Discuss a child's cognitive, physical, and social development from infancy to adolescence. Include theorists who made these famous.

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M.P. Ossa | College Teacher | (Level 1) Distinguished Educator

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Three of the founding fathers of cognitive development theory are Jean Piaget, Eric Ericson, and Jerome Bruner. Their theories had the commonality that inherent traits, mixed with social input ultimately enhance or hinder learning.

  • Jean Piaget-(1926) His theory is based on the concept of “equilibration”, or learning through interaction with our innate skills in four main stages:

a)Sensorimotor- input/output to which the infant reacts (crying, touching, etc) the first connections are made from 18-24 months. “Thinking” starts then.

b)Pre-operational- at age 2-7 kids start representing thoughts.

c) Concrete-operational (7-12)- memory starts here, as well as mental manipulations ("what if?" thinking)

d) Formal Operational- 12y/o and on- abstract thinking begins, other dimensions of thought and opinion (perspectives) start to develop.

  • Eric Ericson- (1959) his research also focuses on specific stages which he calls “psychosocial”, where a pivotal event happens to make or break the individual into the next stage up. This conflict may strengthen or weaken the developmental goal.

Infancy to 18th month- caregiving will determine the development of trust vs. mistrust. Reliability will prescribe the future cognitive tasks that require being and expecting to be reliable to others.

Ages 2-3 the goal is to develop autonomy by independent tasks (toilet training, cleaning up after themselves). If this does not happen the child will grow with the opposite, which is shame and doubt. This will turn into a full affective filter that will hinder cognitive development and will ruin learning.

Ages 3-5 the developmental tasks is initiative, which is done through exploration. Leadership skills can be developed here. If not, then the child will develop guilt—another negative affective filter for future learning.

School age (6-11) aims to build industry through interaction, challenges, and academic demands. The opposite would result in the feeling of inferiority, a hindrance to social relationships and cognitive growth.

Adolescence in the psychosocial theory ages 12-18, aims to find identity. The sense of self is found by allowing teens to experience diversity. Not achieving identity leads to role confusion in other areas such as academic goal-setting, and choice of role within relationships.

  • Jerome Bruner- (1966) his tripartite theory of cognitive and social development entails that the ultimate goal of cognitive analysis is to create independent learners (academically and socially). This learning consists on interaction with the environment.

Enactive Learning happens from 0-1 year of age. Muscle memory makes the body react to specific stimuli (grabbing baby bottle, cooing, crying), motor responses and instant facial, color, shape recognition by association. This learning continues throughout adulthood.

Iconic learning is enabled from ages 1-6). Mental pictures begin to form both consciously and unconsciously. Visuals are extremely essential to develop this type of learning. Once we get this type of learning mastered, we move on to Symbolic learning.

Starting at age 7, symbolic learning is the last cognitive development skill to develop. Representations are made, connections are solidified and further learning is able to take place.  It also continues through life.

Bruner says that, as adolescents and adults, we should progress through life teaching ourselves to learn enactively, iconically, and symbolically.

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