The psychologists Jean Piaget and Lev Vygotsky first fixed research in cognitive development and how it can be incorporated into education in tangible findings in the 18th Century. We are indebted to their fantastic findings, which guide us even today in understanding cognitive development.
In the framework Classroom Think Tank has organized for the 21st classroom, each individual part of the education system was looked over and evaluated on how it can better foster creativity and provide the highest level of education. From the research of Leonard Sommer’s master thesis, the framework was organized.
We know we are on the right track when the research done by these psychologists line up with our findings and framework.
Piaget was the founder of the study of children’s cognitive development. He is responsible for discovering and studying many concepts of child development. He also is responsible for the view that children are active constructive thinkers.
Piaget realized that children learn best when they are allowed to actively seek solutions and answers for themselves. He, therefore, criticized the passive methods of teaching that are found in so many of our schools worldwide. In the same manner, our research has shown that the passive “Chalk and Talk” type of teaching is nowhere as effective as engaged, active learning. Children naturally have a thirst for knowledge and when they are required to sit and listen in order to learn; it sucks all the fun out of learning and teaches the child to associate “learning” with “boring.” This is detrimental to a child’s desire to learn. To keep the love of learning alive that children have, students should make discoveries for themselves, be allowed to reflect on these discoveries and discuss them with others rather than solely imitating something a teacher has shown them. We will dive more into this block of The 21st Century Framework (Teaching Methods) in a later blog post.
Piaget also had insight into the teacher’s role, another block of The 21st Century Framework. From his research, he saw direct learning as the best method of learning. Which means that, in the classroom, children should be given time in the classroom to directly learn, to discover, to think about questions and come to their own conclusions. In this way, teachers should be facilitators rather than lecturers. This is very important for creative, divergent thinking because when teachers teach a concept, it is usually only conveyed one way, which builds a box that the students then unintentionally think inside of. This is not done on purpose, but is an unfortunate side effect; which further destroys the child’s creative thinking. Teachers can help their students develop their divergent, creative thinking by listening, watching and question their students in order to help them gain better understanding of whatever subject they are learning.
Another thing to consider is how a child develops and matures. Piaget was asked many times how to get their child to a higher cognitive stage sooner, his response was that things take time and children should learn at a natural speed. He believes that children shouldn’t be pushed or pressured to early into achieving extremely high goals. This type of goal, to speed up learning, encourages passive learning by throwing facts at the student and again, gets in the way of the natural, divergent thinking that is developed when minds are allowed to discover and reflect on new information. (pg. 205)
Vygotsky developed a theory called the Zone of proximal development (ZPD) which sets up the range of tasks which children can not yet do alone, but are able to be learned with guidance and assistance from either other more-skilled children or adults. This can be useful for a teacher when evaluating a student. It would be beneficial to let the child do as much as possible within his/her range of development before the teacher steps in to help. It also encourages more creative thinking, self-reliance and confidence as the child is challenged to his/her upper understanding level before the child is advised on what a good next step would be in the problem solving. (pg. 208)
Another good Vygotsky idea is to use more-skilled peers or children as teachers. This not only helps the child receiving the help but the student that is able to explain something and teach another reinforces his or her own knowledge. (pg. 209)
With this knowledge being around since the 18th Century how can we continue to be so passive about our education? The research these two have done is very influential and lays out a great plan to educate that coincides with the way a child’s brain develops. Why not make the most of the information we have in order to develop methods, which will have the most optimal outcome for our children and generations to come? We have the research, information and tools to foster and create environments where divergent and creative thinking is developed instead of hindered. Now it’s time to implement them and increase our creative thinkers.
This blog post had been written by Ashley Morgan
Santrock, John W. „Ch. 6 Cognitive Developmental Approaches.“ A Topical Approach to Life-Span Development 7e. McGraw-Hill, pg. 205-209. Print.