All teachers know quite a bit about cognitive development. All teachers can cite examples of students who "seem bright enough" but in certain areas, "just don't get it." They indicate that such students "just are not yet ready to learn and understand the material."
Computer technology is a valuable aid to research in cognitive development and cognitive neuroscience. Progress has been made and is being made that can contribute significantly toward helping to improve our educational system.
To a large extent, however, our education system does a poor job in dealing with the widely varying cognitive development levels of students at various grade levels or in various discipline-specific courses.
This is a "stub" for a iae-pedia.org Wiki page that explores past and current research and applications of cognitive development theory. It is a Work in Progress, and readers are strongly encouraged to add their insights to the material being collected here.
Quite a bit of the basic cognitive development framework developed by Piaget and other researchers of his time is still useful. The Piaget email discussion list at email@example.com is quite active and a number of Piaget-related Web sites My 4/5/09 Google search on Piaget produced about 5.2 million hits.
See http://www.time.com/time/time100/scientist/profile/piaget.html for an article about Piaget that was part of the TIME 100—the most important people of the century— published 3/29/1999. Quoting from this article:
- Jean Piaget, the pioneering Swiss philosopher and psychologist, spent much of his professional life listening to children, watching children and poring over reports of researchers around the world who were doing the same. He found, to put it most succinctly, that children don't think like grownups. After thousands of interactions with young people often barely old enough to talk, Piaget began to suspect that behind their cute and seemingly illogical utterances were thought processes that had their own kind of order and their own special logic. Einstein called it a discovery "so simple that only a genius could have thought of it."
- Others who shared this respect for children — John Dewey in the U.S., Maria Montessori in Italy and Paulo Freire in Brazil — fought harder for immediate change in the schools, but Piaget's influence on education is deeper and more pervasive. He has been revered by generations of teachers inspired by the belief that children are not empty vessels to be filled with knowledge (as traditional pedagogical theory had it) but active builders of knowledge — little scientists who are constantly creating and testing their own theories of the world. And though he may not be as famous as Sigmund Freud or even B.F. Skinner, his contribution to psychology may be longer lasting. As computers and the Internet give children greater autonomy to explore ever larger digital worlds, the ideas he pioneered become ever more relevant.
Cognitive Development and IQ
This section addresses cognitive development versus IQ. To what extent are measures of IQ good measures of cognitive development, or vice versa?
Cognitive development is defined as thinking, problem solving, concept understanding, information processing and overall intelligence.
First two years vital for kids cognitive development, IQ. December 24th, 2007.
Quoting from the brief article:
- Washington, Dec 24 (ANI): A new study has found that the quality of care given to a child within the first two years of life directly affects brain development and IQ.
- The researchers found that children placed in foster care at younger ages had significantly higher IQ than those placed in foster care after the age of 2.
- “Our findings suggest that there may be a sensitive period in the first two years of life in which experiences are especially important in shaping cognitive development. This work adds to a growing body of scientific evidence about the importance of early relationship experiences, said principal investigator Charles Zeanah, professor and chief of child psychiatry at Tulane University School of Medicine.
Here is an abstract quoted from A Classical IQ Model of the Stages of Cognitive Development.
- Based on the construct of classical IQ, a model of the proportions of the population at various stages of cognitive development as a function of age is proposed. The model compares well with other theoretical models and provides evidence of the salience of the construct of general cognitive capacity.
- Previous studies have reported that children and adults who were breastfed as infants have higher scores on IQ tests and other measures of cognitive (thinking, learning and memory) development than those who were fed formula, according to background information in the article. However, the evidence has been based on observational studies, in which children whose mothers chose to breastfeed were compared with those whose mothers chose not to breastfeed. The results of these studies may be complicated by subtle differences in the way breastfeeding mothers interact with their infants, the authors note.
- Mothers who visited a facility promoting breastfeeding were more likely to feed their infants only breast milk at age 3 months (43.3 percent vs. 6.4 percent in the control group) and at all ages through 1 year. At age 6.5, the children in the breastfeeding group scored an average of 7.5 points higher on tests measuring verbal intelligence, 2.9 points higher on tests measuring non-verbal intelligence and 5.9 points higher on tests measuring overall intelligence. Teachers also rated these children significantly higher academically than control children in both reading and writing.
Quoting from Baby chimps given human love ace IQ tests:
- Orphaned infant chimpanzees that received attentive, nurturing care from human surrogate mothers were found to be more intellectually advanced than the average human baby when both groups were compared at the age of nine months, according to a new study published in the latest issue of Developmental Psychobiology.
- The authors believe the study is the first to ever examine how different types of human care can affect the cognitive development and overall well being of infant chimpanzees.
- When the chimps were nine months old, they took an IQ test normally used to evaluate human infant development. Bard explained that typical items on the cognitive test required the chimps to "imitate scribbling on paper," look at pictures in a book as the examiner pointed to each one, and pick up a cup to find a block hidden underneath.
- The infant chimps aced the test, even surpassing the scores of average human infants tested at the same age.
Discipline-Specific Cognitive Development
This section probably relates to the idea of multiple intelligences. Howard Gardner's theory of multiple intelligences can, in some sense, be thought of as based on a person having multiple, somewhat independent brains. Thus, one one the intelligences (one of the brains) might be at a higher level of cognitive development than another.
I would think that this idea also fits in with:
Minsky, Marvin (1986). The Society of Mind. NY: Simon & Shuster. Quoting from the Prologue of this book:
- This book tries to explain how minds work. How can intelligence emerg from nonintelligence? To answer this, we'll show you that you can build a mind from may little parts, each mindless by itself.
- I'll call "Society of Mind" this scheme in which each mind is made up of many smaller processes. These we'll call agents. Each mental agent by itself can only do some simple thing that needs no mind or thought at all. Yet when we join these agents in societies—in certain special ways—this leads to true intelligence.
Quoting from Society of Mind in the Wikipedia:
- A core tenet of Minsky's philosophy is that "minds are what brains do". The society of mind theory views the human mind and any other naturally evolved cognitive systems as a vast society of individually simple processes known as agents. These processes are the fundamental thinking entities from which minds are built, and together produce the many abilities we attribute to minds. The great power in viewing a mind as a society of agents, as opposed to as the consequence of some basic principle or some simple formal system, is that different agents can be based on different types of processes with different purposes, ways of representing knowledge, and methods for producing results.
- This idea is perhaps best summarized by the following quote:
- What magical trick makes us intelligent? The trick is that there is no trick. The power of intelligence stems from our vast diversity, not from any single, perfect principle. – Marvin Minsky, The Society of Mind, p. 308.
Study of Latino Toddlers
Rivera, Carla (10/20/09). Studies find Latino toddles lag white children in cognitive skills. Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 10/22/09 from http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-toddlers21-2009oct21,0,200059.story. Quoting from the article:
- Poor immigrant Latinas have healthy babies, but by age 2 or 3, their toddlers begin to lag behind white middle-class children in vocabulary, listening and problem-solving skills, according to two studies released Tuesday.
- Researchers call it the "immigrant paradox": Pregnant Latino women smoke and drink less than pregnant white and African American women, Latino newborns have lower infant mortality rates, and the cognitive skill of infants 9 to 15 months are about equal for white and Latino children.
- But by the time they are toddlers, Latino children trail their white counterparts by up to six months in understanding words, speaking in more complex sentences and performing such simple tasks as assembling puzzles.
- The findings from researchers at UC Berkeley, UCLA and the University of Pittsburgh are based on a nationwide tracking study of more than 8,000 children born in 2001 and are being published in the Maternal and Child Health Journal and the medical journal Pediatrics.
- Past studies have documented disparities between Latino children and their white peers in kindergarten and persistent achievement gaps in later grades. The new findings pinpoint the beginnings of those gaps at an earlier age than previously thought. They also highlight the urgency of early intervention -- children in preschool programs such as Head Start may already be at a disadvantage, researchers said.
Theory of Cognitive Development
Quoting from the Wikipedia article titled "Theory of cognitive development":
- The Theory of Cognitive Development, first developed by Jean Piaget, proposes that there are four distinct, increasingly sophisticated stages of mental representation that children pass through on their way to an adult level of intelligence.
- The four stages, roughly correlated with age, are as follows:
- Sensorimotor period (years 0 to 2)
- Preoperational period (years 2 to 6)
- Concrete operational period (years 6 to 12)
- Formal operational period (years 12 and up)
Here is another quote from the Wikipedia article:
- Piagetians accounts of development have been challenged on several grounds. First, as Piaget himself noted, development does not always progress in the smooth manner his theory seems to predict. 'Decalage', or unpredicted gaps in the developmental progression, suggest that the stage model is at best a useful approximation. More broadly, Piaget's theory is 'domain general', predicting that cognitive maturation occurs concurrently across different domains of knowledge (such as mathematics, logic, understanding of physics, of language, etc). However, more recent cognitive developmentalists have been much influenced by trends in cognitive science away from domain generality and towards domain specificity or modularity of mind, under which different cognitive faculties may be largely independent of one another and thus develop according to quite different time-tables. In this vein, many current cognitive developmentalists argue that rather than being domain general learners, children come equipped with domain specific theories, sometimes referred to as 'core knowledge', which allows them to break into learning within that domain. For example, even young infants appear to understand some basic principles of physics (e.g. that one object cannot pass through another) and human intention (e.g. that a hand repeatedly reaching for an object has that object, not just a particular path of motion, as its goal). These basic assumptions may be the building block out of which more elaborate knowledge is constructed. Additionally, some psychologists, such as Vygotsky and Bruner, thought differently from Piaget, suggesting that language was more important than Piaget implied.
- Another recent challenge to Piaget's theory is a new theory called Ecological Systems Theory. This is based on the contextual influences in the child's life like his/her immediate family, school, society and the world, and how these impact the child's development.
I interpret this to mean that both nature and nurture contribute to cognitive development, the pace of cognitive development varies with various nature/nurture combinations, and that one can have different paces of development "across different domains of knowledge (such as mathematics, logic, understanding of physics, of language, etc.)."
See also [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Model_of_hierarchical_complexity "Model of hierarchical complexity" in the Wikipedia.
Human Intelligence and Cognitive Development
Remember, this is a work in progress. This section is far far from complete. It sort of represents my "thinking with my fingers."
As I (David Moursund) began thinking about possible content for this section, I realized that my thinking is this area was quite fuzzy. A couple of hours browsing articles available on this web didn't help much, and suggested that many writers do not have a clear understanding of similarities and differences between IQ and Cognitive Development.
My next search for information was among some fellow faculty members. There, I picked up some useful tidbits:
- Alfred Binet sent himself the task of dividing students into just three categories: Advanced, Normal, and Retarded.
- The brain of a very young child has far more neurons than that of an adult. These neurons have great plasticity. A pruning process removes many, keeping the ones that are getting the most use (that is, are considered the most important based on use).
- While IQ eventually was developed as an Age Scale it has since been developed into a Point Scale.
The following is quoted from a discussion of the Stanford Binet IQ Test:
- The Stanford Binet IQ Test combines features of earlier editions of the Stanford-Binet Intelligence Scale with recent improvements in psychometric design. Point-scale format subtests, designed to measure behavior at every age, and used in the 1986 edition are combined with the age-scale or functional-level design of the earlier editions. Two routing subtests identify the developmental starting points of the examinee, and the items can be tailored to cognitive level, resulting in greater precision in measurement. The Stanford-Binet IQ Test now has five factors, (Fluid Reasoning, Knowledge, Quantitative Reasoning, Visual-Spatial Processing, and Working Memory) as opposed to the four of the previous edition of the 1st Stanford Binet IQ Test.
The following is quoted from a discussion of the Wechsler Intelligence Test
- Wechsler intelligence test covers much bigger age range than any other intelligent test in the industry. It provides separate age norms for the adults differing in their ages. In Stanford-Binet, all individuals above the age of eighteen are considered equal in their intelligence. However, the common observation does not support it. At least several studies have indicated that intelligence rises after eighteen and then its decline starts. It never remains the same throughout.
- David Wechsler designed Wechsler intelligence test to compare your IQ with the normative groups of your own age. The available data of different Wechsler intelligence Scales indicates that peak age of your mental development is about 25-29 years.
The remainder of the previous paragraph has not been quoted, because it contains obvious errors. Here is a rewrite of the part of the previous quote that was not included. I think it says what the author was trying to say:
- Sooner or later a decline starts in your mental development scores. The decline in mental ability is the most apparent in the very old age categories of the samples. However, you must not forget that IQ reflects your performance in terms of the age norm with which you are grouped into for comparing purposes. Thus, if your aging-related decline in mental development or mental ability is consistent with others of your age and performance group, your IQ will remain unchanged.
Artificial Intelligence and Cognitive Development
There are two possible directions this section might take:
1. What might we mean when we say an artificially intelligent computer system has a certail level of cognitive development? Thus, for example, it is moderately common to compare the "intelligence" of an AI system to a particular insect, reptile, or mammal.
2. How does the existence of computer systems with some wort of cognitive development fit into how we want to help students increase their levels of cognitive development and make use of their cognitive development?
Thus, for example, it may be that there are certain types of cognition in which computer systems ae quite a bit different than humans. We might look at this via analogy. We know that humans are limited in their various senses. Machines can be built that can see in light ranges that humans cannot perceive, and hear in sound ranges that humans cannot hear. Our educatoinal system is not troubled by these situations, and use of such tools is often built into the curriculum.
IQ and Cognitive Development
Here is the abstract from:
Shayer Michael (March 2008). Intelligence for Education: As Described by Piaget and Measured by Psychometrics. British Journal of Educational Psychology, v78 n1 p1-29.
- A brief narrative description of the journal article, document, or resource. Two separate paths to the concept of intelligence are discussed: the psychometric path being concerned with the "measurement" of intelligence, involving the methodology of norm-referenced testing; the path followed by Piaget, and others, addresses from the start the related question of how intelligence can be "described," and employs a criterion-referenced methodology. The achievements of psychometrics are briefly described, with an argument that they now remain important tools of what Kuhn called "normal science." The criterion-referenced approach of Piaget and others is described, with evidence from intervention studies that the Genevan descriptions of children-in-action have allowed the choice of contexts within which children can profitably be challenged to go further in their thinking. Hence, Genevan psychology is "also" now a part of the normal science with important uses, shown both in neo-Piagetian studies and further research stemming from Geneva. Discussion of the "Flynn effect" sheds light on both paths, with problems still unresolved. The argument is then developed that the relevance of neuroscience needs to be discussed to try to decide in what ways it may provide useful insights into intelligence.
This section is a Work in Progress.
See Andrew N. Meltzoff at http://ilabs.washington.edu/meltzoff/publications.html. This Website contains a number of his articles.
Quoting from: Meltzoff, A. N. (2009). Roots of social cognition: The like-me framework. In D. Cicchetti & M. R. Gunnar (Eds.), Minnesota symposia on child psychology: Meeting the challenge of translational research in child psychology (Vol. 35, pp. 29-58). Hoboken, NJ: Wiley.
- A researcher may begin by pursuing abstract knowledge and then be touched by rea l-world concerns. Over the course of their careers some people such as Piaget ( 1970) and Bruner (1960), both of whom became interested in improving education , successfully span both theory and practice.
Recent research on learning styles suggests that this area of educational research and development has been oversold. See, for example, the December 17, 2009 Science News article at http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/12/091216162356.htm. Quoting from this article:
- Are you a verbal learner or a visual learner? Chances are, you've pegged yourself or your children as either one or the other and rely on study techniques that suit your individual learning needs. And you're not alone -- for more than 30 years, the notion that teaching methods should match a student's particular learning style has exerted a powerful influence on education. The long-standing popularity of the learning styles movement has in turn created a thriving commercial market amongst researchers, educators, and the general public.
- The wide appeal of the idea that some students will learn better when material is presented visually and that others will learn better when the material is presented verbally, or even in some other way, is evident in the vast number of learning-style tests and teaching guides available for purchase and used in schools. But does scientific research really support the existence of different learning styles, or the hypothesis that people learn better when taught in a way that matches their own unique style?
- Unfortunately, the answer is no, according to a major new report published this month in Psychological Science in the Public Interest, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science. The report, authored by a team of eminent researchers in the psychology of learning -- Hal Pashler (University of San Diego), Mark McDaniel (Washington University in St. Louis), Doug Rohrer (University of South Florida), and Robert Bjork (University of California, Los Angeles) -- reviews the existing literature on learning styles and finds that although numerous studies have purported to show the existence of different kinds of learners (such as "auditory learners" and "visual learners"), those studies have not used the type of randomized research designs that would make their findings credible.
Declining Levels of Cognitive Development
There appears to be growing evidence that students are not moving up a Cognitive Development scale as rapidly as in the past. There have been studies of the cognitive development levels of students done in England for a number of years. A 2006 study of 10,000 students in the 11 to 12 year old range showed that their level of cognitive development was two to three years below that of an equivalent group of students from 15 years earlier.
Author or Authors
The initial version of this document was developed by David Moursund.
Chandler, Michael (5/1609). In Search of a Better Teaching Formula. Educators Are Challenging the Idea That Numerical Ability Must Come Naturally. Retrieved 5/18/09: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/05/15/AR2009051503434.html.
Crace, John (1/24/06). Children are less able than they used to be. The Guardian. Retrieved 4/18/09: http://www.guardian.co.uk/education/2006/jan/24/schools.uk.
Quoting from this article:
- New research funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) and conducted by Michael Shayer, professor of applied psychology at King's College, University of London, concludes that 11- and 12-year-old children in year 7 are "now on average between two and three years behind where they were 15 years ago", in terms of cognitive and conceptual development.
- "It's a staggering result," admits Shayer, whose findings will be published next year in the British Journal of Educational Psychology. "Before the project started, I rather expected to find that children had improved developmentally. This would have been in line with the Flynn effect on intelligence tests, which shows that children's IQ levels improve at such a steady rate that the norm of 100 has to be recalibrated every 15 years or so. But the figures just don't lie. We had a sample of over 10,000 children and the results have been checked, rechecked and peer reviewed."
Dweck, Carol S. (October 2007). The Perils and Promises of Praise. ASCD Educational Leadership. Retrieved 4/26/09: http://www.ascd.org/publications/educational_leadership/oct07/vol65/num02/The_Perils_and_Promises_of_Praise.aspx.
Quoting from this article:
- Praise is intricately connected to how students view their intelligence. Some students believe that their intellectual ability is a fixed trait. They have a certain amount of intelligence, and that's that. Students with this fixed mind-set become excessively concerned with how smart they are, seeking tasks that will prove their intelligence and avoiding ones that might not (Dweck, 1999, 2006). The desire to learn takes a backseat.
- Other students believe that their intellectual ability is something they can develop through effort and education. They don't necessarily believe that anyone can become an Einstein or a Mozart, but they do understand that even Einstein and Mozart had to put in years of effort to become who they were. When students believe that they can develop their intelligence, they focus on doing just that. Not worrying about how smart they will appear, they take on challenges and stick to them (Dweck, 1999, 2006).
- More and more research in psychology and neuroscience supports the growth mind-set. We are discovering that the brain has more plasticity over time than we ever imagined (Doidge, 2007); that fundamental aspects of intelligence can be enhanced through learning (Sternberg, 2005); and that dedication and persistence in the face of obstacles are key ingredients in outstanding achievement (Ericsson, Charness, Feltovich, & Hoffman, 2006).
A number of Carol Dweck's articles can be accessed at https://www.stanford.edu/dept/psychology/cgi-bin/drupalm/cdweck.
Moursund, David (2006). Computational thinking and math maturity: Improving math education in K-8 schools. Eugene, OR: Information Age Education. Access at http://i-a-e.org/downloads/doc_download/3-computational-thinking-and-math-maturity-improving-math-education-in-k-8-schools.html. See Chapters 7 and 8.
Moursund (n.d.). Critical Thinking. Retrieved 4/5/09 from http://iae-pedia.org/Critical_Thinking.
Moursund (n.d.). Problem Solving. Retrieved 4/5/09 from http://iae-pedia.org/Problem_Solving.
Science News (3/28/2009). Visual Learners Convert Words To Pictures In The Brain And Vice Versa, Says Psychology Study. Retrieved 6/22/2010 from http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/03/090325091834.htm. Quoting from the article:
- A University of Pennsylvania psychology study, using functional magnetic resonance imaging technology to scan the brain, reveals that people who consider themselves visual learners, as opposed to verbal learners, have a tendency to convert linguistically presented information into a visual mental representation. …
- Future research based on the findings from this study may be able to determine whether cognitive styles are something one is predisposed to or can learn. Depending on the flexibility with which one can adopt a style, educators could cater to one style over another to improve learning.
- It has long been thought that propensities for visual or verbal learning styles influence how children acquire knowledge successfully and how adults reason in every-day life; however, there was no empirical link to this hypothesis from cognitive neuroscience. [Bold added for emphasis.]
Super Brain Yoga. 4-minute video. Retrieved 4/14/09: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KSwhpF9iJSs.