Schousboe Et Al

This essay is going to demonstrate my professional knowledge and understanding of how education works in practice based on my academic learning, my knowledge of child development and learning theories and my professional experience in schools. At first, I will explore motivation in terms of children’s cognitive development; secondly, play in the social domain and finally, I will mention about language development. I will identify and discuss the impact of these aspects and reflect on the implications for my future professional and personal development.

Motivation plays a large part in students’ interest, enjoyment of school and study, as well as underpinning their achievement. Motivation is described as students’ energy and drive to engage, learn, work effectively, and achieve to their potential at school, and the behaviours that follow from this energy and drive (Martin, 2008). “It emerges from the interaction between individuals within the social context of the classroom and school” (Urdan & Schoenfelder, 2006: 333).

Mastery goals are more likely to be related to the enjoyment of learning and apparently, they represent a result that teachers often seek for students (Seifert & Sutton, 2014). Therefore they are a form of intrinsic motivation, where students engage in behaviour that is inherently satisfying or enjoyable (Legault, 2016). A study revealed that mastery oriented pupils had a tendency to express greater curiosity in a course and they were more likely to enrol in additional courses in the same syllabus (Harackiewicz et al., 2002; Wolters, 2004).

Contrarily, performance goals imply extrinsic motivation where learners perform an activity in order to “attain some separable outcome” (Ryan & Deci, 2000: 60), such as rewards. Performance-oriented students tend to achieve higher grades than those with a mastery orientation (Urdan & Schoenfelder; 2006), however, evidence suggests that they do not actually learn the subject topic as deeply or permanently as mastery-oriented students (Midgley et al, 2001). Although intrinsic motivation is considered the most optimal form of motivation, extrinsic motivators are sometimes thought to be helpful to “promote action for behaviours that are not intrinsically interesting: recycling, doing homework, obeying traffic laws” (Legault, 2016: 2).

However, Kohn (1999) raised concern over the use of reward systems in classrooms: if reinforcement strategies are used, an individual's perceptions of competence and self-determination will decrease, thereby decreasing that individual's intrinsic motivation to perform the task (Legault, 2016).

Teachers promote supportive and respectful interactions, manage student behaviours effectively, and organise instructional tasks so that they are interesting and engaging for students (Mashburn et al., 2008). Therefore, on my school placement, during my learning activity (See Artefact 1) I used some strategies in order to enhance interest and motivation in performing the task.

I observed that students often looked towards the teacher for approval and positive reinforcement. In fact, “the motivation of pupils is enhanced by positive feedback” (Swinson & Harrop, 2001: 166). When children’s work was recognized and valued, they were more likely to be enthusiastic about performing their task. As a teacher, it is important to praise students to encourage open communication and free thinking to make them feel important. A “positive classroom environment” is essential for the wellbeing of the students and teacher alike (Kosnik & Beck, 2011). Organising the classroom environment is essential because research suggests that disorganised classrooms predict poor attainment and poor behaviour (Pointon & Kershner, 2000, cited in Pollard, 2014).

From my previous observations, the group I worked with was not highly skilled in writing and reading. Being low-ability performers, I assumed that they will all complete the task in the same way, since having equal capabilities. However, the activity of matching shapes to the patterns led them to work in a competitive environment. As a result, to gain recognition as the best among peers, they implemented hastily: “if students perform differently based on their peer, the overall effect of competition could result in students underperforming in the areas that they are less interested in” (Järvelä, 2011: 258). This is an example of a performance goal, which emphasises on social comparison and competition (Urdan & Schoenfelder, 2006). However in order to achieve better outcomes, they pushed themselves beyond the limits, resulting in a more active involvement: it is proven that competition leads to higher standards of academic achievement (Gibbons, 2008).

My learning activity was designed on the principles of personalisation and choice: by letting them choose their favourite patterns, the task provided opportunities for exercising responsible personal choice. It was meant to “give children and young people a sense of ownership of their learning” (The Scottish Government, 2008: 23). Children and young people should understand the purpose of their learning and related activities and value their learning and its relevance to their lives. At the end of the activity, students were more proficient at recognizing, describing and counting shapes as well as creating their own.

The teacher’s role is to show students how doing high-quality work will add to their quality of life, either now or in the future; it is critical to consider the holistic nature of individual student learning and the most effective practices for helping them develop into autonomous and responsible learners. Enthusiasm and motivation for learning are one of the attributes to be a successful learner (The Scottish Government, 2008). I will allow students to choose tasks for themselves as their choices are more likely to reflect prior personal interests and, hence, be motivated intrinsically. However, students may not see some of the connections between their prior interests and the curriculum benchmarks: it will be challenging for the teacher to look for and point out the relevance of topics or skills to students’ personal interests and goals.

Also, I will work with a mixed-ability group in order to create cooperation rather than competition. Even though a degree of performance orientation may be inevitable in practice, my main aim will be to encourage mastery goals: they lead to more sustained, thoughtful learning where classmates may sometimes debate and disagree with each other (Darnon et al., 2006).

Vygotsky’s social constructivism theory asserts that child development is affected by social environment or culture they live in (Carroll & McCulloch, 2014). Play is a significant contributor to the child’s social development (Hurwitz, 2002). Vygotsky considers play to be “a leading activity for the preschool child as play propels development” (Schousboe et al., 2013: 2).

The area in which the child can perform a task, provided that a more skilled or knowledgeable person is available to help, is called the ‘zone of proximal development’ (ZPD) (Carroll & McCulloch, 2014). Vygotsky theorized that when children scaffold each other, they modify a task and offer assistance to each other to help complete the task (Tharpe & Gallimore, 1988). When children model each other, they offer behaviours to each other for imitation, thereby helping each other to see the appropriate behaviours, understand the reasons for their use, and exhibit the specific behaviours in order to put them into their own understanding (Tharpe & Gallimore, 1988).

Social interactions make a crucial contribution to children’s language development (Carroll & McCulloch, 2014). Play also gives rise to opportunities for exploring children’s linguistic concepts and language skills: in fact, collaborative social interactions with others provides the chance to use language in thought processes and demonstrate linguistic knowledge and skills (Schousboe et al., 2013).

On my school placement, I had the opportunity to observe social interactions (See Artefact 2) during the golden time. “Peer interactions foster social skills –sharing, helping, taking turns and dealing with conflicts” (Rathus, 2015: 169). They are increasingly important for a child’s social development since they can be either adaptive or maladaptive: they can develop academic and athletic achievement (Ayres & Nalebuff, 2005) or may lead to violent and inappropriate behaviour (Craig & Dunn, 2007). Child “M” seems to have a very good temperament, happily interacting with other children. Child “M” was observed to share her own personal toy she had bought in, as a result, suggesting 'C' is becoming socially competent and developing empathy. Since a child’s birth, temperaments can influence social relationships and emotional health for years to come (Trawick-Smith, 2014). Consequently, this suggests that 'C' is able to self-regulate her own emotions. As Eisenberg et al (2001) suggest, those children who are able to self-regulate are more likely to seek out peer relationships and therefore are recognised as more socially competent. “M” was observed to share her toys without pressure from adults, and she demonstrated an emergence of the understanding of others wishes and beliefs.

Girls’ group shows an example of imaginative play where they are presuming their dolls to be their “baby brother/sister”. This activity is familiar to the children as they have younger siblings with whom they interact at home. Therefore, play is relevant since it provides “interesting, real-life contexts for learning” (The Scottish government, 2008: 30). Through this type of play, children are developing their creativity as well as learning to take turns, cooperate and share. Child “A” demonstrates “scaffolding”: she is more capable of holding the doll than Child “B” and she is assisting her in understanding the process. This behaviour awakens developmental processes in children that can operate only when they interact with others in their environment and in cooperation with their peers (Miller, 1993). However, child “F” was not engaging in the play: toys often hold little cultural meaning for some children (Trawick-Smith, 2014). Thus, educators should consider “a wider range of indoor and outdoor play activity” (Trawick-Smith, 2014: 265) to be sure that everyone is equally participating.

In my future practice, I will implement a play based curriculum with indoor and outdoor activities; safety will be the primary concern and age and developmental levels must be carefully considered in the design and implementation of activities. Creating a classroom that facilities ongoing peer interaction and giving children the opportunity to work with their environment, their peers, and themselves offers endless possibilities in terms of increasing children’s knowledge. Teachers should encourage children to assist each other in activities and enhance cognitive understanding during their explorations. The role of students is to interpret the information given by a knowledgeable person and apply it accordingly: it helps them develop their critical thinking (Eggen & Khauchak, 2007).

Social interactions help to develop language; however, it is important to consider those children who need Additional Support for Learning (See Artefact 3). Children which show delays in language can still communicate very well with peers and adults (Trawick-Smith, 2014) through gestures and illustrations. For Child “H”, activities were already challenging itself, however, enjoyment was also important to keep her engaged and motivated. A way to make students feel competent is by selecting activities which are challenging but nonetheless achievable with reasonable effort and assistance (Christenson et al., 2012).

Most of schools are provided with a speech and language pathologist, a “specially trained professional who works with children with language difficulties” (Trawick-Smith, 2014: 294). It is also challenging for teachers to be “highly supportive of the principles of inclusive education” (Pollard, 2014: 488) by meeting the needs of those identified as having special or additional support needs and disabilities. Schools must regularly measure children’s performance and progress in order to look for warning signs and reach out to speech or reading specialists in case additional support is needed. Every student has something different to offer, thus a teacher should treat every student equally according to their strengths and needs by “embracing locally and globally the educational and social values of sustainability, equality and justice” (GTCS, 2012: 5).


This essay demonstrated my professional knowledge and understanding of how education works in practice whereas my academic learning and professional experience broadened my perspective on theories of child development and learning, considering how these may lead to different professional actions.

To conclude, motivation enhances students' achievement and enjoyment of school and social interactions strengthen children’s social development. This essay also disclosed implications for my future practice: play and language development delays should be considered when planning and implementing lessons.

In my teaching, I will encourage mastery goals, primarily and I will accommodate social constructivism theory as well as other learning theories, recognizing the importance of the principles of Curriculum for Excellence. I believe that success in a classroom lies behind the techniques, consistency and fairness delivered by the teacher.