Scholar Post: Cognitive Development

This class has discussed many ways in which individual differences among students can affect learning and education.  One of these ways is development.  Two of the most famous theories of development were coined by Jean Piaget and Erick Erickson.  To refresh your memory, Erickson focused his theory on psycho social development as a result of a resolution of a crisis that an individual undergoes.

On the other hand, Piaget focused his theory around cognitive development, and how individuals develop more advanced cognitive processes throughout life. Again, here is a refresher from earlier this semester in class:

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The way in which an individual’s cognitive development effects their education is a common topic of discussion among educators and psychologists, but I feel that we sometimes forget to think about how education affects cognitive development.  How can educators be sure that their learning goals are being met in the classroom?  How can we better create lesson plans and learning standards for students who be cognitively disabled compared to other students?  All of these questions have the potential to be answered by more research being done to determine exactly how education can affect an individual’s development.

First, it must be determined that education does indeed influence cognitive development in some way.  A study done at the University of Edinburgh examined whether education was associated with improvements in general cognitive ability, or in specific skills.  The research showed “that education is associated with specific IQ subtests, rather than with the general factor of intelligence.” (Ritchie, Bates, & Deary, 2015). In other words, education is associated with different cognitive skills, rather than simply making people “smarter”.  It’s important to remember that Piaget’s stages of cognitive development did not measure the degree in which people were becoming more knowledgeable about general facts, but rather more knowledgeable about how the world around them works.

Once it’s established that education can impact a child’s cognitive development, we can begin to study how it impacts individuals. In a study conducted by Lachman et al., researchers examined the effects of limited education on cognitive functioning by looking more closely at episodic memory in individuals with different levels of childhood education. It was found that “Those with lower education had lower cognitive functioning, but this was qualified by level of cognitive activity” (Lachman et al., 2010). Furthermore, those engaging in more cognitive activity (like going to school longer) had increased ability in regards to episodic memory, “which has promise for reducing social disparities in cognitive aging” (Lachman et al., 2010).

Lastly, educators should know exactly how to structure learning in order to promote a positive influence on their students’ cognitive development.  During the semester in both Educational Psychology and Introduction to Education and Teaching, we’ve examined the different types of teaching techniques and have categorized them in one of two ways: teacher-centered or student-centered.  In a study done by Simmons and Fisher, researchers wanted to know how different kinds of classroom settings impacted cognitive development.  The two different types of classes included a semester long practicum class, and a pre-practicum course in which students participated in only one or the other.  Results showed that, indeed, “participating in a field seminar course…ha[d] important implications for enhancing cognitive development” (Simmons & Fisher, 2016).

The previous study in which the students participated in the field study is considered to be at the student-centered end of the spectrum, where the students are learning in a hands on way about real world problems.  In this case, the education is about the experience rather than the information retained in a traditional type classroom.

In conclusion, as a future educator, it’s important to remember that my teachings are impacting my students’ cognitive development, and that by structuring my classroom in a way that promotes a more student-centered learning environment, their development can be enhanced instead of hindered.  Additionally, these impacts are brought into adulthood in the form of episodic memory in older adults.  This is yet another illustration of how teaching can impact learners for years after they have left our classroom.


Lachman, M. E., Agrigoroaei, S., Murphy, C., & Tun, P. A. (2010). Frequent Cognitive Activity Compensates for Education Differences in Episodic Memory. The American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry, 18(1), 4-10. doi:10.1097/jgp.0b013e3181ab8b62

Ritchie, S. J., Bates, T. C., & Deary, I. J. (2015). Is education associated with improvements in general cognitive ability, or in specific skills? Developmental Psychology, 51(5), 573-582. doi:10.1037/a0038981

Simmons, C., & Fisher, A. (2016). Promoting cognitive development through field education. Social Work Education, 54(4), 462-472. Retrieved from



What is good and effective teaching?

At the beginning of the semester, I thought of all the qualities that some of my favorite teachers have had: humor, passion, organization, knowledgeable, and friendly.  These were the things that I thought made a good teacher.  Now, although I still think these same things, I have a better understanding of how teachers can be all of things in the classroom while still being effective.

Classroom management is huge. Earning your students’ trust is a great way to ensure that they stay respectful and behaved in your class.  Also, creating an environment where the students feel safe, valued, and in control of their own learning.  A great way to give students more independence in the classroom is to use more student center techniques.

Teachers know how children grow.

Learning about the different stages of development and how it affects children in their learning is important for teachers to know in creating lesson plans and interacting with their students.  As a teacher in high school, many of my students will most likely be in Erickson’s Identity vs. Role Confusion stage, in which they are trying to figure out who they want to be as a person in our society.  Also, most of them will be in Piaget’s Concrete Operational Stage, where they are able to think abstractly about real world problems and plan for the future.  These different stages interact with each other in a way that makes adolescence a stressful time. Many teenagers are trying to decide what kind of person they want to be in the world, and what they should do with their lives after high school.  Teacher can offer then guidance and encouragement.

Preparing For the Future

I really enjoyed the backward design lesson, and completing the template for a lesson that I would actually like to teach some day.  I’m a very organized and visual person, so having that tangible worksheet laid out with exactly how I was going to teach and asses my students was extremely helpful is using what I have learned in my other classes.  Even if I don’t decide to use that exact lesson plan in the future, I now have experience in creating and organized plan for teaching and assessment that I can use in a wide variety of ways to help myself and my students stay on top of their learning.

My Online Identity 

One thing I was hoping to change with this blog was the fact that when you google “Mikayla Jones Waukesha Wi”, an “about me” prezi that I made in high school is one of the first things that appear.  Even if I don’t decide to continue this blog, I hope that it will help my future employers realize that I truly take education seriously. I’m also excited to add my O & P experience to my resume as I hopefully become more qualified to work around kids.





Module Five

Keeping students motivated in a classroom for eight hours a day can be a challenge.  Woolfolk (2014) discusses several different ways in which to encourage learning in your classroom, and keep your student motivated.

1. Behavioral approaches: This approach focuses on rewards and incentives.  The difference between these two can be confusing, but ultimately, an incentive is a promise of reward if the student does well, whereas a reward is actually getting something for doing well, an extrinsic motivator.  Using incentives and rewards can encourage or discourage different types of behavior in the classroom.

2. Humanistic approaches: This type of approach emphasizes the students’ freedom to work in the classroom, which is a great approach when using a student-centered strategy.  This allows students to make their own choices and create their own learning.  It sounds great in theory, however a teacher must first establish great classroom management in order to keep their students focused.

3. Cognitive approach: Teachers must have clear expectations to use this kind of approach, and it should be assumed that students are naturally curious about the content.  This strategy focuses on intrinsic motivation, much like the humanistic approach, as students want to feel good about what they did to guide their own learning.

4. Social Cognitive approach: An important aspect of this approach is called “Expectancy x value theories”, which are explanations of motivation that emphasize individuals’ expectations for success combined with their valuing of the goal.  This is another good approach to use in a student-centered classroom, but again, the teacher must make expectations clear to their students and maintain effective classroom management techniques.

5. Sociocultural: These perspectives emphasize participation, identities, and interpersonal relations within communities of practice.  I think this would be a great approach for widely diverse classrooms, or even classrooms with some behavior issues.  Since it focuses on intrinsic motivators, students can encourage each other to do well in small groups with others they may identify more with.

I think these are great strategies, however it can be hard to plan ahead until you know what kind of class you’ll have.  For example, I think the behavioral approach is probably the easiest and most straight forward to use, and it’s most likely a good option if I have a class with some behavior issues that are hard to control.  On the other hand, a humanistic approach might be a better option for an elective class that students choose to take and are excited about learning the material.

Additionally, using mostly student centered learning in the classroom is a good way to keep students motivated. This makes students feel more in control of their learning, and encourages curiosity, responsibility, and critical thinking.  The Glossary of Education Reform highlights a few benefits of student-centered learning:

  1. Teaching and learning is “personalized,” meaning that it addresses the distinct learning needs, interests, aspirations, or cultural backgrounds of individual students.
  2. Students advance in their education when they demonstrate they have learned the knowledge and skills they are expected to learn (for a more detailed discussion, see proficiency-based learning).
  3. Students have the flexibility to learn “anytime and anywhere,” meaning that student learning can take place outside of traditional classroom and school-based settings, such as through work-study programs or online courses, or during nontraditional times, such as on nights and weekends.
  4. Students are given opportunities to make choices about their own learning and contribute to the design of learning experiences.


Unit Title: The Hellenistic Era                                                                     

Established Goals: Recall, select, and explain Alexander The Great’s cultural, political, and/or economic impacts on the Hellenistic era throughout Afro Eurasia.




Understandings: Students will understand that…Alexander The Great helped spread culture, policies, and goods throughout Afro Eurasia which impacted the way future civilizations emerged.  Primary sources are ways to learn about the past, but contextualizing and analyzing historical bias is necessary for a more accurate account.





Essential Questions:Was Alexander The Great truly great?

How did Alexander The Great spread culture, policies, and goods throughout Afro Eurasia, and how did his conquests affect future civilizations?

What does it mean to contextualize a primary document, and why is analyzing historical bias important?

Students will know:How Alexander The Great’s conquests affected civilizations during that time period and in the future in multiple ways, and why that is important.




Students will be able to:Contextualize primary documents, analyze historical biases, and determine the ethical outcomes of Alexander The Great’s conquests.




Performance Tasks: Formative: Guided table worksheet about who Alexander The Great conquered where, and when, how he influenced those people, and what they thought of his military presence and leadership. Summative: A few paragraphs written individually answering the prompt, “Was Alexander The Great truly great?” in which students can argue using the evidence provided on the guided worksheet.  Students will choose two of the three ways (culturally, politically, and economic) he impacted civilizations and support their argument using the primary documents analyzed together in class. 




Other Evidence:Identify and explain the culture, government, and economics of conquered peoples, use primary documents to effectively analyze how Alexander The Great impacted those peoples.
Key Criteria:Establish and analyze historical bias in primary documents, think critically about how conquests can negatively and positively affect current and future civilizations.







Summary of Learning Activities:Establish what students already know about Alexander The Great, and if they think he was truly great or not.

Allow time for students to fill out worksheet either individually or in a small group with knowledge they already have.

Use primary documents as a class to fil in the rest of their worksheet, discussing the different biases presented in the documents and how this may be a problem in a historical context.

Create a timeline map to show how far Alexander The Great traveled in such a short amount of time during his conquests.

Individually write a short in-class paper answering the ultimate question, “Was Alexander the Great great?” in which they can argue either side, using the worksheet as a guide and the primary sources as evidence.  Students can choose to focus on two of the three (culture, policies, and economics) different areas in order to assess his “greatness”.

The first stage of this lessons plan explains that students will be able to do more than just know and understand, but able to recall and analyze primary documents.  Additionally, stage two incorporates both formative and summative assessments to be done as a class and individually.  Finally, the learning activities allow students some freedom to share what they already know with the class, in smaller groups, with partners, or simply work by themselves- which ever way they most comfortable with in order to create a positive learning environment. I also think that including both a discussion and the timeline map can help students who learn in different ways.  The discussion can help students who like to be engaged more in the classroom, and who may be more outspoken, while the timeline map can be a more visual representation for those students who may learn better by drawing or seeing.

It’s important to remember that learning can only take place when students feel safe, comfortable, and valued in the classroom.


Concepts, L. (2014, May 07). Student-Centered Learning Definition. Retrieved April 21, 2017, from

Woolfolk, A. (2014).Educational psychology: active learning edition (12th ed.). Boston: Pearson.


Module Four: Leaner Diversity

Diversity is an asset to society, as are teachers.  So, teaching a multicultural classroom is an important thing to learn in order to effectively teach a wide spectrum of diversity.  Multicultural education “promotes equity in the schooling of all students” (Woolfolk 2014).  I expect to encounter many forms of diversity in terms of race, ethnicity, religion, and ability in regards to students and co-workers.

Teaching History from multiple perspectives is one way to include all of my students’ differences in the classroom.  Being a part of the white majority, it’s important to be culturally aware of other students and sensitive to their unique experiences.  I also think that personality characteristics play a huge role in how to organize the classroom, both physically and in regards to lesson plans.

The Power of Introverts TedTalk

I watched this Ted Talk in a Psychology class last year.  She discusses how classrooms are often arranged in ways that support extroverted personalities, like having the desks arranged in tables facing each other.  I can identify with the speaker in this sense because I hated having to face other students instead of the front of the room.  I felt like I was never able to work individually, which is how I thrived in school.

I imagine arranging my classroom in a way that can promote both personality types: arranging the desks in sets of two with aisles in between.  This way, students are easily able to work individually, with partners, or in small groups of four.  Working by individually and in groups is important for students so that they can learn independence and team building skills.  However, students also should feel comfortable in their learning enviroment in order for that learning to take place.

classroom arrangement


Cain, S. (2012, February). Retrieved March 31, 2017, from

Woolfolk, A. E. (2014). Educational Psychology for teachers (12th ed.). Pearson




Module Three: Behaviorist and Cognitive Perspectives of Learning

There are four different views of learning, and two common ones are Behavioral and Cognitive.  Behavioral learning is seen as more “teacher centered” learning, while Cognitive views learning as more “student centered” (Woolfolk 2014).  Other key differences include Behavioral learning being more study and memory based instead of application and experience based.  There are many criticisms of behavioral theory because it doesn’t always encourage students to be active learned in the classroom and puts too much attention on the instructor, however I think that these two theories can be combined in a way that helps the students even more.  Students need a balance between instruction (Behaviorist) and freedom (Cognitive) in order to perform tasks in the classroom. For example, a lesson at the beginning of a unit or chapter may be more teacher centered in order to the students to learn the concept foundations and vocabulary necessary to understand, and then later use that knowledge to apply it on their own in a more student centered lesson.  I think having a classroom that is entirely Behavioral based would bore the students and teach them that it’s okay to simply memorize the material in order to pass the test, whereas completely Cognitive based classrooms can give the students too much freedom and they can become confused, frustrated, and stray away from their assigned task.

Personally, I think I see myself fitting somewhere between the two theories, but closer towards Behavioral.  As a Social Studies teacher, it can be hard not to lecture on about History and encourage your students to memorize dates and important events and people, but I also think it’s important for students to understand why things happened they way that they did, which is where a Cognitive approach could come into play. As I mentioned earlier, the beginning of a new chapter might consist of me providing the basics- the people and the places and the dates, but then I could allow my students to engage in their own research or activity to learn more about the specifics they might be more interested in.



Module Two: Knowledge & Development

How does one develop and construct knowledge? There are many theories about human development in the world of Psychology and Biology.  Some important ones include Erikson’s Stages of Psychological Development and Piaget’s Stages of Cognitive Development. Both theories provide different ways in which people develop throughout their lives.  Erikson’s model is based off of eight events people experience during their lifetime called “crises”, and each crisis serves to shape that person’s personality and character in either a positive or negative way, depending on the resolution.  On the other hand, Piaget’s model focuses on four major cognitive developments experienced mostly by children as they age into adulthood.  These theories are important for teachers to know because it can help them to understand the way their students learn and behave, which in turn shapes the way they teach and interact with them.

Additionally, the student’s home and family life also impact their learning, and it’s important for teachers to be aware of the diverse students in their class and how their background can affect them.  Several things that can negatively impact their learning are divorce, abuse, and poverty. Even things like different parenting styles can determine the ways in which students behave at school and interact with their teachers and peers.

I come from a home with very permissive parents, meaning they controlled very little in my life.  Although this might sound great to a teenager who thinks they know everything, it was hard for me to get through school without anyone helping me with my homework or encouraging me to get good grades.  It took me until tenth grade to realize I needed to start trying harder to achieve in the same way my friends did.  As a result, I became very independent and hated working with others on projects or interacting a lot with my classmates at all.  Due to the way I got along at home, I mostly just wanted to do everything by myself, as that was familiar to me.

Another example of how parenting styles can affect a child’s learning is a child of very controlling parents might feel overwhelmed with the freedom school can offer, and act out as a result of it.  Children from neglectful parents might steel food from classmates, fall asleep in class, or be very withdrawn from peer groups.  If children don’t feel comfortable in their environment at home, they probably aren’t going to feel comfortable in their environment at school either, and it’s important for teachers to realize this and to accommodate and help those as much as possible.

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Module One: Homework debate

A word on education and research…

It’s important for educators to stay up to date on information regarding teaching styles, how students respond to those styles, and current events and how they may affect your students.  Teachers do not necessarily need to perform this research, but it can always be beneficial to read up on different types of research in order to stay informed and live an academically enriched lifestyle.  As for myself, I’ll be able to teach Psychology and Sociology, which are two subjects that involve a lot of different kids of research studies.  Teaching my own students how to read and write academic articles are important for critical thinking skills which does more for them than simply teaching facts and numbers.

As far as homework goes, I really believe homework should be used as a way to encourage parent involvement with their child’s schooling. Obviously, younger grades should have more hands on guided learning with their parents, while the older students learn to be more independent with their work, especially those in AP classes.  Of course, this only works if the parents want to be involved.  Recent research shows that students native to the U.S. have much more parents involvement that immigrant children, or even children of immigrants. (Suarez 2016).

Additionally, homework meas different things among different cultures, and it’s important for teachers to be aware of the differences among his or her students and how it may affect their performance. Hong and Milgram (2000) found that students belonging to different cultures around the world (U.S., China, Korea, Greece, and Brazil) complete homework in a way that reflects their societal standards.  For example, children in China and Korea usually do homework sitting in a desk and chair in a quiet room whereas children from the U.S. might do  their homework at a kitchen table with the T.V. or radio on in the background.  Because of these differences, it’s important for teachers to make it clear to their students and families just how involved they wish the parents to be, and why they think it’s a good thing for their students, while still remaining culturally sensitive to diverse students.  Without understanding teachers to do so, homework becomes a stressful chore for students to complete in competition with other students who might do it differently, and therefore benefit more or less from it.

Now, if all goes smoothly and teachers become aware of how different cultures respond to homework, I do believe it can benefit students in the long run. I’m not talking about hours of homework each night, but I like the idea of students only having to complete what they don’t finish in class.  Like I said earlier, students in AP or accelerated classes might get a little more as they are choosing to take harder courses, but even so I think the amount of homework should be debated. Parent involvement with their child’s homework from an early age can encourage high reading achievements and more autonomy expressed by their children.  (Doctoroff & Arnold 2017).  Of course, this would mean students need more time during the school day for independent work if they want to get their work done, and not all high schools allow their students to take a study hall every semester- something else we should think about discussing.

When I was in high school, I would have loved to argue against homework, but I also got way too much of it and was a tad bit lazy. If administrators lessen the burden on teachers to assign homework, and lessen the burden on students to complete it, then teachers could simply assign less homework (or at least allow their students time to work on it in class) and maybe students wouldn’t hate it so much.


Doctoroff, G. L., & Arnold, D. H. (2017). Doing homework together: The relation between parenting strategies, child engagement, and achievement. Applied Developmental Psychology. 48. 103-113.

Hong, E., & Milgram, R. M. (2000). Homework: motivation and learning preference. Westport, CT: Bergin & Garvey.

Suárez, N., Regueiro, B., Epstein, J. L., Piñeiro, I., Díaz, S. M., & Valle, A. (2016). Homework Involvement and Academic Achievement of Native and Immigrant Students. Frontiers in Psychology, 7. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2016.01517


Introductory Blog Post

I’ve loved school since a very young age, but it was never clear to me what I wanted to do when I grew up.  My passion for history also stems from very early memories spent with my dad reading about World Wars I and II- the kind of planes they flew and weapons and strategies used. To this day I believe that my dad has been the biggest influence on my decision to major in History Education.  My decision to minor in both Psychology and Sociology was more of an in-the-moment kind of decision: two subjects I’m interested in that I could teach alongside History. Since then, my History teachers have always been some of my favorite teachers for several reasons.

There are three History teachers I had in middle and high school that come to mind, and they each have a few things in common with each other that made them stand out to me.  First, they were all so passionate about the subject they taught- whether is was U.S. History or World History- they seemed to be full of endless amounts of information and passion for it which drove their students to success.

Not only were they knowledgeable in their subject, but they also understood how to communicate it to others, a topic we’re discussing my Intro to Education and Teaching class.  Each teacher incorporated a variety of lessons and activities to engage their students.  One class in particular stands out to me as being more fun than anything else.  It makes me wonder if students learn best when they don’t even realize they’re learning?

I imagine different scenarios in my head about what I’ll be like when I’m a teacher: shorter than all my students and pushover, probably- but I also imagine myself as a happy and energetic teacher who’s excited about being at school and learning about her students while she teaches them at the same time. Ideally, I can take each aspect from some of my favorite teachers- passionate, understanding, empathetic, kind, and a little quirky, and kind of morph them into one person that I can only try to imitate.

I know not all my students will love me, and I know I won’t always be the best teacher, but I really believe in education being a key factor in success in so many ways, and I can only hope to inspire at least some of my students in the same way some of my teachers have inspired me.


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