Child Development and Learning Theories – TS2 & TS5

In training we looked at child development and learning theories. Maslow’s hierarchy of needs and Leuven focussed on the well-being of children and how nurturing this is essential for a child to learn. Maslow’s theory is that children cannot learn until prerequisites, such as being fed, having shelter, having sleep, feeling safe, feeling loved, are met. The Leuven scale can be used to assess children’s well-being and also their involvement, with low levels of either these threatening development. Identifying these factors using this tool can lead to picking apart why a child might not be making progress, and how we, as teachers, can change this to ensure deep level learning.

Looking at Maslow and Leuven highlighted the importance of knowing your children and finding out the reason behind a lack of progress. It makes sense that if the brain is too busy with anxiety or worry, or if a child has had no sleep or is hungry, it will be near impossible for them to cope with new information. As a teacher I need to give children an opportunity to express when their basic needs are not being met, which I feel I have partly done by introducing the worry monster – as a child has already used this to express a concern that was affecting her concentration, but this could be furthered by the use of emotion cards at the start of the day to get a feel for a child’s learning capabilities for that day. Meanwhile the Leuven scale would be helpful when looking at my key ‘learning about Learners’ students, to see how they are engaging and why, with an awareness of a need to keep assessing as children can move through the scales daily. TS5 – Has a secure understanding of how a range of factors can inhibit pupils’ ability to learn, and how best to overcome these.

Vygotsky’s theory focuses more on how children learn best and this strongly links to the importance of differentiating when planning. The zone of proximal development is where the child will learn best, as they can learn something new with guidance and encouragement from a knowledgeable other, whether that be the teacher or their peers, but in order to do this you must know what a child already knows so you can challenge them further. This stressed the importance of never assuming knowledge, and in my teaching I would like to adopt the idea of preparing a little assessment before a new topic to inform my planning.

I was also introduced to the term scaffolding, which is building learning slowly, and knowing how much scaffolding to give to an individual child, supporting children but not helping them too much. For example it is okay to model to children what a good piece of work looks like so they know their success criteria, but I must ensure that a child always works things out for themselves. Using open ended questions will help with this. Looking into Bruner’s theory may deepen my understanding of this.

Other ways this theory will impact on my practice is being conscious of not limiting a child’s learning as a result of putting them in a high or low ability set. This is similar to the idea of Growth Mindset (Dweck), something that my class teacher is focussing on – the idea that no one is of fixed intelligence, mistakes are a positive because it means learning is taking place and how even calling someone smart can limit them as they will think they don’t need to try. I will be conscious of the language I use, and to celebrate mistakes as a positive. TS2 – Is able to demonstrate knowledge and understanding of how pupils learn and how this impacts on teaching

We also discussed effective pedagogy. Such as making lessons an experience that include memorable moments and excitement, as children are more likely to retain information and engage if they have a want and a need to learn, rather than just being compliant. Children need to be involved: to talk themselves and not just be spoken to. This could be done through pairing and sharing and letting children explore and form their own opinions. Mixed ability talking partners will also encourage a growth mindset, as children will not feel ‘stupid’ or ‘clever’ . My mentor encourages the children to discuss at regular intervals, and I have observed her ‘acting’ and catching children’s attention in maths for example by throwing base 10 on the floor and asking children to then pick these up, grouping them whilst they do it. Seeing the children respond positively to this encourages me to try to act parts of the lesson out. TS5 – Is able to demonstrate an awareness of the physical, social and intellectual development of children, and knows how to adapt teaching to support pupils’ education at different stages of development.

With an awareness of effective pedagogy, I will try to incorporate this into my teaching. For example, linking to Vygotsky, I will differentiate, challenge and scaffold work for children’s individual ZPD’s. I will aim to create an experience in lessons where children interact with their environment, when this is possible, making sure they talk as much as possible.

I will be reflecting on my lessons to see whether children are just being compliant and completing the work or whether they are actually owning their learning and enjoying it. As well as checking books in the future to see that children are making mistakes, whatever their ability. I will also ensure my language promotes a growth mindset and I don’t place limits on a child’s learning, for example if a child of lower ability wants to try the harder worksheet I wouldn’t discourage it, and I will try to avoid assuming knowledge.

I will also make sure I nurture children’s basic needs and help where I can, for example by speaking to parents if I am concerned about a child’s well-being and involvement, and ultimately their progress.

Focused next steps to impact on your progress or the progress of the children in your care:

  • When planning, tasks need to be just above what children are capable of to avoid boredom or frustration, or placing a limit on a child’s learning.
  • Scaffold and not spoon-feed. Research Bruner to deepen my understanding of scaffolding and modelling.
  • Pre-assess before a new topic to inform planning.
  • Use the Leuven scales to gather information about my Learning about learners key children.