Cognitive development is interpreted as the gradual orderly development of thinking, understanding and reasoning processes from birth to maturity. The aim of primary school is to build the knowledge and the skills children need to have for further cognitive development.
Therefore, the constant development of coginition is very important to young children, because it gives them the basic understanding towards themselves and the world. As a result, in order to assist and support children’s early cognitive development, teachers apply the ideas of educational theorists such as Jean Piaget and Lev Vygotsky in teaching.Review of Literature Jean Piaget and Lev Vygotsky are two of the most influential theorists of cognitive development. The ‘Stage-based theory of cognitive development’ from Jean Piaget explores the sequential development of thinking process through a series of stages include sensorimotor stage for births to age 2, preoperational stage for age 2 to 7, concrete operational stage for age 7 to 12 and formal operational stage for above age 12.
Moreover, Piaget (1972) establishes the concept of schemes, which are the basic and abstract building blocks of thinking.People go through adaptations and equilibrations to create new schemes, extend knowledge and gain more organized thinking process. Nevertheless, one of main concern about Piaget’s theory is Piaget’s underestimation towards the cognitive abilities of young children, Evan (1991) states preschool children have more knowledge towards number than Piaget thoughts. Unlike Piaget,Vygotsky’s ‘Sociocultural theory’ concentrates more about the effect of social interaction and cultural tools towards children’s cognitive development.
Vygotsky (1980) assumes the social interactions means learning with others and inside, moreover, he thinks effective learning occur with the assistances of more mature learners. In addition, Vygotsky refers real tools and symbol systems as cultural tools, they support child’s thinking and understanding towards the physical and social worlds (Evans,1991). However, Krause, Bochner and Duchesne (2006) states that Vygotsky overemphasizes the importance of language instead explain the role of physical maturation to cognitive developments in details.Despite the limitations, Piaget and Vygotsky’s theories are the great references towards children’s cognitive development as shown in the case study below.
Analysis In the case study A, it mentions the learning centers change frequently, so everytime Anna changes the activities of learning centers, children may face something strange, therefore according to Piaget’s theory, the disequilibration has formed. Once children find solutions to solve the disequilibration, the new scheme formed, which effectively extends children’s knowledge.Moreover, in learning centers, Troy works on the task which involves very high numbers by using calculator, the number systems and calculator are seen as the cultural tools in Vygotsky’s theory, which consolidates children’s knowledge. These examples indicate Anna is familiar with both Piaget and Vygotsky’s theories.
Secondly, Anna’s learning center is very appropriate for children’s cognitive development. In the learning centers, children like Katy take initiative and develop their learning skills according to their own interests, this allows the study processes occur in a higher efficiency and also accelerate their cognitive development.Moreover, children have more freedom to explore knowledge and challenge themselves collaboratively or individually, for example, for children who work collaboratively like the children in mathematical center, their knowledge have developed along with their thinking processes and social skills through discovery and discussion. Then, through different activities, children gain varies cognitive skills.
In tinker center, children’s logical thinking and reasoning gradually developed as they discover how things work.Moreover, Tim made a skateboard from the heater, it indicates Tim’s creativity and operational thinking gradually become better. Furthermore, in mathematical center, it involved large numbers, it equipped children with numeracy, logical thinking and problem solving skills. In learning center, all children’s motor skills have developed, especially for Down’s syndrome child Hilly, her fine motor skills has developed through finger painting.
For children who are into game making by using blocks, their thinking process become more organized and strategic.In conclusion, most of children are in preoperational stage, but heading to concrete operational stage, they gradual gain more logical thinking skills and reversibility through game making, discovering and problem solving. Nevertheless, Troy and Tim are likely functioning in concrete operational stage. Troy and Tim both have more logical and organized thinking process than others, since Troy can solve math problems and Tim made a skateboard from the heater.
A singing center would be more helpful towards children’s literacy and pragmatics skills through sing nursery rhymes.Discussion In order to help children’s cognitive development, the application of Piaget and Vygotsky theories are highly positive and critical. As Woolfolk and Margetts (2010) mentioned, teachers can extend children’s knowlegde by using children’s disequilibration as the motivation. The use of cultural tools in classroom can also benefit children, because they support children’s thinking, learning and cognitive development (Briggs and Potter,1999).
In addition, setting up the learning center is also a good way to accelerate children’s cognitive development.Lemlech (1991) assumes learning center is design to consolidate and develop children’s interests along with their cognitive development through individual and collaborative learning. Both collaborative and individual learning give children more freedom to explore knowledge and challenge themselves rather than guided discovery with teachers (Piaget,1972). Nevertheless, early cognitive development is so important to children, some people believe the learning without teacher guided may mislead children’s thinking and reasoning processes (Merry,1998).
However, the use of cultural tools along with the discovery learning, children develop cognitive skills such as more logical thinking, reasoning, operational thinking, problem solving and motor skills (Krause, Bochner&Duchesne,2006). According to Piaget’s stage based theory, in early primary school years, most children are in preoperational stages. At this stage, children learn to think about actions without actually performing, but have not yet ‘organized such thinking into coherent structures’ (Langford,1989).Briggs and Potter (1999) suggest the group activities that involves literacy like singing group can encourage preoperational children’s social interactions with others and develop their literacy.
At the same time, some children already step into concrete operational stages, because of their higher intellect or more mature cognitive abilities on particular area. In concrete operational stage, children has more coherent and mature thinking and reasoning towards situation and operations, they start understanding the mathematical concepts with more mature problem solving skills (Woolfolk and Margett,2010).Conclusion Through the analyzing and substantiating towards case study A, although there are some concerns about theories, there is no doubt that Vygotsky and Piaget made the most important contributions towards children’s cognitive development. In conclusion, their ideas from theories are highly useful to teachers, which extend teachers’ knowledge on classroom applications from different perspectives.
Therefore, teachers can guide and help children’s cognitive development in a better and appropriate way.