Observing Harry: Child Development and Learning 0-5

By Cath Arnold | Go to book overview

2 Observing Harry and using
theory to understand
Harry's development and
learning

We observe Harry to understand what he is learning. Like Susan Isaacs in the 1920s, we make narrative observations. These tell the story of Harry's actions and language without any judgements being made about his intentions at first. This sort of observation is descriptive, looks at the whole child and does not have pre-determined outcomes. Piaget (1962) made many narrative observations of his own three children and of children in the 'Maison des Petits'. Here is an example:

At 5;2 V. amused himself by jumping up and down on the
stairs. At first he carried out his movements aimlessly, but
later he tried to jump from the ground on to a seat, increas-
ing the distance he jumped each time. K. (5;6) then did the
same, but from the other side. They were eventually jumping
at opposite ends, running along the bench to meet each
other, one being pushed backwards by the collision.

(Piaget 1962: 117)

Note that Piaget states the age of each child and that he judges V's actions to be 'aimless' at first but then observes that V and K set themselves targets. We can see immediately that these two children are amused and motivated to act. We can easily make links with their physical, mathematical and personal and social development. The observation is in sufficient detail for us to know what is happening at the time the children are observed. To make sense of our observations, we need to look at theories about how children learn and how adults can help them.

This chapter is divided into three sections:

-21-

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