Social Learning

“Mama, can I do my homework, now?” This is from a precocious three-year-old who is not even in preschool yet, let alone any sort of classroom requiring homework. He loves to learn, as do all young children.

From birth, kids are acquiring information about their environment at a seemingly impossible rate. Imagine if you had never had the use of one of your senses, and suddenly those receptors are firing at alarming rates and sending messages about your experiences to your brain in rapid-fire succession. It must be like this at birth, when a newborn baby is flooded with sights and sounds and smells never experienced before. The world is interesting! Show me more!

This love of learning is nurtured when children continually experience novel situations and are able to take in new information about their world. You may experience this on a smaller scale when you try a new food for the first time and your taste buds scream for more. Similarly, children manipulate their environments through the combination of their senses and their developing motor skills. If they like what they experience, they repeat the behavior that led to what they enjoyed.

Consider the young child who happens upon the metal spring doorstop behind the bathroom door. They use their finger or perhaps their toe to push it down and are delighted when it springs back with a twang that echoes for several seconds. Most kids will hesitate only momentarily before they repeat the action that led to the desired outcome. They are able to do this alone, but oftentimes kids need a bit of help.

Lev Vygotsky stressed the role of social interaction in learning. His theory of social development placed emphasis on the influence of others, meaning that peers and adults play a significant role in a child’s ability to acquire new skills. Vygotsky described the Zone of Proximal Development as what a child is able to do, what they are able to do with help, and what they cannot do at all.

As caregivers, our role is to be aware of where a child is at in their Zone of Proximal Development. If they are attempting a behavior that they are able to do without help, we step back and applaud their efforts upon completion. If they are trying something that requires a bit of help, we offer the support they need. If they are trying something that we know they are unable to do, we teach and guide as necessary. Vygotsky called this “scaffolding.”

At World of Enrichment, we approach learning in the same way. Our classes are intended to enrich the lives of children by challenging them based on what they already know and what they are capable of learning. We meet kids where they are at, so hopefully they too will be asking about their homework.

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