Implications of Cognitive Development for Schooling and Parenting

Research in cognitive development prompted by information-processing theories, Piaget's stage theory, and Vygotsky's sociocultural theory have not only informed the work of developmental psychologists but also proved useful in schools and to parents. For example, teacher and student understanding of the workings of memory can affect student performance in school, and teachers can use developmental research to help students become more aware of strategies that may help them improve their memory. In turn, students can enhance their ''meta-memory'' skills by becoming more aware of the limitations of their memory and the activities that may enhance it. For example, students can learn that repeatedly reading over their class notes does not ensure later recall of that material. Instead, mental strategies called ''mnemonics'' may be used to successfully learn information in a manner that promotes later recall. For example, one technique, called elaboration, involves relating the material to be learned to already known information in memory. This process, by associating new information with old information, not only helps prevent forgetting, but also increases the number of cues that may lead to later retrieval of that information.

Parents can also benefit from the knowledge gained from current and past research in cognitive development. For example, Vygotsky described parental roles as being critical in a child's development. Early on parents can provide the help that children need to develop certain culturally relevant skills. Parents' sensitivity to their child's skill level and their ability to allow the child to gradually take on more and more responsibility in a task provides an excellent way for children to learn.

Researchers in the field of cognitive development strive to describe and understand changes in children's thinking over the course of development. The work of Piaget and his stage theory of cognitive development guided much of the early work in that field. More recent investigations, however, attempt to understand the continuity of development. Researchers investigate interactions between biological and environmental variables, and thus focus on the ways in which culture, the family, the peer group, and the de veloping brain make complex contributions to a child's development.

See also: ABSTRACT REASONING; PIAGET, JEAN; THEORIES OF DEVELOPMENT; THREE MOUNTAIN TASK; VYGOTSKY, LEV

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