Learning and development of young ones
Needs of young ones
Meeting the learning and development needs of our young ones
The term learning can be defined in various ways. Learning may be defined as a permanent change in behaviour as a result of exposure to experiences. Such learning which results from activity, training or observation must persist for a while to be called true learning. According to Kimble, “learning is a relative permanent change in behavioural tendency as a result of reinforced practice”. On the other hand, Tolman says, learning depends upon “cognitive maps” which are built out of experiences. It is as a result of enriched experiences that the learner builds up new expectancies and realizations. These cognitive maps which may be simple or complex depend to a large extent on external stimuli.
there are two main approaches to learning theory. They are
a.Stimulus/response associationist type of theory and
b.Field cognition type of theory.
We often notice that events sometimes follow each other closely, e.g. lighten follows thunder. This basic principle of association is very important in the learning process, which is generally strengthened by frequency, vividness and decency. A good teacher must make use of this principle to ensure effectiveness in the learning process. It is expected from the foregoing that the pre-school teacher should be able to present simple and straight forward tasks which are not beyond the mental capability of the learners. Engaging the child in cognitive activities require formation of bonds of associations to motivate the learner. Ideally, new situations must be presented in a way that children will be able to participate effectively and ask questions correctly on the topic. It is pertinent to say that learning continues throughout life, exposure to positive experiences is very important in learning situations.
Every human being has a body, soul and spirit which must be developed equally as much as possible to make up a “total” personality in order to ensure a satisfactory and successful life in future. The development of the child should therefore be seen from four perspectives to make his learning meaningful:
a.Physical growth and development: The rate of growth of children varies from stage to stage. At the early years, the girl child grows more rapidly than male. Physically however, the boy is more physically endowed than the girl. It is the duty of the teacher to present simple activities and skills that the child can cope with from age to age to make him physically fit at all times. Exercises like jumping, clapping, trotting and singing are good for body building.
b.Mental development: Heredity and environment play a great role in influencing the mental capability of a child. Good nutrition at every stage will help to nourish the child’s mental faculty.
c.Social/emotional development: largely depends on activities on which the learner is exposed at home, society and school. A rich environment in terms of playing materials, good peers and appropriate learning facilities will help the child to adjust meaningfully to his environment under good leadership and will propel him to be a good citizen and a successful adult.
d.Moral development: The church, the parent, the peers and other influences surrounding the child are important in shaping his morals. He is expected to have good relationship with his peers, parents, siblings, strangers etc. He is taught to conform to simple rules and regulations. Good moral education makes him tolerant, patient and of good character.
The learning situation should develop the child totally, providing learning experiences for the full development of his body, soul and spirit so that the learner becomes a happy and successful person in life.
Educational psychologists have classified the growth of man into different categories. S.A. Banjo’s analysis is given below:
a.Infancy and early childhood0 – 5 years
b.Later childhood5 – 11 years
c.Adolescent12 – 20 years
d.Maturity21 – 35 years
e.Middle age35 – 55 years
f.Senescence55 – 65 years
g.Old age- 65 years and above
This paper is focussing on ages 0 – 8 years. As the child grows steadily stage by stage, he learns to cope with the developmental tasks he comes across.
Infancy ( 0 – 2 years ): the child depends much on reflex actions as he sucks, swallows, winks, sleeps, cries or laughs. He tries to hold his head erect at about four months. At about nine months he sits erect and begins to walk at about the age of one and a half years. As the child learns to cope with all the difficulties, the mother (or helpers) is expected to give maximum support and provide facilities that will make his task relatively easy.
Toileting: The issue of socialization or toileting comes up during this stage and it needs to be properly and carefully managed. Introduce the child to the use of chamber pot at an early age.
Language skills: The language of the people surrounding the child at this stage is important as the child learns to develop his language skills through imitation and acquire much information or knowledge from his environment. He begins to ask questions about nature and the things that affect him in his immediate environment.
Early childhood ( 5 – 11 years ): Our consideration is 5 – 8 years. At this period the language of the learner has developed well. He has developed some basic skills: listening, reading, writing, counting etc. And he can communicate with others effectively. He is now able to participate in class activities assigned to him as well as in co-curricular activities including simple sports and games.
He is ready for greater learning experiences. The aim of the teacher should be to develop the child equally so as to turn out children with:
A healthy body
A healthy soul
A healthy mind
This implies that the learning activities must provide opportunities for experiences that will lead to the development of a “total” child. In other word, the learning experiences must be properly designed for the learner to have good character – Love for God and love for his neighbours. He should be brought up to keep his body fit through simple exercises, show honesty of purpose and be able to communicate effectively.
Evaluation:it is necessary to evaluate the learning programs from time to time to be able to correct or improve on the child’s performances. Children can be given simple tests. The teacher can ask questions at the end of each learning experience to evaluate the learners.
3.The natural propensities of a child:
Man has many inmate tendencies. Some of these are very important in the learning process. According to S.A. Banjo, they include curiosity, construction, acquisition, self assertion and submission and combat.
Hubert J. Byrne feels it is sufficient for us as teachers to consider five of these propensities or instincts. They include:
These initial letters make up the word SPICE to help us remember these five important instincts. Let us now consider them briefly.
Social/Gregarious: Nobody wants to be alone. We like to meet with and talk to people. The instinct helps children to build up good relationship and to tolerate others. They come to work together in groups with cooperation and they learn together through play.
Play: All work and no play make Jack a dull boy. Play is a necessity even for adults. Children play together, using various objects e.g. bottle tops, small stones, sand, water etc. These are valuable in teaching learning process. The instinct of play is most valuable at this stage and the teacher should endeavour to teach as they play together in nursery rhymes, number work, singing etc. Children should be brought up to learn as they play and play as they learn.
Imitation: helps the learner to carryout mechanical assignments through observation. Some psychologists argued that imitation is not an instinct because it has not gotten a corresponding emotion accompanying it; it only helps the learner to copy the actions and ways of his model. The important thing however is that imitation helps the learner in his learning process and teachers should lead children to develop through this.
Instinct of acquisition: Children are possessive. They make lots of collections which may look stupid to the adult, but useful for the child’s intellectual growth and development. As they collect small stones, beads, bottle tops, small balls and bean bags, etc. they also learn to preserve them. They protect and keep such items as valuable. The teacher needs to help the child to develop this trait which will make him grow up as a responsible citizen. As children play together and use these items, their level of socialization is enhanced and this leads to formation of right concepts e.g. in counting, colouring, leadership and followership. It also helps in moral development e.g. honesty, punctuality, neatness etc.
Apart from the issue of toileting which needs to be attended to very early in life, there are some physiological tasks which must be taken care of from stage to stage before full development takes place.
a.The fine muscles: The fingers of the child are called fine muscles – they are generally weak during infancy. Teachers are expected to give simple exercises that will not frustrate the learner in developing their finger muscles. The situation in which the teacher holds the child’s hand to write with hard pencil is not good. Let the learner use crayon at this stage. Let him make use of plasticine to mould different objects. Writing is the air is also a good exercise. The class must be provided with sand trays on which to write freely. When introduced to writing on paper, provide drawing books at the initial stage for scribbling and writing letters boldly. From there graduate to using ruled sheets like the 2A exercise books. Construction work with Lego is also very useful.
b.Eye development: help the learner to make effective use of his eyes by using the eyes to follow raised objects to the right or to the left i.e. right to left direction and vice versa. Let them colour picture which ensures the use of their eyes to follow the partners in doing the colouring. The eyes will become stronger sharper progressively.
c.Body movements: provide simple exercises that will make them jump, clap, sing, run and touch objects such body movements are good for physical growth and development.
5.Pre-requisites for effective learning
a.Readiness and maturation: Refers to the physical and mental readiness – A child may be ready physically but not mentally. Sometimes, some are ready mentally but have physical disabilities initially. The most relevant issue for consideration in the learning process is readiness. The teacher needs to know the age of the child to determine the work to give him to do.
Physical maturation therefore refers to the physical ability of the child to listen, to take and to recall. The child must be able to participate effectively in the learning process, using his five senses. Simple exercises like clapping, jumping, singing etc help in physiological development of the child. The child needs a lot of physical exercises for his growth at this time.
b.Mastery of subject matter: The teacher is expected to have a higher knowledge of the subject matter to be able to answer questions correctly. The interest of the child must be enhanced at all time by creating good relationship between teacher and the learner. Allowing them to participate and to ask questions without losing patience with tem will facilitate learning.
c.Good teaching: For the young ones the lecture method must be out of it. Group and individual methods etc are good for young children. Make use of pictures, charts, models etc as the need arise to uphold their interest.
d.Teach from known to unknown: Prepare enough materials and make the presentation simple – from known things to unknown and from simple to complex
e.Use of senses: We receive knowledge through the five senses: Sight, hearing, touch, taste and smell. They are like telegraph wires and they report straight to the brain, resulting in sensation and perception. I.e. what we experience and upon we build our knowledge. Ensure that they use many of their senses for teaching. What they hear, see, touch, smell or taste cannot be easily forgotten. It is generally believed that children need to use at least three senses in any learning process to make the learning effective. The use of various senses will help to arrest the child’s attention at all times.
f.Wise use of time: Caution must be taken not to spend too long a time on any topic because the interest of children is not steady at an early age. Each lesson period may not exceed twenty to thirty minutes for the young ones while it may increase to thirty minutes at the age of five years.
g.Relevant instructional materials to secure attention: The teacher should make use of pictures, diagrams, concrete objects and relevant equipments to promote learning. Make such pictures, charts, models, or concrete colourful to attract and arrest their interest.
These are necessary to uphold the child’s confidence and interest. May be in form of psychological or material reward e.g. after a good performance the teacher can praise the child for a good answer. He can ask the class to clap for good performance, there is need to reinforce positive responses so that the child will continue to perform letter. Reinforcement produces greater results among children and it explains why many schools use this symbolic method at the end or promotion examinations, sharing material things, giving awards for good performance at examination. The interest of the child is very important in every learning process as there will be little or no benefit where interest is absent. The teacher needs to facilitate learning using variety of methods, relevant instructional materials and good management from time to time.
The teacher needs to master the ABC of his calling to expect satisfactory results in teaching/learning process. Everything in education takes cognizance of the age of child. The teacher, principles and method, buildings, subject matter and equipment, all take due cognizance of the age of the child. This explains why the teacher must plan his day to day activities with full consideration for the child. The teacher should move round to assist the learner at work. He asks a question at a time and makes few rules that children can cope with in the class.
We need to avoid anything that distracts the attention of the child during lessons. Since the child is at the centre of the learning process the teacher will be expected to do everything to uphold the interest of the child to the very end of each lesson. The teacher should develop his imagination through simple projects like making toy, cars, aeroplanes, lorries, houses, lorries, bridges etc. A lot of paper cutting and paper folding will uphold the interest of the learner and sharpen his sense of imagination and memory.
The learning and developmental needs of the child can only be met through well organised programmes that cater for the physiological, mental and moral aspects of the child. Effective learning therefore depends on adequate preparation, motivation, good methodology and the promotion of the child’s interest at all times.