This report, through the process of observation, highlights theories and recommendations, for understanding and interpreting delays in children and young people’s developmental milestones. Through observation it transpired that the subject was not meeting the developmental milestones. Recommendations and suggestions to encourage and motivate the subject are highlighted.
The aim of this report is to highlight the importance of child development, learning from theories of Bandura, Bronfenbrenner, Chomsky, Dewey, Erikson, Kohlberg, Piaget, Vygotsky and Watson in understanding a holistic approach to development.
Areas of development that are covered are physical, social emotional and behavioural cognitive and language developments.
Observing children and young people gives a more accurate reading on the child’s developmental progress than of the traditional testing, which only gives an insight into how the child is performing (Kaufman et al., 2015). However, there are factors to take into consideration when observing children and young people that may affect the child’s performance during observation. If the child is bored, hungry or tired, these feelings can have an impact on what skills may be demonstrated. Continuous observations will show a more accurate picture of any changes in the child’s development. Factors including how the child interacts with peers and teachers should also be analysed during observations (Falk et al., 2007).
While observing children it is crucial that observations are carried out continuously, to recognise and interpret the technique of children’s learning styles. The observation allows the practitioner to determine where a child requires support through discovering what the child is ready to learn (Nutbrown, 2010).
Observing children guarantees accurate encouragement and feedback as children thrive on praise and encouragement. Observation enables the practitioner to understand where the child needs support and where they are ready to learn. Observing the children will guarantee that the accurate encouragement and feedback is achieved (Thorne, 2007).
Through regular observation, practitioners can build a strong relationship with the child by analysing the child’s behaviour and personality traits, giving a better understanding of the child. Observing children and young people can show the strengths and weakness of the child, enabling changes to be made accordingly (Davies, 2010).
Observations with children are used to ensure children are meeting and achieving developmental milestones. When working with children and young people, practitioners should create activities suitable to the child’s developmental needs. If an activity is too easy or too hard, the child may become disinterested or get bored (Mills, 2012). Observations on young children are particularly important as it can be hard to for the child to express themselves verbally, also children can find it intimidating having questions asked by strangers (Alderson and Morrow, 2011).
Through continuous observation, a child may be shown to be struggling or falling behind in one or more areas of development. Recorded observations and regular reflection can help to identify and address learning issues and make improvements. Having detailed data on hand can also makes it easier to guide discussions with parents about these struggles and can help set future goals for the child (Newman and Newman, 2014).
The study took place over three months in the classroom of Child A. Child A is a full-time student in the reception class in a primary school. Where activities took place, Child A was within her group from the classroom, and was not singled out.
Child A is a 4 year 9 months’ female attending full time reception class. Child A has blonde hair and blue eyes, and lives with her mother and baby brother. Child A’s father lives in the same town and is in regular contact with Child A. Child A has interests that include the game Pie Face, Disney Princess, and visiting her grandmothers where she can access a computer. Child A enjoys visiting Porthcawl Beach and shopping with her mother. Child A expresses Child B is her best friend and enjoys visiting his home with her mother. Child A is excited of the fact her mother will be having a baby girl soon. Child A dislikes it when her baby brother cries and dislikes doing homework. Child A’s favourite colour is pink, her favourite food is pasta and favourite drink is pop. Child A can sometimes be disruptive in class, and does not socialise with her peers, only Child B who is a family friend. Child A prefers the attention of the teaching staff over her peers. Child A tends to hit her peers when she cannot get her own way.
REVIEW OF LITERATURE
Vygotsky believed children should receive the correct level of support in line with developmental milestones from parents and carers, teachers and professionals in the child’s life, allowing extra support when needed. Once the child becomes more competent, the support will lessen (Elias and Haynes, 2008).
John Watson is most famous for his controversial experiment known as ‘Little Albert’. Watson used this conditioning theory in carrying out the experiment. The subject was an eleven-month-old boy. The boy was to play with various animals including rabbits and rats, to which he had no fear of. The boy was given repeated exposure to the animals, during this time, Watson and his assistant and wife, Rosalie Rayner, began making a loud clanging noise in conjunction with the exposure of the animals. Each time the boy touched an animal, the noise sounded. Over time the ‘Little ‘Albert’ was conditioned to be afraid of animals. Watson stated how this was proof that children’s emotions could indeed become conditioned responses. Watson did not undo his conditioning on the boy, many were left wondering how the boy was affected by the experiment as he grew older. However, it was discovered that ‘Little Albert’ had died at the age of six from hydrocephalus. Today’s psychologists view Watsons experiment as unethical due to the fear he instilled into the boy. There are guidelines in place that would not allow this to happen today (Powell et al., 2014).
John Dewey (1859-1952) viewed education as child-centred, active and interactive, involving the child’s social world and the community. Dewey believed children possess the need to interact with other children, working both alone and cooperatively with peers and adults. Dewey believed children need help in becoming socially responsible, needing to change with the times. Time brings changes and opportunities for the child, that practitioners must adapt their ways to meet these needs. Dewey believed to learn was a life-long experience, that educators not only teach the child, but educate the child to live and exist in society. Dewey understood the importance of a child’s education, advising the importance of the social and cultural worlds being reflected. Dewey stated the way to determine a child’s interests and experiences was through observation. Observation would help the educator in guiding the child’s learning, engage the child to work with other children, also, that educators are not only there to teach the child. Curriculum should be focused and able to assist the child in making sense of the world around them (Peters, 2010).
Noam Chomsky (1928) established the Nativist approach. Chomsky believed children have an inbuilt language acquisition device which is wired to assist in learning language. Children are programmed to understand the structure of the language upon first hearing it. The link between human inborn ability to language heredity has been central to the debate opposing Chomsky to Piaget (McGilvray, 2014).
In 1961 Albert Bandura identified a basic form of learning with the Bobo doll experiment. Bandura believed observation is important in helping children acquire new responses by observing other children’s behaviour (Gray and MacBlain, 2015).
Lawrence Kohlberg (1927-1987) is best known for his significant work in moral development. Kohlberg based a considerable amount of his work on the theories of Piaget’s studies on the cognitive development of children. Kohlberg stated there are three levels of moral reasoning. Level one pre-conventional, where the child’s decisions are based on reward giving, not punishing the child. Level two convention, to uphold the rules of society. Level three post-conventional where the child will follow common moral values that may be more significant and a group or country (Kohlberg, 2008).
Jean Piaget’s (1936) theory of cognitive development recommends that children think differently than adults, and that children move through four various stages of mental development. Piaget’s theory recognises how children gain knowledge and the nature of intelligence. According to Piaget’s theory, children can be thought of as “little scientists” who energetically build own knowledge and understanding of the world. Piaget believed that children held a dynamic role in the education process, acting much like little scientists as they perform experiments, make observations, and learn about the world. While children interact with the world around them, the children are frequently gaining additional information, building upon existing knowledge, and familiarising previously held ideas to accommodate innovative ideas (Bjorklund and Causey, 2017).
Erik Erikson distinguished eight distinct stages across a child’s lifespan. Erikson believed that in each stage a child will face a crisis that needs to be resolved to develop socially and emotionally. Each stage has a positive or negative outcome, although the child may tend not to be at either end of the spectrum. The outcome of the stage is determined by the environment and the caregiving approaches or practices to which the child is exposed (Baltes and Schaie, 2013).
Due to Child A being a minor, consent is required from the parents or carers before any observation may take place with the child. Prior to requesting parental consent, permission was obtained from the head teacher to carry out observations on one of his pupils. Parental consent was afforded by sending home a parental consent letter 0okm discussing details of the study with an attachment to return consenting to their child taking part (See Appendix 1 and 2). Child A will not be informed on the day or time of the observations enabling the environment to be as natural as possible for the children involved (Cohen et al., 2016).
Before carrying out the observations, preparation including which observation technique was to be used, and which developmental skills were going to be the focus. It is essential being prepared to ensure observations go to plan (Palaiologou, 2016).
The observation techniques used to observe Child A in this report are participatory written record and checklist. The written record is a free-flowing description of the observation, writing everything down that took place during the time of the observation. The checklist is a chart that was prepared in advance including specific milestones to the child’s age and stage of development. The written observations included the participatory element due to questions being asked in a group, and to certain tasks the child needed to undertake for the observation (Sharman, et al, 2014). The areas of development observed were physical, social emotional and behavioural, cognitive and language. A longitudinal approach where the observations are taken over a period of time, giving detailed evidences of the child’s development.
Urie Bronfenbrenner (1979) formulated his Ecological Systems Theory. According to Bronfenbrenner (1979), human development is influenced by the diverse types of environmental systems. A belief that a child’s development is influenced by parents and the people that surround the child. The theory gives understanding to why children behave differently in the presence of family, in the presence of peers and teachers or caregivers. Bronfenbrenner divided the child’s environment into five various levels. The Microsystem, the mesosystem, the exosystem, the microsystem and the chronosystem. The microsystem being the closest system to the child, who the child has regular direct contact with. These include family and parents at home, the peers and teachers at school. The mesosystem consists of the interactions between the various parts of the child’s microsystem. The family experience could be related to the child’s school experience. A child may feel closer to a teacher than a parent, then in a situation where both parent and teacher are together for example a school parents evening, the child could feel anxious or awkward, and may withdraw from the situation. The exosystem, where the child does not have an active role. The father of the child could go away to work, leaving the child with the mother. If the child were to be more attached to the father, there could lie resentment between the child and the mother. However, the bond may grow between the child and the mother. The macrosystem is the culture in which the child lives. This can include the ethnicity or race. It could also relate to a child living in poverty, where the family are poor, having to work harder than most other families. The chronosystem includes transition in the child’s life. These transitions can include divorce. The child’s behaviour is known to change for up to a year, but research has shown that after two years after divorce, the child will settle back into normal family life (Eliasa, 2012).
Social, emotional and behavioural development
During the observation, Child A seemed to be lacking interest in her surroundings and continued to fidget and chat with her peers. Child A would seem to be bored in the classroom upon observation and liked to get up and walkaround the room doing her own thing. One point that was noted being Child A turned my head, on occasion, when speaking with her looking at my mouth and nodding when I spoke to her. Child A seemed to have little knowledge of the words shown in the activity, although the activity is a daily occurrence with the same words used. Child A started to cry when was told to move back to her spot by the class teacher, stating she was missing her mother. From the information gathered during observation, Child A appears below the developmental stage for her age. Child A should be able to follow rules, Child A does not like to follow rules. A child of this age should usually adapt their behaviour to different events and social situations. When a child is unable to sit on the carpet and listen to a story, is easily distracted and fidgeting, could be an indication of a delay in the developmental milestones when the other children in the class are able to do so (Bruce et al., 2014). (See Appendix 3).
Child A seemed to crave attention from the adults around her, her behaviour when turning the head suggests that she only wanted the attention on her. However, it could mean that she could not understand what was said to her unless she was looking at the person speaking to her directly. Bowlby’s attachment theory could give way of understanding how Child A reacts in situations where she craves her mother’s attention. The mother has a young baby, also has a baby due shortly, maybe Child A is feeling the pressure of not being the sole person in her mother’s life (Colle and Del Giudice, 2010). Preparing children for changes that may occur in the future can provide positive relationships, also to establish routines with predictable sequences and events. Child A would benefit from the help with managing her feelings and behaviour, this could be in the form of providing a safe space to calm down or when there is the need to be quiet. An opportunity for children to identify and discuss boundaries, so that they understand why they are there and what they are intended to achieve. Books can be provided with stories about characters that follow or break rules, and the effect of their behaviour on others. The use of persona doll in the classroom to support children in considering fair ways to share and get on with each other. Small group circle activities when children can explore feelings, when they were happy or when they were sad (Campbell, 2006).
Physical Development (Fine)
Many of the activities in this observation Child A showed no interest in. It appears that Child A’s mother does a lot in terms of dressing Child A, as during observation Child A stated that her mother dresses her, and brushes Child A’s teeth, something a child of this age should be completing herself. Child A showed little interest when asked to copy shapes including a square, triangle and circle. Child A simply ran the pencil across the page. However, when asked to draw a person with a body head arms and legs, Child A took great interest and took her time in doing so, achieving the task at hand. Again, if child A is interested in an activity she shows great enthusiasm, if she is not interested or maybe does not understand it, Child A does not cooperate fully. From observation Child A appears to be below the developmental stage. Children should manage their own basic hygiene and personal needs successfully, including dressing and going to the toilet independently (Neaum, 2016). (See Appendix 4).
Recommendations for this observation may include setting homework for Child A where the mother sits and helps to write letters and copy shapes, and then sitting with the teaching assistant to go through it again. The mother could introduce a reward chart for Child A to brush her own teeth with stickers when completed. This would need to be handled in a respectful manner with the mother in conversation, also the mother may allow Child A to start to dress herself, with praise when she completes the task (Petty, 2015).
Physical Development (Gross)
During this observation, Child A showed countless enthusiasm. This observation took place in the hall during the class’ physical education lesson. Child A concentrated the whole duration of the observation and attempted each task asked of her. Child A could not control a ball, but she carried on trying, stating that she would try this at home with her brother’s ball. Child A could not skip with a rope, and could not coordinate feet and hands, jumping and moving the rope. Child A fell over on many occasions, she carried on trying and this did not faze her. Children at this developmental stage should show good control and co-ordination in large and small movements. Children should move confidently in a range of ways, safely negotiating space. Children should handle equipment and tools effectively, including pencils for writing. Children should be able to kick and control a ball at this stage of development. (See Appendix 6).
From this observation, it would seem Child A is within the developmental stage for her age. Although Child A was unable to carry out certain tasks such as control a ball, Child A carried out other tasks in line with the developmental stage.
Recommendations for this observation would be to introduce Child A to more stimulating activities such as netball or obstacle courses. Child A was enthusiastic during the activity, and maybe suggesting an after-school activity would be advantageous such as swimming lessons, where the child can get involved with other children in physical activities, building her confidence and social interaction with other children. When children are in a stimulating environment, children are encouraged to explore their abilities and be active. This provides the child with motivation, helping to develop confidence and competence (Gallahue and Cleland Donnelly, 2007).
A recommendation to Child A’s mother could be to buy a skipping rope, encouraging this physical activity, and to also give Child A her own football. A recommendation where the setting can enable environment for the child can include providing time and space to enjoy energetic play daily. Practice movement skills through games with beanbags, cones, balls and hoops. Plan activities where children can practice moving in diverse ways and at different speeds, balancing, target throwing, rolling, kicking and catching. Provide sufficient equipment for children to share, so that waiting to take turns does not spoil enjoyment.
Cognitive and language Development
During this observation, Child A does not listen to the teacher, proceeding to strike another child with her coat accidentally. When Child A is spoken to by the teacher, Child A apologises to both teacher and the child in question, then cries for her mother. Child A knew she had done wrong and showed empathy with the other child (See Appendix 3). Child A fidgets and asks for the toilet at the start of the class once again. Child A can count easily and knows her colours, and was eager to show this. Although Child A could not tell the time, Child A knew it was the morning. Child A took interest when looking at a book, and spoke in detail on what the pictures were showing. Child A could also speak of where she lived, a task the other children in her group failed. However, when Child A was asked to say what words she was shown, she could not respond and gave wrong answers and lost interest quickly, the same happened when child A was asked to write her name. At this stage of development children should listen attentively in a range of situations. Children listen to stories, accurately anticipating key events and respond to what they hear with relevant comments, questions or actions. Children give their attention to what others say and respond appropriately, while engaged in another activity. (See Appendix 5).
From this observation, it would seem Child A is within the developmental stage for her age. Child A has the tendency to fidget, as do most children, a recommendation would be the use of a fidget toy, such as an elastic band, or a small piece of clay. To keep Child A sat at the table a swivel chair could be introduced, as children tend to keep their concentration on activities, whilst moving their body on the chair and not around the room. A recommendation is the use of sand timers to help extend concentration for children who find it difficult to focus their attention on a task (Aune et al., 2010). Plan regular short periods when individuals listen to others, such as singing a short song, sharing an experience or describing something they have seen or done.
Observations are clearly an important way in finding out any developmental delays a child may be experiencing. Information gathered from observations can be a useful tool for further research into a child, and can be used in the support of early identification and where intervention may be required. It is important to use a longitudinal approach when observing children as this gives a broader scope of the child’s developmental stage, noting changes that may occur over a period of time. However, all children develop at a different rate, and should all be observed as individuals, not necessarily compared to a child with differing abilities in the same age group.
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Parental Consent Letter 1
04th January 2017
Firstly, I’d like to introduce myself. My name is Jessica Thomas, I am currently undertaking my first-year foundation degree course in childhood studies through USW. As part of my training I must complete 600 hours of placement working with children. I have already met most parents/carers at St Therese’s, and discussed my role in the classroom. A module on the course is completing a report on child development, where I carry out observations on one child, following up with my findings in a report.
I am writing to ask if you would be willing to give your permission for your child to take part in my research. The observations will take part during the next four months during normal school hours, and I must stress will not interfere with your child’s education.
Your child’s participation in the observations will be treated confidentially and all information will be kept anonymous, meaning that no-one will be able to work out which child is being observed.
If you have any comments or questions regarding my report, please feel free to contact my tutor Rebecca James by telephone on 01639 648221.
Many thanks in advance for your consideration of my report. Please let me know if you need more information. I would appreciate it if you could complete the attached permission slip and return it in your child’s bookbag.
Jessica Thomas (Student)
Parental Consent Letter 2
04th January 2017
Parental consent form
I understand that my child’s participation in this report will involve taking part in observations with Jessica Thomas. During these observations, notes will be taken for later transcription. The observations will be fully anonymised when transcribed. I understand my child’s participation in these observations is entirely voluntary and that he/she can withdraw from participation at any time without giving reason. I understand that his/her participation will be treated confidentially and all information will be stored anonymously and securely. All information appearing in the final report will be anonymous. My child will have the option of withdrawing his/her data from the report, up until the transcript has been anonymised. I understand that I am free to ask any questions at any time. I am free to discuss any questions or comments I would like to make with Rebecca James, also to discuss any concerns I may have. I also understand that at the end of the observation process I will be provided with additional information and feedback about the purpose of observations.
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