Steps in Language Development
While debate is still ongoing about how children acquires language, with naturists arguing that individuals are born with biological inclination for language, and behaviorists projecting that children develop language by emulating the sounds heard within the immediate environment (Maitland 135), consensus seems to have been reached among the two groups on the major steps involved in the development of language in children. This section aims to elucidate the steps involved.
There exists broad consensus that humans can communicate from birth, as can be demonstrated by the newborn’s cry alerts when faced with a distressing situation such as pain or wetness.
However, it is only after the fourth month from birth that the infant is able to turn these cry alerts, coos, and gurgles into some form of bubbling, explained as the generation of phonemes which are not in any way related or limited to the child’s exposure to the immediate environment. After the lapse of ten months from birth, the baby is able to narrow down these phonemes to those of the language or languages spoken in the immediate environment (Maitland 134).
At the turn of their first birthday, most toddlers progress from bubbling into the use of a holophrase, which can be explained as the usage of one word to communicate meaning. For instance, the baby may point indoors and say, “Go!” At the turn of their second birthday, most children are able to put together two-word sentences known as telegraphic speech.
Available literature demonstrates that this speech is mostly typified by the use of a verb and noun, such as “go toilet” or “eat bread” (Maitland 134). Language development theorists are in agreement that it is between two and three years of age that the child is not only able to expand the vocabulary exponentially, but the sentences generated increase in length and intricacy.
By their third birthday, the young children begin to follow the rules of grammar without necessarily sticking to any conventions of instruction. For instance, a 3-year-old child may say, “I goed to the shop.” Such sentence construction, although coming from a 3-year-old child, indicates the use of the general rule, also called overgeneralization or over-regularization, that we form the past tense by adding (-ed) to the word or phrase.
The ‘overgeneralization’ or ‘over-regularization’ of language witnessed among the 3-year-olds demonstrates that children apply grammatical rules without necessarily making any appropriate exceptions (Maitland 134). However, as time goes and language development becomes further entrenched, young children achieve the capability to express more abstract notions, concepts and ideas that goes beyond the physical realm around them, not mentioning that they also attain the capability to express their own feelings.
Applying Piaget’s & Vygotsky’s Theoretical Concepts to Classroom Experiences
Both Jean Piaget and Lev Vygotsky can be termed as the leading lights in the psychology of cognitive development due their classical works, which have been well documented in literature. It is indeed true that their theoretical concepts can be, and continues to be, used in modern classroom settings. This section aims to discuss five concepts from the theories of both Piaget and Vygotsky, and illuminate how these concepts can be applied to classroom experiences.
Jean Piaget was a prominent psychologist of the 20th century mainly interested in aspects of developmental psychology, particularly in respect to how individuals acquire, retain, and develop knowledge (Wittrock 41).
Today, his concepts and theories are used by teachers across the world to enhance students’ learning experiences. In his theory of cognitive development, Piaget came up with the concept of assimilation and accommodation to denote two corresponding processes of adaptation through which awareness of the external world is internalized in the individual.
In assimilation, what an individual perceives in the external world is incorporated into the internal world without necessarily changing the structure of the internal world, while in accommodation; the internal world is obliged to accommodate itself to the evidence and facts with which it is confronted, thus triggering an adaptation (Wittrock 43).
This concept can be applied in modern classroom experiences by encouraging teachers to take an active, mentoring role towards students so as to enable them share in their learning experiences instead of pushing information to passive and sometimes uninterested students.
By observing children to have a comprehensive understanding on their growth and developmental patterns, Piaget came up with the concept of maturation to imply the children’s mounting capability to understand their world and those around them (McInerney 587).
This concept further implies that children cannot comprehend or perform certain activities or duties until they are psychologically mature enough to be able to engage in those activities. This assertion has been overwhelmingly used by contemporary educators to form the basis for scheduling the school curriculum with a view to making sure that only those activities or learning tasks that children within a specific age-group can understand are indeed included in the curriculum.
In his theory of cognitive development, Lev Vygotsky came up with the concept of the zone of proximal development, which was aimed at explaining the idea that development should be defined both by what a child can be able to achieve independently and what the child can be able to achieve when he or she receives assistance from either an adult or a more competent peer (Slavin 47).
This concept, along with the two levels of development, is useful for teachers in modern classroom settings to the extent that they can use it to objectively evaluate where the child is at a given moment in terms of learning outcomes, as well as where the child ought to be.
In the context of curriculum development, educators and teachers can employ Vygotsky’s zone of proximal development concept to design a developmentally suitable curriculum, where learning activities are designed on not only what the learners are capable of doing on their own volition, but also on what they are capable of learning with other peers who are more proficient (Slavin 47; McInerney 590).
Vygotsky’s concept of proximal development further suggests that educators in modern classroom settings must make sure to expose the children to instruction and activities that fall inside the zone of proximal development if effective learning is to take place (Woolfolk 156). For example, if a child is unable to recognize the sounds in a word or phrase even after been exposed to repeated prompts, the child may not be able to take advantage of the instruction in this type of skill.
Additionally, extant literature demonstrates that instructors can employ this concept to, among other things, design instruction in such a way that it is capable of providing practice in the zone of proximal development for individual learners as well as for groups of learners (Woolfolk 159). For example, instructors can employ suggestions, clues and prompts that in the past assisted children during evaluation to form the basis for instructional activities.
Vygotsky’s concept of cooperative learning can be used in the modern classroom setting to plan learning activities by bringing together children who are at different learning levels to assist each other to learn. What’s more, Vygotsky’s concept was later developed in 1976 by Wood, Bruner & Ross to operationalize the concept of scaffolding.
In its most basic form, the scaffolding concept represents the supportive interactions that take place between an adult and a child with the view to assist the child to accomplish an activity that is beyond his or her independent efforts (Slavin 88). In the modern classroom setting, the concept of scaffolding has been used by teachers to assist learners graduate from assisted to unassisted success at various learning tasks.
In a school biology class, for example, the instructor might utilize scaffolding by first providing learners with exhaustive guidelines that are needed to perform an experiment on osmosis, and afterwards provide them with concise outlines that they can use to structure further osmosis experiments. With time, the teacher might request the learners to perform the experiments exclusively on their own.
Maitland, Laura Lincoln. 5 Steps to a 5AP Psychology, 2010-2011 Edition. New York, NY: McGraw Hill, 2010. Print.
McInerney, Dennis M. “Educational Psychology – Theory, Research, and Teaching: A 25 –Year Retrospective.” Educational Psychology 25.6 (2005): 585-599. Web. 10 Oct. 2011.
Slavin, Robert E. Educational Psychology: Theory & Practice. 8th ed. Boston, MA: Allyn & Bacon, Inc., 2005. Print.
Wittrock, Mike C. “Learning as a Generative Process.” Educational Psychologist 45.1 (2010): 40-45. Web. 10 Oct. 2011.
Woolfolk, Anita. Educational Psychology. 11th ed. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall, 2009. Print.