Children throughout the world mature into adults, this is a fact. What isn’t known is how they get to be that adult. The Cognitive approach is based on a child being a child, not just a little adult. A child must have the structure to learn alongside input from others. Piaget is seen as one of the pioneering researchers on this theory, since his first work in child development in 1936. Vygotsky, Bruner and Donaldson have built on Piaget’s research, the mind of a child is starting to make sense, this gives educators an insight into how to teach and help a child grow into an adult (Spodek and Saracho, 2014).
Jean Piaget (1896- 1980) Is recognised as the theorist who influenced the way that children are observed during childhood development. He believed that the child has an ability to learn from environmental influences. Oates, 1994 cited by.Penn,( 2014). Piaget’s four stages of childhood development cited by Halpenny, (2013) are. Sensorimotor: 0-2 years, where a child begins learning through muscle memory, to live for the here and now through trial and error, the child will begin to get object permanence towards the later stage. Pre-Operational: 2- 6 years old, the child starts becoming egotistical, bases personal judgement on appearances, as well as the struggle to see other people’s point of view, they are starting to learn words and numbers. Concrete Operations: 7- 11 years old where a child is beginning to think about situations in a logical way, Piaget had an experiment where he poured the exact amount of fluid into two of the same size and width clear beakers, then transferred the fluid from one beaker into one long slim beaker, making the fluid in the slimmer beaker seem visually higher, the children started to realise that it was still the same amount at the concrete operational stage whereas before, they would have automatically presumed the thinner clear beaker held more(Spodek and Saracho, 2014).The final stage in Development. Formal operations: 11—18+ years, the child starts thinking in abstract and complex ways, it sees things and makes a judgement based on what it has learnt. Before Piaget, children were just little adults, although Piaget’s research was deemed unethical as conducted using only his own children, the pattern was seen throughout the world (Takaya, 2013). There were critics, the ages that Piaget suggested seemed to underestimate a child’s abilities. It was thought that children can do a lot more at earlier ages depending on their environment. Some Psychologists didn’t like the idea of ages set in stone, they saw it as an ongoing process (Continuity). O’Brien, (2009) stated that Piaget’s work was biased, not only did he use his own children, the whole development theory is based on White Europeans, not taking into account different cultures. The critics of Piaget include Vygotsky, Bruner and Donaldson whom all agree that whilst Piaget had some valid foundation points there were aspects that he hadn’t considered (Takaya, 2013). They agree that children learn through interaction with their environment, that nurture plays a massive part in development, that experience’s and environment shape our learning (Penn, 2014).
Vygotsky (1896 – 1934) shared Piaget’s view that children were active in their learning (Adler-Tapia 2012)., however, he placed more empathise on language and social development from people in a child’s life (Adler-Tapia 2012). interactions are an important part of the cognitive development. Vygotsky Developed the Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD) (TRYPHON and Vone?che, 2013). this is the gap between what a child can learn and what they have the potential to do with the encouragement or support of a More Knowledgeable Other (MKO) (Adler-Tapia 2012), teacher, a parent someone who could encourage the child to learn more (TRYPHON and Vone?che, 2013). Freud (1990) conducted an experiment in which the children had to place furniture in a dolls house, some of the children played with their mother beforehand whilst others were not allowed, the children who had played with their mother placed the furniture in the house in a confident correct manner. Freud’s conclusion was that using the ZPD a child has greater knowledge and understanding than working alone (discovery Learning) (Adler-Tapia 2012). The critics thought that Vygotsky’s way of thinking as overly optimistic, That Vygotsky used informal research methods, meaning he lacked the research to back up his ideas, other criticisms include, overemphasizing language and underemphasizing individuals (TRYPHON and Vone?che, 2013). He believed that the children shouldn’t talk to each other, that they learnt through the teacher. Crain (2000) suggests this theory leads to the children gaining knowledge through instruction, but totally ignores a child capable of learning through imagination, such as drawing.
J Bruner (1915 – 2016) suggested that children have three modes of representation (Olson,2014). Enactive: Muscle memory, remembering the gesture to of shaking a rattle. He didn’t put set ages, he suggested the age for this was approximately 0-1 year. Then Iconic: Learning from pictures, objects learning through muscle memory, approximately 1-7 years. The final stage is Symbolic: Approximately 7 years and upwards, being able to explain, a novel after reading, using complex symbols and letters. McLeod (2008). Bruner felt that there is a constant acquiring of knowledge, even the youngest of learners can learn if given the correct information. This is spiral learning (Olson,2014). A child will actively build on knowledge, the teacher becomes the child scaffolding, encouraging the child to learn independently (Levine and Munsch, 2015). The critics say that the whole thing is too complicated, it would be impractical for a teacher to design their lessons around Burners Modes of development (Takaya, 2013) that the ages are all approximate.it would be difficult to implement a structured learning base as, not all children have the same cognitive abilities, the outside influences alongside research into behaviourism were not considered such as, John Watson, whose experiment with little Albert, showed how easy it is to condition a child’s behaviour to be afraid when conditioned by negative experiences to associate it with a fluffy animal, a child’s social environment, can make a child portray different levels of confidence also cognitive behaviour, whether positive or negative. (Watson And Rayner 1920: Cited Sommers-Flanagan et al., 2015)
Margaret Donaldson (1926 -), began her career with the belief that the dominant theory was behaviourism (Levine and Munsch, 2015). she spent a short-term working alongside Piaget in 1957(Meadows and Cashdan, 2017)., although she found his methods impressive, she was not convinced by his work. Donaldson thought that there were things that contributed to a child’s development that Piaget had missed (Levine and Munsch, 2015). Donaldson was also influenced by Vygotsky and Bruner, furthermore, she worked alongside both in Harvard in the 1960s (Meadows and Cashdan, 2017). Donaldson concluded that when children were asked to do a task, they would make errors, they were not only responding to what the task was they were also trying to make sense of the task to make ” human sense” of the situation (Meadows and Cashdan, 2017). Donaldson identified the need for high-quality education in the early years, she noticed that children were attending school not being able to talk, and limited cognitive ability. Donaldson advised Carers to work alongside the families in the early years, whilst working with the families she recommended that the practitioner tries to decentre themselves and look through the eyes of the child while identifying the child’s needs (Scottish Gov, 2014). A child will review information that’s given and try to associate the information with an experience (Naji and Rosnani Hashim, 2017). When a child cannot associate it with a past memory or experience, trying to decipher the new information feels wrong therefore the child cannot make sense of information (Donaldson,2006). Donaldson challenged Piaget’s theory, she did not believe that children had a ceiling to their development at different ages or stages (Naji and Rosnani Hashim, 2017).,Donaldson believed that adolescence professional’s, alongside parents, parents should encourage children to do the things they can do rather than focus on the things that they can’t do (Penn, 2014). A teacher must look at things from a child’s point of view, to make them able to understand the task by associating the task with embedded situations. One of the biggest critics of Donaldson, is that there is a total totally disregard for age and basics of learning, once again making teaching extremely hard, there is also the argument that if the embedded information that a child could be false, once again giving problems on how to build on a child’s knowledge. (Hammond, 2014)
The work of Vygotsky, Bruner, Donaldson, and other recent Researchers changed the education system (Basu et al,.2014). We have moved away from Piaget’s rigid rules, still using a lot of his ideas, learning more about Childhood development and expanding in knowledge (Featherstone, 2017). There are now over 100 Forest Schools (FSA, 2018) That concentrate on teaching the children using the cognitive research, aiming to build on self-esteem and confidence, using hands on activities (FSA, 2018) In 2009 Scotland, the schools started opening for younger children, from less educated families, to make sure that the child gets the knowledge through education and cognitive development (Save the Children, 2015) In 2008, the Welsh government started to play to learn, for children aged three to seven years old, this is in direct response to the ongoing research that is done on childhood Development (Wainwright et al., 2016). The research has helped children and will continue to help people understand the way that a child develops is remarkable, people are starting to listen and implement the changes, children are being listened to and understood, at last, thanks to a whole range of theorists including cognitive, behaviour, biology, social we are starting to get a full picture of what it means to be a child.