Child development is an area that was largely ignored for a very long time throughout history. Children were not given much thought because they were considered as smaller versions of adults and therefore incorporated in any study that targeted adults. Their cognitive abilities, language and physical growth which normally take place early on in life was not given the necessary attention. As theorists and scientists warmed up to this area of scientific research, so many theories came up in a bid to explain child growth and development and one such theory is B. F. Skinner’s operant conditioning. It is a theory that seeks to explain how learning and development occurs through conditioning (Shaffer 45).
The argument behind this theory is that as long as any kind of behavior is rewarded, and if this is done is repeatedly a behavior is bound to develop. In case where the behavior is ignored or punished, then it will definitely decrease and chances of it disappearing completely are very high (Shaffer 45). When a child develops some form of pronunciation of words that are thought to be difficult for their ages, the words can be repeated to the child severally and this reinforces the behavior leading to the child reproducing the hard word. This therefore leads to language development and acquisition. I chose the operant conditioning theory because the theory seeks to explain language development from a very practical angle.
Upon observing a four year old and having seen how the intricacies of language learning and development occur, it is rewarding to see a child master the art of language and more so pronunciation. There are quite a number of activities that I could engage in the promotion of the child’s growth as well as development with regard to the operant conditioning theory (Charlesworth 12). One of them is engage in a talk with the child, while talking; I will introduce a couple of words that are quite a mouthful in pronunciation, spelling and meaning. When the child succeeds in these three areas as I introduce the words, rewarding her will take place. Each moment she succeeds in doing it right, she will receive applause, a congratulatory remark and eventually a toy or even a visit to a place of her choice.
In order for this theory to work well in language development, it is good to incorporate it into the daily routines of a child especially in early education. This can be done in a classroom setting when children are learning new words or when they are being introduced to more complex things about leaning. Positive reinforcement will ensure that the child will be motivated to do better and behavior, which is language, will be strengthened. On the other hand, negative reinforcement will ensure that the child gets rid of the undesirable behavior.
The reality of the matter, having worked with the theory on the ground is that it is very practical and true. With positive reinforcement behavior is strengthened and developed while negative reinforcement helps get rid of undesirable behavior. The child exhibited positive response to the conditions given and rewards appropriately either positively or negatively. The theory is not far removed from the reality as everything that took place happened just like the theory says and it is for this reason that the theory seems very practical as it is helpful in not only language learning but learning in general.
Charlesworth, Rosalind. Understanding Child Development. Belmont: Cengage Learning. 2010
Shaffer, David. Social and Personality Development. Belmont: Cengage Learning. 2009