One of the major factors in differentiating instruction is the development phase. The development phases are often likened to age groups, but studies and experience has shown that that is not entirely accurate. This is because individuals evolve at their own pace, and different areas of life may be developing at different pace as well.
Understanding the development phases in terms the of the age can be extremely helpful in understanding the child’s behavior and learning style.
From this chart we can see that depending on what is the ongoing development stage, the primary motivator changes. Primary motivator is that which child will naturally learn and is a new capability that requires exercising and practice.
As an example: if one is teaching a group of children of are group 11-18 years old, students have passed the concrete operations phase, and are ready to understand simple abstract concepts, build meaning for everything they encounter and are curious to put their attention to the things that are unknown. This curiosity to understand triggers lots of cognitive dis-equilibrium which can be understood as confusion. A teacher of this age group often is challenged by the students (who break all rules), knowledge is questioned and classes are perceived to be hard to control. The trick here is to understand that it is a normal and natural thing that is happening in the minds, bodies, hormones of the students and consequently in the classrooms. Besides understanding that it is normal, a talented teacher can be a classroom version of an Aikido master, redirecting all of that confused and curious energy towards the goals that the district has given to cover. As a result, the mutual trust and respect is built and learning happens. Students get support for the life phase they are going through so that they are ready for the next development phase where they can explore meaning of life and such things.
Anyone that has taught a class knows that not all in the age group are on the same development phase. Thus it is best to observe the children in the classroom and as part of their student profile, take notes on what development phase they most express their behavior and learning in. Then focus on planning the classes around that neurological and behavioral development. This will help students go through all of their development phases in natural order to them and helps them evolve into fully developed and integrated human beings.
To be more thorough, the development to fully developed individual related to maturation phases is supported by well accepted modern development theories (Piaget, Kohlberg, Gibbs, Loevinger)
|Age||Brain Maturation||Cognitive Development (Piaget)||Moral Development (Kohlberg)||Moral and existential Development (Gibbs)||Ego development (Loevinger)||Primary Motivators|
|0-2||Neural Exuberance and Myelination of Sensory and Motor Areas (Behavior/senses)||Sensori-motor||Preconventional:
1st stage: Punishment and obedience
Stage 1: Centrations on salient features
E1 – Symbiotic
|Biological||Senses, hunger, thirst, arousal|
|2-7||Maximum Number of Connections (desire)||Pre-operations||2nd stage: Instrumental purpose and exchange||2nd stage: Pragmatic exchanges||E2 – Impulsive||Behavioral||Towards pleasure/avoid pain|
|7-11||Corpus callosum myelinates and pruning begins around age 10 (mind)||Concrete Operations||Conventional:
3rd stage: Interpersonal accord (college)
3rd stage: Ideal moral reciprocity
|E3 – Self-Protective||Social||Role models, or group pressure|
|11-18||Prefrontal connections begin to myelinate at age 12, and pruning finishes at age 18 (Intellect)||Formal Operations||4th stage: Societal accord and systems maintenance (college)||4th stage: Systems||Conventional
E4 – Conformist
E5 – Self-Aware
E6 – Conscientious
|Cognitive||Attention, meaning, cognitive dis-equilibrium, curiosity|
|18-25||Prefrontal myelination finishes (Feeling and intuition)||Post-Formal Operations||Postconventional:
5th stage: Social contract (Highschool)
E7 – individualistic
E8 – Autonomous
|Affective||Feel good/bad, threat to security, meaning in life|
|25||Experience continues to shape brain circuits throughout one’s life span. (Individual Ego)||Post-Formal Operations||6th stage: universal ethical principles (Mother Teresa, Nelson Mandela)||Existential development phase: Philosophical reflection on ethics and purpose of life||E9 – Construct aware (Cook-Greuter)||Conative||Goals, control of life, will|
|Techniques such as meditation practices are needed to promote post-symbolic experiences (Universal Ego)||Post-Formal Operations||E10 – Integrative or unitive||Spiritual||Understand purpose of life|
For more on what motivates us to learn, read my paper on Neurophysiology of Development and Learning: Learning Motivators of School Children.