Cognitive Development


What is Cognitive Development?

Cognitive development refers to the age-related changes that occur in children’s reasoning, concepts, memory, and language. Children’s families, teachers, caregivers, and their communities play a vital role in the way that they develop intellectually.

Cognitive Process Theory

Many assessments have been conducted with infants measuring their thinking process attention, perception, and memory. These tests have been done by physiological measures. Researchers have concluded that infants respond differently to familiar and unfamiliar stimuli and have used new technology to understand brain development patterns.

How does Cognitive Development occur in children?

There are many different theories on the way that children cognitively develop. There has been an enormous amount of studies conducted by researchers to identify brain development in children. Some believe that children are born with the ability and motivation to want to learn, while others suggest that children develop through socializing and their cultural environments. Below you will find two very well known and respected Physiologists who have played a vital role in identifying how children learn and develop mentally.

Piaget’s Theory on Cognitive Development


Jean Piaget was a Psychologist from Switzerland who conducted detailed research of what children think and do in the 1920’s. He developed a theory that has helped us throughout the years understand how children learn and develop mentally. “Piaget proposed that children are naturally curious about their world and actively seek out information that can help them interpret and understand it.” (e.g., Piaget, 1952b) He believed that there were four stages of development. Sensorimotor ages 0-2 years old, Preoperational ages 2-7 years old, concrete operational ages 7-11 years old, and formal operational ages 11- and up.


How to Incorporate Piaget’s Theory in the Classroom to promote Cognitive Development

  • Provide opportunities for children to experiment with hands on activities.
  • Explore children’s reasoning with problem-solving tasks and probing questions.
  • Present lessons to students that they normally would not understand by having them use their prior knowledge on the concept.
  • Create lessons were students can work cooperatively with their peers and share their thoughts and perspectives.


Vygotsky’s Theory on Cognitive Development


Lev Vygotsky was also a very well known Russian Physiologist in the 1920’s-1930’s. He recognized that biological factors such as brain maturation play a major role in cognitive development. Additionally he acknowledged that a child’s social and cultural environment plays an essential role in cognitive growth and development. Furthermore he believed  that “children’s inherited traits affect their behavior, which in turn influences the particular experiences that they have (Vygotsky, 1997b).” Vygotsky developed the Zone of Proximal Development.


How to Incorporate Vygotsky’s Theory in the Classroom to promote Cognitive Development

  • Teachers should present assignments that a child can perform successfully only with assistance that are within the child’s Zone of Proximal Development.
  • Create small group lessons were students can internalize cognitive strategies while working together.
  • Have children engage in authentic activities that resemble adult activities. Example: Have a classroom debate.

McDevitt, Teresa M.; Ormrod, Jeanne Ellis. Child Development and Education (Page 216). Pearson Education. Kindle Edition.


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