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Thursday, 29 November 2012 14:26

school Age cognitive-- Notes

Written by David Sheppard
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The School Years: Cognitive Development 

 A Prime Time for Learning 

  • Children in the school years are inquisitive and eager to learn new skills.

 Piaget’s Third Stage 

  • Concrete operational thought is the ability to reason logically about direct experiences and perceptions.
  • Children in this stage become more systematic, objective, and scientific thinkers–but only about tangible, visible things.

 Logical Principles 

  • Classification: organization into groups according to common property

 Example: Show 5 collies and 2 poodles. Ask, “Are there more collies or dogs?”

    • Kids in middle childhood know that collies are a subcategory of “dogs.”

 Essence and Change 

  • Identity: certain characteristics of an object remain the same even if other characteristics change
  • Examples: frozen water is still water; a butterfly was once a caterpillar; liquid in smaller glass is the same liquid


Essence and Change (cont.) 

  • Reversibility: reversing the process by which something was changed brings the original conditions
  • Example: if 5 + 9 = 14, then

   14 – 9 must equal 5! Also, imagine pouring H2O back in conservation task.


Essence and Change (cont.) 

  • Reciprocity is the principle that things may change in opposite ways, and thus balance each other out.
  • Example: A child states that the decreased height in the shorter is balanced out by its increased width.

Practical Applications 

  • The logical principles of concrete operational thought make learning easier and more fun.
  • Example: Children enjoy classifying cities, states, nations, etc., or knowing that a tadpole turns into a frog (identity).


Logic and Culture 

  • Lev Vygotsky believed that culture shapes cognition more than Piaget believed.


Logic and Culture: An Example 

  • Brazilian street children calculate complex computations not learned in school (see text p. 361)

 Moral Development 

  • Develops along with cognitive advances
  • Is shaped by culture and social influences
  • Middlechildhood is a key time for learning moral lessons


  • Kohlberg presented moral dilemmas and scored responses as:
    • Preconventional:rewards and punishment
    • Conventional: emphasis on social rules
    • Postconventional:moral principlesbeyondsocietal standards

Kohlberg’s Stages of Moral Development


Evaluating Kohlberg’s Theory   

  • Moral reasoning does seem to advance with advances in cognitive development.
  • Most children are preconventional before age 8, and conventional by age 9 years.


Criticisms of Kohlberg 

  • He may have underestimated the potential of school-age children.
  • His research was done on Western males.
  • It may be better to address practical issues such as feeding the poor (vs. hypothetical dilemmas).


Morality and Gender 

  • Carol Gilligan believed that females are more likely to develop a morality of care, in which nurturance and compassion are more important than a morality of justice, which emphasizes absolute judgments of right and wrong.


Was Gilligan right? 

  • Research has found NO clear gender distinction regarding morality of care or justice (boys  
    and girls are  
    equally likely  
    to use each). 


Information Processing 

  • Analyzes how the mind analyzes, stores, and retrieves information.
  • Cognition becomes more efficient in middle childhood.



  • Sensory register: registers incoming stimuli for a split second
  • Working memory (short term): where current, conscious mental activity occurs
  • Long-term memory = stores information for minutes, hours, days, months, years
    • Unlimited capacity (!)

The Three “Parts” of Memory


Speed of Processing 

  • Speed of processing increases during middle childhood.
  • This allows a child to process more thoughts quickly, retain more thoughts in memory, and simultaneously process two different thoughts.



  • Certain skills become automatic during middle childhood (e.g., reading, writing).
  • This increases intellectual capacity and speed of processing.


Make it Real: Learning a Subject 

  • Do you find it easier to learn new material in your major field of interest than in a brand new subject?
  • Why do think that is?


Knowledge Base 

  • Knowledge base: a body of knowledge in an area that makes it easier to master new learning
  • Interest, motivation, and practice determine the size of the knowledge base.
    • Example: child chess experts, Pokémon experts


Knowledge of Pokémon and Wildlife


Control Processes 

  • Control processes regulate the analysis of information within the information processing system, and increase during middle childhood.
  • Examples: selective attention, retrieval strategies, metacognition


  • Selective attention: the ability to screen out irrelevant distractions and concentrate on a task
  • Metacognition: the ability to evaluate a task and determine how to accomplish it


Improvements in Control Processes


Language: New Vocabulary 

  • School-age kids learn up to 20 new words a day.
  • They understand metaphors and various uses of words.


    • Examples: egg, “walking on eggshells,” “last one is a rotten egg,” egg salad, etc.


Two “Codes” of Language 

  • Formal Code: used in school and other “formal” situations
    • Extensive vocabulary

 Complex syntax

 Lengthy sentences


  • Informal code: language used with friends

 Fewer words, simpler syntax

 Gestures and intonation  
convey meaning

 Two “Codes” of Language (cont.)

 Code Switching: A Life Saver 

  • Kids in middle childhood learn that certain words and phrases are okay with friends (informal code), but NOT with teachers, pastors, or other adults.

 Failure to learn this could result in punishment for calling the teacher “dude”!

 Socioeconomics and Language 

  • Lower-income children tend to have smaller vocabularies, simpler grammar, and more difficulty in reading.

 Two key explanations for this:

 Exposure to language

    • Parental expectations towards education


A Hopeful Study 

  • A study of low-income children demonstrated that exposure to language was a key predictor of language development.

 Real world application: TALK with kids!

 Tones and Tricks 

  • By 10 years of age, children learn to understand the nuances of language (tone, sarcasm, puns).

 Example: 10 year olds recognized that saying “I lost my stickers” in a happy voice is strange. 

 Make it Real: Education 

  • If you could design the ideal educational environment, what would it look like? Be specific. Think about class size, curriculum, sports, scheduling, etc.

 Teaching and Learning 

  • The curriculum for school-age children varies. Some possibilities include: reading, writing, math, arts, physical education, oral expression, religion.

 Funding for education also varies greatly.

 The Hidden Curriculum 

  • The hidden curriculum is the unofficial, unstated rules that influence learning.
  • Examples: discipline strategies, teacher salaries, class size, testing, schedules, emphasis on sports, segregation by ethnicity, physical condition of the school

 International Tests 

  • International comparisons of achievement have found that the United States is not among the top scoring developed nations.


Education in Japan 

  • Harold Stevenson (U of M) documented key aspects that help Japanese students:
    • Strong parental involvement
    • Teachers paid well, given time to prepare
    • Longer school days
    • Effort is highly valued


Education in Japan 

  • Unfortunately, the strong emphasis on education has caused a phobia of school for too many Japanese children.
  • The government is now working towards a more “relaxed education.”


Make it Real: The No Child Left Behind Act 

  • This Act requires yearly testing and a certain level of achievement in order for schools to receive federal funding.
  • Were you affected by this Act? Do you think it is a good idea? Why or why not?


The No Child Left Behind Act 

  • The Act is controversial. Some questions include:
    • What about the arts and physical education?
    • Does it punish schools that need funding the most?
    • Should graduation (or not) depend on a test?
    • What about special needs students?


The Reading Wars 

  • Phonics approach: teaching reading by first teaching the sounds of each letter
  • Whole-language: teaching reading by early use of all language skills–talking, listening, reading, and writing
  • BOTH approaches are valuable


Quiz: Which approach is this?


The Math Wars 

  • Math is an often feared subject, but one of utmost importance.
  • New curriculum discourages rote learning, emphasizing problem solving, and understanding of concepts.
  • The focus is on the thought process, not just the final answer.


Class Size 

  • Research on the relationship between class size and academic achievement has yielded mixed results.
  • Confoundingfactors include the types of students in the study, the qualifications of teachers, and suitable classrooms.


Bilingual Education 

  • About 4 million U.S. children are English-language learners (ELL).




Bilingual Education (cont.) 

  • Middle childhood is an ideal time to teach a second language.
  • However, there is considerable debate about when and how to teach a second language.


Types of 2nd Language Programs 

  • Total immersion: all instruction in second language
  • Reverse immersion: instruction of basic subjects in first language, then second language is taught
  • Bilingual education: instruction in both languages


Berger:The Developing Person Through Childhood and Adolescence, 7th Edition, Chapter 12 

Types of 2nd Language Programs (cont.) 

  • Heritage language classes: after school classes to connect with native culture
  • English as a second language (ESL): exclusive English for a few months, in preparation for “regular” classes


Berger:The Developing Person Through Childhood and Adolescence, 7th Edition, Chapter 12 

Which type is best? 

  • Research in Canada found the total immersion approach to be very successful.
  • However, there is no one right answer. The goal is to help immigrant children preserve their culture, while learning the new language.