The Importance of Conceptual Development

  • Karen Zelan
Part of the Perspectives in Developmental Psychology book series (PDPS)


The normal child’s approach to learning is influenced by two developmental trends: an evolving conceptualization of reality and an ever-changing intrapsychic actuality. First, the child initiates school learning with some stabilized concepts as the result of his previous exploration of reality. These concepts influence how he will perceive the teacher’s behavior and the curriculum. Then, the results of his natural experimentation and his school learning affect his subsequent conceptualizations of reality. Second, his intrapsychic actuality influences the school child by the ways in which he conceives of himself as a learner. “Actuality,” unlike objective reality, refers to the interaction of the developing child particularly with his human environment (Erikson, 1962; White, 1963). Of the contrast between actuality and reality, Erikson indicated that “the infant, while weak in our reality, is competent in his actuality” (p. 466) Erikson was referring to the fact that while adults discern the infant’s needs, immaturities, and apparent helplessness, the healthy infant affirms his competence when he learns to cue his parents to his needs and experiences gratification. Thus, the young child’s actuality is formed by his participation in the world of people in which the quality of reciprocal relating shifts as his developing needs change.


Young Person Conceptual Development Learning Disor Nursery School School Learning 
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 1991

Authors and Affiliations

  • Karen Zelan
    • 1
  1. 1.BerkeleyUSA

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