Chapter 5 - 1 CHAPTER 5 COGNITIVE DEVELOPMENTAL THEORIES...

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1 CHAPTER 5 COGNITIVE DEVELOPMENTAL THEORIES AND CONSTRUCTIVISM Principle 5.1: Learning is more powerful if learners actively construct their own understandings. Principle 5.2: Learning experiences are more effective if they take into account the cognitive developmental levels of the learners. Principle 5.3: Students’ knowledge construction is assisted by the nature of their interactions with people and/or objects in their environments. Piagetian Theory Piaget’s writings span approximately 70 years and they provide a rich and complicated theory for how people acquire knowledge, and how our thought processes change with age. Although some of his ideas are criticized heavily today, his historical importance for psychology and education cannot be denied. He is clearly one of the most influential thinkers of the last century. Piagetian theory can be organized into two main parts. The first part of his theory consists of his ideas about the purpose and nature of intelligence. Piaget concerned himself mainly with identifying the major goal of intelligence, and how people acquire the knowledge structures necessary for intelligent behavior. The
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2 second part of this theory provides a stage theory perspective on human cognitive development that describes how people’s intellectual capabilities change with age. Piagetian View of Intelligence When you hear the word intelligence, you may tend to think about it in terms of the types of performances measured by standardized intelligence tests. Piaget, however, took a broader view of intelligence (Ginsburg & Opper, 1988). According to Piaget (1950, 1952), intelligence is a set of cognitive capabilities that allow people to adjust to the demands of their environment. These cognitive capabilities consist of learners’ knowledge structures, the cognitive functions they use in acquiring their knowledge structures, and their ability to self-regulate their cognitive functions. Knowledge Structures The basic Piagetian knowledge structure is the scheme or schema as it is sometimes called. A scheme is an organized pattern of thought or action that people use to understand and interact with their world. Schemes can be thought of as concepts, categories of knowledge, or as a card in an index file (Wadsworth, 1996). Although some schemes are present at birth or shortly after, other schemes develop as a result of our experiences. These experience create schemes that are “...the structure or organization of actions as they are transferred or generalized by repetition in similar or analogous circumstances” (Piaget & Inhelder, 1969, p. 4). In other words, a scheme represents the knowledge that has been abstracted from
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3 the common elements of different but related experiences. For example, children might observe that all of the cats in the neighborhood meow. Their scheme or understanding of cats will probably contain the generalization that cats meow.
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