Understanding development, or the long-term changes in growth, behavior, and knowledge, helps teachers to hold appropriate expectations for students as well as to keep students’ individual diversity in perspective. From kindergarten through the end of high school, students double their height, triple their weight, experience the social and hormonal effects of puberty, and improve basic motor skills. Their health is generally good, though illnesses are affected significantly by students’ economic and social circumstances.
Cognitively, students develop major new abilities to think logically and abstractly, based on a foundation of sensory and motor experiences with the objects and people around them. Jean Piaget has one well-known theory detailing how these changes unfold.
Socially, students face and resolve a number of issues—especially the issue of industry (dedicated, sustained work) during childhood and the issue of identity during adolescence. Erik Erikson has described these crises in detail, as well as social crises that precede and follow the school years. Students are motivated both by basic human needs (food, safety, belonging, esteem) and by needs to enhance themselves psychologically (self-actualization). Abraham Maslow has described these motivations and how they relate to each other.
Morally, students develop both a sense of justice and of care for others, and their thinking in each of these realms undergoes important changes as they mature. Lawrence Kohlberg has described changes in children and youth’s beliefs about justice, and Carol Gilligan has described changes in their beliefs about care. Character education goes beyond describing students’ beliefs about ethics; it is a group of educational programs and teaching strategies that combines attention to moral belief with attention to students’ ethical feelings and ethical actions.
The following sections of the TeachingEdPsych wiki may be helpful for understanding the topics in this chapter:
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