How humans develop and learn essential life skills has been studied, debated and revised since mankind first started passing on knowledge to future generations. There are many different theories involving human development and learning, as well as how the two relate to one another. Teachers, parents and even children can benefit from understanding how human development affects learning.
Humans typically develop in a similar fashion, though every person acquires skills and learning at slightly different rate. Factors that affect learning rate and knowledge retention include learning style, environment, and exposure to learning and personal strengths. Physical, mental and social aspects regarding individuals all contribute to their learning as well, because these are key aspects within human development.
All humans, barring those with physical abnormalities, develop identically in a physical sense; first, they develop large muscle motor skills (walking, running, bending) and eventually branch out into fine motor skills (writing, drawing, cutting). During the years before age 10, children are rapidly soaking up new experiences and information. They are also developing social concepts, such as family, playtime, manners, friends, sharing and a sense of self. They gradually learn how to solve problems in a literal sense, eventually expanding into more critical thinking and abstract thought processes.
Understanding human development contributes greatly to student learning. For example, though children can repeat sounds or words as early as several months old, most children do not develop the ability of communicative speech until around age 2. All children must learn how to speak correctly before tackling other learning tasks, like reading. Children cannot start recognizing sounds, letters, and words in language until they have practiced and used that language. In a similar fashion, students cannot be expected to start writing assignments if their fine motor skills have not developed.
Understanding human development can better help educators determine what students are capable of learning at different times in their lives. Great theorists like Sigmund Freud, Jena Piaget and Albert Bandura have all contributed to the study of human development and learning, and great thinkers continue to contribute insightful opinions on the matter today.