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This essay will compare and contrast two theories of children's cognitive development. German psychologist, Karl Stumpf once compared the study of children with botany. He associated botany with organism maturity which developed and matured (p.19).
Cognitive and intellectual development in children is the beginning of the process of maturation (p.134). Children's biological development occurs through organization and adaptation to the environment, and the same occurs for cognitive development, as various researchers have shown. The cognitive development process begins as soon as the child begins to interact with his their environment and with the social group day care or school they attend on a day to day basis. The process begins early in development and it has been shown that even very young children, from two to three year olds grasp the existence of the world around them. The realm of mental states and processes that are marked off from that of physical objects or behavioral acts are easily grasped.
Research has shown that children of this age and younger also understand much about the distinction between reality and not reality, and they can easily distinguish, in certain clear cases, real from not-real things, being from seeming. Finally, the development of an understanding of mind and an understanding of reality are intertwined, and a distinction between being and seeming requires some theory of mind that derives from contrasting that category of experience with reality.
Turnbull in 1961 provided data in support of learning as a sensory experience, with the sensory apparatus of the organism serving as the connection between the internal and external worlds. The beginning of cognition and learning is the beginning of maturation as the organism responds to sensory input. In fact, this begins as soon as awareness begins and is a prerequisite to the maturation of the individual. Conditioning is a specific type of learning that involves sensory input and learning through behaviorism.
Hock cites a study by Tolman from 1948 concerning the process of learning as a form of cognitive-behaviorism, showing how people formed a mental representation of their world and how they interacted with that world by developing what Tolman called cognitive maps. Tolman's view showed a behaviorist influence modified by these cognitive maps that would become part of the stimuli for the organism and that would constitute a form of learning that was maintained by the organism as a model against which new experience was tested and measured. This form of learning also illustrated a link between the way humans and animals learned about the world and then behaved accordingly, with cognitive maps for humans being more comprehensive than those for animals.
Other researchers have discussed various ways in which cognitive learning develops and is manifested. Some define learning in terms of metacognitive knowledge, defining this as that segment of an individual's stored world knowledge that has to do with people as cognitive creatures and with their diverse cognitive tasks, goals, actions, and experiences. Metacognitive experiences are any conscious cognitive or affective experiences accompanying and pertaining to any intellectual enterprise. Metacognitive knowledge consists primarily of knowledge or beliefs about what factors or variables act and interact in what ways to affect the course and outcome of cognitive enterprises. The three major categories of these factors or variables are person, task, and strategy. Metacognitive memory is found not to be fundamentally different from other knowledge stored in long-term memory, and a segment of it may be activated as the result of a deliberate, conscious memory search for an effective strategy, for instance. The segment may also be activated unintentionally and automatically by retrieval cues in the task situation.
Hock cites a study by Watson and Rayner from 1920 suggesting behavioral learning as the source of emotions and emotional behavior for the organism. Hock finds that this study blazed a trail for studying new psychological territory, using Little Albert to show the development of conditioned emotional responses. Such research suggested as well the social nature of learning and the fact of learning as a process of acculturation to what the group accepts rather than as a manifestation of some inherent inner state.
Indeed, Hock notes the contribution of social psychology as he discusses studies like that of LaPiere from 1934, showing how social attitudes are formed. Throughout his book, Hock offers different studies of the learning process from various points of view and so shows how maturation is a cognitive as well as a biological process, with the individual achieving greater capabilities as he or she learns more through interactions with the environment, both the natural environment and the social environment into which the individual is born. Comparisons of modes of thought among people from different parts of the world would show the actions of different types of cognitive map and so would bolster the view of cognitive learning as emerging from interaction with the stimuli offered by each social group. One is reminded of studies showing different influences leading to different modes of thought and studies of the debate over nature versus nurture as the source of learning. The various studies cited by Hock actually show a combination of influences from both nature and nurture as being key in the way the individual develops and matures, as would be expected.
In Lambert's (2000) article the research indicated that a concern existed regarding the cognitive development of children who lacked a reference to their previous learning knowledge base, and were thrust into immediate structured learning within a school system (p. 32). Lambert (2000) contends that as children are progressed into a school curriculum that has its own formula for learning; children are often struggling to conform to this educational approach because they have no basis to draw from as they formulate new concepts and ideas (p. 32). Lambert (2000) further believes that to avoid this hindrance in the educational environment, the educational format should be structured to invite a child's previous learning and interests in order to provide a framework for information to be absorbed from the curriculum (p. 37).
Maurice Hollingsworth and John Woodward (1993) have suggested that students with and without learning disabilities are more receptive to materials that provide visual stimulation, as opposed to lectures in the classroom (p. 444). This visual stimulation was conducted by the researchers in a test of cognitive problem solving in which students were both lectured and then asked to view a video health related problem on the computer. Hollingsworth and Woodward (1993) found that both the students who had been diagnosed with learning disabilities, and those who had not, were much more receptive to the computer lessons because they were being stimulated through sight and sound, and this inclusion into the learning made the students eager to respond to the information (p. 444). Furthermore, small computer-based lessons proved that the students retained more than when participating in a lecture-based format, and that they were easily capable of reasoning/problem solving within the lesson provided (p. 444).
Therefore, this study was developed to research whether or not students would have a greater capacity for learning through the use of computer stimuli, and whether or not concepts of previous knowledge would play any role in this cognitive test.
After completing the research it is theorized that the computer activity selected will provide an active learning environment that will enhance cognitive development, but that due to the age of the children tested the inclusion of previous knowledge will be inconclusive for the purposes of this research.
In an effort to utilize both of these theories of addressing personal learning as a basis for curriculum based learning, and the concept that visual stimulation provides a greater rate of cognition, four students were allowed to participate in this study to gather information. The students were each fourth grade students, age nine, and had all previously worked on computers in some general sense. Prior to the student's use of the computers, a short survey was taken which encompassed Lambert's (2000) theories that children would have a greater learning capacity when they were taught from their previous knowledge base (p. 32). Therefore, using Lambert's (2000) list of acceptable stimuli, two of the students were asked which element they preferred from the suggested items that included dinosaurs, the titanic, tools, cultural toys, food, or the environment (p. 37). The two students contended that dinosaurs were preferable to the other suggested elements, and that this subject matter was knowledgeable to them previous to their school years. The two other students were not given a choice regarding previous knowledge criteria. Of the four students one in each group was considered to be struggling with Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) in their learning skills, and two were not. Therefore, the groups of two each contained one student with ADD, and one without ADD.
Each of the students were tested individually on a library computer system in which they were asked to play a word game without being given any instructions verbally previous to the game. As the word game began instructions for the game were presented on the computer monitor, and music served as a background for the introduction. The students were asked to then place correct words in sentences, or to mouse click on correct answers to audio questions. The program prompted students when they were correct or incorrect, and the game lasted approximately ten minutes per student at the beginning level. The game maintained a score for twenty questions asked. The students who had been selected to have dinosaurs included in their learning, had pictures and figures of dinosaurs placed above and next to the computer while they completed the test.
The results are divided into measurements as follows:
Student with ADD who had dinosaur stimuli and completed the game.
Student who did not have ADD, had dinosaur stimuli and completed the game.
Student who had ADD, no stimuli, and completed the game.
Student without ADD, no stimuli, and completed the game.
Of the twenty questions asked the results indicated that all four students responded correctly to each of the twenty questions.
There was some nervousness from all of the students prior to taking the test, as each student was eager to prove his or her computer skills. It was evident through observation that each of the students often spoke to the computer, (as a person) and made comments such as, "I know the answer to that, you can't fool meâ€¦" When asked what they thought of the word game at the conclusion of the test, two students said, "It's okay", and two appeared very enthusiastic about their participation.
It is evident from the study results that the inclusion of stimuli, (i.e., the dinosaurs) as suggested by Lambert (2000) was inconclusive to this study. It is contended that this conclusion is due to the age of the students being tested, as their reliance on previous knowledge has already passed the stage of great significance with their time in the school system. Furthermore, it is also evident that the word game was successful in retaining the interest of the students, and that they displayed strong cognitive abilities in completing the material.
It should be noted that both ADD students were reported to be having great difficulties in school within their English classes, and that the teachers had advised that the game might be too difficult for their abilities. The results would indicate that the visual stimuli of the computer game allowed these students to depart from the structured learning of the classroom, and become involved in the computer based learning without the inclusion of structured education. This evidence would conclude that for these ADD students the exercise was an effective measurement of the theory that visual stimuli was an effective learning tool for students with ADD. However, the study also indicated that the two students who did not have ADD also did well in completing the word game, and neither of the non-ADD students had a previous complication with English in school.
Therefore, it can be concluded that the use of computer visual stimuli was an effective tool in assisting student's learning that are diagnosed with ADD. No measurement can be conclusive in the cognitive measurement of students without ADD who were tested with computer visual stimuli, nor can a measurement be obtained regarding the effectiveness of previous knowledge stimuli as suggested by Lambert (2000).