In educational circles, intellect is the ability to think, reason and solve problems. In adolescence, intellectual development is at its peak. The students in our secondary schools are in this stage of development. It is vital for you as a teacher to appreciate this fact and endeavours to organize learning and teaching in such a way as to optimize learning.
In this unit, we shall study intellectual development from childhood through to adolescence showing the process and steps of growth as one step leads to the next. We shall at the end highlight the intellectual development in the adolescence years and their educational implication.
We shall examine the theories of cognitive development of Jean Piaget and Jerome Bruner.
At the end of this unit, you should be able to:
- describe the main features in Piaget’s and Bruner’s theories of cognitive development;
- describe the changes in cognitive ability that occur in adolescence;
- discuss the educational implications of the changes in cognitive ability that occur during adolescence.
ARNOLD GESSEL IS THEORY OF GROWTH
The cognitive development theory by Jean Piaget was preceded by discussions on the inborn characteristics of children as the main providers of children’s’ educational experiences. It was generally believed that children’s learning abilities were determined prior to their birth and that the child must be accepted based on this assumption.
The implication of this assumption was less emphasis on environmental effects on the child’s mental development. For reasons of de-alienation of other factors affecting the cognitive growth of children, curriculum contents were either enriched or watered down for school children based on their categorization as fast or slow learners, which they were expected to study at their own pace.
The first attempt at countering this assumption was made by Arnold Gessel. He stated that “growth and development occur in varying sequence”, meaning that even as it is believed that human beings are composed of inborn or innate qualities, which to some extent, determine their personality. They are nevertheless non static. They grow and develop in unvarying degrees. Growth and development in this manner happens in stages and go through periods of major reorganization, integration and assimilation. It follows therefore that cognitive development can be better understood by understanding the growth process of individuals. This understanding will
afford one to know at what age major break through is recorded and their consolidation periods. “By understanding how and when cognitive systems develop”, you will be in a position to ascertain the readiness of your pupils and give them exactly what they are ready for.
Jean Piaget viewed personality from cognitive perspective. He opined that human being inherit two basic organizational and adaptation tendencies, which are processed and kept in a state of balance(homeostasis) necessary for intellectual processing. He calls this equilibration. More of this will be discussed under theories of Intelligence.