Cognitive Development and LanguageEdit
Dear classmates: Since we lost our class this week due to cancellation, I thought I'd kick start the headings from each section of the chapter. As before, the hopes of encouraging content discussion between members of the class continues, while keeping (the editors???) weekly contribution to the presentation of theoretical materials and subsequent discussion moderation. Also as before...
Note: Since there are various editions of textbooks circulating throughout the class, page numbers may vary. Refer to subject headings when page number don't match.
Teacher's Casebook - What Would You Do? (pp.22-23)Edit
Everyday, within the classroom setting, we as educators are constantly accessing our student's reactions to the instruction we impart, and making judgments on what determine to be their level of critical thinking and comprehension. An interesting question bears relevance: is it in fact the student's cognizance in question or the methodology of instruction? As we approach students through the concept of differentiated instruction, we must assure that we impart abstract concepts in a manner to which the students can relate. In the case of the example lesson plan involving symbolism, I would first explore several examples of symbols, their associative meanings, and what they represent societally (some examples might include a cross, a ribbon, a heart). Once we had established a working knowledge and vocabulary with visual items, I would then extend the concepts to a psychological approach with the students. Critical thought can not necessarily be expected to be inherent, but rather can be developed with students in a systematic manner. In terms of accessing their developmental readiness at the grade 5 level for this concept, this would become swiftly evident during this subject exploration. - Christopher Wilson
A Definition of Development (pp.23-27 )Edit
Development is defined as the orderly and adaptive changes that humans experience throughout their lifetime. There are four basic aspects
1. Physical Development: changes in the body structure as one grows
2. Personal Development: changes in personality as one grows
3. Social Development: changes in the ways in which one relates to others over time
4. Cognitive Development: gradual, orderly changes which develop into more mental complexity
When considering the four above aspects of development, it is interesting to consider which aspects are most integral to what an average educator may define as an ideal student. Does the body need to be fully physically developed to grasp complex concepts? Does a students need to be openly interactive with his/her peer group in order to efficiently and productively work in a group learning context? Is cognitive development predominantly genetic, or are there systematic, theoretical approaches that educators can apply to develop these skills within students? regardless of age and stage, the diversity within a classroom setting will be equally mirrored by the diversity of development between students. This is why approaches such as differentiated instruction are so critical in meeting the class medium while still maintaining curriculum requirements.
Maturation is defined as genetically programmed, naturally occurring changes over time. Such changes are relatively unaffected by environment such as physical development, while other changes occur through learning and environmental interaction.
General Principles of Development
There are three general principles of development that most theorists support.
1. People develop at different rates. The rate that individuals change physically, personally, socially, and cognitively differ within a group of students, these differences are normal except in rare cases of very rapid or slow development. (P.23)
2. Development is relatively orderly. People develop some abilities before they develop others, for example; babies sit before they walk.
The Brain and Cognitive Development
Piaget's Theory of Cognative Development (pp.27-37 )Edit
Influences on Development
According to Piaget we are constantly striving to make sense of the world, through 4 factors that interact to influence changes in thinking. The four factors are: biological maturation, activity, social experiences and equilibrium. I would like to comment on the second factor, activity, where students act on their environment and learn from it. This is one factor that we often overlook in our schools. So much of what students encounter in their daily school lives is theory, concepts that have little application to their daily lives or their environments. According to Piaget's theory then, by not connecting our class material to the "real world" we are not developing this factor to benefit our student's development. In order for students to be productive citizens once they graduate, they not only need the concepts but also need to explore how to develop these in their daily lives. Does anyone have any suggestions about how to do this? --184.108.40.206 (talk) 22:07, 16 April 2008 (UTC)
Basic Tendencies in Thinking
Piaget believed that all species inherit two basic "invariant functions" or tendencies: Organization; towards forming coherent systems of behaviour and thought, and adaptation; adjusting to the environment. Piaget postulated that people construct schemes; mental systems or categories of perception and experience. As these schemes become more organized and new schemes develop the individual adapts, their behaviour becomes more mature and suited to the environment or situation. Piaget theorized that people adapt by assimilation; tring to understand new information by fitting it into what they already know (existing schemes)and changing existing schemes when a new experience does not fit into the schemes they know, referred to as accommodation.(p.28-29)
An interesting point mentioned in this section is that when people encounter something that is too unfamiliar they ignore it! Imagine the implications that this may have on teaching and learning. In most cases learning is scaffolded, this is a natural process as mentioned on page 24 with regards to development occurring in stages, development naturally builds upon itself, a baby sits, crawls, creeps, then walks. However imagine all of the information that is lost on students when it is presented in a way that lacks meaning, purpose and familiarity.
Piaget believed that what motivates people to develop cognitively is something he referred to as equilibration, the search for mental balance, if an existing scheme does not work for a current situation then their is imbalance, or disequilibrium. (p. 29) --Lisa chupa (talk) 21:05, 23 April 2008 (UTC)
Four Stages of Cognitive Development
Do We All Reach the Fourth Stage?
Piaget suggests that as adults we only engage in our formal-operational learning when we are engaged and interested in the material. How are we to address this when exploring different study aids in our classes to encourage “enduring knowledge”? The text reinforces several time the value of visual cues and experiential references, but this can be difficult, say, in a class instructing or applying abstract or more theoretical logic. In the daily pattern of teaching a curriculum, we cannot expect our students to be engaged with absolutely everything we teach, but perhaps there are suggestions we can use ourselves and colleagues in order to help engage the students more with the material so that they can take it the next step further.
Suggestions for increased engagement in a classroom for “enduring knowledge” and formal-operational understanding:
1. Formal reading/analysis of a script from a popular movie scene; extension from plays
1. Joint project with tech class (if available) or creating an object useful to the students using algebra/geometry; field trip to a place where students can do this (Harbourfront?)
1. Making a dramatic skit to express how molecules are formed
1. Drawing assignment: make up your own map
1. Writing assignment: Family history essay; allowing students to express some aspect of their own history or history of their neighbourhood/community
2. Dramatic assignment: Choose an inspirational/colourful character from Canadian History and make a skit/ “history minute” about their accomplishment(s)
1. Dramatization of a famous painting that they enjoy (group project)
2. Outreach to/from community; have students’ work displayed in local centres, with permission;
Any Other Suggestions?
Implications of Piaget's Theory for the Teacher (pp.38-42 )Edit
Understanding and Building on Student's Thinking
Activity and Constructing Knowledge
The Value of Play
In Woolfolk's text he explains Piaget's theory on how to understand children's thinking process. In this section of the text it explains that with children even when they are playing they are working and learning. This is because the brain is being stimulated.
In order to explain the theory they really looked at the development of very young children while they are playing but they do not look at the value of play with high school students. With that being said, it is really important to understand that when children are playing regardless of age their brains are being stimulated. As a result, they learn new skill and understand the possible results from a situation. For examples, if a history teacher where to stand in front of a class to talk about trench warfare the students would listen for a short period of time but eventually they would lose concentration and end up not learning the ideas in its full complexity. But if a teacher, on the other hand, where to use the ideas and the feeling of men in the trenching during WWI by create an activity where students have to play our the role of trench warfare they will gain a better understanding of trench warfare. Students will learn the feelings such as the fear and the strategies involved while at the same time they will learn the content of this type of warfare.
Piaget’s levels for cognitive development prove very useful as a teacher, it helps to understand how much students can handle at various stages of their lives and also what type of work would be best suited for their current level of cognitive development. An area that I feel is sometimes lost, is the utility of play when teaching. Play can be used as an amazing tool for helping students learn and retain important information. Not only do children learn through play, this is a technique that can be used at any age. By allowing someone to do a fun activity or “play” around with new technology, it gives them opportunity to discover applications that they may not have in a more structured way. Play allows people to take risks with new material that they may not otherwise, because they do not feel the pressure to get it right, they can explore, try and discover and there is no need to achieve a specific standard or worry about grades.
I experienced a great example of this in my last practicum. I was involved with a Grade 12 Geomatics class, where students were learning a new type of GIS mapping software. The first activity students were responsible for had nothing to do with mapping or geography. It was called “Fun with Shapes”. Students were required to play with the program and create various shapes, drawings and images using the tools the program offered. The grade was based solely on the amount of different things each student tried with their final result, encouraging the student to try more things and take risks. The experience was a great introduction, because it allowed each student to get used to the program and learn the basic tools and uses through their own trial and error and discovery, without the pressure of creating a specific outcome. The final products were outstanding. Students even discovered tools that my AT was unaware the program was capable of and encouraged the students to share their findings with the rest of their classmates. It really set the overall tone for the course and encouraged a positive classrooms environment. Also, it alleviated some of the apprehensions or anxieties some of the students may have felt about using a new program.
Some Limitations of Piaget's Theory
Vygotsky's Sociocultural Perspective (pp.42-48 )Edit
I don't think we can underestimate the importance of Vygotsky's theory that learning is inextricably linked to cultural context. As educators we should always be cognizant of the fact that our students' classroom behaviour and aptitude is in many ways informed by their culture at home, and that this may well be unfamiliar to us. It is equally important to understand the school as a hugely influential social and cultural context, and recognize that the interactions which take place within it will work to develop new cognitive structures and ways of thinking in students.
In this view, teaching is seen to be about something beyond the transferral of particular sets of knowledge, it's efficacy is fundamentally based in the pre-existing cultural framework in which it takes place. --Tearney (talk) 21:12, 7 April 2008 (UTC)
The Social Sources of Individual Thinking
I would like to comment here on the perceived incompatibility between Piaget and Vygotsky. While both theorists agree on the "importance of social interactions in cognitive development," they differ as to whether peer/peer or peer/mentor interaction is the most educationally productive. Both would seem to have a point. Piaget's, that peer equality fosters a safe environment for challenges to another's line of thinking, can be supported by observation. I'm sure many of us have experienced vibrant and productive classroom discussions when the teacher takes a back seat and acts to facilitate, not instruct. On the other hand, Vygotsky believes that cognitive development comes from learner interactions with someone "more capable." This is of course the basis of the educational system as it stands: "more capable" teachers instruct student-learners. But we need to remember that teachers are also always learners, and that students have been shown to benefit from variety in teaching methods. A truly effective pedagogical understanding should encompass both Piaget's and Vygotsky's views on the value of social interaction. They are not incompatible so much as they are complementary. Combining the two will work to create a dynamic learning environment, one which avoids stagnant dichotomies between teacher and student. --Tearney (talk) 21:12, 7 April 2008 (UTC)
Recognizing that learning is a social process, teachers can find ways of helping students help one another through the learning process. The acquisition of language is just one example of the social sources of individual thinking. Vygotsky conceptualized development as the transformation of socially shared activities into internalized processes (43). Vygotsky contends that at first learners depend on others with more experience to teach them step by step, but as they internalize the process of learning, they gradually develop the cognitive skills to learn on their own. This suggests that there is great benefit in encouraging students to get involved in peer-tutoring and group work and gives validity to class-discussions that allows students to be involved in the process of learning and to draw off one another as opposed to the traditional lecture style teaching methods that allow students to disengage from the process of learning.
Cultural Tools and Cognitive Development
The Role of Language and Private Speech
Vygotsky’s claim that “language is the most important symbol system in the tool kit [of cultural tools and cognitive development]” as “it is the one that helps fill the kit with other tools”( p. 45) is a strong argument and I think that as teachers practicing in Toronto we will experience pretty often. For students being enriched in more than one language, they are given more opportunity for applying deductive reasoning (knowing when to speak in one language/form or another) but also helps them achieve multiple understandings over one subject. The textbook example of the myriad of ways one can describe a shade of red shows how language can really help students expand their own vocabulary and express themselves more effectively. Encouraging this in your classroom is very easy, I think, since most of the time when students are learning a new subject there will often be a new definition/vocab word that goes along with it. By teaching the majority of our subjects in English, every class in one way or another is an “English” class because they will all at some point reinforce literacy.
In my practicum experience, I was helping one student with her vocabulary limitations, encouraging her to find words to help clarify her point in a sentence. I used the example of carrots and oranges, describing how weird it is to have a fruit the same name as its colour. “What about the other things in the same colour? Carrots are orange too, but why aren’t they called oranges? What if everything that was the colour orange was called an orange? Would that not be confusing?” She laughed, obviously realising her teacher is a little crazy. But she got the point, I think. She said, “I see your point, miss…” and went back to her writing. I may have been totally out on a limb with my analogy, but sometimes it helps.
Vygotsky's theory of private speech points to many practical ways that language may be used to guide learning for both the teacher and the student. As it is pointed out in the chapter, when students are "thinking out loud" they are expressing that they are having difficulty in some way with the task, the teacher may diagnose that the student needs help, or that something in the learning environment needs to be adjusted. "Cognitive self-instruction", using self talk to guide learning, is an example of scaffolding. When a student is having difficulty or learning something new, using language to direct attention and problem solve is something that we may take for granted. One of the most important tasks as teachers is to teach students how to learn. We can incorporated this structure into the high school class in age appropriate ways; through modeling these thought processes, i.e. writing the agenda on the board, and reading it through with the class, breaking activities and assignments into step-step formats, using mind maps and checklists, reflecting on the process as a problem solving tool by discussing what was learned or what could be improved on (art critique)and encouraging open student lead, teacher guided class discussion. As a student teacher in visual art I found myself verbalizing a step-step mantra-cognitive process with students all day long. Where I found a visual parallel to the use of private speech sequences useful was with ESL students. The use of visual strategies to improve communication is necessary where a language barrier exists. --Lisa chupa (talk) 01:45, 9 April 2008 (UTC)
The Role of Learning and Development
So what came first, the chicken or the egg? Considering that we are looking at theories here one could postulate that both Piaget and Vygotsky are correct to some degree. Two examples lead me to believe this hypothesis, one is the differences between children and their ability to acquire the skills to read for example and the other is brain development, particularly synaptogenesis and the strengthening and pruning of neuro- pathways. Elementary teachers are doing excellent work with their students through balanced literacy programs and after school programs. Parents are working hard to find ways to help their children learn to read. There is a lot a unnecessary stress involved in this process especially when little Johnny is just not at the reading level he should be at in grade one! And then one day little Johnny gets it and he is reading like crazy, reading chapterbooks and learning all kinds of stuff! So was it all the remedial assistance strengthening his neuro-pathways or was it that Johnny's cognitive development of his semiotic functioning skills have finally clicked in, or is it both? Consider the development of the brain. According to current research there is a rapid growth stage during the first few years of life, a synaptogenesis that paves the way for a multitude of possible strengths. This is a process that occurs rapidly during adolescence as well however may continually be occurring at lesser degrees through out life. The pathways are there to begin with, exposure to specific experience like learning how to read, strengthen those pathways while other pathways become weak and are pruned away. As Vygotsky seems to be saying that, neurologically, the child is potentially ready to learn with the right amount of exposure. I think that the question that Piaget is addressing is cognitively, when is the child ready to learn. We are comparing apples and oranges, or Chickens and eggs. This is complicated stuff, I don't think that you can rely on one or two theories here. There are many many variables when it comes to learning and development, environmental factors; nutrition and pollution, stress, abuse, sleep patterns, and developmental factors; heredity, abnormal development, to name a few that must be considered when assessing what and when a child should be able to perform a cognitive task like read. --Lisa chupa (talk) 15:28, 23 April 2008 (UTC)
The Role of Adults and Peers
Implications of Vygotsky's Theory for teachers (pp.48-51 )Edit
Assisted Learning: Strategies to Scaffold Complex Learning
Assisted Learning: Strategies to Scaffold Complex Learning in A High School Drama Classroom
(Adapted from Table 2.3, Educational Psychology, p 50.)
Using Procedural Facilitators
These provide a “scaffold” to help students learn implicit skills. For example, a drama teacher might encourage students to use “signal words” such as who, what, where, when, why and how to generate questions after reading a passage from a play.
Modeling use of Facilitators
The teacher might, in the above example, might model the generation of questions about the reading, before asking the students to do so on their own.
This models the teacher’s expert thought processes, showing students the revisions and choices the learner makes in using procedural facilitators to work on problems. For example, while blocking a scene, vocalize your thought process. Although you have gone beyond the need to do so, this vocalization will instruct the students through the steps they would need to block their own work and encourage your students to use the same facilitators.
Anticipating Difficult Areas
During the modeling and presentations phase of instruction, for example, the teacher anticipates and discusses potential student challenges. A set of anticipatory questions can help prepare students for challenging themes or issues that might arise in the dramatic text. These types of questions can open discussion and also provide a base point from which they can reflect back upon after working through the unit and see how far they’ve come.
Providing Prompt or Cue Cards
Procedural facilitators are written on “prompt cards” that students keep for reference as they work. As students practice the cards gradually become unnecessary. This is a great tool for line memorization.
Regulating the Difficulty
Tasks involving implicit skills are introduced by beginning with simpler problems, providing for student practice after each step, and gradually increasing the complexity of the task. To teach sophisticated techniques, such as the Stanislavski Technique, begin with small simple exercises with many opportunities to try them out and then gradually add more complex teachings.
Providing Half-done Examples
Giving students half done examples of problems and having them work out the conclusions can be an effective way to teach them how to ultimately solve problems on their own. Read a scene and ask the students to predict what will happen next or direct part of their scene, using procedural facilitators such as thinking aloud, and then allow them to finish blocking the scene on their own.
Utilizing Reciprocal Teaching
This means having the teacher and students rotate the role of teacher. The teacher provides support to students as they learn to lead discussions and ask their questions. While teaching improv, give a student the responsibility of hosting the jam, while you join the class in participation in different games.
Students can be taught self-checking procedures to help them regulated the quality of their work. What are the different criteria they should consider when blocking a scene?
- I'm not quite sure which heading (above) of scaffolding this fits under, but it's an example from my practicum I thought I'd share. I was teaching a beginner guitar course (grade 10) and the students were learning to play the melody from "Yellow Submarine" by the Beatles. There is a difficult rhythm in that song (a dotted eighth note/sixteenth note tuplet for you music kids out there) that most students couldn't get quite right each time. I tried all the standard methods--getting them to clap the rhythm, get them to play it on a single note, etc.--with little progress. One day I asked who knew the song and to my surprise, NO ONE did (!), so I promptly got out my iPod to play them the original version and pointed out that they were playing the notes that were being sung. After two listenings, the improvement was remarkable because--surprise, surprise--the troublesome rhythm made a lot more sense to them when they could connect it to the rhythm of the words of the song (which they hadn't heard up to that point--they music they had didn't have lyrics). "In the to-o-w-w-n...where I was bo-o-r-r-n..."--it was like the rhythm of the words made more sense to them than the black dots on the page. Admittedly, I didn't plan this as a type of scaffolding, but in hindsight, I think it functioned as such.
The Zone of Proximal Development
The Development of Language (pp.52-55 )Edit
Diversity in Language: Dual Language Development
Language Development in the School Years
- I find it interesting that "at around the age of five, students begin to develop metalinguistic awareness...their understanding of language and how it works becomes explicit" (54). Some of you around my age (30 in a few more days) who are also from the Toronto area may have experienced what I did in primary school: a total lack of grammar instruction. The first time it was pointed out to me was while I was still in primary school and my dad was blown away that I didn't know the basics of grammar. I didn't care about it at that time, but much later on someone told me that it was part of a curriculum experiment conducted on students from that time/place. Enough people from various and independent-of-one-another contexts have confirmed this for me to lead me to believe that it's more than an urban legend.
- I distinctly remember for the longest time hearing the word "verb" being used as if I was supposed to know what it meant, but having no clue. (I eventually took Grammar 101 at university. I think the fact that a university was offering multiple, overflowing sections of introductory grammar is a good indicator that this experiment indeed happened.) I also remember these "Reading Comprehension" books--stories followed by questions--which, if memory serves, were intended to teach us things like sentence structure and other related elements of grammar through association. I wonder if the idea behind the experiment was to teach grammar through imitation?
- On one hand, I suppose it worked for me, because I've never had trouble writing (even before my university grammar course). Yet, getting back to the metalinguistic awareness, if we could at least potentially understand grammatical structures at age 5, why remove them from the curriculum and hope we "pick it up along the way?" I really wonder what the relationship is between educational psychology and curriculum experiments, especially the ed. psych. theories behind this particular experiment. Perhaps it was to see if grammar really is universal??--i.e. let's not explicitly teach it to them and see if they pick it up along the way anyway.
- I've heard this approach to language referred to as the "whole-language" approach. It's based on the premise that an individual will pick up much of a language and syntax of that language if they are surrounded by it. This approach does not seem as concerned with ironing out grammatical details too soon, at it might overwhelm the student with what may be argued as trivial details (or at least, details that can be dealt with later on in a student's development).
- In Gavin's case, like most children, he most assuredly knew what verbs were early on in his development even though he may have not been able to offer a definition of the word upon request. This immersive approach is likely the way most of us learned our first language. The question remains, when we should prioritise issues of grammar and syntax in a child's development? Is there an age (or stage of development) that marks when a child is ready to focus on such matters? Or, is it an individualised process that differs between individuals?
- I think I relate more to the latter, something that would be reinforced by my casual discussions about this with colleagues. I have heard many similar accounts of students who did not receive much in the way of grammatical instruction in primary and secondary school, and were thus more inclined to learn it themselves in university (either independently or though self-selected courses). It would seem that once there was an intrinsic motivation within the student to learn the rules of grammar and extrinsic motivation in form of higher grades, many students would take the appropriate steps to ensure that they could get the knowledge they needed.
- Of course, I know many other people who have had very little grammatical training because they were not post-secondary students for long (if at all). They saw very little need to put that much effort into developing a skill that had very little use-value (i.e. people working in the trades do not generally have to write that many academic essays). That said, their verbal communications skills do not seem be contingent upon this gap in the knowledge, and they are quite capable of expressing themselves fluidly and insightfully. If we consider this in conjunction with the statistics regarding the amount of high school students who continue to study in college or university, it really makes one question what priorities need to be made in language and literacy skills in our curricula.
- One may have far more grammar knowledge than they are aware of. While a person may not be able to define the word verb or adjective, they would instinctively know where to place it in a sentence because of the "whole-language" approach. They have knowledge of grammar without being aware of it. If a young English speaking student were given the sentence "The dog brown is barking" they would recognize that the sentence is wrong but would be unable to use exact terms to describe the error and say why it is wrong. By giving a student grammar lessons, you would be giving the words to express what they already have knowledge of.
- When I first began my contract as an ESL teacher, I had only basic grammar knowledge. However, I could always tell if a sentence was wrong because it would not 'feel right', but I would be unable to explain to my students why it was wrong. It was only after I took the time to learn the grammar terms that I was able to communicate these things to them. It took me a very short time and very little effort to attach words or rules to things that I already knew because I had been speaking and surrounded by English my whole life.
Partnerships with Families
- I feel that family involvement is crucial when it comes to literacy, but this is much easier in elementary school than high school. I remember my parents reading to me every day and taking me to the library once a week to encourage a love of reading. To this day I am an avid reader and writer. By the time students get to high school, their habits on literacy can be largely formed. It can also be hard to get students and parents together to work on projects, as the text suggests. So what can we do to encourage literacy and reading in our schools?
- The ministry publication Think Literacy offers many good strategies for incorporating literacy in our classrooms. There are even subject specific guides in this series. Also, my practicum school implemeted a reading program called DEAR: Drop Everything And Read, which allocated 40 minutes every week for silent reading. Every student in the school would be reading during this time. I found this to be helpful because it establishes time for students to read, which they might not find otherwise and it promotes reading of non-school materials as a source of fun, learning and entertainment.
- Does anyone else have any suggestions for incorporating families?
It is crucial for the parents to be good role-models to their children. It is far more effective to 'show' them what to do rather then 'tell' them. My parents never told me or forced me to read, but I vividly remember my mom reading at the table when I was very young. The role-model that I saw from my mom naturally led me to the love of reading, which helped me to be literate much earlier than the others. This might sound like it only applies to little kids, but it is not. It would not make any sense for teenagers if parents are providing private tutoring in essay writing or force them to read one book per week, when the parents are not reading at all. I believe that teaching is valid and more effective when the teacher is role-modelling it to the students.