After interviewing four children ranging in age from preschool to high school, the importance of understanding their social, moral and emotional development was made apparent. Throughout the course of these interviews, the different developmental stages are explored by having the children answer five open-ended questions.
The first interview was conducted with a preschooler who has been diagnosed to be on the autism spectrum. Erikson suggested that people pass through eight psychosocial stages during their lives. The stage that was demonstrated by the preschooler was Stage III or the initiative versus guilt stage. ???During this period, children??™s??™ continually maturing motor and language skills permit them to be increasingly aggressive and vigorous in the exploration of both their social and physical environments.??? (Slavin, 2012, pg. 54). This was determined by the preschooler??™s vigorous play involving soccer and hockey. (See appendix A). The preschooler is actively trying to figure out who she may become by attempting sports. The child also seemed to have entered Stage IV or the industry versus inferiority stage. The preschooler seems very interested in making things and finding validation in her achievements. In Stage IV, Slavin states that ???success brings with it a sense of industry, a good feeling about oneself and one??™s abilities??? (Slavin, 2012, pg. 55).
Next, we move on to the preschooler??™s moral development. Piaget suggested that moral development is achieved in stages ranging from egocentric to being based on a justice system. The preschooler, based on her answers, is in the heteronomous morality stage. The preschooler believes that if a rule is broken the consequence is automatic punishment. Piaget described children at this stage as judging the morality of behavior on the basis of its consequences (Slavin, 2012, pg. 58). At this stage a person??™s intentions are never brought into consideration.
The last stage of development we look at is the socioemotional stage. During this stage peers start to play an important role in a child??™s life. Peers are necessary for a child to develop socially and cognitively. The preschooler interviewed has been diagnosed as being on the autism spectrum. Although making significant achievement the preschooler mostly engages in solitary play (see Appendix A). Playing alone limits her interaction with her peers and thus hinders the positive aspects of peer play such as conflict resolution.
The interview was conducted with an eight year old who is currently in the third grade. By taking into account the age of the child and her feelings of accomplishment she demonstrates that she is in Erikson??™s Stage IV or the industry versus inferiority stage (see Appendix B). Slavin states, ???failure creates a negative self-image, a sense of inadequacy that may hinder future learning??? (Slavin, 2012, pg. 55). This negative self-image is clearly not the case since the child indicates that she excels in many areas. A child that has a sense of inadequacy would have difficulty listing achievements.
According to Kohlberg, people pass through six stages of moral judgment and reasoning. These stages are an elaboration of Piaget??™s (Slavin, 2012, pg. 38). The child seems to be in stage four of Kohlberg??™s conventional level of moral reasoning. The ???Law and Order??? orientation claims that ???right is doing one??™s duty, showing respect for authority??? (Slavin, 2012, pg. 59). The child??™s reasoning for not breaking the rules was based on the Bible, thus showing a respect for the ultimate authority of God. (See Appendix B).
Next we move to the child??™s socioemotional development. By early elementary school children begin to focus on more internal qualities such as intelligence and kindness when describing themselves (Slavin, 2012, pg. 64). The child described herself as fun, smart and good at school (see Appendix B). This indicates that she doesn??™t use social comparison to evaluate herself, giving the impression that her self-esteem is high and based on her achievements.
The interview was completed by a middle school student who is fourteen years old. Piaget described autonomous morality as morality of cooperation stating that it arises as the child??™s social world expands to include more and more peers (Slavin, 2012, pg. 58). It is the writer??™s conclusion that the child has entered into this autonomous morality stage where fairness is defined as equal treatment or taking account of individual needs (Slavin, 2012, pg. 57). Based on her answer for question one, the student clearly values fairness with regards to breaking the rules (see Appendix C). All are punished for the offense of one.
In determining her psychosocial development, the writer took into account the student??™s response to question four (see Appendix C). Stage V of Erikson??™s stages of social development, identity versus role confusion, encompasses the belief that adolescents increasingly turn away from parents and towards peer groups (Slavin, 2012, pg. 55). This seems to be the case as she states her friends make the biggest impression on her.
The last interview was completed by a high school student that is seventeen years old. This high school student demonstrates signs of being in Stage V of Kohlberg??™s stages of moral reasoning. Kohlberg describes this stage, the social contract of orientation, as ???what is right is defined in terms of standards that have been agreed on by the whole society??? (Slavin, 2012, pg. 59). The student makes a statement in his first answer regarding consequences for wrongful actions and people being able to do whatever they wanted (See Appendix D). This indicates that he believes society sets a standard for one??™s actions and that anyone going against those standards should face adequate consequences.
In determining the psychosocial development stage the writer analyzed the student??™s answer to question four (See Appendix D). By placing significance on his relationship with his youth pastor, he connects with that model of leadership. He is willing to be open about sharing himself with hopes of identifying who he is and who he can become as an adult.
These interviews have increased the writer??™s knowledge and understanding of the developmental stages that children of all ages must go through. In comprehending where children are in the developmental process, it allows for better planning of lessons and for the ability to reinforce a host of moral standards. The teacher can be better equipped to be intentional in all classroom decisions by recognizing what his or her students experience outside of the classroom as well as in school.
Piaget, Vygotsky and Erikson have all made an impact on education by pushing our understanding of human development. Although all three of these men have been critiqued for their theories, it is clear that research is still being completed that is a direct result of their work. As Christian educators, we need to understand the phases of growth and development as it relates to the whole child. Focusing on just one aspect of development neglects God??™s entire creation and limits the impact that we as teachers can have on the upcoming generation.
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