Group Task: Design a Parent Information Session

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Comparing and Contrasting Cognitive, Language, Social and Emotional Development

A). Domains of Development

The developmental sciences divide development into 3 broad categories.

i). Physical-genetics, prenatal development, perceptual capacities, motor skills, physical growth.

ii). Cognitive-cognition, information processing, intelligence, creativity and talent, language.

iii). Social and Emotional-emotional development, attachment, self and social understanding, moral development, sex differences and gender roles.

B). Five main categories of theories, theorists and what the theories focus on:

1). Developmental----Piaget, Steiner, Montessori, Gardner----discrete and/or continuous stages of development.

-focuses on the individual and not the environment; theories viewed as normative; children seen as in a process of developing.

2). Socio-cultural----Vygotsky, Bruner, Rogoff, Malaguzzi, Bronfenbrenner----development and learning occurs in the context of children’s communities.

-focus on the development in the context of the community; children's development not seen as universal but in the context of the community; adults and peers are the cultural agents; learning occurs through the zone of proximal development.

3). Socio-Behaviourist----Pavlov, Skinner, Watson, Bandura----the role of experience in shaping children’s behaviour.

-behaviourist knowledge is given to children by adults (child is malleable), sociologist learning occurs through interaction (child is curious with pre-programmed process of development).

4). Critical----Freire, Habermas----Curriculum can have hidden aspects which frame certain points of view and ignore others.

-promote critical thinking about curriculum and assumptions, promote avoiding political, cultural and economic production, question approaches which legitimizes or promotes certain approaches or ideas over others, critique dominant discourses.

5). Post-Structuralist----Foucault, Bourdieu, Canella----there are many forms of knowledge and no absolute truth.

-multiple contested ways of learning multiple truths, children have agency, but enactment is restricted by opportunity, influence of dominant discourses perpetuated by governments, institutions and media, critique dominant discourses.

C). Developmental theorists

  • Piaget
  • Steiner
  • Montessori
    • Four planes: infancy (Birth-6yrs), childhood (6-12yrs), adolescence (12-18yrs), transition to adulthood (18-24yrs)Scarborough Montessori Preschool. (n.d.). The Four Planes of Development | iQ Montessori. Retrieved 17 March 2019, from
    • Gardner
    • Theory of multiple intelligences: children are likely to prefer different ways of learning. One may prefer a verbal explanation, another may prefer a demonstration, another may prefer to follow pictures or diagrams.Gardner, H. (1993). Frames of mind: The theory of multiple intelligences. (10th anniversary edition). New York: Basic Books.
  • Erikson

D). Socio-Cultural theorists

  • Vygotsky
  • Bronfenbrenner
  • Malaguzzi
  • Rogoff
    • Cognition as a collaborative process.Rogoff, B. (1998). Cognition as a collaborative process. In W. Damon (Ed.), Handbook of child psychology: Vol. 2. Cognition, perception, and language(pp. 679-744). Hoboken, NJ, US: John Wiley & Sons Inc.


E). Social Behaviourist theorists

F). Post-Structuralist theorists

  • Foucault
    • Relationship of knowledge and power, and ways in which human subjects relate ethically to themselves and othersDeacon, R. (2006). Michel Foucault on education: a preliminary theoretical overview. South African Journal of Education26(2), 177–187.
  • Bourdieu
  • Grieshaber and Canella
    • Equity, difference, and the recognition of racial, ethnic, and sexual diversity.Grieshaber, S. J., & Cannella, G. S. (2001). Embracing identities in early childhood education : diversity and possibilities. New York & London: Teachers College Press. Retrieved from


(a). The mental processes involved in perceiving, attending to, understanding, and recalling information.

(b). Cognitive development involves mental processes that are associated with taking in, organizing, and making sense of information.

(c). Two important theorists in the field of cognitive development: Piaget & Vygotsky


(a). Biological and environmental factors (nature and nurture)

(b). According to Piaget, there are four factors that influence the development of children’s thinking:

  • Maturation: brain’s maturation leads to more advanced ways of reasoning (e.g., Fischer, 2008)
  • Activity and social interaction (transmission): children as ‘little scientists’ learning through actively constructing knowledge
  • Equilibration: creating a balance between what is known and unknown through assimilation (modification of existing schemas) and accommodation (creating new schemas).
  • New information is used to establish a new model or schema

Both Piaget and Vygotsky were considered constructivists.

Piaget was a cognitive constructivist 

Cognitive constructivism is based on the concept that learning must occur according to a student’s stage of cognitive development. Piaget is known for the identification of four primary stages of development i.e., sensorimotor, preoperational, concrete operational, and formal operational.

The order of these stages remains the same across cultures. Piaget believes that each child experiences these stages in the same order (but they may experience each stage at a different rate).

These stages help learners to learn new knowledge by relating it with things they know already, allowing them to make changes in their previous knowledge to adapt to the new information.

Vygotsky was a social constructivist

The theory of Social Constructivism was proposed by post-revolutionary Russian psychologist Lev Vygotsky. Vygotsky was not against cognitivism, but he opposed the assumption that it was possible to remove social context from learning. Social constructivism addresses the collaborative aspect of learning.

Knowledge develops from how people in a society interact with one another. Students depend upon others to help build their learning and building blocks. They need to have support to construct their knowledge. Social constructivism is closely related to cognitive constructivism with the additional element of peers and societal influence.


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