Chapter 1 Concept of Development and its Relationship with Learning

Concept of Development

The word development indicates changes related to growth and moves towards maturity. In other words, development can be described as growth in the physical, mental and emotional state of an individual. In the process of development, new abilities and characteristics manifest themselves and there is a progressive change in the behaviour. Some definitions of development given by various thinkers are given below
▸ According to Jersild, Telford and Sawrey, “Development refers to the complex set of process involved in the emergence of a mature functioning organism from a fertilized ovum”.
▸ According to E Hurlock, “Development is not limited to only the growing layer. Instead, it consists of a progressive series of changes towards the goal of maturity”. ‘‘Further, he said that due to development, new abilities grow in a man.’’
▸ According to JE Anderson, “Development is concerned with growth as well as those changes in behaviour which result from environmental situations”.

Characteristics of Development

The important characteristics of development are as follows
▸ The process of development continues from the moment of conception till as long as the individual lives.
▸ Development occurs in an orderly manner and follows a certain sequence. Therefore, infancy, early childhood, later childhood, adolescence and maturity is the sequence of development in human beings.
▸ Development is both qualitative and quantitative. As the child grows physically, it also develops regarding the qualitative aspects of its personality. Thus, these two aspects are inseparable.
▸ Human growth and development is a very complex phenomenon. It is affected by a number of factors, e.g. physical intelligence, sex etc.
▸ It is possible to predict the rate of development by observing a slow learner and a superior child, but it cannot be predicted accurately.
▸ Individuals differ from each other in their pattern and rate of development. Individual differences are caused by differences in heredity and environmental influences.

Types of Development

The types of development are as follows

1. Physical Development

▸ It is the most recognised and observable change in the life of a child. It includes gross motor skills, such as walking, jumping, catching etc and fine motor skills for painting, writing, drawing etc.
▸ This development is largely dependent upon the child’s health and nutritional status. This development is also called as maturation.

2. Cognitive Development

▸ It focuses on how children learn and process information.
▸ As the children grow in age, they can understand their environment by using their senses (such as seeing, listening, touching, smelling and tasting), registering information in their minds and efficiently retrieving it from their memory. This development indicates the development of intelligence.

3. Social and Emotional Development

▸ There are indicators of sound social development among children. The seeds of this social behaviour are sown during infancy itself.
▸ Young children enjoy company of their friends. They develop social skills like sharing, cooperation, patience etc in their interaction with peers and others.
▸ According to Hurlock, “social development means acquisition of the ability to behave in accordance with social expectations”.
▸ Emotions are the stimulated or moved state of mind and are the excitement or disturbance in feeling of an individual in response to a stimulus. Emotional development is the ability to control and manage one’s emotions. It is important that children in their early childhood are surrounded by people who are emotionally mature and stable and are able to manage their emotions.
▸ Thus, the social and emotional development of an individual will occur properly when he/she is considered as important and his/her feelings are respected.

4. Language Development

▸ Language is interaction with each other through various methods of communication i.e. writing, speaking, sign language etc, but above all, language is an important medium of communication.
▸ Language is a form of communication that uses words and symbols to express thoughts, desires and feelings.

5. Moral Development

▸ Moral development deals with the development of ethics or ethical norms, values the conscience and the ability to judge an act morally.
▸ Children cannot make moral judgements until they achieve a certain level of cognitive maturity.

Stages of Child Development

Stages of child development can be classified into following stages

1. Infants/Babies (0–2 years)

▸ This is a time for developing the bonds that will last a lifetime providing the child with the inner resources to develop self-esteem and the ability to relate positively with others.
▸ It is also the time for parents to begin to discover who this new person really is. Each child is unique and it is imperative that parents learn to understand, respect, support and encourage the unique characteristics and abilities of each child.

2. Toddlers/Preschoolers (2–5 years)

▸ At this stage, children are now free to roam around their world. It is a time for active exploration of their environment.
▸ Language development takes major leaps which leads to learning the names of objects of interest, the ability to ask for things and as they discover their independent nature, yes, they develop the ability to say ‘NO ’.
▸ This is also a stage of rapid physical and intellectual development preparing these children for starting school which includes interacting cooperatively with peers while at the same time being able to compete physically and intellectually.

3. School Age Children (6 – 12 years)

▸ While toddlers and preschoolers need constant supervision, school age children become gradually ready for more independence. However, learning to make good choices and exercise self-discipline does not come easily for many.
▸ Parents need to impart a moral code that the child gradually internalises.
▸ As children struggle with these important tasks parents must be able to provide praise and encouragement for achievement but parents must also be able to allow them to sometimes experience the natural consequences for their behaviour or provide logical consequences to help them learn from mistakes.

4. Adolescents/Teenagers (13–18 years)

▸ It is a time to really begin defining one’s self and realistically contemplating the future. Skill development is accelerated to prepare for college or job training programs.
▸ Talents are perfected. Social skills are honed and relationships take on more of a serious nature. Peer pressure is at its max and in today’s teen society there are more tempting sidetracks than ever.
▸ During adolescence, kids need their parents more than ever. Research shows that a positive family environment including fun family activities, open parent-child communication and the encouragement to participate in positive extracurricular and community activities, teens are able to navigate these years with relative ease.


Growth means the growth of different parts of the human body and the ability of those parts to work. Physical growth affects our behaviour and vice-versa. Thus, growth means growth in shape and weight, which includes growth of muscles. In other words, growth refers to increase in weight, height and changes in body proportions. Growth takes place in the physical aspect only. Growth also refers to quantitative changes e.g. it is possible to measure how tall a child has grown over a specific period of time.

Difference between Growth and Development

The differences are as follows

Growth Development
(i) This term is used in the purely physical sense. It generally refers to an increase in size, length, height and weight. Changes in the quantitative aspects fall in the domain of growth. Development implies overall changes in shape, form or structure resulting in improved working or functioning. It indicates the changes in the quality or character rather than in its quantitative aspects.
(ii) The changes produced by growth are the subject of measurement. They may be quantified and are observable. Development implies environment in functioning and behaviour and hence, brings qualitative changes which are difficult to measured directly.
(iii) Growth is a part of the development process. Actually the development in its quantitative aspect is termed as growth. Development is a wide and comprehensive term. It refers to overall changes in the individual. Growth is one of its parts.
(iv) Growth may or not bring development. A child may grow by becoming fat, but this growth may not bring any functional improvement or development. Development is also possible growth as, without physical when some children do not gain in terms of height, size etc, but they do experience functional improvement (qualitative change) or development.
(v) Growth does not continue throughout life. It stops when maturity has been attained. Development is a continuous process. It does not end with the attainment of maturity.

Factors Responsible for Growth and Development

The following are some important factors that directly or indirectly influence development and growth
1. Heredity It is a biological process through which the transmission of physical and social characteristics takes place from parents to an offspring. It generally influences the different aspects of growth and development i.e. height, weight and structure of the body, colour of hair and eyes, intelligence, aptitudes and instincts.
2. Environment It plays an important role in growth and development of an individual. It consists of the sum total of physical and psychological of a person which he receives from his conception. The environment can be controlled to make it more favourable for an individual’s growth and development.
3. Nutrition It is essential for the healthy development of an individual in terms of physical and mental attributes. Growth and development of an individual mainly depends on his food habits and nutrition. Malnutrition has adverse effects on the structural and functional development of an individual or child.
4. Child Gender Sex gender of a child acts as an important factor of growth and development. There is difference in growth and development between boys and girls. The boys are generally taller than the girls but girls show rapid physical growth in adolescence. In general, the body constitution and structural growth are different between girls and boys. The function of boys and girls in life are different in nature.
5. Early Stimulation Environment encourages the development of the child’s heredity potential. e.g. talking to a baby or showing a pre-schooler pictures in story books, encourages his/ her interest in learning words and a desire to learn to read. A stimulating environment encourages good physical and mental development, while an unstimulating environment causes the child’s development to fall below its potential.
6. Child Rearing Practice Children brought up by excessively permissive parents tend to lack a sense of responsibility, to have poor emotional control and to become under achievers in whatever they undertake. Those brought up by democratic or even firm parents are likely to make better personal and social adjustments.


Learning is the act of acquiring new, or modifying and reinforcing existing, knowledge, behaviours, skills, values or preferences, which may lead to a potential change in synthesising information, depth of knowledge, attitude or behaviour relative to the type and range of experience. Humans, animals, plants and even some machines possess the ability to learn. Progress over time tends to follow a learning curve. Learning does not happen all at once, but it builds upon, and is shaped by, previous knowledge. Thus, learning may be viewed as a process, rather than a collection of factual and procedural knowledge. Learning produces changes in the organism and the changes produced are relatively permanent.

Definitions of Learning

Some definitions of learning by educational psychologists are given below
▸ “Learning is a gradual process where the individual will make many attempts to learn.” — EL Thorndike
▸ “Learning is the acquisition of habits, knowledge and attitudes. It involves new ways of doing things and it operates in an individual’s attempts to overcome obstacles or to adjust to new situations. It represents progressive changes in behaviour. It enables him to satisfy interests to attain goals.” — Crow and Crow
▸ “Learning is a change in human disposition or capability that persists over a period of time and is not simply ascribable to processes of growth.” — Robert Gagne
▸ “The term learning covers every modification in behaviour to meet environmental requirements.” — Gardener Murphy
▸ “Learning is a relatively settled change in behaviour that occurs as a result of training or experience.” — Morgan
▸ “Learning is the acquisition of new behaviour or the strengthening or weakening of old behaviour as the result of experience.” — HP Smith
▸ “Learning is a change in personality self-described as a new pattern of reactions in the form of skills, attitudes, habits, intelligence or an understanding.” — Wetherington

Relationship between Development & Learning

▸ Usually, developmental processes do not coincide with learning processes. In most cases, the developmental process lags behind the learning process.
▸ This sequence alters the traditional view that at the moment a child assimilates the meaning of a word, or masters an operation such as addition or the written language, its developmental processes are basically completed. Actually, the developmental processes have only just begun.
▸ The major consequence of this is that the initial mastery of, for instance, the four arithmetic operations (addition, subtraction, multiplication and division), provides the basis for the subsequent development of a variety of highly complex internal processes in children’s thinking. Thus, learning processes and internal developmental processes are related but not identical.
▸ This basically means that learning is converted into development. Therefore, it becomes an important concern of psychological research to show how external knowledge and abilities in children become internalised. An aim of the psychological analysis of development is to describe the internal relations of the intellectual processes awakened by school learning.
▸ If learning is successful, it should reveal to the teacher how developmental processes stimulated during the course of school learning are carried through inside the head of each individual child.
▸ The revelation of this internal developmental network of school subjects is a task of primary importance for psychological and educational analysis.
▸ Further, although learning is directly related to the course of child development, the two are never accomplished equally or in parallel. Development in children never follows school learning in the same way that a shadow follows the object that casts it.
▸ Actually, there are highly complex dynamic relations between developmental and learning processes. Each school subject has its own specific relation to the course of child development, a relation that varies as the child goes from one stage of development to another.
▸ This leads us directly to a re-examination of the problem of formal discipline, that is, to the significance of each particular subject from the viewpoint of overall mental development.

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