Cognitive Development: Overview
Author: Anne Hurley
I. Main Objectives
Developmental theory views cognition as a sequential and increasingly complex unfolding of biologically driven abilities. These abilities can be influenced by the environment. There are five basic aspects, or fields, of development. These fields are language, visual-motor tasks, fine motor development, gross motor development, and social behavior. Different theorists have proposed different theories on the development of each field. At varying ages, children sequentially achieve abilities that become increasing complex. These abilities may be mediated by two central features related to the concept of "executive" functioning. The first is increasing development of "working memory" and the second is the influence of "expertise." Children develop at varying rate. Therefore, the exact age at which children develop skills is not necessarily predictive of their ultimate adult capabilities (i.e. children who begin to read at age 4 years may have similar outcomes as children who begin to read at age 7).
II. Various Theorists of Development
Arnold Gesell was a pediatrician who wrote early books on development. He proposed a "sequential" theory to development where each stage of development was a prerequisite for the next stage. Erik Erikson
Erikson took a "psychological view" of development. He proposed a model made up of eight stages (known as the “Eight Stages of Man”) that extended into adulthood. Failure to master theses stages result in difficulties. For example, the failure to successfully master toilet training would result in shame rather than autonomy. In this case, Erikson believed that the child has some awareness of his/her skills and progress.
Edgar A. Doll/Alfred Binet
Like Gesell, Doll/Binet proposed adaptive skill development. However, Doll extended his theories into adulthood. Doll’s stages could be readily interpretable by a child’s parents. For example, the stages included actions such as rolling over or drinking from the cup. Jean Piaget
Jean Piaget devoted his life to epistemology, or how thoughts were transformed into a body of knowledge. His theories of cognitive development were inspired by observations of his three children from infancy. Piaget believed that children were active participants in learning. He viewed children as busy, motivated explorers whose thinking developed as they acted directly on the environment using their eyes, ears, and hands. According to Piaget, between infancy and adolescence children move through four stages of development.
III. Important Piagetian Concepts
A scheme is an organized way of making sense of experience, and it changes with age. In other words, a scheme describes a thought, notion, or behavior that has been learned and ingrained into the child’s mind. The child then uses this scheme and applies it to the external environment. Fpr example, at 2 months an infant will grasp anything placed in his hand the same way, but at 4 months the infant adjusts his hand to open to the size of the object offered.
Assimilation is when a child changes/adapts something from the external environment so that it can "fit" into a pre-existing scheme. For example, if a child has developed a “dog scheme," she will call any furry, four-legged animal a dog until she develops a separate scheme for another animal. Accommodation
Accommodation is when a child changes a pre-existing scheme or cognitive structure to better "fit" the external environment. For example, a child will notice the difference between a dog and cat. Thus, she may now call the cat a "funny dog."
Organization is the tendency to link schemes together in an interconnected system. For example, a child will link her schemes of a dog and cat together. This will enable her to pick out specific similarities and differences among them (i.e., cats meow and dogs...
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