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Learning Goals | Child Development | giggle Blogs

learning goals

December 14, 2009

Defining the 3 Cs: Character, Competence, Concepts

As discussed in the last post, children are meeting multiple learning and development objectives through their explorations and interactions with the real world around them—through their “play”. We also discussed the role of us adults or parents in embedding the “adult agenda” of important learning goals to enrich this play. The last few decades has witnessed an explosion of research into child development and across the cognitive sciences; and it provides us with a better picture of the vast and complex workings of your child’s mind and how to better organize our learning goals. In any given moment or context, experts tell us that there are 3 types of learning goals for us to be aware of:

-       Competences & skills: Skills are small units of action or longer mental processes that occur over time. Physical, cognitive, language,  social & emotional development can be seen in discrete skill sets that start small and grow more complex. For example, simple fine motor manipulation of objects in with the hand lead to control over a pencil or pen and elaborate drawing capabilities.

-       Concepts & Knowledge: Children develop conceptual understandings about how the world works as they experience it. They begin to create theories about how a person will behave differently then their pet dog and how a dog or animals behave differently from objects. And then how objects such as blocks are different than objects such as balls. Through experiences with these things they develop expectations and ideas and can continually refine and deepen these conceptual understandings.

-       Character Traits & Dispositions: Dispositions can be thought of as habits of mind or tendencies to respond to certain situations in certain ways. Curiosity, friendliness or unfriendliness, bossiness, generosity, meanness, and creativity are examples of dispositions, sets of dispositions or character traits, rather than of skills or items of knowledge.

In terms of broad goals, most educators and parents readily agree that children should learn whatever will ultimately enable them to become healthy, competent, productive, and contributing members of their communities. But when it comes to the specifics of what should be learned this month, this week, this day or during any particular experience, agreement is not so easily achieved.  More on these goals and how to apply them in your child’s specific experiences in the next post.