Theories of Cognitive Development

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Theories of Cognitive Development by Mind Map: Theories of Cognitive Development

1. Piaget's Theory of Cognitive Development

1.1. Key Concepts

1.1.1. Equilibrium: Eggen and Kauchak (2015) define equilibrium as “the state of cognitive order, balance, and predictability” (p.46). Development occurs when equilibrium is disrupted and knowledge and skills increase as a result of equilibrium being restored (Eggen & Kauchak, 2015).

1.1.2. Schemes: Schemes are formed as one works to achieve equilibrium, and are considered to be the “mental structures” that one constructs as they work to make sense of the world (Eggen & Kauchak, 2015, p. 47).

1.1.3. Assimilation: Assimilation occurs when one uses schemes they already possess in an effort to make sense of new experiences (Eggen & Kauchak, 2015).

1.1.4. Accommodation: Accomodation involves changing one’s thinking and creating new schemes or modifying old ones “when they can no longer explain new experiences” (Eggen & Kauchak, 2015, p.47).

1.1.5. Stages of Development: Piaget believed there were four stages of development in which various age bands correlated to certain patterns of thinking and abilities...

1.1.5.1. Sensorimotor Stage (0 to 2 years): have the ability to imitate, develop object permanence, make use of motor abilities to understand the world (Eggen & Kauchak, 2015).

1.1.5.2. Preoperational Stage (2 to 7 years): perception plays a large role in thinking, language development occurs at a rapid rate, abstract concepts are hard for children to understand, lack both transformation and reversibility, are egocentric in their thinking (Eggen & Kauchak, 2015).

1.1.5.3. Concrete Operational (7 to 11 years): children are able to think logically when concrete materials are use, egocentric thinking lessens, have the capability to put themselves in the roles of other, develop classification and seriation skills, master transitivity (Eggen & Kauchak, 2015).

1.1.5.4. Formal Operational (11 to adult): are able to think “abstractly, systematically and hypothetically” (Eggen & Kauchak, 2015, p. 52).

1.2. Theory Within the Context of 21st Century Learning

1.2.1. Even though Piaget’s theory was formed years ago, it still has relevance in the 21st century classroom. In following the ideas presented in Piaget’s theory...

1.2.1.1. Eggen and Kauchak (2015) share that establishing routines with students can help to establish equilibrium.

1.2.1.1.1. Application to Education (Meghan): I have worked in an elementary classroom for the past six years and have found establishing routines from day one is key to the success of the entire school year. I have routines and procedures for using the restroom, getting the attention of the class, obtaining materials, etc. They are predictable and help to maintain equilibrium within my room. Additionally, each morning before students arrive I write our schedule for the day - including a brief overview of the content we will be covering in an effort to prepare them for the day at hand.

1.2.1.1.2. Application to Education (Kelly): In a secondary classroom most students have entered the concrete operational and formal operational stages of learning, and to help engage these areas of growth I ask a lot of higher order level questions to go along with my content. For example: What if the U.S. lost World War II, how might our current world be different? Integrating hypothetical questions and solving hypothetical problems brings their development to a new realm and is something I aim to do on a daily basis (Eggen & Kauchak, 2015).

1.2.1.2. Duckworth (1979) states that “when we have learned something only in the form of a word or a formula, we may not even recognize situations where this knowledge is pertinent” (p.309). Eggen and Kauchak (2015) add to this, by sharing the idea of utilizing concrete experiences to best help students understand abstract ideas and helping students to see the link between the concrete and abstract concepts.

1.2.1.2.1. Application to Education (Meghan): My first year of teaching I worked very closely with the reading coach at my site. My students were struggling with many key aspects of comprehension (i.e. schema, inferring, questioning, determining importance, visualizing, and synthesizing) because these were abstract concepts. The reading coach recommended the book Comprehension Connections: Bridges to Strategic Reading by Tanny McGregor. This book ended up being a lifesaver because of the lessons it contained. There is a chapter dedicated to each skill and each chapter starts off with activities entitled “Concrete Experience”. These lessons helped my students to better understand many reading comprehension skills because it took abstract ideas and made them more concrete - the lessons also helped students to see the link between the abstract and concrete ideas. Reflecting upon this experience makes me realize the importance of this aspect of Piaget’s theory.

1.2.1.2.2. Application to Education (Kelly): In the history classroom many dates and places are used to describe specific events throughout time. I use google maps, and timelines as visual aids for students to understand where these places are in relation to their current location, and the location of allies and enemies. Also, through the use of timelines students can better understand and visualize increments of times. By utilizing these components I feel as though I am taking abstract ideas and giving my students a concrete way to grasp them.

1.2.1.3. Providing students with time for social interactions is key to help students “advance and refine their thinking” (Eggen & Kauchak, 2015, p.55).

1.2.1.3.1. Application to Education (Meghan): In terms of social interactions I feel as though both Piaget and Vygotsky have elements that are pertinent to the classroom - kids can learn from one another but also need a knowledgeable adult to help them as well. With guidance from myself, and a set of guidelines to follow when engaging in peer discussion (i.e. accountable talk, the use of a talking stick, etc.) I am always amazed at the conversations I hear. I love cooperative learning and have always believed that all students can learn from one another - I’ve witnessed some of my low achieving students refine the thinking of some high achieving students, and vice versa. Allowing students to interact with peers gives them the chance to discuss the content I’ve presented in a way that makes sense to them - and in my opinion is a must in classrooms today.

1.2.1.3.2. Application to Education (Kelly): Collaboration is an essential part of my high school classroom, when students discuss what they have learned they grow in their own knowledge and their communication skills. By allowing students this essential time to discuss key content, and aid each other in understanding the students that are struggling are helped, and the students that are doing well are able to reinforce their learning.

1.2.1.4. Eggen and Kauchak (2015) share that “Piaget believed that schemes are the building blocks of thinking” (p.47). Although referred to schema today, schemes are important in order for students to grasp concepts - especially content-related concepts.

1.2.1.4.1. Application to Education (Meghan): I largely agree with Piaget - schema is crucial to students understanding and connecting to new material. Being a Title I school, many of my students have lacked the knowledge on a variety of topics that we have read about. I have spent countless hours finding video clips, songs, read alouds and other articles to use to help build students schema before we begin various units. For example, the district requires fourth graders to take part in a social studies Literacy Design Collaboration (LDC) unit about the forts in St. Augustine. Most of my students had never even heard of St. Augustine, let alone been there. We went on a virtual field trip and to help build schema. I could not have taught these students main idea or cause and effect on content they did not understand, building their schema was crucial.

1.2.1.4.2. Application to Education (Kelly): On a daily basis I review content with my students, and try to connect history from long ago to modern day history. I incorporate different media to do this including: political cartoons, propaganda art, videos, speeches, writings etc. Recently my students learned about the Cold War, including the relationship the United States had with North Korea and Russia. Some historians believe the Cold War is still occurring and I discussed this point of view with my students through class discussion, videos (i.e. President Trump speaking about North Korea and Russia, North Korea propaganda marches showing their missiles and Vice President Pence’s speech about actions that will be taken against North Korea if they continue to release missiles). With the content subject of history, schema can always be built upon to complete the puzzle pieces of learning.

2. Vygotsky's Sociocultural Theory of Cognitive Development

2.1. Key Concepts

2.1.1. Private Speech: Private Speech is the regulation of one’s thoughts; where children talk out loud in order to gauge their thinking, understanding and/or lack of understanding of a topic and/or process of learning new information (Eggen & Kauchak, 2015).

2.1.2. Zone of Proximal Development: Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD) are tasks that students can not complete on their own, but can when they are given assistance by a more knowledgeable other (Eggen & Kauchak, 2015).

2.1.3. Scaffolding: Scaffolding involves a more knowledgeable other breaking down instructions in order for students to understand the material (Eggen & Kauchak, 2015).

2.1.4. Internalization: Internalization involves constructing knowledge based on society ideal and how these societal ideas correlate with internal knowledge creation (Eggen & Kauchak, 2015).

2.2. Theory Within the Context of 21st Century Learning

2.2.1. Just as with Piaget’s theory, Vygotsky’s theory still has a place in classrooms today...

2.2.1.1. Eggen and Kauchak (2015) note that learning activities should be embedded into “culturally authentic contexts” (p.62).

2.2.1.1.1. Application to Education (Meghan): This aspect of Vygotsky’s theory is one that I have worked to incorporate into my classroom. My school is a magnet school - meaning students come from all over the county. As a result, my classroom is very diverse. In any activity my goal has always been to make the task meaningful to students of varying cultures. For example, before teaching reading comprehension skills (i.e. main idea, cause and effect, problem and solution, etc). I would have students discuss the ways in which these skills related to their own life and the real world. Some of the answers were very clever and helped students to understand what we were learning in class also related to their lives.

2.2.1.1.2. Application to Education (Kelly): Teaching at the high school level means I must make sure students are engaged, even when they don't want to be. Time and time again I have witnessed students learning better when material is related to their lives.

2.2.1.2. Vygotsky argued that “the use of language...is essential for development” (Eggen & Kauchak, 2015, p.64). In an effort to help students form a lasting understanding of material covered, students should be involved in social interactions where language use is encouraged (Eggen & Kauchak, 2015).

2.2.1.2.1. Application to Education (Meghan): Between science, social studies, math, writing, reading, music, art, physical education and health students are exposed to an overwhelming amount of vocabulary words. While I try to pick and choose what words I teach my students, there are many terms that are necessary in each content area. In the past I have learned that students have to be given repeated opportunities to discuss content using appropriate vocabulary. For example, when I was working on a math unit based around angles, I engaged my students in discussions - but not just in the classroom. On our way to specials or lunch we would talk about the obtuse, acute and right angles we found around us. By weeks end I was amazed at their understanding. Obtuse, acute and right angles were no longer just words - but had meaning and therefore students formed a deep and lasting understanding.

2.2.1.2.2. Application to Education (Kelly): Through reading historical content of the past (i.e. Presidential speeches or Shakespearean language) it is abundantly clear that language is essential for expressing one’s thoughts and feelings. Vocabulary is an essential part of my classroom, and understanding what these words mean in relation to the timeline of history is essential. With each unit I teach specific vocabulary by integrating it into readings, class discussions and assessments to ensure students understand the content and its relevance to today’s society.

2.2.1.3. Eggen and Kauchak (2015) stress the importance of incorporating activities that fall within the zone of proximal development of the learner.

2.2.1.3.1. Application to Education (Meghan): While I feel I have always worked to create lessons that push my students to a level that is challenging, yet achievable (their ZPD), I was intrigued by the readings this week. Gredler (2012) discusses the four ways in which Vygotsky deemed appropriate for teachers to help determine a student’s ZPD - including: providing the solution to see if the child can share the steps, starting a problem and allowing the child to finish it, allowing a child to work with another of a higher IO or explaining problem solving principles, asking probing questions, etc. I would like to try to employ these methods in the future. I feel as though they are creative ways that would allow me to get a better look at what my students know and what they are capable of.

2.2.1.3.2. Application to Education (Kelly): According to Gredler (2012) the purpose of incorporating tasks that fall within the ZPD is to “externalize the learner’s internal cognitive process” (p.125). In my classroom this process is done through reflective thinking, writing and discussion. For example, after students have taken a test I might ask them to answer the following questions in writing: How did you prepare/study for this exam? How long did you study for? What materials did you do to aid your studying After the test is taken, and scores are given back I might ask these questions: Based on your test score what would you change and/or keep the same about the way you study? In what ways do you learn/study best/most effectively? Engaging students in this reflective thinking I have a better understanding of their cognitive processes utilized, and how they see this as well.

2.2.1.4. The use of scaffolding in the form of: modeling, think-alouds, questioning, adapted instructional aids and prompts and cues are integral parts of well rounded lessons (Eggen & Kauchak, 2015).

2.2.1.4.1. Application to Education (Meghan): Scaffolding instruction occurs daily in my classroom - whether it be sharing my thought process when solving a math problem, modeling how to conduct and write up a science fair report or sharing the steps I go through as I prepare to write a story. Students are in school to learn… they don’t wake up one day knowing how to multiply or what should be included in an informative essay. I have mentored several teachers at my site, and one particular teacher was struggling scaffolding instruction. Her students were not making any gains or understanding any of the content she presented to them. As it turns out she was just putting a chart up with steps to follow, but never teaching the students or sharing her own thinking. After a few weeks of coaching the teacher, there was a drastic change in her instruction. She began to model, she began to teach and as a result the students began to learn. Scaffolding instruction is a must if students are to be successful.

2.2.1.4.2. Application to Education (Kelly): Scaffolding is an essential part of teaching, and is done in my classroom daily. Most of the activities I give to my students come with instructional aids such as directions and a rubric, and a shortened example so students understand the format, and what I am looking for in the assignment. Because learning Social Studies may seem outdated, or boring to some students it is vital that I create questions and think-aloud experiences that ask ‘what if’ types of questions and relational questions such as ‘how would today be different if…” in order to keep the students engaged with the content.

3. References Duckworth, E. (1979). Either we’re too early and they can’t learn it or we’re too late and they know it already: The dilemma of “apply Piaget”. Harvard Educational Review, 49(3), 297-312. Eggen, P. & Kauchak, D. (2015). Educational psychology: Windows on classrooms (10th ed.). Boston, MA: Pearson. Gredler, M.E. (2012). Understanding Vygotsky for the classroom: Is it too late? Educational Psychology Review, 24, 111-131. doi: 10.1007/s10648-011-9183-6 McGregor, T. (2007). Comprehension connections: Bridges to strategic reading. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.

4. Similarities Between the Theories

4.1. Piaget and Vygotsky’s respective theories are based upon the idea that learners need to be active participants in constructing knowledge for themselves - as opposed to having knowledge passively presented by others (Eggen & Kauchak, 2015).

4.2. Both theories have had an influence on education throughout the years - helping educators to better understand how students learn (Eggen & Kauchak, 2015).

4.3. The theories of Piaget and Vygotsky have aspects that are still largely applicable to education today.

4.4. Adults play a crucial (although differing) role in both theories of development.

5. Differences Between the Theories

5.1. Impact of culture: Piaget argued that children develop the same way, regardless of the culture they are from, while Vygotsky was adamant that “culture provides the context in which development occurs” (Eggen & Kauchak, 2015, p.61).

5.2. Social Interaction: While both theories touch on social interactions, Vygotsky and Piaget had differing opinions on the role of social interactions. Vygotsky felt as though development was the direct result of social interactions and language, whereas Piaget believed that social interactions are meant to disrupt equilibrium so that the child could then construct a better understanding (Eggen & Kauchak, 2015).

6. General Applications of Cognitive Theories to Education

6.1. Eggen and Kauchak (2015) advise that as educators, “we should limit our use of lecturing… and instead should actively involve students in learning activities” (p.66). This is an extremely important concept that teachers (regardless of the grade level they teach) need to be aware of - students learn better by doing. If a teacher stands in front of a class and lectures the students day in and day out, the chance of students actually connecting to and making sense of the material is very small. Students must be actively involved if they are to process and make sense of the material presented to them.

6.2. According to both Piaget and Vygotsky, adults are important in a child’s development. Gredler (2012) shares Vygotsky’s belief that “groups of children are not capable of facilitating their own cognitive development" (p.119). A more knowledgeable individual, such as a teacher or parent, must work with a child in order to help them reach their full potential. Teaching is not simple assigning students work to complete independently, but rather includes teachers modeling and sharing their thinking in think-alouds.