Thursday, April 4, 2013

Cognitive and Language Development

Chapter 2
(2.1) One of the most cited theories of human development is that of Swiss biologist Jean Piaget. After reading about Piaget’s basic assumptions (p. 27-32) look with particular attention at the stage of child development you would like to teach. The other most cited theory of human development belongs to Russian developmentalist Lev Vygotsky. Vygotsky’s theory of cognitive development leads us to expect greater diversity among our same-aged students than Piaget. Given these two influential theorists’ ideas on cognitive development, how might you accommodate students who are not yet working at the level of their peers? (2) Theories in educational psychology promote the idea that language plays a critical role in cognitive development. Examine Table 2.2 (p. 51), paying particular attention to the age range that you are interested in teaching. Consider how you might incorporate or adapt the strategies presented for use with your own students.

Piaget's Basic Assumptions (via Jeanne Ormrod, Educational Psychology: Development of Learners, 2011)
  • Children are active and motivated learners
  • Children construct rather than absorb knowledge
  • Children learn through a combination of assimilation and accommodation
  • Interaction with one's physical and social environments are essential for cognitive development 
  • The process of equilibration promotes progression toward increasingly complex thought 
  • In part as a result of maturational changes in the brain, children think in qualitatively different ways at different ages
    • Sensorimotor
    • Preoperational Egocentrism
    • Concrete Operational
    • Formal Operational
I think to assume that a child cannot reach a higher level of development is selling them short; however, I also think that there is a level to the amount of challenge that they can handle before becoming discouraged. Therefore, given these two theorists ideas about cognitive development, I would accommodate students who are not working at the same level in various ways. I would provide differentiated instruction by utilizing centers in my class. While other students might be working on a certain activity, I would have a group working with me on various topics. This would provide the scaffolding and Zone of Proximal Development made famous by Vygotsky. 

Some of the suggested strategies from Ormrod were to read age-appropriate storybooks, give corrective feedback when students seem to misunderstand something, work on listening skills, ask follow-up questions, and have students write narratives about recent events. I think incorporating all of these would be doable. You would have to carve time out of your day for an interactive read-aloud. As for listening skills, you would have to include good listening skills in your classroom rules and then enforce consequences, etc. for not listening when the students are supposed to. I would prefer to take a more constructivist approach to asking follow-up questions because you not only want to check for understanding, but you also want to expand their thinking and guide them towards higher level cognition (via Vygotsky's theory). You could have students write narratives about anything, so a recent event would be good reflection for them. My mentor teacher is going to take her students on a "bug walk" during their unit about insects, so after they do that, she could have them write about their experience.

This website is helpful in giving some basic tips for differentiating instruction:

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