Evaluating Theories of Cognitive Development

Assignment: Evaluating Theories of Cognitive Development

Babies’ brains begin to develop while they are still in the womb. They develop the ability to move their limbs, swallow, and perform other early cognitive-based tasks. As you may have observed if you have been around young children, their cognitive development seems to advance rapidly and with great strides as they develop language, problem-solving, and memory skills. As with the theories of language development that you studied in previous weeks, theorists also attempt to explain how cognitive development occurs. The theories of cognitive development that you explore may be grouped into three basic categories: cognitive, sociocultural, and biological.

The most well-known theory of cognitive development, which belongs to the cognitive group, is that of Jean Piaget, who proposed that children develop through four stages of increasing cognitive skill and ability. For instance, a younger child may not be able to tell that if you take two equal balls of clay and flatten one, they both still contain the same amount of clay, while an older child will be able to successfully complete this task. Piaget’s theory belongs to the cognitive category of theories.

Another prominent theorist, Lev Vygotsky, questioned the emphasis on internal structures in Piaget’s theory and instead proposed that social interaction also plays an important role in cognitive development. Learning theory and social learning theory are two other perspectives that emphasize the role of the environment through modeling and instruction in influencing cognitive development.

Although scientists accept that the environment does play at least some role in cognitive development, evidenced by the deficits that occur in children who are neglected, there are theories of cognitive development that fall on the biological side of the nature–nurture divide as well. Two of these theories that you explore are information processing theory, which emphasizes storage and retrieval of information much like a computer, and nativism, which emphasizes the physical structures that influence or guide development (e.g., roles of various physical parts of the brain).

For this Assignment, you compare two theories of cognitive development and evaluate which you think best explains cognitive development. You begin the Assignment this week, but it is not due until next week. You should plan to preview the Learning Resources for this week and Week 6 before you select your two theories.

To prepare:

· Review this week’s Learning Resources related to Piaget and Vygotsky’s theories of cognitive development and next week’s Learning Resources on behaviorist, biological, and nature-versus-nurture theories.

· Select two theories to compare for this Assignment.

The Assignment (3 pages):

Write a 3-page paper in which you do the following:

· Briefly introduce the theories you selected.

· Explain how each theory characterizes cognitive development. What are the major causes/influences, processes, or stages within each?

· Which one of these theories do you think best explains cognitive development and why? Provide examples from the literature to support your argument.

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