Cognitive Development of Children
Development is the sequence of change related to age that occurs throughout the course of life (Bjorklund & Causey, 2017). Various popular psychologists such as Jean Piaget, Erik Erickson, Lawrence Kohlberg and Sigmund Freud have answered some questions to do with cognitive development in children. Some of these questions include how cognitive abilities in children develop, and in what order? How do children develop the intellectual skills to interact and react with their environment? And what are children capable of learning at different stages in their development? Therefore, this paper will seek to address the cognitive development of children from two to around eleven years, useful theories of cognitive development and the evidence that psychologists and others have presented to show this development and how the cognitive development of 7-11 years old might affect the strategies of teaching applied by environmental scientists when communicating about the environmental issues in primary school setting.
In 1952, a French psychologist known as Jean Piaget addressed four stages of cognitive development of children when he was publishing his groundbreaking theory on cognitive development in children. Piaget started his research by showing how children react to their environment and by so doing, he identified the following four cognitive stages of childhood development (Barrouillet, 2015). The sensorimotor stage starts from birth to two years where the children learn about the world through the manipulation of objects and their senses. Second is the preoperational stage from age two to seven. During this stage, children develop imagination and memory and understand the idea of past and future. They also gain the ability to understand things symbolically. From ages 7 through 11 is the concrete operational stage where children gain more knowledge of external events and begin to feel other than their own. They become aware that not everyone shares their feelings, thoughts or beliefs. They also develop less egocentrism (Barrouillet, 2015). Formal operational stage is at the ages of 11 and above. In this stage, children are capable of using logic to plan for the future, view the world around them and solve the problems.
There are three assumptions that various relevant theories of cognitive development share. Firstly, each stage that a person passes through has a specific order fostered on abilities acquired in the earlier stage. Secondly, stages are correlated with age and thirdly, development is intermittent with qualitatively distinct capabilities in each step (Bjorklund & Causey, 2017). Other psychologists have presented the evidence to demonstrate this development. The Austrian Psychiatrist called Freud Sigmund presented a theory of personality to prove that personality development is a series of stages. He deemed that personality developed at the age of five years old and early childhood is the most important. Erick Erikson is another psychologist who believed like Freud that early childhood is the most important. He presented a theory of psychosocial development showing that personality development occurs throughout the life of a person (Donnellan & Roberts, 2015). Erikson came up with a theory describing how people face new challenges in each of eight stages of development as well as how they manage these encounters. He named these stages in regards to likely outcomes.
The first stage is trust vs. mistrust that occurs in the first year after childbirth. The second stage is autonomy vs. doubt and Shame that happens at the ages 1 through 3. During this stage, children begin to acquire skills such as feeding themselves, dressing themselves and becoming independent. Children can develop a feeling of shame or doubt about themselves based on how they encounter new challenges. The stage between the ages of 3 through 6 is initiative vs. guilt. During this stage, children gain knowledge of behaving in a socially responsible way and controlling their pulses. They gain more self-confident if they behave in a social reliable manner but if not, they can obtain a strong feeling of guilt. Industry vs. inferiority is the fourth stage. This stage occurs between the ages of 6 and 12 where children prepare to take on adult roles and compete with peers in school. They finish this phase with either a sense of inferiority or a sense of competence (Cherry, 2017). The other stages include identity vs. role confusion, intimacy vs. isolation and so on. Erikson’s model is relevant because it focuses on both personality change and personality stability.
Lawrence Kohlberg presented a theory of moral development focusing on the way people reason about right and wrong or moral reasoning. Kohlberg was influenced by Piaget to propose the three stages of moral development that people pass through. Piaget thought that moral cognitive is influenced by the level of cognitive development. Lawrence Kohlberg divided each level of moral development into two stages. The first level is preconvention level. At the first stage of this level, children gain the ability to understand that a behavior is incorrect if it is chastised and in the second stage, they understand an act is correct if it is appreciated. The second stage is the conventional level. In this level, children follow the instructions and value them to acquire an appreciation from others. In the first stage of this level, children always want to be approved by the individuals who are near them whereas in the second stage, children develop more concern with the systems of a wider culture (Lind, 2017). The Kohlberg theories are relevant because children tend to progress in order to influence each other through cognitive and moral development.
In a primary school setting, children between the ages of 7 to 11 thought to function developmentally at what Piaget referred to as a concrete operational stage. During these important middle childhood years, basic literacy, as well as conceptual and computational skills, are obtained. Since at this stage children develop relatively permanent attitudes about learning and schools, they might influence the teaching strategies employed by environmental scientists when communicating about environmental issues in school. Children become more aware of external events and begin to feel other than their own. They gain more knowledge that not everyone shares their feelings, thoughts or beliefs. Children also increase in academic and self-concepts with age and the pressure of the peer influence starts to emerge (Fonagy, 2018). The most recognized universal function of teaching whether environmental issues or other things is to provide information and skills that will help children to take part effectively in the environmental issues although it varies in content and purpose across countries.
Therefore, for the cognitive development of 7-11 years old children, the teacher needs to train children to acquire skills in speaking, writing, reading and computational skills. The environmental scientist communicating about environmental issues to children at this stage should employ teaching strategies using a stipulated set of instructional resources. The learning outcome of this apparent function is given the highest priority. With respect to environmental issues, teachers by virtue of their teaching strategies also enable normative results. The environmental scientists impart children with the psychological competencies that can be applied to deal with the environmental issues which promote universalism, self-reliance, specificity, and achievement (Fonagy, 2018). Lastly, during these middle childhood years, children tend to think more easily and systematically about multiple topics than preschoolers. They have a keener metacognition by developing a sense of their own inner world. They also develop more skills to solve problems
Cognitive Development of Children