Marian Whitehead, a consultant on the early years of children, compares the Steiner approach with that of a nursery. She states in her book Supporting Language and Literacy Development in the Early Years and believes that Steiners growth stems from the fact that parents are worried about the over-formalization in early education (Whitehead, 2004). Learning theorists represent the empiricist point of view. From their perspective, language is obviously learned.
However, other theorists point out that children the world over seem to display similar linguistic achievements at about the same age: They all babble by 4 to 6 months of age, utter their first meaningful word by age 12 to 13 months, begin to combine word by the end of the school year, and know the meaning of many thousands of words and are constructing a staggering array of grammatical sentences by the tender age of 4 or 5. Importance of Language in Imparting of Knowledge to Young Children
All the other ways of knowing are controlled by language. The appropriate use of language is central to virtually all aspects of learning and social development. Successful and appropriate language communication is also closely linked to the individuals place in society, while the inability to communicate clearly hampers and may virtually eliminate a persons ability to cope with even the simplest educational and social situations.
For teachers, language is important and in fact, traditionally, psychological accounts of language development have been developed by theorists who have included language learning in their discussions of a general acquisition process (Miller & Dollard, 1941; Skinner, 1957). Skinner, for example, believes that language is learned, in large measure by waiting for children to emit approximations of the forms of speech which are ultimately desired and then by gradual shaping (by parents or other socializing agents) until the correct sounds and sentence forms can be reproduced in appropriate situations with a high degree of fidelity.
This is a fair representation of the interrelationship between perception, emotion, reason and language, for numerous experiments have now disclosed that principles for generating novel responses can be acquired through the observation of others (Bandura & McDonald, 1963) If principles of language usage, rather than mere words, can be shown to be acquired through observational learning, then this would provide at least a partial account of the process of language acquisition. Importance of Language in Schools.
How the schools perceive language and whether modifications in the curriculum and imparting of knowledge are made as a result are important factors to keep in mind. The fact that English speakers rarely have the opportunity to enter bilingual education programs reinforces status of these programs. This is where the methodology of knowledge is more important than the knowledge itself. Similarly, imitation and reinforcement clearly play some part in early language development. Certainly, it is no accident that children end up speaking the same language their parents speak, down to the regional accent.
In addition young children are quicker to acquire and use the proper name for toys when reinforced for doing so by receiving the toys to play with (Whitehurst & Valdez-Menchaca, 1988). Ones cultural and social upbringing affects the way a person views this. There are no assumptions or deducing involved here. One can verify the information by just looking again at the dizzying array of program alternatives in bilingual education, each claiming to be more successful than the others.
In general, most research has found that bilingual programs of all kinds are effective not only in teaching students content area knowledge in their native language but also in teaching them English. This has been proven time and again to be the case in research analyses and specific program reviews (Hakuta, 1990). Whitehead claims that there is an insight in Steiners kindergarten routine that can be useful in mainstream settings. Examples of these are its emphasis on play, arts and crafts and storytelling and its integrated curriculum. It is important that children have a good background on language development from the early years.
Conclusions If we want our schools to educate the students well, we need teachers who are well-trained, highly respected professionals. But teachers today are not given the right opportunities to be trained well. We simply cannot expect to implement rigorous standards and testing, tightened discipline and effective early interventions without true professionals to deliver them. It is imperative that colleges of education should overhaul their curriculums to include methods of evaluating scientific research. Teachers must know how to determine the effectiveness of new ideas, textbooks and methods of teaching.
They have eagerly swallowed too many myths and fads for too long. Knowledge of the social learning theory and its application in a classroom set-up will afford them the chance to create activities that will enhance learning through modeling and imitation. The professionalization of teaching extends beyond teacher preparation to the way educators are treated once they enter practice. Schools cannot possibly train, recruit, and retain teachers who possess sophisticated critical thinking skills until they reward teachers with respect and support.
But rewards must also be associated with expectations. Almost miraculously, many excellent, dedicated and well-educated teachers work in public schools today. However, society must muster the courage to weed out or retrain educators who lack the necessary talent and skill to teach our young. Our children deserve true, highly regarded professionals to lead them especially during the early years of his language learning. The child is unique and perceives and understands the world differently from the way the adult does. Thus, the childs ideas are valued.
This kind of philosophy has an integrated core curriculum which is best suited to the developmental interaction and sees the child as a thinking self-propelling, well-adjusted individual. A teacher must believe that the basic tenet of her kind of approach is that the growth of cognitive functionsacquiring and ordering information, judging and reasoning, problem solving, using systems of symbolcannot be separated from the growth of personal and interpersonal processesthe development of self-esteem and sense of identity, internalization of impulse control, capacity of autonomous response and relatedness to other people.
This active form of learning permits young children to quickly acquire literally thousands of new responses in a variety of settings where their models are simply pursuing their interests and are not trying to teach them anything. Thus, when we look at it really close, children are continually learning both desirable and undesirable responses and proceeds so very rapidly along so many different paths, especially in the area of language development.
REFERENCES Bandura, A. & McDonald F. J. (1963) The influence of social reinforcement and the behavior of models in shaping childrens moral judgments.
Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology. 67, 274-281. Bandura, A. (1977). Social Learning Theory. New York, NY: General Learning Press. Hakuta, K. (1990). Bilingualism and Bilingual Education: A Research Perspective, no. 1 Washington, DC: National Clearinghouse for Bilingual Education. Miller, N. E. & Dollard, (1941). J. Social learning and imitation. New Haven: Yale University Press Whitehead, M. (2004). Language and Literacy in Early Years. Whitehurst & Valdez-Menchaca, (1988). What is the role of reinforcement in early language acquisition? Child Development. 59, 430-440.