Learning Theories: Montessori, Erikson’s Stages Of Development, Lev Vygotsky

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There is a consistency that we are keeping when moving from module one, to module two. That consistency is when writing these papers, when are relating learning theories to our own personal experiences. In this paper, I will be comparing three of my own experiences to three lifespan learning theories presented in this module.

The Montessori Method

Maria Montessori was an Italian physician and educator who developed the Montessori Method of teaching. Born in Ancona into a noble family, Montessori studied medicine at the University of Rome. In 1896, she became the first woman in Italy to receive a medical degree in psychiatry, after which she began to work with mentally challenged children in the psychiatric clinic of the university (Oxford, 2006). The Montessori Method is based on the idea that children learn best when the environment supports their natural desire to acquire skills and knowledge. Through her methods, Dr. Montessori discovered that the children in the center enjoyed puzzles and learned more quickly when they were taught subjects, like math, by manipulating materials (Shaw, 2006).

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Some of Montessori’s theories can apply to adult learning! For example, non-verbal modeling can be used. Non-verbal modeling is a way to reinforce a certain behavior without talking. Example include smiling, laughing and clapping. I would apply this to the education of the hearing or visually impaired. Using this method to learn new skills to complete everyday tasks. Another theory that could be applied to adult learning is the generalization of core concepts to the human senses. Montessori claims that it is through movement and manipulation of the senses that children would gain knowledge of many skills! This would include language, critical thinking, life skills, and discipline (Cooney, Jones, 2018). I growing up, I specifically remember being given the independence to freely explore items through that movement and manipulation. This usually happens through playing. I can say that we do recognize this as educators and to our best to implement these methods as much as possible. Many modern teachers base their educational practices on these theories and incorporate them into their lessons. With some modifications, her ideas have become an integral part of modern nursery- and infant-school education (Oxford, 2006).

Erikson’s Eight Stages of Development

Erik Erikson was born June 15, 1902 in Frankfurt, Germany. Erikson is most notable for his theory on psychosocial development. He was most interested in human development throughout the lifespan. Erikson was a neo-Freudian psychologist who expanded psychoanalytic theory by researching development throughout the life (Cherry, 2018). This included events of childhood, adulthood, and old age (Cherry, 2018). Erikson’s 8 stages of psychosocial development changed the thought process on personality because it no longer focused on early childhood events, but how social influences contribute to our personalities throughout the entire lifespan (Cherry, 2018). While most psychologists disagreed with Freud’s theories, Erikson supported most of them but added his own ideals and beliefs (Cherry, 2018).

He posed eight stages of developmental change across the lifespan. At each stage, one can either resolve the primary conflict of that stage, or fail (in some way) to resolve it (Shaw, 2003). The eight stages of development include trust v. mistrust, autonomy v. shame/doubt, initiative v. guilt, industry v. inferiority, identity v. role confusion, intimacy v. isolation, generativity v. stagnation, and ego integrity v. despair. Each of these stages can be applied to the learning of infants, children, young and old adults. I would to specifically pick one of these stages to talk about seeing as there are eight of them! I would like to specifically talk about the identity v. role confusion. This stage occurs during adolescence between the ages of approximately 12 and 18. During this stage, adolescents search for a sense of self and personal identity, through an intense exploration of personal values, beliefs, and goals. I think everyone can remember relating to this stage at some point. I know I do! I feel this is something that people struggle with at multiple different points in their life. At age 23, I still struggle sometimes with understanding and validating my own personal values and beliefs. One of the very instances I struggle with is religious beliefs. But I have struggles with my everyday choices sometimes as well. Does this continually happen for everybody? No of course not, but everybody at some point struggles with this.

Lev Vygotsky

Lev Vygotsky was a seminal Russian psychologist who is best known for his sociocultural theory. He believed that social interaction plays a critical role in children’s learning. Through such social interactions, children go through a continuous process of learning. Vygotsky noted, however, that culture profoundly influences this process. Imitation, guided learning, and collaborative learning all play a critical part in his theory (Cherry, 2018). Vygotsky had a broad range of interests. He often focused on the issues of child development and education. One of his specific theories is sociocultural development. He believed that social interactions children had around them significantly contributed to the growth of their cognition. Specifically, adults play a huge role in this cognitive growth because they model or teach much of what children see and learn.

The area just outside the child’s capacity is the zone of proximal development. It is that area that a lot of educators work to help the student. Scaffolding is the assistance from another, that shows the student the possible result in the task they are accomplishing. When the assistance from the other person is removed, the child cannot reconstruct the steps to reach that goal (Shaw, 2003). Let me put it in perspective. When I was a child, my grandmother loved to put puzzles together, and still does to this day! When she first gave me a puzzle to complete, I had no idea what to do or where to start. She then started to show me that I can start sorting the pieces. I can find the outer edge pieces as well as corner pieces to start framing the puzzle. She would then guide and encourage me the rest of the way to complete the puzzle. After she would do this, I became more competent. She then didn’t have to help me, instead sit and watch me construct the puzzle by myself.

The zone of proximal development are both useful conceptual tools for adults as well as for children. A lot of adult learning is constructing your own knowledge based on prior experiences and knowledge. This includes constructing knowledge through social interactions. Just like children, these social interactions play a fundamental role in the development of cognition. It is the same theory applied to the learning children and adults!


  1. Adult Learning Theory. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://utah.instructure.com/courses/148446/pages/adult-learning-theory
  2. Author. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.newfoundations.com/GALLERY/Montessori.html
  3. Cherry, K. (2018). How Erik Erikson’s Own Identity Crisis Shaped His Theories. Retrieved from https://www.verywellmind.com/erik-erikson-biography-1902-1994-2795538
  4. Cherry, K. (2018). What Was Lev Vygotsky’s Influence on Psychology? Retrieved from https://www.verywellmind.com/lev-vygotsky-biography-2795533
  5. ‘Montessori, Maria’ Who’s Who in the Twentieth Century. Oxford University Press, 1999. Oxford Reference Online. Oxford University Press. Empire State College. 3 January 2006
  6. Shaw, J. P. (2003). Patent Pending. Model of Reflective Symbol Systems: Time and Space Coordinates.


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