Saturday, January 30, 2010

Cognitive Development

There are two schools of thought in regards to cognitive development. One is Piaget's theory, here it is believed children are self-motivated individuals who, on their own, explore, form ideas, and test ideas with their experiences (Eggen 2010).

The other is described as a Sociocultural theory of development, this view emphasizes the role of language and social and cultural influences on a developing child's mind(Vygotsky, 1978, 1986).

Piaget (Piaget Theory) Equilibrium is a cognitive state, in which we can explain new experiences by calling on students as explorers who were naturally curious of their surroundings and were constantly attempting to make sense of their environment.

Piaget’s theory surmises that development occurs by reaching a state of equilibrium, the state of our existing knowledge. It is the process of making sense of our experiences. Our drive for trying to form an understanding when we encounter something that is inconsistent or contradicts what we already know, think or believe causes a state of disequilibrium which the learner then drives to eliminate, thus allowing the learner to once again reach a state of equilibrium. To make sense of our experiences and reach equilibrium, people create schemes (Eggen 2010). Schemes are mental operations that are organised patterns of behaviour or thoughts that allow us to make sense of our environment. The process of creating and using schemes to make sense of our experiences is called organisation (Eggen 2010). Organisation is the process of logically systemising schemes in order to make sense of our experiences. Maintaining equilibrium is done through the process of adaption. Adaption is the process of adjusting schemes and experiences to each other to maintain equilibrium (Eggen 2010). This is achieved through two processes, accomodation and assimilation. Accommodation is a form of adaption whereby an individual modifies an existing scheme in order to create a new one in response to experience (Eggen 2010). Assimilation is a form of adaption whereby an individual incorporates an experience from the environment into an already existing scheme.

Piaget’s Stages of Development
Piaget states four stages of development that describe a child’s way of thinking in each.

Sensorimotor 0-2years of age

  • Development is through sense and motor activities
  • Child recognises permanence of hidden objects
  • Child is goal directed

Pre operational 2-7years

  • A rapid increase in child’s language
  • Thoughts are perception based
  • Child is egocentric(believes others view the world the same as them)
  • Lack of conservation (concept that children believe the amount of the same substance stays the same regardless of whether it is manipulated, changed in appearance/shape or divided.

Concrete operational (7-11years)

  • Logical thinking begins
  • Child is less influenced by perception, centralism, irreversibility and egocentrism
  • Operational thinking is only limited to objects that are present or that children have previously experiences directly or concretely

Formal operational (11 years-onwards)

  • Children are able to generalise and engage in mental trial and error
  • Children think abstractly, systematically and hypothetically

Applying Piaget to the classroom today and in the future:
Provide concrete experiences that represent abstract concepts and principals(Eggen 2010).
Use social interaction to help students verbalise and refine their understanding(Eggen 2010).
Use explorable microworlds, virtual reality or stimulated learning environments to display knowledge and allow the learner to gain and understanding of how things work repairing misconception(Snowman 2009).
Use the web so learner can discuss and debate with peers thus fostering cognitive conflict and causing disequilibrium (Snowman 2009).

Lev Vygotsky- Sociocultural view of Cognitive Development
Vygotsky believes that social interactions are the key factor in shaping one’s learning. In the sociocultural view, cognitive development emerges more so out of a child’s social interactions with those around them such as with parents, teachers and peers. Vygotsky believed that children gain significantly from the knowledge and conceptional tools handed down to them by those who were more intellectually advanced, whether they are the same age peers, older children or adults (Snowman 2009).

The most important psychological tool and central to Vygotsky’s view is language. Language is important as it’s used as a tool for intellectual activities by:

  • A way to pass knowledge
  • To think and problem solve
  • To regulate and reflect on thinking
  • To plan

Zone of Proximal Development Children benefit from interaction with a more knowledgeable sources and benefit more so when they are working in their zone of proximal development. This is where tasks cannot be accomplished alone by the learner, but can be completed with the assistance of others. Scaffolding Scaffolding is the assistance given to the child, to accomplish a task when they are unable to do so on their own. Modeling, thinking aloud, asking leading questions, adapting instructional material and using prompts and cues are all forms of instructional scaffolding (Eggen 2010). Vygotsky believes scaffolding fosters a master-novice apprenticeship that allows the child to learn. Applying Vygotsky in the classroom today and in the future;

  • Use meaningful and authentic tasks when organising themes for your instruction (Eggen 2010).
  • Provide scaffolding.
  • Encourage student interaction.
  • Use computers to support skills and strategies for the learner by using expert peers or collaborative partners (Snowman 2009).
  • Use computers to link learners to more knowledgeable peers experts thus fostering the master-novice apprenticeship and allowing scaffolding for the students learning Snowman 2009).



Eggen, P & Kauchak, D, (2010), Educational Psychology, Windows on Classrooms, Upper Saddle River, NJ, Pearsons

O'Donnell, A, (2009), Educational Psychology:a reflection for action, Australia, John Wiley

Snowman, J, (2009), Psychology applied to teaching, Milton Qld, John Wiley viewed January 30 2010

1 comment:

  1. Important similarities and differences exist in Piaget’s and Vygotsky’s description of cognitive development (Fowler, 1994 as cited in Eggen 2010). Both believed learners construct knowledge for themselves instead of passively receiving it from others (Eggen 2010). The difference being however the way in which Piaget and Vygotsky believe knowledge is constructed. Piaget believes learners predominately construct knowledge on their own, whereas Vygotsky believed that first learners construct through socialisation and then the individual internalises the information.

    Both views suggest to teachers to limit lecturing and explaining and instead allow the learner to construct knowledge through active cognitive learning experiences(Eggen 2010).

    Eggen, P & Kauchak, D (2010), Educational Psychology Windows on Classrooms, Upper Saddle River NJ, Pearsons