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Advanced Educational Psychology

Theories of Development Lecture Notes

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Theories of Development

The term development refers to……..?

Why is it important for teachers to have a strong understanding of human development?


how people grow, adapt, and change over the course of their lifetime, through

physical development,

personality development,

socioemotional development,

cognitive development,

and language development

Development at Various School Ages?

four important general principles about development:

Principle 1

Human development is often characterized by developmental milestones that occur in a predictable sequence.


Sit up → crawl → walk

Concrete thinking → abstract thinking

These are universal regardless of culture, time, etc.

Principle 2

Different children develop at different rates.

Research – avg ages which dev. milestones are reached

Some earlier, some later

Understanding developmental milestones - allow us to form general expectations about capabilities of children at particular age level and to design educational curriculum and instructional strategies around these expectations.

Never jump to conclusions about what an individual student can and cannot do on the basis of age alone

Principle 3

Development does not always proceed at a constant rate.


Growth in height

Acquisition of language and vocabulary

Principle 4

Virtually every aspect of development is affected by both heredity and environment.

When a child learns to talk….is this nature or nurture?

Case of Genie

Cognitive Development



What are the basic assumptions of Piaget’s theory?

What are key terms?

What are criticisms of this theory?

Educational Implications?

Piaget’s Basic Assumptions

Children are inherently active and motivated learners




Children construct knowledge from their experiences

Innate tendency to interact w/ and make sense of environments

Use schemes to find out about the world


Babies learn about world by sucking on objects, throwing, biting

Each approach to interacting with objects is a scheme

When encounter new object, how are they to know what object is all about?

They use schemes they have developed and will find out whether object makes loud/soft sound when banged, what tastes like, whether it gives milk, and maybe whether it rolls or just goes thud when dropped.

Children learn through assimilation & accommodation

Assimilation - understanding new object/event in terms of existing scheme


Give an object to a baby and watch how he tries to figure out what it is.

Student uses note cards to study for Spanish test, however when applying this scheme for studying economics realizes she may have to change her schema.

This is accommodation: modifying existing scheme in light of new info

If you give an egg to a baby who has a banging scheme for small objects, what will happen to the egg? What will happen to baby’s banging scheme?

Disequilibrium – imbalance between what is understood and what is encountered

Desire for equilibrium is key to learning!

Development depends on maturation of brain

Piaget believed that, because of their neurological immaturity, elementary school children CANNOT think as adults do, no matter what parent or teachers might do to encourage adult-like thinking.


Key Terms in Piaget’s theory



Object permanence?



Preoperational egocentrism?

Formal operational egocentrism?

What are some educational implications of Piaget’s theory?

Educational Implications?

Capitalize on students’ natural curiosity

Relate information to what students already know.

Hands-on experiences w/ physical objects

Opportunities to discuss/exchange ideas & perspectives

Play devil’s advocate

Developmentally Appropriate Education!

What are some criticisms or limitations to Piaget’s theory of cognitive development?

Criticisms of Piaget’s Theory

Does development really occur in fixed stages?

Must development preceded learning? Can younger children be taught formal operational thinking?

Cognitive Development


Major Assumptions

Thinking processes have roots in social interactions

Children first talk about objects/events w/ adults and other knowledgeable individuals; in the process, they discover how people around them think about those objects or events.

Gradually, children incorporate the ways that adults and others talk about and interpret the world into their own ways of thinking.

The process in which social activities evolve into internal mental activities is called internalization.

Children can perform more challenging tasks when assisted by more advanced and competent individuals

Actual developmental level – potential level of development

Scaffolding is important part of learning

Peer tutoring

Zone of Proximal Development

Children learn very little from performing tasks they can already do independently.

Instead, they develop attempting tasks they can accomplish only in collaboration w/ more competent individual, that is, when they attempt tasks within their zone of proximal development.

"It’s challenges in life, not easy successes, that promote cognitive development."

Educational Implications?

Educational Implications

Encourage students to talk selves through new & difficult tasks

Have students collaborate w/ other students when they work on challenging assignments

Engage students in realistic adult tasks, giving them guidance they need to be successful

Provide scaffolding students need to perform challenging tasks successfully; gradually withdraw it as they become more skilled.

Perform difficult tasks in partnership with students

How would Vygotsky and Piaget feel about:

Home schooling?

Virtual High School?

Multi-age classrooms?

Psychosocial Theory



Children develop in predetermined order

He was interested in how children socialize and how this affects their sense of self.

8 psychosocial stages in a lifetime

Each stage – crises/critical issues to be resolved

How one deals w/ critical issue sets up future mental/emotional well-being

Can someone overcome past?

Criticisms of Erikson

Not all experience crises to same degree or at same time

Theory does not explain how or why individuals progress from one stage to another

Difficult to confirm through research

Does not account for individual differences

Educational Implications?

Educational Implications

Promote positive attitude toward learning

Focus on individual learning styles

Given authority and influence teachers possess, must consider impact their comments have on these young learners

With proper feedback, teacher can enhance child’s self-concept

Discuss relevant developmental milestones

Moral Development


Kohlberg studied how children (and adults) reason about rules that govern their behavior in certain situations.

He probed for their responses to a series of structured situations or moral dilemmas.

His most famous one is the following:

In Europe, a woman was near death from special kind of cancer. There was 1 drug that doctors thought might save her. It was a form of radium that druggist in same town had recently discovered. The drug was expensive to make, but druggist was charging 10x what drug cost to make. He paid $200 for radium and charged $2,000 for small dose. The sick woman’s husband, Heinz, went to everyone he knew to borrow money, but could only get about $1,000. He told druggist that his wife was dying and asked him to sell it cheaper or let him pay later. But druggist said: "No, I discovered the drug and I’m going to make money." So Heinz got desperate and broke into man’s store to steal drug-for his wife.

Should the husband have done that?

Kohlberg was not interested in subject’s yes or no response but more interested in reasoning behind response.

Wanted to know WHY?

Kohlberg then categorized responses into stages.

Preconventional Level (up to age 9)

Morality defined as obeying rules and avoiding negative consequences. Children in this stage see rules set, typically by parents, as defining moral law.

That which satisfies the child’s needs is seen as good and moral.

Conventional Level (9 - adolescence)

Children begin to understand what is expected of them by their parents, teacher, etc.

Morality is seen as achieving these expectations.

Fulfilling obligations as well as following expectations are seen as moral law for children in this stage.

Postconventional Level (adulthood)

What is right and wrong is based upon the circumstances surrounding an action.

Basics of morality are the foundation with independent thought playing an important role.



Studied mostly boys

Stage theory

Deals with moral reasoning and not actual behavior

Educational Implications?

Character education

Discussions, scenarios

Presenting both sides of a controversial issue