Sunday, 3 April 2016

Child Development

This assignment is an academic essay on cognitive development. Every child undergoes cognitive development. Cognitive development enhances the child’s ability to think, give opinions, understand, enable reasoning, solve problems and imagine. The cognitive development indeed is important in the process of life. This essay comprises of five parts. The first part of this essay explains the concept and principle of child development. It then proceeds to explain the factors influencing child’s cognitive development. The following part discusses the cognitive development of a child based on Jean Piaget’s theory of cognitive development while implication of child’s cognitive development to the teaching and learning process will be discussed in the fourth part. The final part of this essay concerns in conclusion and suggestion in teaching and learning process. Piaget’s conservation tasks also have been carried out and are discussed in this essay. Relevant examples and citation are provided in this discussion.


2.1  Concept of child Development
Every human being will undergo two main processes whilst growing up. The concept of the child development can be divided into two that are growth and development. The two somehow related to each other and these processes are important to mature all living things.
According to Woolfolk and Margeretts in the child development’s book by Haliza Hamzah, (2008), growth is the change in size and maturity. Growth also can be defined as changes in physical aspects including increase in size, height, body part and nerves in brain. Besides that, growth also can be seen and measured.
There are several characteristic of growth. It is important to understand that in human development growth is quantitative in nature; it can be seen and measured. Besides that, the size and structure of the body also increases. Growth not only includes cognitive but physical aspects too. Those aspects develop according to age and affected by many factors. Growth also influenced by genetic, heredity, parent’s health, and environment. The rate of growth differs between children and proceeds according to stages.
As a child undergoes certain stage of life, the size of the brain and internal organs also increase. John w. Santrock (2001) stated that the human brain starts to develop as early as three weeks after fertilization occur. Additionally the brain cells are generated at about 250, 000 per minute in the human brain during this period. The human brain keep on growing until it reaches certain level as the brain cells keep generated. The brain and internal organs continue to grow for years after birth and even have been documented in very old adults. This will enable them think critically and memory increases.
While development is defined as changes in the biological pattern, the cognitive and social emotion of an individual from birth to the end of life (Haliza Hamzah,, 2008). Often development is related to something is qualitative which cannot be measured but is seen through the emergence of new characteristics (ibid). According to Mok Soon Sang (2009) development is a continuous process from birth to maturity stage. The concept of development is essentially mental behavioural change. The development is not only touches on a change in a "qualitative" and tend to the better of thought, spiritual, moral and social too.
John W. Santrock (2011) stated that development is the pattern of change that begins at conception and continues through the life span. It is also influenced by interplay of biological, cognitive, and socioemotional processes. Biological process involves with the changes that taken place in a person’s body, while cognitive process is the changes in an individual’s thought, intelligence, and language. Whereas, socioemotional is the changes in a person’s relationships with other people, including emotions, feeling and personality.
Moreover, Haliza Hamzah (2008) mentioned that the changes are stable; it takes place gradually and systematically. For instance, a child begins to learn from identifying objects, recognizing it, having symbolic thoughts, and then slowly develops the potential in language and social interaction. These will take place continuously through different stages of maturation. Maturation is defined as the natural changes according to genetics.

2.2  Principle of Child Development
Development occurs in an order or periods. It is also commonly classified into periods that involve the following sequence; the prenatal period, infancy, early childhood, middle and late childhood and adolescence.
The development of a child starts from prenatal periods where the child depends wholly to the adults. Santrock (2001) said that many psychological activities are just beginning. For example, a child only can sit properly by the help of someone, later as the child begins to grow he will able to crawl, stand and slowly learn to walk without seeking any help from anyone. Besides that, language, symbolic thought, sensorimotor coordination and social learning also will slowly develop as the child gets older.
As what has been stated by Haliza Hamzah (2008), the changes in growth and development proceeds from general to specific. For instance, a child can hold object using hands before learning to hold it with fingers. Growth will occur with the bigger muscles first before the fine muscles. This is where parents and teachers play the role in guiding the child to hold object properly so as the child grow up the skills will develop faster.
Next, the process of growth and development continues as the child grows. The skills also continue to develops and children master the fundamental  skills of reading, writing and arithmetic, and they are formally exposed to larger world and its culture (Santrock, 2001).
Maturation is the orderly sequence of changes dictated by the individual’s genetic blueprint (ibid). It comes with the existing potential of an individual, such as crawling, sitting, walking and later stage is running. The imitation process enables a child to develop their potential. Moreover, some believes that basic growth tendencies are genetically wired into human beings.      
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  3.0  FACTORS INFLUENCING CHILD’S COGNITIVE DEVELOPMENT
There are many factors influencing child’s cognitive development. Every child experience different way of life, and the development rather the same and different. One of the factors that might influence greatly on child’s cognitive development is nature and nurture. According to Srantrock (2001), nature-nurture refers to an organism’s biological inheritance, nurture to environmental influences. Many believe that biological inheritance and environmental experiences are equal important to child’s cognitive development.
Biological inheritance may also determine the psychological development of the child. It also has to do with the progressive changes in behaviour and abilities as well. Most skills or psychological development are inherited from parents to the children. The physical and psychological characteristic is transmitted from parents to children through genes. The DNA in one’s cells contains genetic information. The genes control the physical and mental development and limit the mental ability of certain knowledge. Thus the intelligence of a child more or less is determined by the biological inheritance from the parents.
As what has been stated earlier, the human growth and development shows similar characteristic according to the stages specified. However, not all development occur the same as each other. In terms of the child’s cognitive development, environment is one of the important factors that influence it. According to Flavell (1993) environment refers to all external conditions that affect a person and perhaps their development. For example, parent plays the role in providing love, safe, and secure environment. With a firm and consistent guidance combined with love and affection, children tend to be competent, self-controlled, independent, and assertive. The intelligence of a child such as the capability to understand and interact with other people develops very fast through the affection from the family.
            The child’s cognitive development also influenced by the social and cultural factors. Gender roles might be emphasized in some societies (Santrock, 2001). Children’s’ thinking develops through dialogues with more capable people. Children that have been exposed to so many kinds of people can interact better and this will influenced greatly to their mind. Consequently the cognitive development continues to develop.
            According to Piaget, the interaction and adaptation of environment on a child, provides the setting for cognitive structures to develop. Information processing view has not addressed this issue but mainly emphasizes on biological and environmental interaction. Besides that, equilibration also influence to the development of a child’s cognitive skills where there is a balance of understanding of the world and new experiences between individuals. 
            Additionally, nutrition also influence the cognitive development of a child. Early years of childhood, the brain is rapidly develops. Good nutrition is essential for proper brain development. Consequently cognitive development develops successfully. Malnutrition can results in poor muscle control in children, clumsiness, slow language development and lower the process of absorption of knowledge. Thus proper nutrition is needed to maintain a good body and brain for the good absorption of information so that the cognitive development can develop well.

Commonly, cognitive development focuses on how children learn and process information. According to Jean Piaget, cognitive development goes through four stages that is sensory motor, pre-operational periods, concrete operational periods and formal operational periods. Cognitive development also involves processes like scheme, assimilation, accommodation and equilibration. Based on the theory, children actually contribute to their intellectual development and will try to solve problems or conflict according to the way their thinking and understanding of the environment.
The children’s cognitive development gives emphasis in developing a child’s mind. The changes in thinking that take place from one stage to the next. Cognition begins when children detect information the world through their sensory and perceptual processes. The information gathered will be stored, transformed, and retrieved to become memory. The process continues and enables the children to think and form a language through the information gathered. Kindly refer to figure 4.0.

Figure 4.0. A Model of Information Processing
            Children actively construct knowledge as they manipulate and explore their world and their cognitive development takes place in stages. Children also adapt to their surrounding and do not come out with blank state with methods for acquiring knowledge (Flavell, 1993). Complementary cognitive process play a major role in promoting change and increase children’s cognitive understanding.
In addition, Piaget in the book of Santrock (2001) stated that children actively construct their own cognitive worlds; information is not just poured into their minds from the environment. Two processes underline an individual’s construction of the world; organization and adaptation. The experiences gathered will soon organized to form a complete memory. The idea of the first experiences will connect with another idea of the next experiences. The experiences and ideas are that children have before also known as schema. Schema is cognitive or mental structures that allow individuals to manage and adapt to the environment. The experiences and observations gathered also adapted and produce a good thinking to conclude new idea because additional information furthers understanding. The process of adaptation comes in two ways that are assimilation and accommodation.
            Assimilation is the process by which children absorb new information in with their current framework or schema. It is also refers to the process of adapting external stimuli to one’s own internal mental structures. For example, a young child who pretends that a chip of wooden is a boat is what Piaget called it ‘assimilating’ the wood chip to his mental concept of a boat. Assimilation occurs when children incorporate new information into their existing knowledge. In this situation, the child incorporates the object within the entire structure of his knowledge of a boat. Kindly refer to figure 4.2.

Existing knowledge of a child

A child assimilates the existing knowledge with the wooden blocks to his mental concept of a boat.
Figure 4.2 Example of the assimilating process
            Other than that, Piaget introduces the concept of accommodation where it is occur when children adjust to new information. According to Haliza Hamzah (2008), individuals will adjust their thinking to fit the new experiences and this will lead to the formation of new scheme. Similarly with existing ideas are changed to accommodate new information or experiences.
            Besides that, organization also one of the concepts introduced by Piaget in cognitive development. This process is about grouping isolated behaviours into a higher-order, more smoothly functioning cognitive system. For example, when a child receives new information, it will absorb the information in the schema. If it is successful the balance will be achieved. Conversely, if it is not absorbed, then the information would be modified by the modification of the schema or create a new schema. If new information that can be adjusted, then the equilibrium will be achieved. This process is continuous from infancy to adulthood.
            Last but not least, cognitive development of a child also encompasses the concept of equilibration. This is a process by which Piaget assumes as a way to explain how children shift from one stage of thought to the next. When a child experiences a conflict in trying to understand it the children shift his thought to another to solve the conflict. For instance, if a child believes that two clays with the same length and one were bent to another shape will loses its length from the other one. The child will think that the straight clay holds the longer length. Children make such judgement based on its shape not its length.
            The cognitive world of the preschool child is creative, free and interesting. The imagination of preschool children works overtime and their mental grasp of the world improves (Santrock, 2001). Preoperational stage might seem that not much importance occurs until full-fledged operational thought appears. This stage stretches from 2-7 years old. It is time for stable concepts are formed, mental reasoning emerges, and egocentrism begins strongly and then weakens (ibid).
            Three of Piaget’s conservation tasks have been carried out to test whether the theory is acceptable or not. The Piagetian tests are to determine whether a child can think operationally, that is can mentally reverse actions and show conservation of the substance. During this stage, children are still not able to understand the process of transformation, reversibility, and reasoning. The tasks were done with preoperational children aged between 2-7 years old. Kindly refer to the figure 4.3.

Child 1
Mohd Daniel B. Ahmad
6 years old
Child 2
Mohd Haris Aizat B. Hasbullah
6 years old
Child 3
Mohd Izzudin B. Zainal
4 years old

Child 4
Nur Asyikin Bt Abdullah
4 years old
Figure 4.3  Respondents of the Conservation Tasks

Type of conservation
Initial presentation
Preoperational children’s answers

Two identical rows of coins are shown to the child, who agrees they have the same number.
One row is lengthened and the child is asked whether one row now has more coins.
Eg: Which row do you think has more numbers of coins?

The longer row

Two identical length of clay aligned in front of the child. The child agrees that they are same length.
Clay is bent to create another shape, and then asks the child if they have the same length.
Eg: Which one do you think is longer?

The straight clay is the longer.
Figure 4.4 Piaget’s conservation tasks

            Based on the results, the children at this tage are not able to understand the process of transformation, reversibility, and reasoning. All the four children have the same answers. The conservation tasks conducted shows that they lack the ability to transform, reverse and reason. When being ask why they give such answers, they just remain silent.
            On the first task on number, the children conclude that the longer row has the more number of coins than the other one. They focus on the differences in length of the two rows rather than the more abstract idea of numbers. Besides that, they cannot do transformation as they do not mentally represent the process of lengthening. Same thing happen to the second task as they focus on the length of the fist clay which was not bend. For them, the longer is the one is in the straight position. According to Piaget, children at this stage are egocentric. They tend to see the world and the experience of others from their point of view.
            Children performances on Piagetian tasks can be improve with training. Santrock (2001) suggested that there is a problem with the assumption that discovery learning rather than adult teaching is the best way to foster development. Children also know more than adults but they still cannot act on this knowledge to get what they want to get.

Based on the theory of cognitive development of Piaget, the content of the learning approach should have been organised according to child’s cognitive development that is from concrete to abstract. Learning is the process of changing from one to another. The new teaching and learning should base on accommodation to change the cognitive structure so will be able to suit the learning process
During the preoperational stage, teachers should know how to use concrete materials such as stones, marbles, and wooden block, to learn about mathematics. Instructions should be short, using actions and words followed by variety of examples. For instance, teachers can demonstrate the desired action as well.
On top of that, as a teacher one should plan for activities that can challenge the child’s mind so that they can improve on their cognitive development. Always guide and give instructions to them and see how their react. This more or less enables teachers to get to know the children very well. And this is important as the teacher can test the children according the level of cognitive development of one’s individuals.
            At this stage, children might be difficult in expressing themselves and may use different meaning of the same words. This is where teachers play the role in guides them and give a good instruction so that they do not get lost. Moreover, teacher can form group that contain different children at different stage of cognitive development. This enable the students to interact with each other more often, consequently, let the slow learners children be together with the others.
Child’s cognitive development enables teachers to concentrate on the development of the students in class and understand their ability in doing the activities such as mathematics. The preschool children should be taught with various teaching and learning methodologies on concrete experiences. This experiences during the preschool stage will give them opportunity in understanding the concept of mathematics while in primary school later on.

In conclusion, every human being will undergo two main processes whilst growing up. The concept of the child development can be divided into two that are growth and development. Development is influenced by heredity and environment. Development occurred in stages and cognitive development of Based on the theory, children actually contribute to their intellectual development and will try to solve problems or conflict according to the way their thinking and understanding of the environment. The conservation tasks conducted shows that they lack the ability to transform, reverse and reason.
The growth and development of a child should be given a priority because of they are vulnerable. The suggestions to teach children with various of teaching methods are a good idea. However, the suggestions are not a simple task to be implemented. One of the most effective ways in enhancing the child’s cognitive development is through activities that require range of experiences. Besides that, the idea of having pictures and visual effects as learning materials are good ideas as the picture represented objects. This approach is more memorable than their associated verbal labels as children are visual learners.

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