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Cognitive Development in Early

Chapter 8

Cognitive Development based on

Multiple Factors
Parallels the growth of the brain
Increased levels of myelinization
Continued pruning
Elaboration based on experience

Enhanced by the broader range of

Expanding peer networks
Greater diversity in interactions with adults
The childs own increased mobility

Three Theoretical
Information Processing

Piagets Perspectives
Transition from Sensorimotor into
Preoperational Thought
Capable of using symbolic thought to
perform mental tasks
According to Piagets work, lacks the
ability to operate on those mental tasks
Mental operations may not be available
for reflective consideration

Piagets Perspectives
Progression of mental capabilities
Use of language to represent symbols
Recognizes when stories are told out of
Explanations are more complex
Use of art to represent symbols
Drawings tend to be more realistic as the
child progresses across the early
childhood years
Use of play to model roles and objects
Can use one object to represent other

Piagets Perspectives:
Preoperational Thought
Intuitive thought
Based on personal experiences
Logic based on unanalyzed personal
experiences (e.g. flag theory of wind
and air conditioner theory of summer)

Piagets Perspectives
Failure to take others perspectives
Sees others as having ones own perspective

Animistic thought
Attributes animate qualities to inanimate

Attributes natural phenomena (sunsets,
tides) to direct human action

Piagets Perspectives
Ability to recognize the constancy of
invariants (e.g. number, mass) in spite
of transformations of variable attributes

Discontinuous fluids
Continuous fluids

Piagets Perspectives
Tendency to isolate one attribute as a focus of
attention and ignore other relevant aspects (e.g.
height and diameter of a cylinder in the liquid
conservation task)

Failure to mentally reverse the operations that led
to the change in attribute or end point.

Static endpoints
Tendency to focus on beginning and end states
regardless of the nature of the transformation

Vygotskys Perspective
Theoretical orientation reflected a
Marxist dialectical view
Social speechinteraction with
othersprecedes private speech
monologue by the child
Private speech precedes the
internalization of the concept to a
mental representation

Vygotskys Perspective
Development (for Vygotsky)
occurred in a social or intermental plane first
and then on an internal or intramental plane
required the presence of a more competent
required the more competent other to
mediate the process of learning and

Vygotskys Perspective
Concepts for Application:
Zone of Proximal Development: more
competent other assists the child in moving
from what the child can do independently to
that which the child can do only with support
Scaffolding: the process of supporting the
child across the zone of proximal development

Impacts on educational practices:

Teacher as a coach or facilitator
Emphasis on cooperative learning with
mixed ability groups

Information Processing Theory

Encodinginitial input of information
from environment (sense organs;
perception; attention)
Transformationprocesses operating
on that information (strategies
depth of processing)
Storageretention of the information
(network modelsschema structures)

Information Processing Theory

Retrievalrecall or recognition of the
information from memory (strategies
search of memory)
Executive functionmanagement,
monitoring, and control of cognitive
domain (metacognition; cognitive
monitoring; selection and use of

Developmental Considerations
Capacity increasesamount of
information one can process
Maturation of the CNS (central nervous
Increased practice at particular tasks
(e.g. naming, answering questions)
Rehearsal strategies (e.g. rote vs.

Developmental Considerations
Efficiency increasesamount and /or
complexity of processing by unit time
Maturation of the CNS
Acquisition of more efficient strategies
Transition from controlled to automatic

Developmental Considerations
Controlled Processes
Conscious (child is aware of the steps)
Each step is monitored (child knows
Requires additional processing resources
(limited capability for parallel tasks
Early reading behavior
Early mathematics computation
Learning to drive a manual transmission

Developmental Considerations
Automatic Processes
Steps largely outside of awareness (Child
is not aware of discrete processes)
Overall progress is monitored (outcomes
of each step likely not monitored but
overall task success is monitored)
Requires fewer conscious processing
resources (multi-tasking is possible)
Reading familiar texts
Simple arithmetic computations
Driving a manual transmission car after

Developmental Considerations
Transition from automatic to
controlled processes occurs through
Acquisition of knowledge base
Acquisition of more efficient strategies

Developmental Considerations
Controlled Attentionability to
sustain focus of mental resources
Early on, young children typically require
an adult or more competent individual
to help sustain attention (ala Vygotsky)
As CNS matures and more effective
strategies are acquired, child is able to
manage own focus (pruning, mylination,

Developmental Considerations

Executive function
Monitors ongoing mental processing
Controls strategic thinking
Can manage attention
Becomes able to assess performance on
relatively simple mental tasks
Tends to develop rapidly across early childhood
Tend to overestimate their knowledgeunclear
whether the overestimation is a true
overestimation or a desire to please an adult

Developmental Considerations
Theory of Mind (ToM)Attributing mental
states to oneself and other
Appearancereality distinction (Maynard the cat
who wore a dog mask)
Younger children were sure Maynard became a
Older children did not succumb to the prank
Recognizing the difference between ones own
feelings and others is key to understanding mental
states differ
Maturation, experience with language, opportunities
to communicate specifically but ones mental states
seem to be linked to development of ToM.

Language Development across

Early Childhood
Vocabulary Development occurs
Exposure and reinforcement
Childs own analysis and construction of
rules and structures

Language Development across Early

Syntactic Development
Syntactic structure learned through
exposure & attempts
Telegraphic speech is an early syntactic
Noun (agent) verb (predicate); object implied
Verb (predicate) noun (object); agent implied
Noun (agent) noun (object); predicate implied

Language Development across Early

Syntactic Development
Rules can be overregularized
Child recognizes a rule should be applied
Application of a rule is syntactically appropriate
but incorrect (e.g. runrunned instead of ran)
Indicates the child is constructing rules and

Errors typically reflect syntactic rather than

semantic errors (errors in structure, not

Language Development across Early


Pragmatic Developmentrules of usage

What cognitive resource or capability might be
Perspective taking
Recognizing non-verbal cues and emotional

Domains of Pragmatic Development

Turn taking
Context dependent vs. context independent language
Answer obvious questions (Do you have to make that
much noise?)
Deference to authority

Language Development across Early

Bilingual Children
Three models
Both languages learned simultaneously
Most effective if each parent consistently uses
one language
Tend to be more fluent in both

One language is learned first
Second language is learned following some
fluency in first language
Most common in the USA culture

Language Development across Early


Bilingual Children
Three models

First language is learned to some fluency
Second language is learned as a
preferential language or as a replacement
for the first language

Cultural norms and bilingualism

Cultures that value bi or multilingualism tend to have
either simultaneous or additive bilingualism
Cultures that devalue one of the two languages tend
to have subtractive bilingualism
True bilingualism (simultaneous or additive) tends to
be related to more astute language users

Early Childhood Education

Early Childhood

Child Care

Nature of Program

Structured Curriculum Play and Free


Entry Criteria


Open Access

Placement w/in

Placement Tests

Some Age Leveling

Movement across

Advancement based
on achievement

Social Skills

Early Childhood Education: National

Head Start/ Abecedarian/High-Scope
Ages of service range from birthfive
years depending on the program
Typically comprehensivehealth,
parental involvement, educational
Typically includes home visits for
parental education

Early Childhood Education

Factors impacting success rate
Population served
Teacher training (VPK vs. Certified
Staff turnover
Comprehensive nature of the program
Staff development
Parent training
Follow-up beyond exit from program
(Project Follow Through)

Early Childhood Education

Kindergarten Readiness
Gross Motorjumping, catching;
Fine Motorblock building, copying

Answering personal questions (name, age, sex)
Articulation (for referral to speech assessment)

Naming body parts
Naming parts of a house

Early Childhood Education

Kindergarten Readiness
Skills at feeding, grooming, hygiene
Dressing oneself

Play with other children
Compliance with adult-given instructions
Following rules

Early Childhood Education

Educational issues around Readiness
Many of those who test as not ready for
kindergarten can be accommodated in regular
kindergarten classes
Old-for-grade tends to be more predictive of
problems than movement into kindergarten
with some additional support
Schools might be reconstrued as being ready
for children vs. children as being ready for