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decorative star graphic  Early Childhood:
Cognitive Development
- In Theory: How Children Think -

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Ψ  Clearly, children's thinking is often dictated more by their own subjective views than by reality.

Note! Preschoolers are capable of symbolic thought. Symbolic thought involves the use of words, gestures, pictures, or actions, to represent ideas, things, or behaviors.

Note! Preoperational thought is the term used (by Piaget) to describe cognitive development between the ages of 2 & 6; characterized by centration, focus on appearance, static reasoning, & irreversibility. Preoperational thought includes symbolic thought.

Note! Preschoolers are NOT capable of operational thought which is the ability to develop a thought or idea according to a set of logical principles. They would not make good computer programmers at this stage of their development.

Ψ  Four Aspects of Preoperational Thought (Piaget) which limit young children's ability to reason logically follow.

    •  Centration & egocentrism - focus on one aspect of a situation while excluding all the other alternatives
    •  Focus on appearance (example: boy refusing to wear a pink shirt because he is not a girl)
    •  Static Reasoning - world is unchanging; if there is a change, it is a complete change and sudden
    •  Irreversibility - failure to recognize that reversing a process produces the condition that existed before the transformation

Ψ  Conservation Testing - conservation: the amount of substance is unaffected by changes in its appearance

   •  Conservation testing illustrates that Preschoolers center on appearances & ignore or discount the transformation involved - even though they watched it occur. Proving that they are not ready/able to understand simple; logical transformations.

new  Piaget proposed that a child achieves:
    •  conservation of number at age 6
     •  conservation of mass at age 7
      •  conservation of weight at age 9

Ψ  Researchers now believe that he underestimated this conceptual ability & that it occurs sooner.

Vygotsky: Children as Apprentices - Learning from within the social context.

Ψ  Learning take place in a "zone of proximal development".

Ψ  Guided Participation, dos:
  • Present challenges for new learning
  • Offer assistance with tasks that may be too difficult
  • Provide instruction
  • Encourage interest & motivation
  • Use "scaffolding" ! (structured participation in learning activities to foster emerging capabilities)

Ψ  Verbal interaction is essential for intellectual growth
  • private speech - self-talk preschoolers use when thinking out loud, to review, explain to others, and to decide what to do next
  • social mediation - words that provide a bridge from the preschooler’s current understanding to what is almost understood

Ψ  Of course neither Piaget's nor Vygotsky's theory is completely right but each offers strategies for maximizing development.

Human Growth & Development
Robert C. Gates
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