Unit 3 Learner and Learning Process (Part A)

Unit 3 Learner and Learning Process (Part A) 


Human beings keep changing. During their lives, they change in size, appearance and psychological make up. The way they change differs from individual to individual. But the fundamental underlying patterns of growth and development remain more or less the same and take place in an orderly way. Each individual, with his unique heredity and the way he is nurtured, determines the way he traverses the broad highway of his life at his rate of progress.

He will attain the size, shape, capacities and developmental status in a way which is peculiar to him at each stage of life.

Growth is sometimes used to designate all the quantitative changes brought about in the structure and functions of the human anatomy and physiology. The term development means a progressive series of qualitative changes that occur as a result of maturity and experience. Thus at each stage certain developmental processes bring changes in the individual in different aspects of life: physical, social, psychological and emotional. The speed of change varies from one individual to another but it follows a definite and predictable pattern. Every individual has to go through the various stages of childhood, adolescence, adulthood, and old age. Both growth and development, at every stage, follow certain principles.

This is the first unit of this course. In this unit we shall discuss the concept and principles of human growth and development, why their systematic study is needed and how the teacher can facilitate growth and development during adolescence. We shall also discuss, in brief, various stages of development. You will also study the role of the teacher in facilitating the growth and development of school-going children. You can observe the growth of your students over a period of a few years.

The Concept

The terms growth and development are often used interchangeably. Actually they are conceptually different. Neither growth nor development takes place all by itself. Growth refers to quantitative changes in size which include physical changes in height, weight, size, internal organs, etc. As an individual develops, old features like baby fat, hair and teeth, etc., disappear and new features like facial hair etc.. are acquired. When maturity comes, the second set of teeth, primary and secondary sex characteristics, etc., appear. Similar changes occur in all aspects of the personality.

During infancy and childhood, the body steadily becomes larger, taller and heavier . To designate this change the term growth is used. Growth involves changes in body proportions as well as in overall stature and weight. The term growth thus indicates an increase in bodily dimensions. But the rate of growth differs from one part of the body to the other.

Development, by contrast, refers to qualitative changes taking place simultaneously with quantitative changes of growth. It may be defined as a progressive series of ordedy, coherent changes. The term progressive signifies that changes are directional, that they lead forward rather than backward. Ordely and coherent suggest that there is a definite relationship between the changes taking place and those that precede or will follow them. Development represents changes in an organism from its origin to its death, but more particularly the progressive changes which take place from origin to maturity.

Thus, development may be explained as the series of overall changes in an individual due LO the emergence of modified structures and functions that are the outcome of the interactions and exchanges between the organism and its environment.

Need and Importance of Studying Principles of Growth and Development

A knowledge of development patterns, what these are like and what causes variations in the development of children, is essential for both scientific and practical reasons. Knowledge of the pattern of human development, will help you know, for example, what to expect of children. It will also help you know approximately at what age behavioural changes take place, and when these patterns are generally replaced by more mature patterns. This is significant since, if too much is expected from children, they develop a feeling of inadequacy.

On the other hand if too little is expected of them, they do not have an incentive to realize their potential.

Knowing exactly what to expect from children enables development psychologists, teachers and parents to set guidelines in the form of height-weight scales, age-weight scales, age-height scales, mental age scales, and social or emotional development scales. Deviations from normal development might be investigated in causal terms and appropriate intervention might be planned to act those who vary considerably in personal, social and emotional adjustment or development.

A knowledge of development patterns helps teachers and parents guide the child's learning properly. A child must be helped to acquire skills of walking when he is of an age appropriate for this skill. Not providing learning opportunities at the appropriate time would delay the normal development of the child. In social development children are expected to adjust socially to their age-mates. If they are deprived of the necessary learning opportunity, they will not be ready to acquire the necessary skills characteristic or later childhood. When the development pattern is normal, one period prepares children for, and leads them effectively into, the next.

A knowledge of development patterns helps teachers and parents prepare the child psychologically for the physical and behavioural changes that would occur as they grow up. In fact, in this matter, the role of the school is crucial.

Principles of Human Growth and Development

Development is Continuous

Development is Gradual

Development is Sequential

Rate of Development Varies Person to Person

Development Proceeds from General to Specific

Most Traits are Correlated in Development

Growth and Development is a Product of Both Heredity and Environment

Development is Predictable

There is a Constant Interaction Between All Factors of Development

Principle  1. Development is Continuous:

The process of growth and development continues from the conception till the individual reaches maturity. Development of both physical and mental traits continues gradually until these traits reach their maximum growth. It goes on continuously throughout life. Even after maturity has been attained, development does not end.

Principle  2. Development is Gradual:

It does not come all on a sudden. It is also cumulative in nature.

Principle  3. Development is Sequential:

Most psychologists agree that development is sequential or orderly. Every species, whether animal or human, follows a pattern of development peculiar to it. This pattern in general is the same for all individuals. The child crawls before he creeps, stands before he walks and babbles before he talks.

Principle  4. Rate of Development Varies Person to Person:

Rate of development is not uniform. Individuals differ in the rate of growth and development. Boys and girls have different development rates. Each part of the body has its own particular rate of growth. There are periods of great intensity and equilibrium and there are periods of imbalance.

Principle  5. Development Proceeds from General to Specific:

Development proceeds from general to specific. In all areas of development, general activity always precedes specific activity. For example, the fetus moves its whole body but is incapable of making specific responses. With respect to emotional behaviour infants approach strange and unusual objects with some sort of general fear response.

Later, their fears become more specific and elicit different kinds of behaviour, such as, crying, turning away and hiding etc.

Principle  6. Most Traits are Correlated in Development:

Generally, it is seen that the child whose mental development is above average, is also superior in so many other aspects like health, sociability and special aptitudes.

Principle  7. Growth and Development is a Product of Both Heredity and Environment:

Development is influenced by both heredity and environment. Both are responsible for human growth and development.

Principle  8. Development is Predictable:

The difference in physiological and psychological potentialities can be predicated by observation and psychological tests.

Principle  9. Development:

Development brings about both structural and functional changes.

Principle  10. There is a Constant Interaction Between All Factors of Development:

Development in one area is highly related to development in other areas. For example, a child who has a good health can be active socially and intellectually.

Cognitive process and stages of cognitive development

Piaget adopted biological concepts of assimilation and accommodation to describe cognitive development as the process occurring in active interactions between the organism and the environment. The fact that seems to be disregarded up to this point is that these interactions necessarily require biological dissimilation as a process opposite to assimilation. Indeed, a number of dissimilation processes such as respiration, fermentation, and glycolysis play an important role in the metabolism of biological organisms. The analogy between cognitive structures and open systems in physics mentioned above

requires a very similar property of the cognitive schemas as well. Open systems exchange energy and matter during their interactions with the environment, thus dissipating entropy. However, the story gets interesting here. No component of cognitive schema once integrated to a cognitive structure can be simply dissimilated beyond the bounds of mental structures. An assumption that every new component of the cognitive system is functionally useful and improves the adaptability of the organism would help to overcome this problem and avoid any need for the concept of dissimilation with reference to cognitive development. But this is not true in the case of developing mental structures. “Wrong” components can obviously occur in acquisition of new skills; the examples can easily be found for motor skills (throwing a ball in a basketball game, manner of typing, holding a hammer or any other tool, to name just a few areas) and for more complex formal operations such as the use of algorithms for solving a mathematical problem. In all these examples, etiology of the “wrong” non-adaptive components can be different. For example, new objects can be mistakenly assimilated to an existing cognitive structure. Conditions of the environment can change so that an existing schema becomes inappropriate or at least partly incorrect. Another possibility is a kind of redundancy of the developing schema. Some “extra” components may at first guarantee robustness of the developing schema but later become superfluous for further adaptation because of their comparative inefficiency. Whatever were the origins of these non-adaptive components of a cognitive schema, they should be somehow excluded to ensure further correct development and adaptation.

As soon as cognitive development is conceptualized in terms of adaptation to the environment, all components of a schema that were denoted above as “non-adaptive” can be classified in two main groups. With regard to further adaptation, they can be either neutral or impedimental. We suggest that the process of exclusion of the “wrong” component depends primarily on its potential role in the further development of the adaptive cognitive structure. Thus, when a component of the cognitive schema is just useless but remains neutral with regard to the efficiency of the interactions between the organism and the environment, there is no objective need in any active process for its exclusion from the entire schema. We suggest that existence of such a component of the schema can be best described in terms of extinction. Although these components are not completely removed, they are never activated in response to events in the environment. As time goes by, these superfluous components become extinct. The problem of exclusion of these elements is very close to the more frequently investigated problem of forgetting in general, and thus remains outside the focus of this paper. However, some of the components of the developing cognitive schemas are not as harmless to adaptation. Holding a hammer incorrectly, thus leading to an injury, provides a good example of this type of non-adaptability of the developing schema. In such a case an impedimental component is activated in response to some event in the environment (event A); the organism fails to react adequately. Thus, the main precondition for further successful adaptation is to prevent the activation of this harmful component in response to the event A. From the perspective of adaptation, the most secure way would be simply to exclude the “wrong” part of the schema from the cognitive structure. However, this simple possibility does not exist for the human cognitive system. Therefore, the process of exclusion of the impedimental component is rather complicated and requires active “cognitive dissimilation”.

Activation of the harmful component in response to the event A should be blocked so that the organism could meet the demands of the environment. In other words, this “wrong” component should be dissimilated from the cognitive schema activated by the event A. However, it cannot be dissimilated “to nowhere”. Moreover, it is not plausible that this component can be simply transferred to some other cognitive schema. In our opinion, a model of cognitive dissimilation should conceptualize it as a process including several steps. First, the isolation of the impedimental component requires a very specific “buildup” of an existing schema. This additional part of the schema plays the role of an “internal policeman”. It is activated in response to the event A, together with the entire cognitive schema. However, the function of this new structure is to block an activation of the “wrong” component and to prevent a harmful (or just unnecessary) reaction of the organism. In this step of dissimilation, total loading on the cognitive system becomes much higher in response to the event A. The higher the probability of activation of the “wrong” component was, the more loaded would be the process of its active blocking. As a result of active isolation, activation of the impedimental component in response to the event A decreases as time goes by. Finally the whole “built up” structure transforms to a separate declarative schema outside the entire schema. As a result, the cognitive system includes a correct cognitive schema (the “wrong” component is dissimilated) and an additional declarative schema is created based on the dissimilated component. This means the organism has knowledge of what is wrong. When the event A occurs, only the correct schema is activated. However, the declarative schema described above can also be activated in response to some other event (event B). Continuing the example of holding a hammer incorrectly, the event A is the necessity to actually use this tool, while the event B could be a situation that requires teaching another person how to use the hammer on a nail.

Jean Piaget was a Swiss developmental psychologist who studied children in the early 20th century. His theory of intellectual or cognitive development, published in 1936, is still used today in some branches of education and psychology. It focuses on children, from birth through adolescence, and characterizes different stages of development, including:





Piaget made several assumptions about children while developing his theory:

Children build their own knowledge based on their experiences.

Children learn things on their own without influence from adults or older children.

Children are motivated to learn by nature. They don’t need rewards as motivation.

There are four stages in all:

sensorimotor stage

preoperational stage

concrete operational stage

formal operational stage

The stages cover a range of ages from birth to 2 years old to young adulthood.

Piaget’s four stages

Piaget’s stages are age-specific and marked by important characteristics of thought processes. They also include goals children should achieve as they move through a given stage.

Stage                                             Age                                                                       Goal

Sensorimotor                   Birth to 18–24 months old                       Object permanence

Preoperational                 2 to 7 years old                                                Symbolic thought

Concrete operational 7 to 11 years old                                        Operational thought

Formal operational         Adolescence to adulthood                        Abstract concepts


The sensorimotor stage covers children ages birth to 18–24 months old. Characteristics include motor activity without use of symbols. All things learned are based on experiences, or trial and error.

The main goal at this stage is establishing an understanding of object permanence — in other words, knowing that an object still exists even if you can’t see it or it’s hidden.


The preoperational stage can be seen in children ages 2 through 7. Memory and imagination are developing. Children at this age are egocentric, which means they have difficulty thinking outside of their own viewpoints.

The main achievement of this stage is being able to attach meaning to objects with language. It’s thinking about things symbolically. Symbolic thought is a type of thinking where a word or object is used to represent something other than itself.

Concrete operational

Children are much less egocentric in the concrete operational stage. It falls between the ages of 7 to 11 years old and is marked by more logical and methodical manipulation of symbols.

The main goal at this stage is for a child to start working things out inside their head. This is called operational thought, and it allows kids to solve problems without physically encountering things in the real world.

Formal operational

Children 11 years old and older fall into Piaget’s formal operational stage. A milestone of this period is using symbols to understand abstract concepts. Not only that, but older kids and adults can also think about multiple variables and come up with hypotheses based on previous knowledge.

Piaget believed that people of all ages developed intellectually. But he also believed that once a person reaches the formal operational stage, it’s more about building upon knowledge, not changing how it’s acquired or understood.....FOR MORE CLICK HERE