Cognitive development is the process that a child undergoes from birth stage where the child cannot talk to adult hood where he can make rational judgement and decisions. People once believed that a child technically have no ability to think and develop the complex ideas as adults and this made other members of the society to assume their presence without giving them recognition until they learn language to enable them communicate freely.
With a lot of studies and research, it is now clear that infants knows their surroundings and the people whom they usually interact with on a daily basis, and they are also more interested on exploration of new things from the time their time of birth. From the time when a child is born they begin to learn their new surroundings and how to relate freely and survive in the new environment (Piaget, 1971). They use the information they gather from the surrounding to develop perception and thinking skills.
Cognitive development can be described as how an individual acquire information, thinks and gains understanding of their environment through interacting with their surroundings. Over a long period of time, the cognitive development of a child has been studied by different scholars who explained and express their theories in number of ways. In the United States many scholars had used the IQ tests to actually explain how child develop from one stage to another.
However, this had met a lot of criticism for defining the intelligence of a child; IQ tests are biased when considering the race and gender of a child (Krebs and Gillmore, 1982). With a lot of criticism of IQ tests, the theories which explains learning processes have focused, on the role played by the environmental factors in moulding the development of a child, this has mainly focuses on the ability of a child to learn by having their behaviours controlled by adults, where certain behaviours are being heavily rewarded and encouraged while other behaviours are discouraged and sometimes punished.
One of the most popular and well known theories that explain cognitive development is the one by Jean Piaget. Piaget was born in Switzerland. During his child hood stage Piaget proved standard of intelligence and by the age of eleven he had published his first scientific paper.
When, Piaget was working as an assistant to Alfred Binet he was exposed to intellectual development of children and this encouraged him to do research on child development and he came out with the theory to explain the cognitive development of a child. His theory suggests that during child development, the child have to go through four stages different stages of brain and mental development (Fischer, 1980).
According to Piaget, children also take part in active learning of new things in the society He explained his theory under four different stages. He explained that when children learn they usually behave like little scientist doing practical experiments, making observation and make conclusion by learning the world.
Piaget was inspired by his nephew and daughter to have much interest in the cognitive development of children as he made observation on them as they grew and develop. The observation made him to develop hypothesis on his study that the children's mind not smaller version of adults mind as other people would rather assume. Many people in the society always believed that children were smaller version of adults but Piaget proved that children always think differently from the way adults think.
Following his study and observation, he made a conclusion stating that that children are not less intelligent compared to adult but the due simply think differently from adults, they both have different issues disturbing their minds, and different priorities to deal with. He used different stages to explain his theory. The sensorimotor stage this first stage of cognitive development stage according to Piaget, this stage begins at birth to when a child is 2 years old (Krebs and Gillmore, 1982).
The children learn through the basic actions and activities like looking, listening and even sucking the mother's breast. At this stage children continue learning that things exist even though they cannot be seen. They start to realize that their action can cause things to happen and change within their surroundings.
Sensorimotor stage infants acquire knowledge through their experience of sense and by them manipulating the objects around them. The responses of reflexes, senses and the motor are the basic through which learning occurs. The children have very high responses to the senses (Fischer, 1980). This stage is also characterized by period of dramatic growth and learning processes. The continuous interaction between the children and their environment make them to discover more on how the worlds work.
Even though the development at this stage occur over a short period of time but the children undergo under a very crucial growth and development. The children learn to crawl and how to walk over this time span. The children also start learning how to talk. At this stage children start learning how to speak by pronouncing simple words like mum which is usually amongst the simple words they interact with.
Piaget believed that children are able to develop the understanding about objects and they believe that an object exists even though they cannot see them. This is the most important element of this stage. By stating to learn that objects exist on their own without attaching them to human being, children are therefore in a position to learn to relate names and words to object. Children will start to have direct communication to adults by verbally trying to say what they want, this happen at the late stage of sensorimotor stage.
According to Piaget is the second stage of cognitive development stage. It starts from when a child is two years old to when the child reaches seven years old. At this stage children start to think and relate their thoughts with symbols. Even though the beginning of learning language always starts on the first stage and the language development foundation lay, but the technically and proper language communication marks the main feature of the second stage of cognitive development.
It is during this stage that children become good and creative in pretend play, and try to copy what happens to the world around them, even though they still tend to think concretely to the world around them and the activities that they always interact with. Even though, the stage is marked with children learning through pretend play but they still try to learn with logics and adopting how other people view things.
With every activity that the children does at this stage they always try to maintain the consistency. They tend to repeat the play and actions continuously. When explaining this stage of child development Piaget example which involves demonstrating a child's ability to understand and makes conservation. He used one experiment where he poured liquid in two identical containers and after which the same liquid were again poured in two containers with one of the containers appearing to be narrower.
When the child was told to choose the container with much liquid, the child choose the one which appear to be full even though the child saw that the amount of the liquid were the same in the beginning. He conducted similar experiments on the conservation of weight, volume and length and he made conclusion that child always understanding of conservation before the age of 5.
The third stage of cognitive development stage according to Piaget theory. The stage occurs when the child is between seven to eleven years old. During this third stage the children start thinking logically and become creative about events and their effects to the surrounding. Children are able to use observation to understand different concepts. When using the examples of the liquid in the wide and narrow glass, they can easily conclude that the amount of liquids in the glass is equal. The thinking ability of a child at this stage becomes more logical and they begin to use inductive logic of reason when giving specific information.
At this stage the children have the ability to put their focus on many parts of the problem in order to get clear result. They can focus and concentrate in many aspects of a situation at the same time and by this, they are able to understand the conservation. The stage serves as transition between the preoperational and formal operation stage.
The formal operational stage, according to Piaget marks the end of cognitive development. The stage starts when the child is 12 years old going up. It is characterized by adolescent features, the youth begin to think critically and reason about the problems that occur. It is during this stage that the child starts to have abstract thoughts and thy start to think more about moral and social life. The stage involves the increase in the use of logic and constructive reasoning in understanding ideas. An individual is capable of planning for future by systematically applying the hypothesis.
The strengths and the limitations of the theory
One of the major strength of this theory is that it has many practical examples that can be used to explain the concepts; this makes it easy to understand by learners. Some of the experiment used have greatly impacted in the psychology field and has been used in forensic and eye whiteness testimony. This is Avery big contribution to the sociology and society as a whole. The study taking the cognitive approach is scientific because a lot of practical experiments have been used; this makes the theory to have a lot of experimental validity as the variables involved can be controlled.
The theory has weaknesses in that; it always refers to cognitive and imaginary processes that we cannot directly see. The theory relies mostly on inferences, as we cannot be sure when the memory has changed it is also not practical to see the memory changing. Another weakness about cognitive approach is that it ignores other factor which directly affects the behaviour like the environment where a child is growing. Like it is practical that when a child is exposed to gangster activities regardless of the cognitive theory the child is likely to join gang group
Personal experienced of the cognitive theory in life and education
In life have experience a lot of example of cognitive theory for instance in making judgement by basing your decision on the amount of information you have received, then your brain will have to processes the information and in this situation the cognitive processes is applied. I have also observed cognitive process during when I went to do shopping with my siblings, the ability of people to have different reasoning when making a decision to buy a given product always varies from one person to another. We always have argument when choosing on clothes when my younger brother picks a shirt because it is of high quality but to me I feel he will outgrow the shirt. This is a practical example of cognitive theory
Comparing cognitive theory and theory of moral development
When comparing cognitive theory and moral development theory we find that in cognitive theory children develop progressively in different hierarchical manner. It involve four different stages which are ranging from infancy to adolescents stage when comparing this to moral, it is also hierarchical but it does not specify the age ranges and it allow for development in the whole life span of an individual.in moral most of its explanation is based on social interactions of a child to the people who surrounds the child like parents, pastors and teachers. But in the Piaget theory the level of intelligence develop with the conjunction with the biological development of human being...
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