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Running head: NEW PERSPECTIVE ON CHILD DEVELOPMENT LEARNING 1

Dynamic Systems Theory: New Perspective on Child development Learning


Ramona Torres-Martinez
Fresno Pacific University

Cohort ECD 85
Instructor: Cynthia Kaitfors-Smith
August 3rd, 2016
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NEW PERSPECTIVE ON CHILD DEVELOPMENT LEARNING


The Dynamic Systems Theory provides a contemporary method of understanding the

developmental changes and learning of young children. This theory offers a detailed perspective

for understanding the complicated process of motor development in children. The emergence of

this approach to the child development field challenges the previous idea that a childs ability to

develop motor skills depended greatly on the inherited genetic capabilities. (Spencer, Perone, &

Buss, 2011). The Dynamic Systems Theory provides a useful insight information on how a

childs motor skills develop and change over time to produce better-coordinated movements.

This approach has offered the child development field the knowledge to comprehend that a

childs genetics are not the only component of motor development and learning, but that a greater

organization of internal and external factors working together towards a more significant task.
The concept of Dynamic Systems Theory is applied to the field of child development by

studying and comprehending the motor development in infants and young children. (Woolfolk &

Perry, 2015) The psychologist Esther Thelen used this theory approach to examine and

investigate the process and steps in which young children developed motor skills. The various

experiments performed with small children based on this approach suggested that motor

development is part of a sophisticated and organized system functioning together to perform a

particular action. According to Thelen (2004), development happens not because of either a

genetic program or imperatives from the environment, but by a seamless interweaving of events
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in time, both internal and external. (p. 265) This idea proposes that a child motor movements

emerge from a combination of physical, mental, and environmental influences working together

to help young children develop. The Dynamic Systems Theory provides a guide for educators in

the early childhood field in regards to understanding the components and course of motor skill

development in young children. With this knowledge and understanding of childrens motor

skills, educators are capable of adequately planning developmentally appropriate, and

challenging activities to promote further development of motor skills in young children. The

concept of multi-systems working together to develop motor skills is comparable to the belief of

appropriate developmental practices that childrens development of one area affects growth in

the other regions. The two share a similar concept of how learning is the result of various

elements combining to generate the development of a skill of ability throughout different areas.
Another concept of Dynamic System Theory that applies to early childhood development

is Self-Organization. (Richardson, 2005 p. 75) This notion offers insightful information

describing how new motor skills can develop from already established skills. Children can

develop new motor skills when internal and external factors rearrange their structural pattern to

allow children to practice and advance to the next level of development. According to

Richardson (2005), self-organization can involve reorganization of internal, biochemical

structures, itself a complex of sub-sub-systems, as when a new form of locomotion emerges. (p.

76) In regards to early childhood education, this approach offers significant information that

educators working directly with young children can use to understanding the individual motor

development of each child. By understanding that internal and external structures reorganize

when a child is ready to emerge onto the next level of motor development early childhood

educators can offer activities that provide practice for the current dominant level and also for the

emerging abilities.
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The developmental and learning concepts of the Dynamic Systems Theory is not only

beneficial for the motor skills of young infants but also for children with disabilities. This notion

can also be useful as a form of intervention for children with Cerebral Palsy. This theory can be

suitable for providing therapy for children because it illustrates how motor abilities can develop

and progress when current skills undergo a period of transformation. The elements involved in

motor development rearrange their composition and lose stability in the learned skill activating a

change towards a new stage of motor development. (Richardson, 2005, p. 78) This period of

change is vital in providing physical therapy to children with Cerebral Palsy because they are

more capable of experiencing growth and improvement in the areas lacking motor development.

As explained by Sauve and Bartlett (2010), therapy can be then provided in an intensive burst,

promoting new motor abilities when the child is most ready to acquire them. This can then be

followed by a rest period, during which the child can be given chances to practice the new motor

abilities in a variety of settings. (para. 13) Early childhood educators can use the concept of

Dynamic Systems Theory to understand how children with disabilities can improve their motor

development abilities through play experiences and skill appropriate activities. For educators

working directly with young children with disabilities, comprehending that children experience a

period of increased motor development is essential. Early childhood educator could focus on

providing motor skill activities taking into consideration a childs previous experiences and

taking advantage of the ideal period of learning for each child. It is fundamental for educators to

recognize the importance of providing children with disabilities with activities that are age

appropriate. Children that can practice their skills through carefully and intentionally plan

activities provide children with the opportunity to improve their developmental skills.
The Dynamic Systems Theory offers a modern and renewed idea of how everything that

a child interact with has an influenced on developmental abilities. It supports the notion that
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children are active learners and that they learn best from the interaction with the environment.

This theory offers educators a standard on how to effectively work with young children.

References
Richardson, K. (2005). Developmental Psychology: How Nature and Nurture interact. Mahwah,

US: Psychology Press. Retrieved July 30th, 2016 from http://0-

www.ebrary.com.librarycatalog.fresno.edu
Sauve, K., & Barlett, D. (2010). Dynamic Systems Theory: A Framework for Exploring

Readiness to Change in Children with Cerebral Palsy. Retrieved July 30th, 2016 from

https://www.canchild.ca/en/resources/36-dynamic-systems-theory-a-framework-for-

exploring-readiness-to-change-in-children-with-cerebral-palsy
Spencer, J.P., Perone, S., & Buss, A.T. (2011). Twenty years and going strong: A dynamic

systems revolution in motor and cognitive development. Child Development

Perspectives,5(4), 260-266. Retrieved July 30th, 2016 from http://doi.org/10.1111/j.1750-

8606.2011.00194.x
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Thelen, E. (2005). Dynamic Systems Theory and the Complexity of change. Psychoanalytic

Dialogues, 15(2), 255- 283 Retrieved July 30th, 2016 from http://0-

search.ebscohost.com.librarycatalog.fresno.edu/login.aspx?

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