By Abderrahmane Boulmani
By Abderrahmane Boulmani
Tantan – Psychology has approached man from many different angles. In this essay, I will focus on the outstanding psychological approaches to human development, namely Piaget’s cognitive development, Erikson’s social development, and Kohlberg’s moral development.
At the heart of Piaget’s theory are three major facets:
– Genetic: higher processes come from biological mechanisms.
– Hierarchical: all the stages must undergo a given order before any subsequent stages are possible.
– Maturational: man goes through invariant stages in the development of his nervous system.
Although cognitive development is genetic, it is also affected by many other integrated factors, such as education, culture, and the environment. The environment is the first influencer; children try to understand their surroundings very early in life through two different techniques. Assimilation, the first of the two, takes place using pre-existing schemata to understand a new piece of information. During accommodation, the child relates new experiences to old ones and changes concepts accordingly.
Throughout life, cognition develops in four stages:
Sensory motor stage:
The infant combines the sensory experiences with the motor actions to give sense to what surrounds him; this step is divided into six sub-stages: reflexive schema, primary circular reactions, secondary circular reactions, coordinating secondary circular reactions, tertiary circular reactions and inner representation.
Also subdivided to two sub-stages. The first is the pre-conceptual sub-stage, which lasts from ages 2 to 4, remarked by the usage of language that allows for the formation of a mental representation of the things the child does not see directly in front of him, a process called object permanence. The second stage is intuitive thought, which is remarked by the child’s will to have answers to every question asked.
Concrete operational stage:
Concrete objects are of vital importance in the formulation of hypotheses.
Formal operational stage:
Children who reach this stage are able to operate many subtle levels of reasoning.
Different from Piaget, Erikson has tackled human development from the moral dimension. In his book, childhood and society, he suggests that we face a specific psychological dilemma at each stage of life. Success in resolving the problem results in healthy development, whereas a failed resolution results in a rocky life. He suggests several different stages in man’s life:
Trust Vs Mistrust (first year of life): the child is totally dependent on others to form his basic attitude. Trust is established when the child is given adequate love and physical care.
Autonomy Vs Shame and Doubt: children develop self-control through touching, climbing, etc. Parents help their children when they encourage them to try new skills. Regardless of knowing that first attempts at new skills almost always fail, parents should not offer over-protection to ensure the proper development of the child’s autonomy.
Initiative Vs Guilt: through play, the child undertakes and carries out multiple tasks. Parents should take the initiative in their child’s development by giving the child more time to play, more opportunities to ask questions and use their imagination, or else the child may suffer from an emotional handicap.
Industry Vs Inferiority: the age at which the child enters school is highly important; it is essentially the entrance to social life and status; both success and failure start here.
Adolescence—Identity Vs Role Confusion: In this period, the adolescent is always trying to answer the question, “who am I?” It is in this stage that mental and physical maturation bring new feelings and attitudes, which is why they feel a need to build their own self-image out of self-representation and relationships with others. Those that fail in this stage consequentially suffer from role confusion.
Young adulthood—Intimacy Vs Isolation: after building his identity, man seeks to share a meaningful life and love through intimacy. Failure in this stage causes isolation.
Middle adulthood—Generativity Vs Stagnation): people in this stage are driven by the need to guide the next generation. This can be achieved by guiding one’s own children or others by taking the position of teachers, coaches, etc .If this is not attained, the person is only concerned with himself.
Late adulthood—Integrity Vs Despair: the above stages are of a great deal of importance to stamp this stage .If one lives responsibly, he develops a sense of integrity that allows him to face aging and death with dignity, but when the previous years are viewed with regret, the person feels despair. To these people life is nothing but a missed opportunity, and because of this death and aging are the source of fear and despair.
Through his case studies, the American Kohlberg proves that people face moral dilemmas in their lives and suggests solutions to overcome them. His research shows that there are different types of reasoning according to age. Kohlberg has developed classifications with three levels of moral development:
Pre conventional level: moral thinking is determined by consequences of action (rewards or punishment).
Conventional level: Our actions are directed by the desire to conform to socially accepted expectations or values.
Post conventional level: behavior is directed by one’s principles.
As far as teaching is concerned, teachers should try their best to adapt these theories and put them into practice. Unfortunately, this is not the case in Morocco. I have conversed with many middle school teachers who astounded me with their lack of or very little knowledge about education, always on the defensive that teaching is all an art, something I could not deny. But education is also a science— if it weren’t, what would be the use of the literature that has been developed?
The above theories must have some practicality to Moroccan middle classes. According to Piagetian theory, students only learn when they are active. As teachers, we should not present all information directly to students, but we must instead guide and give them a chance to explore ideas on their own. In addition, we have to know the age and mental stage of our students. Most of the time the stage is concrete operational, thus concrete objects are still of vital importance to teach new concepts. Equally important, teachers should believe that students are not empty vessels, rather that they come with pre-existing schemata that should be taken into account.
Social and moral development can also be applied to our classes. However, they don’t frankly state much to this application. While I was reading these theories, my attention was attracted by many cues, namely initiative, guilt, inferiority, and role confusion (Erikson’s social development), pre-conventional, conventional, and post- conventional levels (Kohlberg’s moral development).
Students like to take the initiative in the class and intervene doing an activity (presentations) and so forth. Here, the teacher should reinforce this by giving students freedom to ask any questions and express themselves freely, motivating them to be active learners. Unfortunately, I see that the case is totally the opposite— the teachers know nothing but criticize the student’s interventions. To these teachers, I want to say that they run the risk of turning our students’ initiative into guilt and inferiority.
Furthermore, I like to remind our teachers that adolescents are very sensitive; they are troubled to identify who they are. Sometimes, they believe that they are only what they contribute to the class or how their relationship is with others, such as teachers and classmates. So, when the teacher is hard on them, they think they are disliked (according to Maslow, love is very important) and to regain love they copy either the teacher’s personality or that of classmates they perceive as more favored. This will inevitably cause role confusion or a split personality. As far as their morals are concerned, I like to say that middle school students only check to conform to the society and satisfy others. Thus, a heavy burden is placed on the teachers’ shoulders to objectively implant their beliefs in their students’ minds and educate them while paying attention not to interfere into the borders of their identity.
Child, Dennis (1981). Psychology and the teacher (3rd ed). Holt, Rinehart and Winston, London
Coon, Dennis. Introduction to Psychology: Exploration and Application. St. Paul: West Pub., 1986. Print.
Kangran Jerome & Cynthia Lang (1978).
Abderrahmane Boulmani is a teacher of English in Tantan, Sothern Morocco. He holds a B.A in English studies from faculty of letter and human sciences at the University of Ibn Zoher, Agadir. He is interested in cultural and social studies. He writes and advocates for the Amazigh cause. ([email protected])
Edited by Sara Gomez
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