I’ve learned a lot from observing and working with the kids at YALLA’s soccer practice. Watching their behavior and development and being able to tie what I’ve seen into what I’ve been learning in class has helped my understanding of the material immensely. There were roughly 8 concepts from class that I was able to apply to volunteering at YALLA: Vygotsky’s sociocultural theory, Bronfenbrenner’s model, information processing theory, classical and operant conditioning (behaviorism), Piaget’s theory of cognitive development, resilience, emotional regulation, and Erikson’s theory of psychosocial development.
The first concept I applied to my volunteering service was Vygotsky’s sociocultural theory. This theory states that the social aspect of growth and learning is largely attributed to interacting with peers, caregivers, and other relevant authority figures. Scaffolding and the zone of proximal development state that there are certain things that children can learn and do on their own, but they require guided participation from more knowledgeable people (whether they’re adults or more advanced peers) on certain subjects and concepts.
During soccer practice, I observed Vygotsky’s sociocultural theory in action. From what I could see, the children understood most of the basics and the fundamentals of playing soccer. They knew for sure to kick the ball to their teammates instead of their opponents, and they knew for sure to aim towards the goal. But some of the warm-ups and drills were a little challenging for certain students, especially the younger, less experienced ones. That’s where the coaches would step in. Coach Paulina or Coach Nawa would demonstrate and explain techniques for the kids to watch. They would sometimes pull a more advanced student aside to have him or her participate in the demonstration. An example was when Coach Nawa had one student help to show the other kids how to place herself between her opponent and the ball. She had the student behind her and she would use her body to block his access to the ball in front of her; after which, she set up the drill for the rest of the kids to pair up and try it themselves. They didn’t master it immediately, but Coach Nawa stepped in to demonstrate and work with the paired-up students wherever she could. Some students caught on more quickly than others and would offer assistance where necessary. And undoubtedly, some of the less skilled students were learning by example of just watching the more skilled students.
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The second concept that I tied into soccer practice was Bronfenbrenner’s ecological theory, which states that children have several social layers that they interact with during their lifetime; some they interact with directly, some indirectly. The layers are known as the chronosystem, the macrosystem, the exosystem, the mesosystem, and the microsystem. The chronosystem relates to the changes in a child’s environment as time progresses. The macrosystem is a broad category that holds values and laws that a child must learn in order to function properly in society (ie: cultural values, laws, and customs). The exosystem indirectly relates to a child; it generally holds adult community, adult society, and adult culture, all of which affect a child’s daily life in some way or another. The mesosystem consists of interactions that occur in a child’s microsystems, such as when their parents and teachers gather to discuss the child. And finally, the microsystem consists of the elements that a child has the most contact and exposure to, such as family, school, and other immediate environments.
I definitely saw some of the systems expose themselves in the children’s behavior. Some of the kids liked to act as little supervisors, pointing out mistakes that their peers made and giving them a hard time about it. That could be a result of what happens in their microsystems; they could be imitating close family members, such as parents or older siblings and reflecting it upon their own peers. Generally, a lot of kids are hard on each other, which makes youth society pretty unforgiving. This could be a result of cultural and societal beliefs and pressures bestowed upon them under their macrosystems. This is not necessarily limited to pressures that children bestow on each other; it can apply to any pressures and expectations that adults (in general) have towards them, as well. Macrosystems have been implemented when Cristina has needed to speak with the parents, either about behavioral issues, attendance discrepancies, or missing sheets that needed to be signed off by the parents.
The third concept is information processing theory. This theory states that the human mind processed information in a manner that is similar to a computer; that is to say that computers constantly modify their code in order to take in and process new or additional information to store, whether for the short-term or the long-term. The human mind is similar in that we either take in brand new information or we learn something in addition to things we already know. Information starts out as sensory information and is processed into our immediate short-term memory when we need it for that moment, and it may go into long-term memory when we will need to use that information again in the future. Selective attention is when we process only the relevant information in our surroundings, and filtering out everything that is irrelevant. Automatization is basically when an action or behavior has been performed so often that it requires little to no thought to perform, much like muscle memory. Metacognition is a child’s ability to mentally self-regulate in order to rationally pull together the information they’ve been gathering to solve problems they’re faced with. Knowledge base is a person’s knowledge that they’ve built and established up to this current point in time. Retrieval cues are usually sensory stimuli that help the human mind to dig up certain memories.
I’ve watched the kids process information, such as certain skills or techniques. They generally had a decent, solid knowledge base of the basic rules of soccer. They just have to touch up on the more complicated information. Some skills and techniques were processed by short-term memory initially, but were drilled enough to enter long-term memory. Some skills were performed so often, such as catching the ball and passing it, that they were automatized. The kids could perform those skills almost flawlessly so that they could focus on anticipating the moves of their opponents instead of focusing so heavily on their technique. But when the kids occasionally began drawing blanks on their next move, the coaches offered certain hints and key phrases that served as retrieval cues. The kids would also use selective attention quite frequently. They didn’t focus on the chilling breeze, the sound of the cars rushing by, or a scream in the distance; they were able to drown all of that out and focus on the game. The most difficult concept of this theory for some of the kids was metacognition. The older, more skilled children were more well-able to mentally self-regulate, as they didn’t have to put AS MUCH thought into what they were doing. The slightly younger, less experienced/skilled kids in the older, competitive group were sometimes put on overload. They had to try to process information quickly and it wasn’t always easy for them to pull information they had just barely learned and put said information into action in a competitive environment. But of course, they eventually get the hang of it. One warm-up that I watched Coach Nawa implement with the kids was fitness and reflex-based. It was similar to their normal rondos, except that they had to pass the ball quickly and run across to a new spot once they passed the ball. I thought that this was great, because it kind of forced the kids to think and pull information from their long-term memory more quickly than usual.
The fourth concept is the theory of behaviorism, which concerns classical and operant conditioning. Classical conditioning is the act of learning through pairing a neutral stimulus with an unconditioned stimulus to evoke an unconditioned response. Over time, the neutral stimulus becomes a conditioned stimulus, and the unconditioned response becomes a conditioned response. Ideally, the conditioned stimulus by itself will eventually evoke as strong a reaction as the unconditioned stimulus due to association and anticipation. Operant conditioning shapes behavior by using reinforcements and punishments. Reinforcements can be effective, either by adding in a pleasant stimulus (positive reinforcement) or by removing an unpleasant stimulus (negative reinforcement). Punishments can be effective, either by adding an unpleasant stimulus (positive punishment) or removing a pleasant stimulus (negative punishment). Under operant conditioning, behavior will either strengthen or it will cease, depending on the intent of the conditioning.
I don’t think I directly observed any classical conditioning in the kids. I did, however, see plenty of operant conditioning; mostly in the form of positive or negative punishment. The main problem with the older group of kids is behavioral issues. They have a better sense of focus than the younger group and they treat soccer more seriously.
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