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Education of young children plays an important role in family wellbeing and social development. It is not enough to provide some opportunities for students but to make sure they are engaged in a learning process and contribute to their cultural and personal growth. Many pedagogic approaches are applied in classrooms, but the same theoretical framework, cognitive development, to be followed. There are two explanations of this process: development usually precedes learning (Piaget) and learning should always go before development (Vygotsky) (Crain, 2014). In this investigative report, I plan to analyse my learning experiences and lesson observations, define and explain the key insights of student learning and focus on the impact of diversity in a classroom through the prism of Piaget’s and Vygotsky’s theories.
To improve my understanding of student learning, I was placed in a special setting and participated in several classroom activities. It was a local long day care centre for young children. Although it was small and old, its history had a positive impact on the staff and their approaches. The teachers tried to do their best to provide their students with the necessary knowledge and experience. However, such shortages as limited resources, an unhygienic environment, and disrespectful behaviour management cannot be ignored. There were situations when teachers chose between what they wanted to do and what they actually had. As a result, instead of focusing on the latest technological achievements, true needs of students, and recent academic achievements in early childhood education, teachers had to recycle materials to give students enough space and opportunities to play and learn.
My practice lasted 15 days, and this time was enough to observe how young children are introduced to a new topic and develop their abilities according to the instructions and recommendations given by their teachers. The major theme for these two weeks was transportation, and students were involved in a number of activities. I witnessed how the teacher explained different kinds of transportation and their major distinctive features. Students built trucks with the help of cardboard, which developed their cognitive, observational, and analytical skills. One of the strongest aspects of my experience was an opportunity to observe how a teacher combined play with education when children counted transportation means and types, thus contributing to the development of their mathematical knowledge. Students were asked to build special tracks for a train, which allowed promoting their collaboration, evaluation, and assessment of the available material. My direct duties included storytelling and playing with children in the classroom. It was necessary for me to become their friend, gain trust, and guide them through the play. To raise their interest in my presence in their classroom, I played the piano.
Key Understandings of Student Learning
In the classroom, I observed several techniques to promote student learning. The major pedagogic synergies include play, motivation, imaginary situations, repetition, creativity, and inquiry-based learning (Cremin, Glauert, Craft, Compton, & Stylianidou, 2015; Somers & Yawkey, 1984). For example, cars counting games helped to learn numbers and entertain (a play-based setting). When the teacher recycled the material and introduced a garage, the offered imaginary situation contributed to students’ improvement of problem-solving and imagination. Learning by repetition (every morning, students counted from 1 to 15) was an effective step to memorise the necessary material and underline the importance of numeric knowledge. Inquiry-based learning as a part of scaffolding was another effective method to identify students’ interests and motivate them. The teacher asked questions, gave hints, and mentioned additional resources where information could be found. Students demonstrated their interests and abilities to cope with tasks and chose the ways that were the easiest and most appropriate for them.
Exploration of Observations
Student learning is a complex but important process in modern society. Teachers define and analyse the abilities of children and create an appropriate environment for their further development. To succeed in assessment, educators rely on the approached offered by Vygotsky, known as the zone of proximal development. It is defined as “a level of development attained when children engage in social behaviour” (Fani & Ghaemi, 2011, p. 1550). It was important to find out the connection between students’ knowledge and sociocultural situations (Kellogg, 2019). In this type of development, scaffolding was used as the main assistance that did not interfere with student self-development and interpersonal space. The idea of Piaget to rely on accommodation and assimilation for further development could also be explored for observations’ analysis (Crain, 2014). It was necessary to define the level of knowledge before further information was given (Alves, 2014). Children did not know that transport may be of different types and named all means as “cars”. When the teacher began giving explanations, children were able to learn new terms and contribute to their development.
Insights into Student Learning
During the 15-day placement in the day care centre, I identified several important aspects of student learning. I supported traditional forms of education and always thought that memorising and study should be encouraged in a classroom. The teachers helped me to discover a number of new techniques on how to improve student learning and make it accessible and interesting to young children. I want to focus my further investigations on scaffolding offered by Vygotsky. This approach can assist both students and teachers in achieving the necessary results by providing some hints, offering a range of answers, and giving an opportunity to use additional resources like books, students and other visual reminders.
Importance of Diversity in Classrooms
Many ways to improve student learning exist, and one of them is to acknowledge diversity. During my last visit to a school with a significant Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander (ATSI) population, I observed several successful examples of intersections between local ATSI students and children with other backgrounds. Diversity should not be the reason for additional misunderstandings and concerns but a chance to promote new experiences. For example, the non-verbal language was used to support students who did not speak English. Once a week, a Mandarin class was taken to recognise the role of this non-English dialect in Australia. ATSI songs sounded every morning to underline the worth of aboriginal culture.
Early childhood education is critical to the citizens of Australia, regardless of their background and language. Despite evident problems and limited access to necessary resources, they tried to do everything possible to support children and focus on their personal development. My learning experience helped to clarify that it is a responsibility of a teacher to create a safe and interesting environment for students, and, in the majority of cases, teachers complete their duties at a high level.
Alves, P. F. (2014). Vygotsky and Piaget: Scientific concepts. Psychology in Russia: State of the Art, 7(3), 24-34.
Crain, W. C. (2014). Theories of development: Concepts and applications (6th ed.). Essex, UK: Pearson Education.
Cremin, T., Glauert, E., Craft, A., Compton, A., & Stylianidou, F. (2015). Creative little scientists: Exploring pedagogical synergies between inquiry-based and creative approaches in Early Years science. International Journal of Primary, Elementary and Early Years Education 3-13, 43(4), 404-419
Fani, T., & Ghaemi, F. (2011). Implications of Vygotsky’s zone of proximal development (ZPD) in teacher education: ZPTD and self-scaffolding. Procedia-Social and Behavioral Sciences, 29, 1549-1554.
Kellogg, D. (2019). The storyteller’s tale: Vygotsky’s ‘vrashchivaniya,’ the zone of proximal development and ‘ingrowing’ in the weekend stories of Korea children. British Journal of Educational Studies, 1-20. Web.
Somers, J. U., & Yawkey, T. D. (1984). Imaginary play companions: Contributions of creative and intellectual abilities of young children. Journal of Creative Behavior, 18(2), 77-89.