As children grow and mature they pass through several stages of development. Consequently it is important that teachers understand these developmental stages in order to be an effective teacher. This paper will analyze answers from five open ended questions asked of five children of varying ages to clarify changes in development at various ages. According to Robert E. Slavin “as children improve their cognitive skills, they are also developing self-concepts, ways of interacting with others, and attitudes toward the world” (Slavin, 2012). The five questions used for the interview were: 1.Why is school important?
2.Is it ever OK to Cheat?
3.Is it important to have friends?
4.How should you treat bullies?
5.What do you want to do when you finish school?
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The first child interviewed was a 4th grade female named Erin. During Erin’s interview it was evident that she understood the importance of education for later in life. She was able to reason that an education would be important in completing everyday life tasks. Erin could grasp the concept that cheating was wrong, but only insofar as it related to learning. She did not grasp or state the fact that cheating was inconsistent with biblical principles of wright and wrong. Erin equated having friends with a good experience in school and being able to focus in the classroom.
This need for acceptance is consistent with her age group for development and Slavin specifies that the “key word regarding personal and social development is acceptance” (Slavin, 2012, p. 64). Erin had be belief that if you treated bullies “nice” then they might treat you nice back. Like other children her age, Erin shows a prosocial behavior in displaying a caring attitude towards a bully in order to get them to be “nice” back to other people (Slavin, 2012, p. 62). Erin expressed a desire to be either a doctor or an actress when she finished school. This could indicate that she has a basic idea of occupations but she is picking one that she can readily identify with through her experiences.
The second child interviewed was an 8th grade male named Jack. During his interview, Jack new that school was important for a good education, but he also equated school to interacting with friends for good experiences. Jack is at a stage of life where social relationships are very important and is confirmed by his answers to question numbers 1 and 3. Slavin states that during the middle school and high school years “the amount of time spent with friends increases dramatically; adolescents spend more time with their peers than they do with family members or by themselves” (Slavin, 2012, p. 69)Jack knew that cheating was not only a “bad thing”, but he also reasoned that it allowed a person to gain something that they did not deserve.
The question concerning Bullies seemed to be a bit more of a dilemma for Jack. He was able to reason that sometimes bullies seek attention and the best way to deal with it was to ignore them, however he also believed that you needed to stop them from bullying other people. He admitted it was sometimes had to stop because many times kids chose not to get involved. He leaned towards Kohlberg’s Stage 3 of moral reasoning in that he indicated that you needed to stop bullies if they are picking on someone else but ignoring them if you were the subject of the bully’s attention (Slavin, 2012, p. 59). Jack was more specific in what he wanted to do when he finished school. Jack is a football fan and he indicated a strong desire to be involved in football at some level. Whether it was a coaching position or some other position indicates that he has an advanced grasp of occupations.
The third child interviewed was a 3rd grade male name Aiden. Aiden knew that school was important because it was a place where to learn. Aiden is at the stage where friends start to become an important part of his life. Slavin states that “During the elementary school years, friends are companions with whom to have fun and do things” (Slavin, 2012, p. 66). Aiden’s answer to question number 3 that it was important to have friends because it was important to have someone to play with validates Slavin’s idea. He also has a strong sense of right and wrong when it comes to cheating and inter-action with bullies. In his answer he indicated that it was important to stand up to them in order to stop them.
Aiden’s belief of right and wrong seems to correlate directly with Piaget’s Theory of Moral Development. Aiden is at the stage of “heteronomous morality” that is he believes “violations of rules are believed to bring automatic punishment; people who are bad will eventually punished” (Slavin, 2012, p. 58). In his eyes, standing up to a bully was a correct and proper way to discipline the transgressor. If that failed, he indicated you needed to look to a higher authority figure such as a teacher. Additionally, Aiden shows attributes of Kohlberg’s Stages of Moral Reasoning concerning bullies.
Stage 4: “Law and Order Orientation is doing one’s duty and showing respect for authority and maintaining the given social order…” (Slavin, 2012, p. 59). Aiden illustrates this by standing up to the bully and restoring the social order of the classroom. He indicated that he wanted to become a doctor because he wanted to help people. The last child interviewed was a Kindergartener named John. Because John is a Kindergartener, it might be safe to assume that John is between a preschooler and an elementary aged child in development due to the fact that the school year is relatively new. John’s answers were short and to the point.
He knew that you learned in school and friends were for playing. At this stage friends are just starting to play an important role in his life and most of his social interaction with his peers comes through play (Hughes, 2010, p. 62). This would be consistent his answer stating it was important to have friends because you can play with them. He knew that cheating was bad and it was something that you were supposed to do. More than likely this is due to the influence of his parents who set the rules. At this age he falls into Kohlberg’s 1st stage of moral reasoning. In this stage there are physical consequences of his actions which determine whether or not it is good (Slavin, 2012, p. 59). The physical consequence for cheating is most likely a punishment administered by a parent. Like some of the other children, John believed that if you were nice to bullies they would stop hurting people.
This shows an example of a prosocial behavior such as caring. His answer indicates that he cares and wants to get the bully to stop hurting people by being nice to the bully (Slavin, 2012, p. 62). John expressed an interest in becoming a dentist when he grew up so he could “drill people’s teeth out”. Children pass through several stages of development as they age and progress through school. They tend to start out with simple concepts and then progress into more developed and complex ideas of development. Slavin states that as children “improve their cognitive skills, they are also developing self-concepts, ways of interacting with others, and attitudes toward the world (Slavin, 2012, p. 53). As a result, teachers need to understand these stages and develop the appropriate methods to teach students as they progress through the stages.
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