Physical Education

Theory of Development

Development is the continuous progressive change in the organism. It is a total process. But psychologists have analyzed it from the different aspects. Individual aspect is called aspect of development. This includes physical, mental, social, emotional, and moral development. Total personality needs well balanced development of all these. Mental development means development of mental traits like development of perception, memory, imagination, thinking, reasoning intellect etc. All these help a man to acquire elevated experiences. Many of modern psychologists refer to these characteristics as mental development or cognitive development. Jean Piaget’s concept of the cognitive development of children has drawn the attention of the world’s community of psychologists, and it has gained recognition to its utility in the sphere of education.

Adaptation is the main basis of Piaget’s concepts of cognitive development. In other words it is the biological adaptation which is the very foundation of development. With the growth of age, a child tries to adapt itself with the environment. This results in the behavioral and cognitive change. Piaget has remarked that this adaptation helps him in two fundamental actions - one is assimilation and the other is accommodation. While assimilation takes place within his known environment, in accommodation a child accepts new behavior. Accommodation is the occupation of new experiences under the influences of environment. Observing the gradual development in the behavior of a child, Piaget has determined the characteristics of his adaptation. On the basis of this - he mentioned five fundamental stages of of cognitive development of a child.

The stages are the stage of sensory-motor thinking, the pre-conceptual stage, the stage of institutive thought, the stage of concrete operation, and the stage of formal operation. From birth up to the stage of two years is the stage of sensory-motor actions. Sense organs makes a child sensitive. Basing on these two actions, it tries to direct its thoughts and acquires experiences. As for example, sucking is a natural sensory action. at the stage of 8 to 12 months, he tries to adjust and acquire experiences. Sensation caused by sound is a common experience to a child. This makes him utilize his power of thinking. For example, a child expects its mother when it hears the sound of door being opened. All these experiences are completely his own. He at this stage, is not influenced by the thoughts of the adults. Reactions are created at the stage of sensory-motor thinking and he may hold or form reflections of those only.

The child reaches at the second stage called Pre-Conceptual Stage when he can form some pre-concepts based on his past experiences. Pre-concept is not so expanded as true concept nor is it a complete whole of the isolated experiences. When a child feeds a doll, he utilizes his own experiences of taking food and expands his own experiences too. Still the experience is not flawless nor is the concept. Such type of pre-concept may lead him to wrong decisions. Yet the primary action of forming concepts starts. this stage of development, according to Piaget, continues from the age of 2 to 4.

The next stage of the cognitive development of a child is called stage of intuitive thought. This stage expands from 4 to 8 years. the characteristics of pre-conceptual stage takes a complete change with a purpose of placing the base of concepts on solid foundations and making them practical and more expanded. The difficulties of thinking which exists at pre-conceptual stage get eliminated and active realistic thoughts develop. A child may utilize linguistic guidance then. His mental representations and actions become flexible and susceptible to change. At this stage he may form some primary concepts about important topics. As for example a place may be full or empty. Anything can take place. There is a time-gap between the two incidents. They may gather some experiences re-arranging those of the old. The may re-arrange their mental representations and form some concepts. That is why Piaget has called this stage, stage of intuitive thought.

The next stage of cognitive development expands from 8 to 11 years. This stage is called period of concrete operation. Generally some operational thoughts form centering some basic concepts. In other words, when the children make synthesis in the fundamental thoughts, their active or rational thinking begins. It is found that at this stage of development they arrange their practical experiences and give those new shapes. But this trait of their thoughts is observed under reality. Still some concepts are formed. Fundamental concepts at this stage are classes, relation, and number of concepts.

Piaget has mentioned another characteristic at this age. According to him, when children make a synthesis among the concepts, they determine those concepts by some principles. He has mentioned five such principles, the principle of closure, the principle of reversibility, the principle of associativity, the principle of identity and the principle of interaction. Though the children form some realistic concepts at this stage, those can never be universally applied. In other words though the ideas are formed, power of abstract thinking does not develop then.

The last stage of cognitive development is the period of formal operation which continues from 11 to 15 years. At this stage, the thoughts of a child are not controlled by his practical experiences or personal observation. He acquires power of abstract thinking. At this stage, he according to the situation, leads his thinking freely to different directions on the basis of hypothesis. Cognitive development at this stage becomes mature; he activates his thinking and takes decisions.

To form such concept about cognitive development of a child, Piaget has mainly depended on observational experiences of different situations and experimental data. He and his assistants have had so many experiments on this. In support of their concept they have supplied many information based on truth. It can not be denied that the information suffers from some weakness, still this concept has been applied in modern teaching and learning. The process through which a child, in its infancy gathers experiences is mainly self-centric and this is not influenced by the chain of thoughts of the teachers. Experiences gathered by the children up to the age of 8, are completely their own. Formal education up to the stage of intuitive thought is not welcome. A child, when he reaches at the stage of concrete operation, forms concepts facing realities. So, education at this stage, should always be realistic. Chances of logical subjective learning should be affected to them only when they reach at the age of 11, also termed period of formal operation. It is at this crucial developmental juncture that the students I worked with in my field experience at St. Francis Prep are derived from, and Piaget’s theory in action was highlighted to me by the process to which the game of European Handball, completely new and foreign to the students in my class, was not instantly internalized but rather progressively understood over the course of the gym session, as the children grew to remember and follow the rules of the unfamiliar game.

Theory of Learning

B.F. Skinner’s Theory of Operant Conditioning posits that the behavior of all animals, from protists to humans, is guided by its consequences. The bacterium finds its way, somewhat inefficiently, up a chemical gradient; the dog begs for a bone; the politician reads the polls to guide his campaign. Operant conditioning is goal-oriented behavior like this. These examples are instances of ontogenetic selection emphasize the internalization of consequences during the life of the individual as behavioral motivators. Other names for ontogenetic selection are instrumental or operant, coined by B. F. Skinner’s himself, conditioning.

Closely related to, and often thought to be a component of, operant conditioning is classical or Pavlovian conditioning. The prototypical example of Pavlovian conditioning is of course Pavlov and his dogs. In Pavlovian conditioning, the repeated pairing of a stimulus such as Pavlov's bell to an affectively important event like the receipt of food, leads to the anticipatory elicitation of what is termed a conditioned response, such as salivation, when the bell is sounded. Unlike operant conditioning, in classical conditioning no response is required to get the food.

The distinction between Pavlovian and operant conditioning therefore rests on whether the animal only observes the relationships between events in the world (in Pavlovian conditioning), or whether it also has some control over their occurrence (in operant conditioning). Operationally, in the latter outcomes such as food or shocks are contingent on the animal's behavior, whereas in the former these occur regardless of the animal's actions. However, the distinction between these two paradigms is more than technical – in Pavlovian conditioning, changes in behavior presumably reflect innately specified reactions to the prediction of the outcomes, while operant learning is at least potentially about maximizing rewards and minimizing punishment. Consequently, Pavlovian and operant conditioning can differ in the behaviors they produce, their underlying learning processes, and the role of reinforcement in establishing conditioned behavior. The scientific study of operant conditioning is thus an inquiry into perhaps the most fundamental form of decision-making. It is this capacity to select actions that influence the environment to one’s subjective benefit that denotes intelligence in multi-celled organinisms.

There is also phylogenetic selection – selection during the evolution of the species. Darwin’s natural selection is an example and behavior so evolved is often called reflexive or instinctive. Much reproductive and agonistic (aggressive/defensive) behavior is of this sort. It emerges full-blown as the animal matures and may be relatively insensitive to immediate consequences. Even humans who should be cognizant of their moral intellect are motivated to sexual activity by immediate gratification, not the prospect of progeny, which is the evolutionary basis for it all.

The selecting consequences that guide operant conditioning are of two kinds: behavior-enhancing or “reinforcers”, and behavior-suppressing, or “punishers”, the carrot and the stick, tools of parents, teachers – and rulers – since humanity began. When the dog learns a trick for which he gets a treat, he is said to be positively reinforced. If a rat learns to avoid an electric shock by pressing a lever, he is negatively reinforced. There is often ambiguity about negative reinforcement, which is sometimes confused with punishment – which is what happens when the dog learns not to get on the couch if he is smacked for it. In general, a consequence is called a reinforcer if it strengthens the behavior that led to it, and it is a punisher if it weakens that behavior.

Skinner’s assertion of behavior-enhancing reinforcers came into play in my time at St. Francis Prep – those students who disrespected the rules of the game at hand, or went against the wishes of the cooperating teacher leading the activity, were given time-out punishments with regular fairness and consistency. Over the course of the semester, such disrespect evaporated and became infrequent due to this behavior-inducing technique, with its emphasis on consequence as a behavioral guide.

Social Development

Erik Erikson, though he was influence by Freud, believed that the ego exists from birth and that behavior is not totally defensive. Based in part on his study of Sioux Indians on a reservation, Erikson became aware of the massive influence of culture on behavior and placed more emphasis on the external world, such as depression and wars. He felt the course of development is determined by the interaction of the body (genetic biological programming), mind (psychological), and cultural (ethos) influences. Erikson organized life into eight stages that extend from birth to death (many developmental theories only cover childhood). Since adulthood covers a span of many years, Erikson divided the stages of adulthood into the experiences of young adults, middle aged adults and older adults. While the actual ages may vary considerably from one stage to another, the ages seem to be appropriate for the majority of people. Erikson's basic philosophy might be said to rest on two major themes: firstly that the world gets bigger as we go along and secondly failure is cumulative. While the first point is fairly obvious, we might take exception to the last. True, in many cases an individual who has to deal with horrendous circumstances as a child may be unable to negotiate later stages as easily as someone who didn't have as many challenges early on. For example, we know that orphans who weren't held or stroked as infants have an extremely hard time connecting with others when they become adults and have even died from lack of human contact.

Erikson also referred to infancy as the Oral Sensory Stage where the major emphasis is on the mother's positive and loving care for the child, with a big emphasis on visual contact and touch. If we pass successfully through this period of life, we will learn to trust that life is basically okay and have basic confidence in the future. If we fail to experience trust and are constantly frustrated because our needs are not met, we may end up with a deep-seated feeling of worthlessness and a mistrust of the world in general. Incidentally, many studies of suicides and suicide attempts point to the importance of the early years in developing the basic belief that the world is trustworthy and that every individual has a right to be here. Not surprisingly, the most significant relationship is with the maternal parent, or whoever is our most significant and constant caregiver.

Erikson’s second stage is Early Childhood between the period of 18 Months to 3 Years. During this stage we learn to master skills for ourselves. Not only do we learn to walk, talk and feed ourselves, we are learning finer motor development as well as the much appreciated toilet training. Here we have the opportunity to build self-esteem and autonomy as we gain more control over our bodies and acquire new skills, learning right from wrong. It is also during this stage, however, that we can be very vulnerable. If we're shamed in the process of toilet training or in learning other important skills, we may feel great shame and doubt of our capabilities and suffer low self-esteem as a result. Erikson highlights that the most significant relationships are with parents at this developmental stage.

Erikson’s third stage is Play Age, between 3 and 5 years. During this period we experience a desire to copy the adults around us and take initiative in creating play situations. We make up stories with Barbie's and Ken's, toy phones and miniature cars, playing out roles in a trial universe, experimenting with the blueprint for what we believe it means to be an adult. We also begin to use that wonderful word for exploring the world—”WHY?” While Erikson was influenced by Freud, he downplays biological sexuality in favor of the psychosocial features of conflict between child and parents. Nevertheless, he said that at this stage we usually become involved in the classic “Oedipal struggle” and resolve this struggle through “social role identification.” If we're frustrated over natural desires and goals, we may easily experience guilt. Erikson’s fourth stage is School Age between 6 and 12 years. During this stage, often called the Latency, we are capable of learning, creating and accomplishing numerous new skills and knowledge, thus developing a sense of industry. This is also a very social stage of development and if we experience unresolved feelings of inadequacy and inferiority among our peers, we can have serious problems in terms of competence and self-esteem. As the world expands a bit, our most significant relationship is with the school and neighborhood. Parents are no longer the complete authorities they once were, although they are still important. This was evidenced in my field experience by the wholly negative attitude expressed by my students regarding their parents – articulations that, at least at the secondary education level, the mind becomes cognizant of the fallibility of one’s parents and the undesirability to publicly associate oneself with parental or authority figures. The fifth stage in Erikson’s outline is Adolescence, between 12 and 18 years. Up to this stage, according to Erikson, development mostly depends upon what is done to us. From here on out, development depends primarily upon what we do. And while adolescence is a stage at which we are neither a child nor an adult, life is definitely getting more complex as we attempt to find our own identity, struggle with social interactions, and grapple with moral issues. Our task is to discover who we are as individuals separate from our family of origin and as members of a wider society. Unfortunately for those around us, in this process many of us go into a period of withdrawing from responsibilities, which Erikson called a “moratorium.” And if we are unsuccessful in navigating this stage, we will experience role confusion and upheaval. Another significant task for us is to establish a philosophy of life and in this process we tend to think in terms of ideals, which are conflict free, rather than reality, which is not. The problem is that we don't have much experience and find it easy to substitute ideals for experience. However, we can also develop strong devotion to friends and causes. It is no surprise that our most significant relationships are with peer groups. Erikson’s sixth stage is Young Adulthood, which falls between the ages of 18 and 35. In the initial stage of being an adult we seek one or more companions and love. As we try to find mutually satisfying relationships, primarily through marriage and friends, we generally also begin to start a family, though this age has been pushed back for many couples who today don't start their families until their late thirties. If negotiating this stage is successful, we can experience intimacy on a deep level. If we're not successful, isolation and distance from others may occur. And when we don't find it easy to create satisfying relationships, our world can begin to shrink as, in defense, we can feel superior to others. Here, our significant relationships are with marital partners and friends. Erikson’s seventh stage is Middle Adulthood, between 35 and 55. Now work is most crucial. Erikson observed that middle-age is when we tend to be occupied with creative and meaningful work and with issues surrounding our family. Also, middle adulthood is when we can expect to “be in charge,” the role we've longer envied. The significant task is to perpetuate culture and transmit values of the culture through the family (taming the kids) and working to establish a stable environment. Strength comes through care of others and production of something that contributes to the betterment of society, which Erikson calls generativity, so when we're in this stage we often fear inactivity and meaninglessness. As our children leave home, or our relationships or goals change, we may be faced with major life changes—the mid-life crisis—and struggle with finding new meanings and purposes. If we don't get through this stage successfully, we can become self-absorbed and stagnate. Furthermore, significant relationships are within the workplace, the community and the family. Finally, Erikson’s eighth stage is Late Adulthood, between 55 and one’s death. Erikson felt that much of life is preparing for the middle adulthood stage and the last stage is recovering from it. Perhaps that is because as older adults we can often look back on our lives with happiness and are content, feeling fulfilled with a deep sense that life has meaning and we've made a contribution to life, a feeling Erikson calls integrity. Our strengt h comes from a wisdom that the world is very large and we now have a detached concern for the whole of life, accepting death as the completion of life. On the other hand, some adults may reach this stage and despair at their experiences and perceived failures. They may fear death as they struggle to find a purpose to their lives, wondering “Was the trip worth it?” Alternatively, they may feel they have all the answers (not unlike going back to adolescence) and end with a strong dogmatism that only their view has been correct. Our significant relationship is with all of mankind—”my-kind.”

Learner Differences

Sternberg’s research is motivated primarily by a theory of successful intelligence, which attempts to account for the intellectual sources of individual differences that enable people to achieve success in their lives, given the sociocultural context in which they live. Successfully intelligent people discern their strengths and weaknesses, and then figure out how to capitalize on their strengths, and to compensate for or remediate their weaknesses. Successfully intelligent individuals succeed in part because they achieve a functional balance among a “triarchy” of abilities: analytical abilities, which are used to analyze, evaluate, judge, compare and contrast; creative abilities, which are used to create, invent, discover, imagine; practical abilities, which are used to apply, utilize, implement, and activate. Successfully intelligent people are not necessarily high in all three of these abilities, but find a way effectively to exploit whatever pattern of abilities they may have. Moreover, all of these abilities can be further developed. A fundamental idea underlying this research is that conventional notions of intelligence and tests of intelligence miss important kinds of intellectual talent, and overweigh what are sometimes less important kinds of intellectual talent.

On the other hand, Howard Gardner articulated intelligence as 'the capacity to solve problems or to fashion products that are valued in one or more cultural setting' (Gardner & Hatch, 1989). He reviewed the literature using eight criteria or 'signs' of an intelligence:

  • Potential isolation by brain damage.
  • The existence of idiots savants, prodigies and other exceptional individuals.
  • An identifiable core operation or set of operations.
  • A distinctive development history, along with a definable set of 'end-state' performances.
  • An evolutionary history and evolutionary plausibility.
  • Support from experimental psychological tasks.
  • Support from psychometric findings.
  • Susceptibility to encoding in a symbol system.

Candidates for the title 'an intelligence' had to satisfy a range of these criteria and must include, as a prerequisite, the ability to resolve 'genuine problems or difficulties' within certain cultural settings. Making judgments about this was, however, 'reminiscent more of an artistic judgment than of a scientific assessment'. My cooperating teacher did not explicitly reference theories of intelligence in everyday class activity, but when I asked him for his opinion on the validity of Sternberg and Gardner’s theses he wholeheartedly approved them and did not see them as in conflict. He felt that Sternberg’s enunciation of analytical tools which grow and mature and inform one another during development coincided organically with his personal observations in his teaching career.

Reflection of Field Experience

The sense of charity that my field experience has left me with emboldens me to strive to help and support my local community moreso than ever, both through the advancement of my educational degree and in other humanitarian goodwill efforts. Additionally, the ability to initiate meaningful relationships with students on the secondary education level gives me profound insight to the developmental challenges and miracles in all adults, and informs my own personal growth. And finally, the opportunity to understand the process of my own maturation humbles my understanding of my humanity and my individual development, and motivates me to deepen my academic and social progress and to utilize what knowledge I can use for good in my everyday life and with my students.


Child development that occurs from birth to adulthood was largely ignored throughout much of history. Children were often viewed simply as small versions of adults and little attention was paid to the many advances in cognitive abilities, language usage, and physical growth. Interest in the field of child development began early in the 20th-century and tended to focus on abnormal behavior. The theories proposed by Sigmund Freud stressed the importance of childhood events and experiences, but almost exclusively focus on mental disorders rather that normal functioning. The emergence of significant discussion in the 20th century about the educational process and the motivating elements behind childhood development has powerfully illuminated the extremely important area of how human beings grow and learn to interact with themselves and the world around them, empowering future generations to build upon this progress and most efficiently structure the educational system around the unique strengths and abilities of the human mind.

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