Arguably, environmental factors affect the learning outcomes of students in any institution. A research article by Mustapha, Mokhtar, Rahman, Husain, and Bahtiar (2014) affirmed that the environment affects how a student handles academic work; it can either facilitate failure or success at school. An excellent learning environment requires quality teaching skills, learning community, resources, and workload, continuous assessment, and program objectives (Mustapha et al., 2014). Therefore, the teaching method used should ensure that a student not only acquires knowledge in a given field but also develops a favorable attitude towards learning. Also, teachers act as role models to their students; therefore, they are influential in the learner's efforts towards education (Mustapha et al., 2014). A learning community refers to an association of students and teachers, aimed at improving academic performance (Musapha et al., 2014); therefore, it is a significant aspect of the learning environment. Besides the availability of resources such as books, a classroom with adequate lighting, air circulation, and temperature, Mustapha et al. (2014) explained that regular assessment is equally important to identify the strengths and weaknesses of a student. Since parents are the prime caregivers to their children, and they spend a reasonable amount of time with them, I believe that creating a positive learning environment should not be a responsibility only for schools. According to Berger (2011), children who receive support from their parents tend to perform better academically than their counterparts who lack active support. In this essay, family involvement, and the caring and nurturing learning environment are discussed.
A caring and nurturing learning environment is one that cares about the academic, emotional, and social needs of students (Uhlir, n.d.). The atmosphere is built by creating a friendly relationship between the students and teachers. To achieve this, teachers need to learn about the students, engage in open conversations with them, and ensure minimal power differential (Uhlir, n.d.). According to Uhlir (n.d.), reducing power differential and engaging in open communication not only enables the students to grasp academic knowledge but also express themselves better socially.
For children between the age of zero to nine years, care and nurturing are provided through Early Childhood Development (ECD) programs. According to Wood (2017), building a strong foundation during childhood allows cognitive, linguistic, physical, psychosocial, and emotional growth. Wood (2017) explained that in cognitive development, children learn through touch and movement between the age of zero to two years, and later improve reasoning and imagination skills. Also, Wood (2017) for children to learn a language, their parents have to speak to them regularly. Therefore, for children, learning begins with communication since talking is not only a physical but a mental activity. Moreover, early care and nurturing allows babies to double their weight in about five to six months after birth, and gain up to 2.5 inches of height and five to seven pounds each year (Wood, 2017); consequently, their brains develop. Therefore, as children grow, with proper training, they can engage in more complex activities such as reading and writing. Children develop trust towards their parents, learning how to walk, and use toilets, and also develop emotions such as embarrassment and pride, between the age of zero to six years (Wood, 2017). Therefore, creating a caring and nurturing environment helps to grow up to become intelligent, social, and independent members of society.
According to research by Kok, Thijssen, Bakermans-Kranenburg, Jaddoe, Verhulst, White, and Tiemeier (2015), early caregiving affects the structure and functioning of children's brains. Kok et al. (2015) suggested that brain development in children shows an interaction of both environmental and genetic factors; consequently, larger total brain volume is associated with a higher level of parental sensitivity during childhood. Therefore, optimal brain development in children largely relies on parental care and love. According to Kok et al. (2015), exposure to adverse situations such as child abuse translates to reduced volumes of gray matter cerebellar and vermis, corpus callosum area, and hippocampus. Conversely, quality parental care results in more significant white matter development in the brain (Kok et al., 2015).
Research by different scientists affirmed the existence of a relationship between psychological development and early parental care. According to Bowlby's theory of attachment, a child is born ready to form an attachment with a primary caregiver, which is essential for social, cognitive, and emotional development, and survival (McLeod, 2017). Due to this connection, separating children from their parents tends to cause anxiety and discomfort. A study by Skeels and Fillmore (1937) suggested that being raised in poor homes has a detrimental effect on the brain development of a child. However, I believe that children from low-income families do well too as long as they receive parental care and love.
The environment can be both advantageous and disadvantageous to a child's development. According to Arora (2018), the environment facilitates bonding in families, learning, health, and nutrition. Family is essential in a child's development since it ensures both physical and emotional protection of the children. Similarly, activities such as watching television and playing can help children to develop their motor skills (Arora, 2018). According to Arora (2018), cohesion in a family is vital because it affects a child's social skills positively later in life. The physical environment can affect a child's personality; according to Arora (2018), engaging in school activities, and interacting with peers, teachers, and parents benefit children. Proper nutrition facilitates motor skills development in children because, during their growth, they are fed with liquid and solid foods, which keep them healthy (Arora, 2018). Additionally, in the school and home environment, children learn emotional, linguistic, and cognitive skills from their parents, teachers, and other people (Arora, 2018). Hence, the surrounding environment has a direct impact on children's behavior, learning, and personality development. According to Dr. Berry Brazelton's Touchpoints theory, children tend to adopt a new routine once they stop an old predictable one; for instance, they start walking after they cease sleeping through the night (Bontempo, 2013). Therefore, parents can use Touchpoints to understand their children's behavioral change, growth capacities, and strengths. According to a 1940s study by Rene Spitz, social interactions play a vital role in a child's development. Spitz found out that children lacking parental care are less playful, curious, and are more vulnerable to infections ("History Module: The Devastating Effects of Isolation on Social Behaviour," n.d.).
On the other hand, a study by Ferguson, Cassells, MacAllister, and Evans (2013) stated that toxins and pollutants, noise, crowding, and inadequate resources affect child development negatively. Exposure to pollutants, such as lead and mercury, affects children's cognitive functioning and causes sensorimotor damages (Ferguson et al., 2013). Similarly, according to Ferguson et al. (2013), using water with high levels of manganese affects behavior patterns in children. Noise affects concentration; for children, Ferguson et al. (2013) stated that it affects their reading outcomes and long-term memory. Consequently, it would seem that children in calm environments have better academic success than their counterparts. Although not a widespread effect, an investigation by Ferguson et al. (2013) showed that overcrowding limits parent-child conversations. Therefore, the children do not get a chance to learn complex vocabulary and sentence structure in their language. In the school environment, lack adequate learning resources can deter academic success. According to Ferguson et al. (2013), in institutions with sufficient resources, students show improved school readiness and cognitive abilities.
The research papers and academic articles cited above confirm that both the environment and parental care are prime requirements for a child's development. When a child is born, it expects to attachment with other human beings to survive; during growth, the child learns a language, and other skills from the parents an the environment. Without parental care, children would not grow healthy physically or have optimal mental development. Conversely, although the environment can affect child development negatively, it has positive effects as well; therefore, conservation and minimal environmental pollution can benefit children.
A caring and nurturing environment not only looks at academic but also social and emotional needs. In learning institutions, it is achieved by establishing friendly relations between teachers and students. For children with an age of up to eight years, the environment (which facilitates cognitive, linguistic, physical, psychosocial, and emotional growth in children) is developed through parental involvement. Studies showed that parents and environmental affect their child's brain development; a higher level of parental sensitivity results in higher brain volume during early childhood. Similarly, the environment and early parental care affect parental psychological development in children. The environment is vital for child development due to family protection, provision of healthy nutrition, and linguistics and behavioral learning. Nevertheless, the presence of toxins and pollutants, overcrowding, noise, and inadequate resources in the environment can affect child development negatively.
Arora, M. (2018, August 16). What is the Role of Environment in Child Development? Retrieved from https://parenting.firstcry.com/articles/5-environmental-factors-influencing-early-childhood-development/
Berger, E. H. (2011). Parents as Partners in Education: Families and Schools Working Together. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson.
Bontempo, A. (2013, June 28). The Benefits of Understanding Touchpoints - A Theory of Child Development by T. Berry Brazelton. Retrieved from http://penfieldbuildingblocks.org/2013/06/the-benefits-of-understanding-touchpoints-a-theory-of-child-development-by-t-berry-brazelton/
Ferguson, K. T., Cassells, R. C., MacAllister, J. W., & Evans, G. W. (2013). The physical environment and child development: An international review. International Journal of Psychology, 48(4), 437-468. https://dx.doi.org/10.1080%2F00207594.2013.804190
History Module: The Devastating Effects of Isolation on Social Behaviour. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://thebrain.mcgill.ca/flash/capsules/histoire_bleu06.html
Kok, R., Thijssen, S., Bakermans-Kranenburg, M. J., Jaddoe, V. W., Verhulst, F. C., White, T., ... & Tiemeier, H. (2015). Normal variation in early parental sensitivity predicts child structural brain development. Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, 54(10), 824-831. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jaac.2015.07.009
McLeod, S. (2017). Attachment Theory. Retrieved from https://www.simplypsychology.org/attachment.html
Mustapha, R., Mokhtar, S. B., Rahman, S., Husain, M. Y., & Bahtiar, R. A. (2014). Environmental Factors and Students' Learning Approaches: a Survey on Malaysian Polytechnics Students. Journal of Education and Learning, 8(4), 387-398. https://dx.doi.org/10.11591/edulearn.v8i4.784
Skeels, H. M., & Fillmore, E. A. (1937). The mental development of children from underprivileged homes. The Pedagogical Seminary a...
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