Every parent knows how much school can influence a child. But in what ways is this influence positive? In this lesson, we’ll examine how going to school can impact a child’s development, including how children learn from each other and how motivation impacts achievement.
Samantha is an active nine-year-old. She loves to learn new things, especially things about the natural world.
She helped her mother plant a vegetable garden two years ago, and she and her brother spent all last summer watching a robin family nest and feed their baby birds.Samantha is in middle childhood, which is the time between ages seven and twelve. During this time, children grow and change a lot. They become taller, which is part of physical development. They become better at problem solving, which is part of cognitive development.In addition, children, like Samantha, go through socioemotional development, which is growth in the area of relationships with others. A key contributing factor to socioemotional development in children is school.
Let’s look closer at how school plays a role in development.
Samantha loves school. At lunch, she sits with the science club, a group of kids from different grades that all love science. Some of the older kids talk about what they are learning in their science classes, and Samantha loves to hear about it; she learns so much! She can also bring some of her knowledge to the younger members of the science club.Psychologist Lev Vygotsky described how children learn better from other children who are just a little ahead of them, a concept he called the zone of proximal development. One way that school encourages intellectual development is by exposing children to other kids who are more advanced than they are.
Just like Samantha learning from older members of the science club, in many ways children pick up information better from their peers than they do from adults.And it doesn’t have to be kids who are older or in more advanced grades. Samantha’s talent for science can help her teach other students in her class who aren’t as good at science.
Meanwhile, students in her class who are better at spelling than Samantha can help teach her how to spell better.Social learning isn’t limited to academics, either. Attending school can help students develop socially.
They learn how to be more independent of their parents and how to socialize with their peers, skills that are critical to growing up.
Motivation and Achievement
So if school is such a big factor in development, what makes a child good at school? There are many things that can influence academic achievement. One of the elements that is linked to achievement is motivation.
Studies show that children who are highly motivated do better than those who are not. For example, Samantha is highly motivated in the field of science, and it’s not surprising that she does well in that subject.Why does motivation impact achievement? There are two possible reasons. First, if a student is not motivated, they are less likely to do work in the class. And if they don’t do the work, they won’t learn the concepts.
Second, children who are motivated are more likely to apply themselves more than those who are not. This includes going beyond the basics required to pass the class, and it can often lead to delving more deeply into subject matter. For example, Samantha does not only do her science homework, she explores nature at home and talks to the science club at lunch. Both of these things are examples of applying herself to science in a way that is more meaningful than simply doing the work required by the teacher.Samantha is noticing something odd, though. The younger kids in the science club are divided into about equal numbers of boys and girls.
However, the older kids in the science club are almost all boys.What’s going on? In middle childhood, gender differences in motivation begin to surface. Girls become less and less motivated to do well in science, math and technology, perhaps due to peer pressure. But if parents, teachers and friends encourage Samantha to pursue her passion for science, she can continue being motivated.
Middle childhood, which lasts from age seven to twelve, is a time of great change and development. School is a major influence on children at this age.
Children learn better from other children who are more advanced than they are, a concept known as the zone of proximal development. Further, school achievement is linked with academic motivation; however, some gender differences with regards to motivation begin to appear during middle childhood.
When this lesson is done, you should be able to:
- Define the ages included in middle childhood
- Describe the influence of school on this age group
- Determine what motivation does for student achievement
- Recall Lev Vygotsky’s zone of proximal development