Development of the Individual Essay

Development of the Individual Background Information For the purpose of privacy my case study child will be known as A throughout this assignment. I have gained permission from A’s parents and my work setting. A is a 7 year old female and is in Year 3, she attends her local mixed sex Primary school. A’s parents separated when A was about 3 years old, it was not an amicable separation although both parents are on better terms now. A lives with her Mother and older sister who is 12 years old. A has regular contact with her Father and goes to stay with him every other weekend and sometimes during school holidays too.

According to Bronfenbrenners Ecological System (Doherty & Hughes, 2009) these changes were in A’s Microsystem, “the microsystem is our most immediate context, and for most children, is represented by their family and their home. ” (Rank, 2009) Mother says A was not hugely affected by the divorce, however A’s Father has since remarried and has a baby girl who is one year old, this change in A’s Microsystem has affected her. A’s Mum has found her to be quite attention seeking since the arrival of A’s baby half-sister.

Both I and the class teacher (CT) have observed A making up stories to her peers and staff in school that appear to be a way of gaining attention. When A was in Reception it was noticed by staff that she struggled to see and used to put her face quite close to the paper when writing, although this was mentioned to A’s Mum at the time, A did not start wearing glasses until she was in Year 1. Apart from this A has no other health problems and her physical development is normal and on track for a child of her age. According to National Curriculum assessment test results she is average in literacy and numeracy.

A relies on the few close friends she has within the classroom quite a lot, she often gets upset if they do not sit with her in class, she prefers working with them to working alone. A is not a very confident child and she gains confidence from learning alongside them, this demonstrates Vgotsky’s Zone of Proximal Development theory where “ Vygotsky views interaction with peers as an effective way of developing skills and strategies. ” (McLeod, 2007) Despite a lack of confidence A is generally a happy child; she is kind to other children and is always polite and well mannered.

From observations A tries hard in class although she does tend to daydream and this can impinge on her then carrying out a task if she has not listened to instructions properly. This viewpoint is supported by A’s Mother who has said A can sometimes be quite ‘dizzy’ at home and ‘in a world of her own’, she forgets things quite easily and has to be reminded quite a lot by her mum, Mother thinks this could be another way of getting her attention. Descriptions and Analysis of Evidence This case study will focus on the areas of social/emotional development and cognitive development.

Its aim is to show that A is developing normally in these areas, observations (Appendices A1, A2, A3, A4 & A5) of A will be used which, when applied to child development theories, will provide evidence to support this. The method of observation used for this case study was narrative observations made within the classroom. Piaget’s cognitive development theory proposes that there four periods of cognitive development that are common to all children. These are the sensorimotor period, the pre-operational period, the concrete operational period and the formal operational period.

According to Piaget A should be in the concrete operational period, which runs from age 7 – 11 years. In this period children ‘begin to think logically about events they experience and can order, evaluate and explain them’ (Doherty & Hughes, 2009, p 40). During one observation (A 1) A was completing an activity that involved putting a list of sentences in the correct order to make a set of instructions. A was able to do this accurately and with minimal assistance, this demonstrated that ‘children in the concrete operational period are able logically order objects’ (Doherty & Hughes, 2009, p 265).

A was also observed (A3) using coordinates to locate places on a fictional map and then making her own map and writing up the coordinates of various places on it. This demonstrates an understanding of spatial reasoning which is another sign that she is in the concrete operational period. Within the concrete operational period Piaget states that a child is able to conserve number and liquid quantity at age 6-7 years and substance and length at age 7-8 years. ‘Conservation is the understanding that any quantity remains the same, despite any physical distortions’ (Walsh, 2011).

Appendix 5 shows that when A was asked to perform a liquid conversion test and an object conversion test she was able to do both of these correctly, this again shows that A’s cognitive development is at a level that is expected for her age when compared with Piaget’s cognitive development theory. A flaw in Piaget’s theory is that it does not take into account the role of social interaction, ‘Piaget ignored the role of social interaction. It seems highly likely that children’s learning is strongly influenced by teaching from others. (Walsh, 2011) Piaget believed that development preceded learning; this is unlike Vygotsky who felt social learning preceded development. Vygotsky believed that “every function in the child’s cultural development appears twice: first, on the social level, and later, on the individual level; first, between people (interpsychological) and then inside the child (intrapsychological). ” Vygotsky (cited in Learning Theories, 2012). Vygotsky’s theory encompassed three themes, the More Knowledgeable Other (MKO), the Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD) and social interaction.

He believed that someone with greater subject knowledge or ability than the learner (MKO) could help the learner develop; the MKO would usually be a teacher or older adult but could also be a peer. The ZPD is, according to Vygotsky, the zone where learning takes place. It is the gap between what the learner can actually do independently and what they can potentially achieve with help from a teacher or with peer collaboration. To Vygotsky social interaction was hugely important and ‘it is through these interactions that children are able to acquire the important values and skills of a society. (Doherty & Hughes, 2009, P. 40) Observations of A (A 1 & 2) demonstrated that she acquired new knowledge with the help of others. When A was observed during a comprehension session (A 1) she worked together with her partner in order to answer the questions correctly. Peer collaboration, where two students work together to achieve a particular goal, is an important part of Vygotsky’s theory. When A was stuck on a particular question her partner looked back through the text with her and helped her find the correct answer.

This shows that having a MKO helps a child’s development as without her partner A would have been unable to find the answer. In the Literacy lesson (A2) A was given a list of sentences to reorder into a correct set of instructions. From observations it appeared A struggled slightly at first, however the CT took time to go back over with A the work they had completed in previous lessons on instructions. CT then linked the previous work to the new task A was being asked to complete. A completed the task after this with no further assistance.

The CT had identified A’s ZPD and had given her enough support to then enable A to complete the work independently. This also incorporated the ‘scaffolding’ approach, where prior knowledge is identified then a new concept is introduced and finally the new learning is connected to the prior knowledge. The observations demonstrate that A’s development within the classroom was aided by her social interactions with her peers as well as her CT. Without these interactions A would have been unable to fully complete the tasks she had been set.

According to Erikson’s Social Learning Theory A is in psychosocial stage 4 which is known as Industry vs Inferiority. During this stage (which covers the ages of 5-11 years approximately) ‘through social interactions, children begin to develop a sense of pride in their accomplishments and abilities. ’ (Cherry, 2012) Erikson believed that in this stage children are more willing to share and be reasonable; they want to work hard and do well at school. Peer groups begin to have greater significance and can have an impact on the child’s self-esteem and confidence.

If children are praised and encouraged during this stage they can feel industrious and confident about their abilities. However if they are not encouraged they can feel inferior and doubt their abilities and therefore they may not reach their full potential. (McLeod, 2008) During an observation (A3) A was working with a group of 4 other children. They all worked well together, they shared ideas and cooperated with each other to complete the task. This agrees with Erikson’s theories that during this stage a child wants to do well and can share and be reasonable.

At the end of the lesson the CT told A’s group to put their names up on the class reward chart for working so well together and completing the work to such a high standard. From observations it was apparent that this really pleased A, she cheered out loud and could be heard saying to another classmate how happy she was. This indicated that being given praise about her work really made A feel confident about her abilities. During a free play activity A was observed (A4) with 3 other classmates who are part of a friendship group with A, they were drawing pictures of their houses.

During this activity one of the classmates said that A’s picture was not very good. A was upset by this and spoke to the CT about it; she told the CT that she was ‘rubbish’ at drawing anyway. After this A didn’t want to draw anymore and instead went and sat on her own and read a book. This observation shows that A’s peer group had an effect on her emotional wellbeing. The classmate had made A feel inferior about her work and this meant that she then doubted and lost confidence in her abilities. Bandura’s social learning theory proposes ‘that children learn by watching and imitating others. (Doherty & Hughes, 2009, P. 38) Observations of A demonstrate that A does copy what she observes her peers doing. During observation A4 A was watching two girls dancing, from what the CT has said the two girls are considered popular within the class and from other observations it has been noticed that A does try to make friends with them on a regular basis. After the two girls had stopped dancing A approached them and started trying to dance exactly as they had. The two girls watched her and then clapped and said she had danced really well. After this A then danced in a similar way again.

This shows that A’s social development is following Banduras theory, she has observed a behaviour and then she has reproduced it. Bandura states that there will be ‘a consequence that changes the probability the behaviour will be performed again (reinforcement and punishment). ’ (Doherty & Hughes, 2009, p. 39) A’s motivation for performing the dance was to win the approval of the two girls; she achieved this and therefore performed the dance again. This also links back to Erikson’s theory that peer groups play a more important role during this stage of a child’s life.

The observations show that A’s social and emotional development is, as both Erikson’s and Bandura’s theories demonstrated, linked to the environment around her and the social interaction she has with people around her. How can the individual’s development and learning be extended? When compared to some child development theories the observations have shown that A’s cognitive and social development is in the normal range for her age. They have also shown however that there is room for A’s development and learning to be extended.

For example, A’s confidence could be improved. The observations demonstrate that A becomes upset when she receives negative responses from her peers and teachers. A could be given praise for tasks she completes well to improve this. When A had her name put up on the classroom reward chart the observations show that A’s confidence was enriched. As these observations were all class based it is uncertain whether A has a reward system at home but it could be suggested to A’s Mother that it might benefit A to have one.

Observations (A1 & A3) also appear to show that A has more confidence when she is working within a group; she seems to need the reinforcement of others. When A is working alone (A2) she is less confident in her abilities; this seems to be because she does not have the reassurance of others working with her. To build A’s confidence A could be praised more for her independent work than for her group work as ‘reinforcements through praise, demonstrations of approval and tangible rewards increase the frequency of desirable behaviour reoccurring. ’ (Doherty & Hughes, 2009, P. 06) It is useful to see that peer collaboration provides a good way for children to extend their learning, A worked well within a group especially when the group was of mixed abilities (A3). It is important to remember that sometimes, such as Vygotsky’s MKO theory shows, children can peer tutor those less able than them with great effect. The observations of A were all carried out with the classroom, this does mean there are certain limitations to the findings about A’s development. In order to get a more rounded picture of A’s development observations within the home would also be necessary.

Bronfenbrenner’s ecological systems theory places high significance on the environment with which a child interacts, it recognises that how a child lives and is bought up are important influences on how a child develops. ‘Development should be studied in the home, schools and community where children live. ’ (Bronfenbrenner, 1979 cited in Doherty & Hughes, 2009, P. 43) There are many different child development theories and this case study has shown that the development of a child cannot be measured against one theory alone.

All of the theorists that have been used as examples within this assignment each take a different stance on how a child develops and learns. The ideas within them overlap and in order to gain a better understanding into a child’s development it is useful to apply more than one theory to the observations. References Doherty, J. and Hughes, M. , 2009, Child Development: Theory and Practise 0-11. Harlow: Pearson Education Ltd A Level Psychology. (2008). Piaget’s Theory of Cognitive Development (online) Available at

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