Compare and contrast any two theories of cognitive development. Analyse their application to teaching/learning in early years. "Cognitive development is the development of the mind

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ID – 40012433

BA (Hons) Early Years Education X310

Learning in the Early Years EY124

Compare and contrast any two theories of cognitive development.  Analyse their application to teaching/learning in early years.

“Cognitive development is the development of the mind - the part of the brain that is used for recognising, reasoning, knowing and understanding” (Meggitt and Sunderland, Pg.2, 2003).  Many specialists have studied this area of development over the years, including, Piaget, Bruner, Vygotsky and Skinner.  There are also approaches to cognitive development which are based on comparing the human mind to a computer, rather than being based on the ideas a single theorist.  The theory being, that humans break down problems into a series of small steps, in a similar way to that of a computer.  As I mentioned previously, Jean Piaget, a Swiss biologist and Lev Vygotsky, a Russian schoolteacher and psychology lecturer.  are two specialists who developed theories in this area, both of which have had an impact on teaching and learning in the early years.  However, although both were constructivists, that is they shared the view that the child is an active learner, there were differences in their ideas.

Jean Piaget (1886-1980) is one of the most influential theorists on cognitive development.  Originally he based his observations on his own children and came to the conclusion that children develop through a series of stages.  These stages, he felt, are invariant, that is, all children pass through them in the same sequence without skipping any, and, except in the case of brain damage, regressing to earlier stages.  Piaget stated that these stages are the same for everybody, irrespective of their culture.  According to Piaget development proceeds through maturation, which are the changes related to biological development, which the environment has little influence over, and, adaptation which is the term used to describe the ways the child is influenced by its environment.  He also stated that these structures consist of schemas, which are ways in which our knowledge is stored, rather like mental files, in which store the information we know about aspects of the world (Walkup, 2004).  These schemas adapt through a continuous process of assimilation, which involves the taking in and absorbing of information gained from experiences, into existing schemas.  Followed by, accommodation, when the child changes an existing schema as a result of assimilation in an endeavour to attain equilibrium, which is essentially balance. (Greig, 1998)

The first of Piaget’s stages of cognitive development is the sensori-motor stage, which takes place from birth to 18 months.  During this stage, the child changes from a newborn baby, where he or she practices innate reflexes for example, sucking and looking, to a toddler who has the ability to, at some level, think (Smith et al, 2003).  Piaget observed that a young baby has no object permanence, which is the understanding that objects continue to exist when moved out of sight, and discovered that a baby will look where an object disappears to for a few minutes but will not search for it, and, if it fails to reappear will lose interest in it altogether.  Piaget called this passive exploration.  However between the ages of eight to twelve months object permanence develops.  The other major progressions in this stage are self-recognition and symbolic thought for example designating words for objects.  And finally deferred imitation, which is the imitation of an action which has occurred in the past, which indicates an important advance in the capacity to remember.  Throughout this stage children are egocentric which means that the child can only see things from their point of view (Tassoni, Hucker, 2000)

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The second of Piaget’s stages is the pre-operational stage, which takes place between the ages of 18 months -7 years, and is divided into two sub-stages.  The pre-conceptual stage, which occurs between 18moths to 4 years, and the intuitive stage which takes place between the ages of 4 to 7 years.  During this stage the use of internal images, symbols and language are especially important for the child’s continuing development of a sense of self awareness, however, at the same time the child’s world is fundamentally absolute and things are very much as they seem. The nature of the ...

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