of the specific hereditary information that is passed on at the moment of conception with all children being endowed with an innate plan for orderly growth. According to this perspective, any maturational pattern is marked by three qualities:
• It is universal, appearing in all children across cultural boundaries.
• It is sequential involving some patterns of unfolding skill or characteristics.
• It is relatively impervious to environmental influences.
However, modern views of maturation do concede that experience plays a role and that some minimal environmental support is necessary, for instance, an adequate diet and an opportunity for movement and a variety of experiences.
Attachment theory and other ideas
Attachment theory is an important consideration for early childhood education as researchers have found that attachment patterns established early in life can lead to a number of outcomes. For example, children who are securely attached as infants tend to develop stronger self-esteem and resilience. These children also tend to be more independent, perform better in school, have successful social relationships, and experience less depression and anxiety (Austin and Kearns, 2009).
Theorists like John Bowlby (1907-1990) and Mary Ainsworth (1913-1999) believed that the earliest bonds formed by children with their caregivers have a tremendous impact that continues throughout life. He suggested attachment also serves to keep the infant close to the mother, thus improving the child's chances of survival. The central theme of attachment theory is that primary caregivers who are available and responsive to an infant's needs allow the child to develop a sense of security. The infant knows that the caregiver is dependable, which creates a secure base for the child to then explore the world.
Erikson and psychosocial development
Another theorist who had a profound impact on developmental theory as a whole, was Erik Erikson (1950). As a thinker and theorist, Erikson was greatly influenced by Freud's psycho-sexual theories but opted instead to focus on the way children progressed through phases of social development (McLeod, 2008).
Erikson's model defines how children develop in five stages up until the age of eighteen; thereafter adults progress through only another three phases. The belief that each individual being will follow the same progression through phases/stages is not unique to Erikson (the belief itself is called epigenetic), but the specific phases, as defined and described by Erikson most certainly were. While beginning with Freud's concepts of the id and the ego, Erikson felt that phases of a developing ego could be identified by specific crises all of which were social in nature. The conflict involved in each crisis was used to name the phase of development, for example Trust vs. Mistrust (Erikson, 1950). For this reason, it's always easy to spot a phase within Erikson's theory.
Piaget’s developmental perspective
Cognitive developmental theory developed by Piaget (1896-1980) presents the idea that children actively construct knowledge as they manipulate and explore the world around them. Cognitive development is seen to take place in four broad stages from birth through to adolescence and adulthood each of which is characterised by qualitatively distinct ways of thinking. Central to the theory is the biological concept of adaptation which purports that the physiological structure of the body and the mind, adapt to fit with the environment. Piaget’s cognitive developmental perspective introduced the idea that children are active learners who initiate their innate drive to make sense of their world in a generally stimulating social and physical environment. Changes in thinking take place gradually over time and children learn best when developmentally appropriate practices guide their learning.
When you've completed the readings for this week, take this short quiz on Piaget's Stages of Cognitive development (Cherry, 2013) to test your understanding.

The reading for this week offers a comprehensive overview of cognitive development and examines three cognitive theories: Piaget, Vygotsky and information processing theory.
Duchesne, S., McMaugh, A., Bochner, S., & Krause, K.-L. D. (2013). Chapter 2: Cognitive development Educational psychology: For learning & teaching (4th ed.). South Melbourne: Cengage Learning.
You can find links to this week's readings appropriately formatted using APA style by clicking this link to the References page.

The video provided here, provides a variety of perspectives on how developmental theories can be practically applied when working with children. The speakers provide an overview of challenges and strengths involved when implementing developmental theory in real-life situations. Is there something for you to learn here? A message or maybe just the germ of an idea?
The image is of a Chinese child wearing split pants in order to speed the toilet training process.
Both the image and the video offer alternative world views on development and theory.
Is there such a thing as a universal way that development takes place? If there is how is it that children across the globe have different skills and abilities at differing ages? How is it that infants in China are toilet trained at a much earlier age than maturation theories would believe is possible?
As a teacher you will be part of a community of learners, it's important to start looking for places and people who will help you develop your skills and knowledge. Not everyone will garner the same message from the same story, so it's important to ponder these ideas before taking them on to the Application phase of this week.

Week 7: Psychodynamic perspectives

In exploring psychodynamic theories this week, you will be moving to the opposite end of the spectrum of theories. The study of psychodynamics really began with Sigmund Freud and while some of his 'quirkier' theories are discounted by modern day theorists and therapists, much of what he proposed is still in common use today. In undertaking this week of work on psychodynamic perspectives you will be able to:
• recognise the key ideas of psychodynamic theoretical perspectives
• describe how psychodynamic theories influence ideas about individual learning and personality
• determine whether psychodynamic theories have a useful role in teaching and learning.
The learning objectives covered this week are:
2. Describe what is meant by learning theories and articulate their benefits and limitations.
3. Describe and compare different learning perspectives and relate them to contemporary theroies of learning.

Organisational Table for Week 7
An overview of psychodynamic perspectives
Theorists Key ideas Implications for teachers Implications for children
Sigmund Freud (1856 - 1939) Behaviour is controlled by unconscious urges. Three components of the mind are id, ego and super ego. Coniderations of psychosexual stages of development have often been rejected by teachers. Freudian notion of reaction formation. If you are harshly toilet trained as a child then the Freudian prediction would be that you become “anally retentive,” that is, you become excessively neat and tidy.
Erik Erikson (1902-1994) Qualitative changes in the way children think. The child is considered an active learner going through stages. Considerations of psychosocial stages of development have been embraced by teachers. Trust vs mistrust has been a useful tool to support infants and toddlers wellbeing in early childhood education. Also
play therapy stemmed from this approach.
Carl Jung (1875-1961) Analytical psychology and dream analysis. The Myers-Briggs test a popular psychological tool has been developed from Jung's theory of psychological types. Use of dream therapy and personality types – Jung
coined the terms introvert and extrovert.
Alfred Adler (1870-1937) Broader ideas of psychodynamic theory that considered socialist principles of equity and democracy. Adlerian approaches to classroom management have been popular in early childhood and primary education. Very influential in developing humanistic principles
of guiding children’s behaviour and democratic
child rearing.

Psychodynamic perspective
Psychoanalytic theory is a collective term for the perspectives that focus on the psyche and unconscious principles (Beck, 2012). Freud's (1935) psychoanalytic theory is essentially concerned with who we are and the development of the ‘self’. It served as the theoretical basis for analysis of behaviour disorders during the 1920s through to the 1940s. Behaviour problems displayed by children were viewed as manifestations of unresolved conflict that were often blamed on parents, especially the mother. Problems with attention and activity levels were attributed to unconscious processes, rather than a development stage where children were learning to develop these skills.
Some examples of assumptions that drive the psychodynamic approach are:
• The unconscious influences behaviour and emotions.
• Childhood experiences greatly affect emotions and behaviour as adults.
• The id, ego, and super-ego make up personality.
• The drivers behind behaviour relate to life, death and sex.
• Various conflicts throughout childhood development shape overall personality.
Erikson (1902–1944) introduced the psychosocial theory which also placed emphasis on the role of the ego in the child’s development but with more emphais on social aspects of learning. The psychodynamic perspective extends upon Freud’s ideas with a more holistic model where the child’s mind, body and physical, social and emotional worlds form an integrated system that guides growth and development. Children’s learning is viewed as a holistic process where skills and competencies develop as a result of interactions with broadly ranging activities experienced in real life contexts. A special feature of this perspective is the emphasis that is placed upon the individual’s unique life history, skills and learning disposition and the recognition that an individual’s biological makeup and experience leads to wide individual differences in the development of specific skills. This perspective is aligned with child-centred and humanist approaches that acknowledge the affective and subjective nature of learning and the importance of assisting children to develop individual identity and self-esteem.
Application of psychodynamic theories to practice
If you incorporate a psycho-dynamic perspective in your work with young children you would:
• acknowledge individual differences and support the individual’s growing sense of self
• consciously and actively draw out children's thoughts and feelings to assist them to understand the implications of their actions
• help children learn about social roles and encourage self-regulation and positive social interaction
• place children's ideas and feelings centrally in curriculum negotiations, the main objective being to help children to become self-reflective and responsible for their actions
• design programs that are developmentally appropriate and cater for the child's emotional wellbeing and developing personality.
One of the challanges with psychoanalytic theory is the inherent allocation of blame on parent-child interactions—more specifically, on the mother's actions. Fortunately, theoretical shifts have moved from a blame-the-parent model to more bidirectional, transactional, and interactional models of childhood differences. Play Therapy was, and often remains, the recommended form of intervention, with accompanying therapy for the child's parents. Psychodynamic models continue to have an effect on education and intervention for children with additional needs.
The first reading this week provides an overview of psychoanalytical ideas and particularly how they are have influenced early childhood education:
Manning-Morton, J. (2011). Not just the tip of the theory: Psychoanalytic ideas and early years practice In L. Miller & L. Pound (Eds.), Theories and approaches to learning in the early years. (pp. 21-37). London: Sage Publications Ltd.
The second reading focusses on Freud’s theory of personality development and the psychosexual stages of Development. It is interesting to see that this theory is often disputed and yet so much of the ideas are used in todays everyday conversations and thinking:
Mitchell, P., & Zieler, F. (2007). Freud's theory of personality development:Fundamentals of development: The psychology of childhood (pp. 179-189). New York: Psychology Press.
You can find links to this week's readings appropriately formatted using APA style by clicking this link to the References page.

Manning-Morton (2011) reminds us that psychoanalytic ideas about teaching permeate early childhood education and this can also be translated to other areas of education. Freud’s theories of personality development are also part of our everyday language.
• How many everyday terms or phrases can you think of that use this perspective? (Closure, ego and cathartic energy are examples of this)?
• From a more psychoanalytic perspective, how can you recognise the significance of purpose and desire in children’s learning and development? (And how can you as a professional, begin to understand, make sense of, and manage your own sense of purpose and desire?)
• Is this theoretical perspective still relevant in education today?
Consider the image at left. As a future educator, do you feel it's possible that children don't understand why they behave a certain way? What about adults? Is there a point at which the concious/rational mind should dominate a person's behaviour? If so is this point an age? A developmental period? Culturally influenced?

Week 8: Socio-cultural perspectives

This week we progress from the study people's internal worlds and motivators, to the multitudinous external pressures and influences that affect the way they interact with, and respond to, educational experiences.
By the end of the week you will be able to:
• describe some of the sociocultural factors that influence learning
• recognise that according to sociocultural theoretical perspectives, learning takes place within a particular time, place and social context.
• make comparisons between different theoretical perspectives.
The learning objectives covered this week are:
2. Describe what is meant by learning theories and articulate their benefits and limitations.
3. Describe and compare different learning perspectives and relate them to contemporary theroies of learning.
Child development is itself culturally constructed. as a body of theoretical knowedge and research descriptions, child development reflects a minority of world childhoods, based mainly on North American and European children as studied from the perspective of North American and European researchers.
Woodhead, Faulkner and Littleton, 1998, p.1

Organisational table for Week 8
An overview of sociocultural perspectives
Theorists Key ideas Implications for teachers Implications for children
Lev Vygotsky (1896-1934)
Jerome Bruner (1915-) Language communication, and social relationships are central to learning socially specific attitudes and behaviours. Childhood is a social construction. Therefore, children develop in multiple ways. Adults and competent peers scaffold children’s development by supporting them with task and by demonstration Children’s learning is documented in multiple ways . Children are active contributors and thus
create their worlds through interactions with
more knowledgeable others who do not tell
them what to do but assist them to learn how to learn.
Learners build schemata that enable them to
construct meaning and understanding.
Loris Malaguzzi (1920 - 1994) Strong and powerful image of the child where children are active engagers and contributors.
100 languages of childhood. Professionals listen to children with all of their senses by hearing and observing.
The teacher needs to maintain an active, mutual participation in the activity to help ensure that the child clearly understands what is being -taught-. The importance of children’s communities and
familes is emphasised as a way of knowing the
childs social influences.
Children must have endless ways and opportunities
to express themselves and project based learning
offers opportunities for this.
Barbara Rogoff (1950-) Rogoff’s (1998) three research lenses.
Children play ahead of their development – they can do more than we think. Implications for teaching are to help children to develop concepts through the use of discussion and study tasks. Experts from communities can be useful in sharing this knowledge. Shared learning for teachers and children as
co-constructors of knowledge.
Urie Bronfenbrenner (1917-2005) Ecological system of learning with an interplay between the environment and development. Influenced the USA Head Start program. Emphasis on the powerful influence of multiple
contexts on the child, both directly and indirectly
through their parents, has had a profound
effect on how others view a child who has

Sociocultural factors
The influences on children’s lives are broad and complex. These influences particularly relate to equity and inclusion and sociocultural theory differs from developmental theories that consider ideas of maturation and growth occurring at certain times in development. It also differs from psychodynamic theory that focuses on individualist orientations such as personality, identity and understanding the ‘self’. Sociocultural theory considers development and learning in relation to cultural expectations and experience. This learning is often described as being more collective than individual.
Constructing, co-constructing and scaffolding learning
Increasingly effective learning is being defined as collaborative where situations are developed that support two or more people to learn together. Sociocultural theory advocates that learning is achieved through dialogue and that education is enacted through the interactions between children and teachers reflecting the historical development, cultural values and social practices of the societies and communities in which educational institutions exist. For example – a teacher will help to construct knowledge and skills by sharing something they are interested in such as sport. Another teacher may focus on environmental activities and topics and a child can lead the learning about a favourite topic, skill or cultural practice.
Constructivist theory
Constructivism is a learning theory which explains that learning occurs through creating meanings for new information based upon old schemas of understanding. Rather than behaviours or skills as the goal of instruction, cognitive development and deep understanding are the foci; rather than stages being the result of maturation, they are understood as constructions of active learner reorganisation. Rather than viewing learning as a linear process, it is understood to be complex and fundamentally non-linear in nature.
Zone of proximal development
While agreeing with Piaget, that children are active and constructive beings, Vygotsky viewed development as a socially mediated process that was dependent on the support of more knowledgeable others. According to Vygotsky social interaction with adults is necessary for children to acquire new knowledge, and ways of thinking and behaving, that reflect the community’s culture. A socio-constructivist perspective rejects the idea of universal developmental stages and instead presents the idea that as children acquire language their ability to communicate is enhanced and this leads to ongoing changes in behaviour and thought, which can vary greatly from culture to culture. A special component of the theory, the ‘zone of proximal development’ explains how adults or more mature peers can support young children’s learning by providing scaffolding that helps them to construct new knowledge and skills. Although Vygotsky (1978) emphasised the salience of culture and language, the zone of proximal development concept probably has had the biggest effect on education. The zone of proximal development is the instructional level of a child, the area in which the child can most benefit from instruction with the help from an adult or more knowledgeable peer. According to Vygotsky (1978), that which a child can do today with help from a teacher (or more able peer), the child can do tomorrow by themselves and share with others.
The sociocultural approach
Social constructivism or sociocultural theory suggests that the very notion of developmental milestones is a middle class Western phenomenon and does not take into account the impact of culture on development (Rogoff, 2003). This approach encourages the learner to arrive at his or her version of the truth, influenced by his or her background, culture or embedded worldview. Sociocultural theories and perspectives are also referred to as cultural-historical approaches and they draw on, and contribute to, recent developments in ‘dialogic approaches’ to learning and teaching in education settings. Two aspects of using sociocultural approaches are teachers use of spoken interaction with children as a means for promoting guided participation and ‘scaffolding’ the development of their knowledge and understanding by providing the support of a relative ‘expert’ in engaging with any learning task (Rogoff, 2003).
Ecological perspective
The ecological systems theory as described by Bronfenbrenner places development within a complex system of relationships that connects the child with the family, school and surrounding community. The theory supports the idea that biological dispositions join with environmental forces at multiple levels to influence development in unique ways. As such, the child’s development is strongly influenced by the layering of relationships with parents, family and friends, experiences within neighbourhoods in settings such as childcare and school and finally by customs, laws and the dominant cultural values of the community. Bronfenbrenner compared his ecological systems theory with matryoshka dolls that nest one inside the other – separate yet connected as a whole. Each system is influenced by the other systems and represents a dynamic model of development.
Application of socio-cultural theories to practice
If you incorporate a socio-constructivist perspective in your work with young children you would:
• view children as competent, capable, active and constructive beings that are dependent on adults or more informed peers for learning
• guide children’s learning by tailoring interventions for individual achievement
• encourage children of varying abilities to work together cooperatively through the sharing of ideas and skills
• engage children in a wide variety of language based learning experiences that encourage description and questioning
• encourage imaginative and creative play
• establish a community of learners where individuals, small groups and large groups contribute varied knowledge and expertise to solve real life problems
• engage in meaningful relationships with families and communities to foster an understanding of the child and foster the sharing of their knowledge as experts.
If you incorporate an ecological perspective in your work with young children you would:
• plan a child-centred responsive program that incorporates aspects of each child’s life
• acknowledge the importance of caring and close reciprocal relationships for the developing child
• encourage family involvement in the program and regular information exchange between home and the education setting
• ensure the maintenance of ‘nested’ structures between the child, family and surrounding community and culture
• encourage the development of social networks between children and families
• respect individual differences as they relate to ability, gender, economic status, ethnicity and religion.
In undertaking a socio-cultural approach to education, you are effectively looking past the individual student and broadening your gaze to include all the various factors influencing them as whole human beings. In believing they have things to teach each other, you acknowledge the capabilities and understandings they bring with them from the world beyond the educational setting.
Sociocultural theory emphasises culture (not multicultural and geographical) as a key influencing force of development and learning.
• Do children learn in stages and certain ages?
• Does this mean there is such a thing as a universal child where you can predict certain learning will take place?
• Where are the teaching and learning theories from Asia and Africa?
• What does this approach say about power and equity?
Taking stock of where you are:
Let’s take some time to consider some of the theoretical perspectives you have learned about so far with an examination of three approaches. Imagine an architect planning to build a set of steps for a three year old child. The architect asks “how big shall I build the steps?” (Adapted from Millikan, 2005).
1. The person with a Piagetian perspective might say, “ A child at three can developmentally negotiate a step this wide and this deep.”
2. The person with a Vygotskian perspective might say, “ Well even if it’s too big I will be behind the child scaffolding their attempts.”
Malaguzzi might say, “It doesn’t matter. I’ll be hand in hand with the child. I will ask, ‘How can we best get up the steps?’ I will listen to the child’s ideas. I will share my ideas. We will work it out together.”

Both of these readings build an understanding of this approach and also have practical applications for education:
Lindon, J. (2012). Children as part of a social and cultural community Understanding child development 0-8 years (Vol. 3rd, pp. 215-242). London: Hodder Education.
Edwards examines the ideas of sociocultural theory with teachers who are developing a professional philosophy. This reading also demonstrates the role of research in deepening understandings of theoretical perspectives:
Edwards, S. (2006). -Stop Thinking of Culture as Geography-: Early childhood educators' conception of sociocultural theory as an informant to curriculum.Contemporary Issues in Early Childhood, 7(3), 238-252.

Week 9: The humanist perspective

In exploring humanist perspectives this week, you'll be placing your faith back in humankind. The fundamental belief of humanists is that humans are basically good (Cherry, n.d.). By taking part in this week's worth of study you'll be able to:
• describe some of the humanistic factors that influence learning, including motivation
• recognise how humanist ideas have influenced current education practices
• recognise how social and emotional learning contributes to achievement
• make comparisons between different theoretical perspectives
The learning objectives covered this week are:
2. Describe what is meant by learning theories and articulate their benefits and limitations.
3. Describe and compare different learning perspectives and relate them to contemporary theories of learning.

Organisational table for Week 9
An overview of humanist perspectives
Theorists Key ideas Implications for teachers Implications for children
Abraham Maslow (1908-1970) Moved from behaviourism to psychology and then humanism after experiencing the injustices of the 2nd World War.
Student-centred teaching.
Social and emotional development. Motivations either external or internal influence the motivation to learn.
De-emphasise rigorous, performance-oriented, test-dominated approaches.
Right to self-determination. Needs and values motivate all
behaviour – Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs
in five stages (1954).
Respects child’s feelings and aspirations.
Provide opportunity for success.
Discovery learning.
Alfred Adler (1870-1937), and Carl Rogers (1902-1987) Freedom to learn, autonomy, trust, consultation, negotiation, responsibility, ownership and reflection.
Both Adler and Rogers have influenced behaviour and guidance approaches in education settings. Families and children participate in negotiating and developing learning and behaviour.
Teachers have to learn to let go of control and embrace non-directive teaching.
Adlerian approaches to guiding behaviour require great skill and perseverance for teachers. Reward and punishment are not used. Mutual respect is practised between children
and adults.
Negotiation through active listening and
wherein the voices of all are considered.
Encouragement implies faith in and respect
for the child as he is. Feelings of trust and
security are fostered.
Natural and logical consequences are
techniques which allow the child
to experience the actual result of their behaviour.

Concepts of the human identity
Humanism was the third force in psychology, after behaviourism and psychodynamic approaches. Humanistic psychologists are more likely to insist that personal growth and development are at the heart of learning, Two psychotherapists, Maslow (1968) and Rogers (1983) are usually attributed with the development of this perspective. They were particularly concerned with personal growth and the notions of self, self-esteem and self-actualisation and did not privilege cognitive development. Motivations for learning are considered under humanistic perspectives with an optimistic view that human beings are propelled to reach for higher levels of development and, given the right conditions, they will flourish to become autonomous learners.
Theories with a ‘humanistic’ perspective take into account the human potential for growth in their consideration of learning, believing humans ‘possess unlimited potential for growth and development'. The emphasis is on ‘human nature’, ‘human potential’ and ‘human emotion’ with the view that learning is a function of motivation and involves decisions and responsibilities (Merrium & Caffarella 1999). Malsow (1970) considered the founder of this perspective, proposed a theory based on a hierarchy of needs and considered self-actualisation as the primary goal of learning (Merrium & Caffarella, 1999). Malcolm Knowles who focussed on adult learning developed the concepts of andragogy and models of self-directed learning that are grounded in humanistic assumptions.
Humanistic education
Most educators who advocate for humanistic education typically intend this approach to mean one or more of three things:
1. Humanistic education teaches a wide variety of skills which are needed to function in today's world—basic skills such as digital technologies, numeracy and literacy, as well as skills in communicating, thinking, decision-making, problem-solving and knowing oneself.
2. Humanistic education is a humane approach to education—one that helps children believe in themselves and their potential, that encourages compassion and understanding, which fosters self-respect and respect for others.
3. Humanistic education deals with basic human concerns—with the issues throughout history and today that are of concern to human beings trying to improve the quality of life—to pursue knowledge, to grow, to love, to find meaning for one's existence.
Humanistic education methods are used in early child education settings, schools, the family, religious education, business and other settings.
The role of the teacher
Humanistic teachers aim to bring out the best in children and their families and these attributes are not always clearly defined or measured through tests. Humanistic approaches are highly dependent upon the capabilities of the teacher and may take years to develop. Humanistic educators have a broad understanding of the knowledge that children acquire as they grow, and highly value student's affective and social development as well as their intellectual development. An educator's primary responsibility is to create an environment in which students can do their own growing. The goal of humanistic education is to contribute to the development of energetic, positive, self-respecting, caring human beings who can meet all challenges.
Application of humanist theories to practice
Humanistic perspectives focus on the intellectual and emotional growth of students by giving students freedom to learn and responsibilities for their own learning. The role of the teacher is to facilitate and guide students to enable them to realise their potential.
To achieve these humanistic goals, some methods of learning advocated are:
• open classroom approaches that are not restricted by curriculum, age groups or rigid schedules
• focus on learning styles
• cooperative learning rather than individuals competing with each other
• enquiry-based approaches such as problem-based learning, projects and dissertations
• discussion methods that enable students to explore their conceptions and values
• reflective learning tasks such as portfolios and learning logs
• feedback that focuses on ways of developing understanding
• assessment methods that involve self, peer and collaboration and include reflection on experience.
As self-actualisation is the ultimate outcome of humanist endeavours, these methods require the understandings that students are individuals and that the teacher is not the central figure in the teaching and learning sphere.

The first reading this week highlights the origins of some of the humanistic thinkers and how the movement developed from psychology. The section on phenomenological orientation gives an insight into how trying to step into the perspectives and 'ways of being of another' can be useful:
Crain, W. (2000). Chapter 18: Theories of development (Vol. 4). New Jersey Prentice Hall. (pp.361-373).
This chapter provides a comprehensive overview of humanism and how it aligns with education:
Krause, K.-L. D., Bochner, S., Duchesne, S., & McMaugh, A. (2013). Humanist approaches for learning. In K.-L. D. Krause (Ed.), Educational psychology: for learning & teaching (4 ed., pp. 237-264). South Melbourne, Vic: Cengage Learning.