MARGARET DONALDSON & POST-PIAGETIAN THEORIES
Margaret Donaldson was predictably influenced by Jean Piaget, having been the student of the famous French psychologist. She developed the thesis that it is necessary to develop as well as boost the innate desire of the child to learn, absorb stuff as early as possible so that the child is better prepared to face the primary school years. Her book Children’s Minds got published in 1978 and is a classic for those engaged in studying mental development of children.
She asserts in this book in Chapter 10 that babies possess a strong desire to control their environment and would like to achieve competence without any expectation of rewards. For babies, getting competent itself is no small achievement. It is therefore vital for us to tap into this innate spirit of babies and provide them with the necessary information and learning so that they do not fall behind their peers in school. If this early opportunity is lost, catching up will become difficult. It will also create bitterness in the child towards education.
She provides evidence to support this premise. The experiments of Piaget when not explained to children could not be done by them but when done so by Martin Hughes with explanation, the children could do the experiments. Another study by Hughes where he made use of a much simplified version of the ‘mountains experiment’, resulted in much better responses from children, indicating that the one of Piaget was abstract and beyond understanding of the children.
Donaldson wanted to prove that to the child, a covered object ceases to exist but they would still reach out in the direction of that object. This happens because they still have to fully develop their spatial abilities to appreciate directions.
The experiment by David Lloyd making a talking panda ask for help and eliciting positive responses from children willing to do so revealed another aspect of children. It indicated that children are willing to help out others when they cry for help but rarely call out on their own when they needed help.
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