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MeaghanMcGann
Dr.Barwegen
Education225
6July2013

DevelopmentalTheories
Inthestudyofhumandevelopment,especiallyinthelearningspheres,thereexistseveral
developmentaltheoriesthatcontributetotheknowledgeofhowindividualsmatureandchange
overtime.TwograndtheoriesincludePiagetscognitivetheoryandSkinnersbehaviorist
theory.Thesemorewidelyacceptedtheorieshaveplayedalargeroleinthewaythemodern
worldperceivesandparticipatesintheunobservableandobservabledevelopmentofyoung
minds.Vygotskyrepresentsalesspopular,butstillhighlyinfluential,emergenttheory.The
socioculturaltheoryhashadahugeimpactonthemannerinwhichsocietysharesaroleinthe
instructionofdevelopingminds.Thesethreetheories,cognitive,behavioristandsociocultural,
eachrepresentahugepresenceinthesphereofintellectualgrowthanddevelopment.
AccordingtoPiagetscognitivetheory,thethoughtsandexpectationsofanindividual
haveaprofounddevelopmentaleffectontheirmentalprocessing,beliefsandactions.Piaget
believedthatintellectualadvancementoccursbecausepeoplewantcognitiveequilibrium,ora
stateofmentalbalance.Theschema,ororganization,thatanindividualhasfortheirbeliefsand
ideasrepresentshowthoseconceptsreallyare.ToPiaget,learningoccursindependentlyand
otherpeoplearejustpartofanindividualsexperience.Piagetputsforwardthatpeopledevelop
astheyarethrownintodisequilibriumtheyarepresentedwithanewthoughtorideathatis
unfamiliartothem.Piagetsuggeststhattheironlyoptionistoadapt.Thiscanbedoneinoneof
twoways.Theycanassimilate,takingthenewthoughtandfittingitintotheiralreadyexisting

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schema,ortheycanaccommodate,allowingthenewthoughttochangetheirexistingschemaand
theirperceptions.Thebestformofgrowthoccursinaccommodation,whenpeopleactuallyallow
theirperspectivetobroaden.Inschoolagechildren,thereasoningperformedwhentheyare
thrownintodisequilibriumiscalledconcreteoperationalthought.Atthisstage,theirbeliefsand
understandingsoftheworldareverytangibleandtheirideasaregroundedinobservableand
practicalconcepts.Childrenatthisageareoftenveryeagertolearn,andbecausetheyareso
youngtheyaresometimesveryeasilythrownintodisequilibrium.Inaddition,theycan
understandtheideasofidentityandreversibilityanobjectstillhasthesamepropertieswhether
itishiddenorpresentandtheideathatyoucanuseaconclusiontogetbacktotheoriginalidea.
Cognitivetheorycanbeextremelyeffectiveindevelopmentalgrowth,especiallyinschoolage
children,becauseittakesintoaccounthowtheylearnandproblemsolveandmayverywell
expandthewaytheythink,ratherthanjustallowforthemtodevelopanewskill.
DuringonemorningofceramicsIobservedmanyPiagetianmoments.Astheinstructors
formedtheclayonthepotterswheelIobservedthatthecampersunderstoodthatevenasthe
claychangedfromathickwadintoanelegantvase,itwasstillclay.Theidentityremainedthe
same.Inaddition,mycampersunderstoodreversibility.Astheclayroseuptoformthegraceful
curvesofthevaseitcouldjustaseasilybecrushedandfoldedintoitspriorstate,oncemorea
formlesswadofclayonapotterswheel.IwasrememberingthesePiagetianprincipleswhen
anotherexamplecametomind.MaggieandMaddiewereidenticaltwingirlsinmycabin.Both
werepetiteandblonde,butMaggiewasalittlemoreoutspokenthanMaddie.Asconversation
ebbedandflowedthroughouttheceramicshed,thetideturnedtowardswhatmakesatwina
twin.Injest,oneoftheinstructorsstartedproclaimingthatshewasatwinwiththeother

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ceramicsinstructor.TothisMaggieadamantlyexclaimed,Noyouarenot!Thetwolooked
nothingalikeandaccordingtoMaggiesverylogical,concreteoperational,nineyearoldbrain
andherpreexistingknowledgeoftwins,thiscouldnotpossiblybethecase.Itdidnotfitintoher
alreadyestablishedtwinschema.Ofcoursetheinstructorwantedtoprolongthefunforaslong
aspossible,sostartedappealingtoMaggieslogic.Wesharearoomandwebothteach
ceramics,sheclarified.Wemustbetwins.ToMaggie,somethingwasstillnotquiteright
aboutthisscenario,No!sheexclaimed,Thatdoesntmeanyouretwins.Youguyshavealot
tolearn.Maggie,inherpreexistingknowledgeoftwinsknewthatjustbecausetheylived
togetherandtaughtthesameactivitydidnotmeantheyweretwins,itsimplydidnotfitintoher
conceptoftwinhood.However,asthemorningprogressedandtheothercamperskeptbringing
uptheconversation,Maggiesconvictionsbegantowaver.Asshewasthrowninto
disequilibriumshebecamefrustrated.Sheclearlydidnotwanttoaccommodatetheinstructors
descriptionoftwinhood.TowardstheendofthedayIcouldfinallyseehersettlingwiththe
decisiontoassimilate.Theceramicsinstructorscouldnotbetwinsbecausetheydidnothavethe
sameparents.Herexistingschemaabouttwinhoodwasstillsafeinherlogicalmindandthe
ceramicsinstructorssimplyhadthewrongideaofwhatitmeanttobeatwin.Piagetscognitive
theoryworkedmiraculouslythroughoutlittleMaggiesday,whethershehadanyideaduringher
statesoffrustratingdisequilibrium,adaptationandassimilationornot.
Skinnerappearedasaleadingexpertinbehaviorism,atheorythatarosealmostindirect
resistancetothepsychoanalyticdevelopmentaltheories.Behavioristsputforththatonly
observablebehaviormattersthethoughts,motivationsandimaginationsofindividualsdonot
matter.Behaviorsarelearnedbasedonobservationandexperience.Skinnerbelievedthat

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throughcertainmethodsofconditioningsomebehaviorscouldbeincreasedandotherscouldbe
diminished.Hepresentedtheideaofoperantconditioning.Behaviorcouldbemodifiedif
reinforcedorpunishedasnecessary.Forbothreinforcementandpunishmentsomethingcouldbe
addedorsubtractedfromtheenvironmenttoeitherincreaseordecreaseabehavior.Inpositive
reinforcementandpositivepunishment,somethingisaddedtotheenvironmentthatincreasesor
decreasesthebehaviorrespectively.Innegativereinforcementandpresentationpunishment,
somethingistakenawayfromtheenvironmentwiththedesiretoincreaseordecreaseacertain
behavior.Incorporatingsuchmethodology,Skinnerfoundhewassuccessfullyabletoencourage
andmodifycertainbehaviorsinindividuals.
HoneyRockhasthistimehonoredtraditionthatifoneislatetoZacco,theyruntothe
rock.ThislongstandingpracticeperfectlyexemplifiesSkinnersideaofpresentation
punishmentwithinoperantconditioning.Zaccoisatimeeverydaysetasidetosingsongsand
gathertogetherbeforethestartofeachmeal.Itisimportantthatcampersandcounselorsalike
arriveontimetoZaccosothatmealscanbeservedpromptly.Inordertodecreasethelikelihood
thatcampersandtheircounselorswillbelatetoZacco,theadministrativestaffatHoneyRock
hasappliedpresentationpunishment.Thebehaviormeanttobedecreasedistardiness.The
punishmentaddedisrunningtotherockifyouarriveafteralltheunitleadersyell,
SUPPPPPP!Thisimplementationofoperantconditioningisextremelyeffective.Afterhaving
toruntotherockonce,campersusuallybecomeveryconvincingintheirpleastoothercabin
matestohurryup.Counselorsareevenmoreferventintheiradmonitionstotheircampersafter
runningtotherockonce,theyusuallylearntomakesuretoaccommodateadequatetimeforeven
theirslowestcampertoarrivetoZaccoontime.Thus,Skinnersconditioningprovesasuccess.

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AfterexperiencingthepresentationpunishmentofrunningtotherockatZacco,bothcampers
andcounselorsareunlikelytobetardytoZaccoagain.
Vygotskyappearedasoneoftheleadthinkersofsocioculturaltheory.This
developmentaltheoryputsforwardthatgrowthoccursasindividualsinteractwiththepeopleand
theculturethatsurroundsthem.AccordingtoVygotsky,peoplelearnfromtheexpertiseofthe
othermembersoftheirsociety.Developmentoccursasthoselackingexpertiseacquiretheskills
necessaryforfurthermaturationintheirsociety.ToVygotsky,themostsuccessfulwayto
accomplishthisdevelopmentoccursinguidedparticipation.Guidedparticipationmostoften
appearsasaninformalandpartneredlearningexperience.Thosewithmoreskillcomeupalong
sideofthosewhoneedtolearntheskillandteachthemthroughguidedinstructionandtangible
interactions.Theinstructorandstudentpartnertogetherandworkuntilthestudentacquiresthe
newskill.Oftenthisrequirestheknowledgeofwhatsocioculturaltheoristscallthezoneof
proximaldevelopment.Thestudenthasmanyofthebasicskillsandideasnecessaryforsuccess,
butcannotfullyrequiretheskillwithouttheinstructorsexpertise.Thezoneofproximal
developmentallowsforthesuccessofthestudentbymeetinghimathislevelandprovidingthe
necessarytoolsandinstructionforfurthersuccess.Sometimesaninstructorwillsupplya
scaffoldtohelpinthelearningprocess.Ascaffoldrepresentsatoolthatistemporarilyusedto
helpsupportthestudentsparticularneedsastheylearnanewskill,butismeanttobetaken
awayoncethestudentacquiressufficientmasteryoverthetask.Throughtheimplementationof
guidedparticipation,appropriateknowledgeofthezoneofproximaldevelopment,andthe
helpfultoolofscaffolding,Vygotskyemphasizestheimportanceofthesocioculturaltheoryand
theintellectualchallengeandlearningitcontributeswithinindividualdevelopment.

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IsawVygotskyclearlyatworkintheSwimArea.Onedayuponvisitingaswimperiod,I
noticedacamper,neverhavingswaminalakebefore,alittlebithesitanttojumpintothewater.
Noticingthechildshesitation,theinstructorofferedtoholdherhandandsothattheycould
jumpintogether.Guidingthecampertotheedgeofthedock,theyleptofinunison.Onceinthe
waterthecampergrewmorecomfortable,perhapsrealizingthatlakewaterwasnotmuch
differentfrompoolwater.Sheletgooftheinstructorshandandbegantokickherlegsand
moveherarmsonherown.Asthecamperbegantofeelmoresecureinthewater,theinstructor
begantooffertipsonhowtoimproveherkicksandherarmmovements.Makesureyoukeep
yourtoespointed,shesaid,andasyourhandsenterthewatermakesuretheyareknives,not
forks!Theinstructorwoulddemonstratetheskill,thenwatchandcritiqueasherstudent
mimickedthestrokes.IwatchedthesuccessofthisguidedparticipationinastateofshockasI
realizedthatVygotskyreallydidknowhisstuff.Theinstructorknewthestudentszoneof
proximaldevelopmentandusedherownexpertisetohelpthiscamperbecomeabetterswimmer.
Atfirstusingherhandandherarmasasupportingscaffoldtogetthenervouscamperusedtothe
water,sheretracteditwhenitwasnolongerneeded.Bymodelingforthecamperaskilljust
outsideherownknowledge,butwellwithinhercapability,theinstructorusedtheVygotskian
methodtoprovideanopportunityforherstudenttobeappropriatelychallengedandacquirea
newskill.
Piaget,SkinnerandVygotskyeachplayalargeroleinthemodernworldsperceptionof
humandevelopment.Thelearningnecessitatedfromadaptingtodisequilibrium,fromacquiring
newbehaviors,andbeingguidedthroughnewskillscontributestothechallengeofproviding
intellectuallychallengingandgrowingopportunitiesforyoungminds.