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Cognitive Psychology in Education

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Cognitive Psychology in Education In recent years a child's cognitive development has been greatly taken into consideration when developing methods used in education throughout the world. As Bruner (1973) said, "Some environments push cognitive growth better, earlier and longer than others, it makes a huge difference to the intellectual life of a child simply that he was in school". Therefore cognitive theories do not neglect the role of the environment on learning but strive towards improving a child's environment to enable the child to hone its cognitive abilities such as memory and processing. Educational practice around the world has been heavily influenced by theories by Piaget and Vygotsky. Jean Piaget was very interested in knowledge and how children come to know their world. A central component of his theory of learning is that the participation of the learner is crucial. To put simply, education should be focused not on the teacher teaching, but the student learning. Therefore the teacher's task should not be to feed the child with information but to "focus on preparing and arranging a series of motives for cultural activity in a special environment made for the child" (Dr Maria Montessori). ...read more.


However, criticisms for Piaget's theory include the unreliability of his research method. Piaget's major source of inspiration was his three children and the other children in his small research sample were from well-educated professionals of high socio-economic status. Because of this unrepresentative sample it is difficult to generalize his findings into a larger population as the development of mental processes in children may differ at a larger scale. Also when applying his theories in education teachers may underestimate the abilities of children as they may possess certain abilities at an earlier time than suspected. According to Piaget if development preceded learning, teachers would have to make their own judgment as to when their students have reached a certain 'stage' of mental development for further learning to take place and poor judgment may hinder educational development in lessons. Another cognitive psychologist with a theory which could be applied to education is Lev Vygotsky who believed that adults who know more than children should provide the support the child needs until the child has learned. Such support has been labeled 'scaffolding' and it is in this aspect that Vygotsky disagrees with Piaget's concept of readiness. ...read more.


Teachers should work sensitively and contingently within the ZPD. Vygotsky received support from Wood and Middleton (1975) about the idea of contingency by watching mothers who offered different levels of help to their children while building blocks depending on how much difficulty the child was having. Vygotsky's approach to education is more flexible than Piaget's. Some criticism of Vygotsky's work includes the fact that he did not pay enough attention to the biological factors in his work, particularly in his empirical research. He exclusively focused on the socio-cultural forces in his studies and neglected the biological line of development especially the physical maturation of a child within its first few years. Biology may have an influence on a child's zone of proximal development. In conclusion, both Piaget and Vygotsky as cognitive psychologists have contributed greatly to the field of education. While their theories bear similarities, Piaget believes that a child develops in stages, and development occurs before the child is ready to learn things in varying difficulty or depth. Vygotsky however believes in intervention of more knowledgeable parties which would provide a support framework for a child to learn and therefore further develop as a result of learning. Education bodies around the world have incorporated both ideas into education systems. ...read more.

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