Developing and Constructing Knowledge

February 22nd, 2017

“Cognitive development refers to changes in thinking, reasoning, and decision making.” (Woolfolk p34)

Notable psychologists (Piaget, Erikson, and Vygotsky) have each developed widely accepted theories to explain cognitive development which teachers can utilize within their own classroom when dealing with students, though each come with their own benefits and limitations.

Piaget’s theory of cognitive development introduces four stages with specific characteristics and their respective age approximation. The four stages are sensorimotor, which occurs between birth and two years of age, preoperational, which occurs between 2-7 years old, concrete operational, which occurs between 7-11 years old, and formal operational which occurs between 12 years old through adulthood. The stages range between gaining object permanence, early speech, understanding conservation, and advanced reasoning. The basis for this theory is that people gain understanding through experience and maturation. According to Woolfolk, criticisms of this theory is the underestimation of children. Piaget believed that children had to grow in order to advance through the stages- that is, they could not be taught to do so.

Erikson’s theory of development focused more on different sets of “crises.” As they progress through childhood, kids experience different developmental crises that will have either positive or negative resolutions. These resolutions can have lasting effects into adulthood. The eight crises are basic trust vs basic mistrust, autonomy vs shame or doubt, initiative vs guilt, industry vs inferiority, identity vs role confusion, intimacy vs isolation, generativity vs stagnation, and ego integrity vs despair. The first stage, also defined as birth to age two, occurs as the infant forms a relationship with their caregiver.

Vygotsky introduces the zone of proximal development. This is the idea that for children, engaging information falls between that which is too easy and too difficult. The middle zone is information that “the child is just on the verge of being able to solve.” (Woolfolk p.66) There is a heavy focus on an outside influence being able to progress development. This is in contrast to Piaget, and also a limitation cited by Woolfolk. While outside influences can effect development, much of a child’s influence occurs before direct instruction.

When a teacher is aware of these different theories and concepts, they can be implemented when working with diverse students within the classroom. Since each child develops at a different rate, having an understanding of where their students fall can allow the teacher to adjust curriculum and strategies to accommodate the gaps in development. Since development is typically orderly, based on classroom performance, a teacher can assess where the student falls in their developmental stage and predict their upcoming stages and how it can function within the class. Development is also gradual, which can be accommodated by the implementation of scaffolding. Since not all students will be at the same level of development, beginning with basic information can later be built upon with the help of supports. Those supports may include students who are further along to help those who are struggling.

Along with the psychological and physical development a child experiences, family, friends, and media also have a direct impact in a child’s development. There are four major parenting styles according to Diane Baumrind. There are authoritative parents (high warmth, high control), authoritarian parents (low warmth, high control), permissive parents (high warmth, low control), and rejecting or neglectful parents (low warmth, low control).(Woolfolk p89) According to the article by Gwen Dewer, “Kids raised by authoritative parents are more likely to become independent, self-reliant, socially accepted, academically successful, and well-behaved.” On the opposite side of the spectrum, according to the article “The Effects of Early Neglect on Cognitive, Language, and Behavioral Functioning in Childhood,” children who experienced neglectful parenting were much more likely to experience behavioral problems and lower cognitive functioning. During the class activity, I explored the effects of neglectful parenting on the fictional Gallagher family in the television show shameless. In comparison to their peers, the Gallagher children were much more likely to act out violently or participate in illegal activity. The children also performed at a much lower level academically, as one of the children repeated the same grade three years in a row. Personally, I experienced a parenting style that fell between authoritative and authoritarian. Peers also influence development. A child’s peer group can influence self-esteem as well as mutual interests, as they are “central to students’ lives.” (Woolfolk p93) Peers have a large effect on the day to day experiences such as academic and social competency. These can either be positive or negative based on the level of support they receive.



Dewer, G., Dr. (2013, March). The authoritative parenting style: Warmth, rationality, and high standards. Retrieved from

Infants, Toddlers and Television. (2016, April 4). Retrieved February 23, 2017, from

Hoy, A. W. (2017). Educational psychology: active learning edition (12th ed.). Boston: Pearson.

Spratt, E. G., Friedenberg, S. L., Swenson, C. C., LaRosa, A., Bellis, M. D., Macias, M. M., . . . Brady, K. T. (2012, February 01). The Effects of Early Neglect on Cognitive, Language, and Behavioral Functioning in Childhood. Retrieved February 23, 2017, from

Entry Filed under: Uncategorized

1 Comment Add your own

  • 1. Mikayla Jones  |  March 16th, 2017 at 3:59 pm

    Expaning off of your parenting styles paragraph- I personally had what my Sociology professors call “jellyfish parents” which are parents that fall somewhere inbetween permissive and neglectful. They aren’t neglecting the child’s needs, however they are very uninvolved in the student’s life at school, and only discipline when necessary which may be unfair punishments to the child. This taught me very quickly how to be independent at a young age like you said, but also caused me to act out in school sometimes, especially in elementary school before I was mature enough to understnad how my actions affected others. Parents play such an imporant in a student’s life at school and I feel that this sometimes gets overlooked by both the parents themselves and the teachers. It’s important to understand that when a child isn’t succeding in the way that they should, it could be something going on in the home causing the child some added stress.

Leave a Comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Trackback this post  |  Subscribe to the comments via RSS Feed

Recent Comments