During the course of this essay, I aim to explore my understanding of how children learn. To help me to do this, I will analyse, and reflect upon, the elicitation and observation tasks I carried out in school, considering them in relation to theories of learning.
There are numerous theories of how children learn. In this essay, I will be considering the three major theories. The first of these theories is behaviourism. Behaviourism assumes children's minds are a 'tabula rasa' (or blank slate) ready to be filled with a repertoire of behaviours. In this school of thought, the teacher conditions the child to behave in a certain way to specific stimuli. The appropriate behaviour needs to be reinforced through consistent repetition, and reward and punishment. Children are passive learners, in the eyes of a behaviourist, absorbing a predefined body of knowledge that is transmitted to them by the teacher. Behaviourists, such as Skinner and Watson, view the mind as a 'black box' and it is impossible to know what occurs within it. For them therefore, only observable events and behaviour can be examined. (Arthur et al., 2010)
Some theorists, such as Jean Piaget, were dissatisfied with the behaviourist idea that learning is passive assimilation of given knowledge. Piaget argued that learners are not 'blank slates', but that they come to learning with their own existing knowledge and experiences, and actively construct new knowledge in relation to these existing ideas. This theory is known as constructivism. In contrast to Behaviourism, learning is seen as a process of active discovery & often practical activity. So, rather than 'drilling' behaviour into children, the constructivist teacher facilitates learning by providing guidance and resources. As learners encounter new knowledge for themselves it either fits in (or is assimilated) with their existing ideas, or it challenges their previous knowledge and they have to modify the old knowledge (to accommodate the...