Educational Psychology: What is the impact of the environment on the intellectual ability of learners?

Chapter Six

Individual Differences in Learning 

6a iii). Explain the impact the environment has on the intellectual ability of learners.

Different Environments

The environmental influences include everything from the health of a child’s mother during pregnancy to the amount of poisonous substances in the environment to the quality of teaching the child receives, (Woolfolk, 1988).

We shall examine the influence of the following environments briefly:

      1. The environment before birth.
      2. The home environment.
      3. The school environment.

 

  • The environment before birth

The first environment the human organism encounters is the uterus or the womb. This environment has the potentiality of promoting the child’s development as per the genetic plan or changing the course of development completely. In this environment, the genetic blue print is given chance to begin unfolding through the process of growth, maturation and development of all the characteristics programmed by the genes. These characteristics are physical, physiological mental and psychological, If the uterus is baby “friendly” or compliant it produces nutrition, warmth and security which allow the genetic potentials to unfold as per plan. So the child is given the chance to develop a healthy body and mental capacity. Those children meant to be: highly gifted, average or low intellectually realize their natural gifts. On the other hand the uterus may have adverse effects on the developing child if the expectant mother is exposed to the following teratogens:

          • Undernourishment and malnourishment
          • Certain diseases during the first three months of pregnancy (e.g. Rubella and Sexually Transmitted Diseases)
          • Ingestion of psychoactive drugs or is dependent on them (e.g. alcohol, nicotine and heroine),
          • Certain medication (e.g. antibiotics, anti-convultants and anti-malarial drugs),

 

  • HIGH DOSES OF X-RADIATION, PROLONGED STRESS OR THE RHESUS FACTOR. THESE CONDITIONS CHANGE THE COURSE OF DEVELOPMENT IN EXTREME CASES CAUSING EITHER THE DEATH OF THE UNBORN BABY OR STILLBIRTH. IF THE BABY SURVIVES THE ADVERSITY THAT THESE CONDITIONS CAUSE HE MAY BE PHYSICALLY OR MENTALLY DEFECTIVE OR BOTH. THIS MEANS THAT A BABY WHO WOULD OTHERWISE HAVE BEEN BORN WITH A HEALTHY AND WELL FUNCTIONING BODY IS BORN

 

 

WITH PHYSICAL AND PSYCHOLOGICAL DEFECTS. A BABY WHO WOULD HAVE BEEN BORN WITH NORMAL INTELLIGENCE IS BORN WITH MENTAL DEFICITS DUE TO THE BRAIN DAMAGE THESE CONDITIONS MAY CAUSE.

So the womb as the first environment the human baby encounters is very critical. It sets the foundations to intellectual development. All other environmental effects come later and they may come when damage has already occurred.

 

  • The home environment

Ideally, every child is born in a home. The home environment means many things. A home has physical and social dimensions. These refer to the buildings and the facilities as well as the people

The home provides for all the developmental needs of children: -the physiological and psychological. The manner in which these needs are provided for determining how the child will develop physically and mentally. This lesson does not allow us to delve into all the logistics and operations of the home. So we shall point out a few things that help to determine how the home factors influence intellectual development. First, it is critically important to point out that homes are diverse environments. No one name is like the other and therefore even their influence on children’s development is bound to vary. However, there are certain basic features that we can examine in relation to their effect on intellectual development. We can broadly place homes in two categories: the simulative and non-simulative homes.

The simulative homes

These are homes that are enriched in terms of facilities that promote intellectual growth; these are things like paper, number charts, letter charts, pictures, colors and play materials. Besides these facilities the child needs space in which to manipulate and interact with the provided facilities. These facilities play a simulative role in the development of intelligence. They also aid in language development. An enriched home provides the child with varying experiences, for example trips to various places. In the modern world enriched homes expose children to facilities like television and computers. All these facilities go along way to stimulating a child’s intellectual growth.

  • The non- stimulative home

Here I am talking about the homes which do not promote intellectual growth. These are homes that are impoverished. They possess minimal facilities. The material things present are only those that are necessary for bare survival. These environments are restrictive as well as monotonous and nothing exciting seems to happen. There are many homes where paper, pen, number charts or colors are non-existent. Children never venture far from home unless they are sick and have to be taken to hospital. When a car visits the neighborhood the whole village goes to witness the wonder. A child growing up in this kind of environment may have high levels of intelligence but the necessary stimulation is lacking. This child has limited experiences, even fewer words to express himself and may have problems with ideas.

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