Pre-school Learning Theories and Sub-theories

Learning begins at birth. It has been contended, that children are likely to do their best learning before they get to school. It has also been observed that young children tend to learn better than grown-ups (and better than they will when they are older), because they specially use their minds.

Such observations as having been presented in the preceding paragraphs have led to a great deal of theorizing about how to facilitate a preschool child’s learning.

This is because children learn differently from adults. If teaching an adult is a difficult task, teaching a preschool child will be a greater problem – the preschool child may not understand the way adults understand.

So, how do we teach our young ones? What principles have been found effective in facilitating learning in the young ones?
Questions such as these invariably lead us to the region of postulations, which may not be the major preoccupation in this second unit.

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Nevertheless, we cannot but employ the guidance of a few theories here if we are to gain some insights into the wonderful world of preschool teaching and learning.

Most of the theories of preschool teaching seem to have been derived from the observations and methods of teaching the preschool child as put forward by Freidrich Friebel and Maria Montessori.

For example, Montessori’s experience with the mentally retarded and children from poor backgrounds helped her in formulating some sub-theories of learning for the preschool child both normal and retarded.

Pre-school Learning Theories and Sub-theories

These sub-theories are based on two major theories of learning:

i) The S-R (Stimulus-Response) theory of learning and
ii) The Cognitive theory of learning.

A. The Stimulus-Response Theory of Learning

Under the Stimulus-Response theory, we have several sub-theories, which are relevant to preschool learning and education:

  • Sub-theory of Learning by doing.
  • Sub-theory of Curiosity and Interest
  • Sub-theory of Inquiry.
  • Sub-theory of Learning through stories.

B. The Cognitive Theory of Learning

The following sub-theories have also been identified to emanate from the Cognitive Theory of Learning:

  • The sub-theory of Metamorphic Change and Environment.
  • The sub-theory of Movement.
  • The sub-theory of Learning through perception.

Let us now consider these broad groups of sub-theories in detail. Each of these sub-theories is discussed below.

1. The Stimulus-Response Sub-Theories

a) Learning by Doing

This sub-theory believes that when a child is exposed to a certain experience (Stimulus) he will react to that experience with a response that is either negative or positive (Response).

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Therefore, learning is seen as a function of stimulus and response relationships. The bond or connection between this “Stimulus” and “Response” will increase the probability of the child repeating the response when confronted with a similar experience.

In other words, learning comes from experience. When the preschool child is allowed to do things by himself and is reinforced by what he does, the child will develop special skills in responding the way he or she does. This special skill has been acquired through practice.

b) Curiosity and Interest

Curiosity brings interest, which in turn, aids learning. An interesting learning task can be regarded as a Stimulus (S) while the children’s response to this interesting learning task can be regarded as a response (R).

Curiosity, novelty, and interest can be created in the preschool learning situation by the use of short and nice stories, various apparatus, colored pictures, and diagrams.

Once lessons are interesting and curiosity-arousing, the preschoolers will respond favorably to the lessons and will learn such lessons much better than lessons that are uninteresting, dull, and monotonous.

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c) Inquiry

Children like to ask questions make inquiries about the world around them. It is through such inquiry that they acquire a large body of facts.

They also like to be asked questions. Preschool teachers should be prepared to answer spontaneous questions emanating from children and to ask a series of well-planned and relevant questions from preschool children and watch out for their answers.

Here the questions we put before them can be regarded as stimuli (S) whole their answers to these questions can be regarded as a response (R).

d) Learning through Stories

Children have been observed to enjoy listening to and telling stories. Preschool staff should make the learning situation meaningful and interesting by telling carefully selected didactic (teaching) stories.

Stories should be made to contain some messages for the children, and such stories can thus be regarded as Stimuli (S) while the children’s reaction to them will be regarded as a response (R).

2. Cognitive Sub-Theories of Learning

a) Metamorphic Change and Environment

The postulation here is that the child is in a constant state of growth and change (metamorphosis) and so can interact more effectively with a stimulating environment.

This sub-theory emphasizes the role of facilitating cognitive enrichment for the preschool child.

Applying this sub-theory to the preschool learning situation we have to provide a stimulating environment for the children and allow the children to interact with the environment.

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We need also, to assign the preschool child to see the relationship between one thing and the other in the learning situation.

b) Learning through Perception

Learning and experience come through perception. This sub-theory argues that the preschool child should be trained in arts and skills of perceiving things.

They should be helped to observe details through games and plays involving observation of details.

c) Movement

This sub-theory argues that children learn by movement. This is one of the characteristics of an explorative child. As children move from place to place, on their own, with others, or in or without vehicles they learn.

Therefore, since movement is associated with exploration and discovery, children learn through movement and this should be allowed in the classroom and school environment by the preschool teacher.

The Cognitive Theory of Learning has room for movement. It is through movement that the learning child will observe a given learning situation and have a perception of that situation. Such full-view perception will aid cognition and understanding.

In conclusion, the facilitation of learning implied in teaching is, therefore an act that can be cultivated by training, experience, and practice.

Learning is a behavioral phenomenon that transcends animal and human species carry out Learning comes from experience.

The more stimulating a person’s experiences are, the better the learning. Certain internal and external factors affect learning. Several theories explain the way young children learn.

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