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Understanding Learning

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How does language usually develop during the school years, and what happens if children are learning two languages at once?

Effective communication, either in its spoken or written form, is impossible without language. Therefore, numerous psychologists, philosophers, educationalists, and linguists have researched stages, children’s innate abilities, age specificity, limitations, driving forces, and cultural peculiarities of language development (Child, 2007; Moreno, 2010; Eggen & Kauchak, 2010; Tuckman & Monetti, 2011). Nativist theory, social cognitive theory, Vygotsky’s sociocultural theory, and behaviourism explain language development from different points of view (Eggen & Kauchak, 2010).

A language acquisition theory proposed by Avram Noam Chomsky is considered to be one of the most important concepts in the sphere of language development. Chomsky claims that linguistics is an integral part of cognitive development. Skinner defined language development as “a skill fabricated by trial and error and reinforced by reward (or extinguished by non-reward)” (Child, 2007, p. 120). According to Skinner, verbal behaviour of a child (language acquisition) evolves due to his/her communication with family members and, thus, language is a product of verbal statements selectively supported within the first years of a child’s life. Beginning with simple forms of babble in infancy, children's verbal behaviour gradually develops until it reminds adults’ language. Contradicting Skinner, Chomsky states that language acquisition occurs due to innate factors, a person’s linguistic competence is congenital, and grammatical universals reflect it.

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In accordance with Eggen & Kauchak (2010), “semantics, which deals with the meanings of words and word combinations, is a central component of language development” (p. 77). Development of speaking, reading, listening, writing, and spelling is the multifaceted purpose of language teaching. Trends in language development are characterised by common features in all cultures. Language develops throughout childhood and adolescence; language skills “encompass semantic, syntactic, comprehension, and oral communication skills” (Moreno, 2010, p. 99). Though children have already developed their grammatical skills when they start school, they acquire more complicated syntactic rules and forms utilising them in papers and oral communication during the school years. A gradual increase in students’ understanding of implicit meaning, diverse metaphors, analogies, and various meaningful patterns is a characteristic of their listening comprehension development. Approximate vocabulary of K-2 grade students is 8,000–14,000 words; steadily expanding, it is comprised of roughly 80,000 words by the age of 12 (Moreno, 2010; Eggen & Kauchak, 2010).

The increasing importance of learning a second language is an indisputable fact due to the growing rates of globalisation today. While learning two languages at once, students become more proficient in both their native and classroom languages. Being literate in their first language, students generally acquire second language literacy more successfully. In addition, bilingual acquisition promotes the development of students’ creativity, metalinguistic awareness, cognitive skills, and interpersonal communication; their motivation and self-esteem increase as well (Child, 2007; Moreno, 2010; Eggen & Kauchak, 2010).

There has been a long-time and ongoing debate about the relative value of teaching students content, such as concepts, versus processes (e.g., study skills and critical thinking). Which should the schools emphasise more? Why? What do you predict will happen to this emphasis in the future?

The ways to extend and support curricula should be chosen according to mental, psychological, physical, individul, and age peculiarities of children and designed to develop their intellectual, physical, social, creative, and emotional abilities. Content and procedures of the standardized curriculum can be differentiated in response to students’ skills and readiness. Being focused on the development of critical thinking, teaching strategies improve students’ abilities to evaluate and analyze information, discuss and solve problems, and “make conclusions  based on evidence” (Eggen & Kauchak, 2010, p. 272). Citing outstanding theorists, Moreno (2010) and Eggen & Kauchak (2010) state that “experts believe that critical thinking should be integrated into the regular curriculum” (p. 272) and regularly taught in the classroom.

Critical thinking encompasses students’ openness to new ideas, readiness for making non-standard decisions, abilities to identify assumptions, reveal errors, evaluate the credibility of information, make and judge deductions and inductions, generate ideas, provide rationales, and interact with others (Moreno, 2010; Eggen & Kauchak, 2010; Tuckman & Monetti, 2011). Being able to think critically, a student can master various strategies of interpretation and assessment of information. Such a critical thinker feels confident while using different sources of knowledge and information, recognizes ambiguity of the world and coexistence of diverse points of view on universal values, and successfully adapts to new conditions. Well-developed abilities to argue and express thoughts as well as creative imagination promote mastering and formation of the intellectual personality by using training material.. Critical thinking induces students’ positive attitude to study and strengthens their motivation. Critical thinking involves students’ awareness of concepts; therefore, schools will make emphasis on the development of abilities to think critically in the future. Nevertheless, the development of critical thinking should be provided in accordance with relevant correlations between concepts and processes.   

Is the emphasis on alternative assessment likely to increase or decrease in the future? Why do you think so?

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Assessment is an integral component of education, learning, teaching, and schooling (Eggen & Kauchak, 2010). “It comes in a variety of guises, takes many forms and ful%uFB01ls a number of purposes” (Swaf%uFB01eld, 2008, p. xi). A multifaceted and complex process of assessment is focused on evaluation of learners’ achievements and effectiveness of their study. Assessment is a tool, which allows educators to identify students’ progress and development of their skills and, thus, improve and enhance methods of teaching.

The primary goals of assessment are to promote learning and improve teaching methods. Therefore, a teacher selects the most appropriate assessment strategies in order to achieve these goals. Assessment strategies vary according to the requirements of curricula, subjects’ peculiarities, types of educational establishments, students’ individual characteristics, pedagogical methods, and an educator’s objectives. Educationalists and scholars put an emphasis on validity of assessment as “the key concept in evaluating the quality of assessments” (Swaf%uFB01eld, 2008, p. 136).

Taking into consideration the fact that “standardized assessment has the potential to narrow the curriculum a teacher concentrates on” (Tuckman & Monetti, 2011, p. 571), teachers should select the most appropriate forms of assessment due to varying degrees of readiness and a wide spectrum of experiences students possess. Various techniques of alternative assessment make a great impact on an educational process in general and students’ motivation in particular. Modifying procedures of assessment, educators actuate cognitive activities of students. Adequate methods of alternative assessment inspire students too conduct research studies on different issues, learn, obtain information, gain experience, and develop skills and abilities. Thus, an educator should perfect his/her methods in order to be able to use different reliable and valid assessment strategies. Alternative assessment provides a teacher with the opportunities to evaluate students’ achievements taking into consideration their specific characteristics and educational possibilities, levels of their intellectual development, ways of thinking, individual needs and interests as well as emotional and psychological specifications. Motivating and developing students, strategies of alternative assessment promote learning and improve teaching. Therefore, the emphasis on alternative assessment is likely to increase in the future.

To what extent is effective classroom management a function of teachers’ personalities compared to teachers’ knowledge? Provide a rationale for your position. 

According to Moreno (2010, p. 408), classroom management refers to the skills and strategies that teachers use to organize instruction and maximize the productive use of their instructional time. Educational activities should promote development and learning of children and be provided in healthy, supportive, child-oriented, respectful, and well-managed learning environments. Well-managed classrooms are focused on learning. Learning environments and students’ behaviour are inextricably linked with each other.

Teachers’ burn-out, stresses, and exhaustion are associated with managerial difficulties and students’ misbehaviour. Despite high availability of information concerning diverse effective teaching methods, educational activities, and approaches to the maintenance of a learning-centered classroom (the behaviour modification approach, Kounin’s approach, and the assertive discipline approach), today, discipline is identified as one of the most significant problems of education (Eggen & Kauchak, 2010). Students’ disruptive behaviour, violence, aggression, misconduct, and other discipline-related problems decrease time and opportunities for learning, negatively influence students’ attitude to classmates and teachers, and diminish their achievements in general.

Moreno (2010, p. 409) claimed that “Although safety and order are a necessary component of productive learning environments, classroom management should not be used as a synonym of teacher control”. Students should feel responsible for their learning and behaviour. Therefore, procedures and practices of classroom management should be based on precise evaluation of students’ characteristics, needs, and inquiries, study of their environmental conditions, and thorough planning. A teacher should utilise techniques to promote partnership relations and strengthen amicable attitude to each other.

However, effective classroom management and teachers’ knowledge are the two interconnected functions of teachers. Effective classroom management involves pertinent teachers’ knowledge of educational psychology, age peculiarities, specific subjects, and methods of teaching. Although a successful lesson framework or a lesson model should include such obligatory components as a teacher’s preparation, selective and exploratory activities, evaluation and prediction of children's questions, children's investigations, determination of instructions and methods of assessment as well as reflection, it is also influenced by individual personal characteristics and a teaching style of an educator. A teacher should know his/her students and their cultural and economic backgrounds, objectively assess their potential and needs, design adjustable assignments, and develop and differentiate instructional strategies. Therefore, a teacher should constantly develop his/her managerial and leadership abilities, expand his/her repertoire of pedagogical methods and techniques, and broaden knowledge of children’s psychological properties.

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