To begin with, cognitive development or rather growth is the study of how information is acquired, processed and in the larger perspective organized. As such, cognitive development tries to study how this is achieved in children. Since children do not function as good as adults, as they grow, there are those changes that take place in their minds. This is in short the changes that take place in the mode of thinking of a child. This is to suggest that cognitive development has to do with the changes that occur in the thinking of children and as well, the young people. Outstandingly, this is a major form of development that takes place in the life of human beings and as such, its importance cannot be underrated. It is an important aspect to educators and psychologists.Arguably, the development of the human ability to acquire information, process it and thereof organize it cannot be understood from a grown up adult but rather from a child's development of the mind (Goswami, 2010). As such, it is therefore important to point out that this mode of development is a primary one considering that a child's life reveals the early or the primary development of a human being. Remarkably, cognitive development of a child is such an important mode or rather a form of development whose importance cannot be underrated.From this perspective, this topic will be explored in depth making use of several sources of information as they will be provided in the references page at the end of this work. In line with this, the discussion will be drawn as it regards the cognitive development of children and the importance this mode of development as a primary one plays in the human life. In this case, conclusions will be drawn and thus recommendations will be made where applicable as it regards research on the cognitive development of a child as well as whether the research that has been done on the topic is enough or not. As well, challenges and the importance of the study will be provided along with the appropriate recommendations.In order to come up with the information related to the cognitive development of children, four authoritative secondary sources of information will be utilized. In this sense, the sources used will be from authors who have an excellent grasp of the topic of discussion. Following this point, sources which address the topic at the same time addressing the researches that have been done in the past regarding the same topic will be brought into view.Research Findings and Discussion
It is important at this point to point out that research on the cognitive development of children began in many years ago with the theorists Piaget and Vygotsky. From the perspective of Jan Piaget, he developed the theory after a close examination of the way children think as he saw that their thinking was totally different from that of an adult. In line with this, he realized that children reasoned or rather thought differently during different ages as they developed. In simple terms, the study that was carried by Jean was meant to study the science behind the way children developed knowledge (Machado, 2009). This has to do with the thinking of children and the way the children interpreted the world around them.Besides this, Piaget pointed out that the cognitive development of children took place in different stages. As a result, as a child develops, he or she undergoes through some progression of assimilation and accommodation whereby the brain has to develop through some process of growing into maturity (Goswami, 2010, p.653). As such the child's understanding of the world develops and therefore their ability to interpret as well as predict the world around them as well develops. It is of great importance at this point to bring the point that as the cognitive development of a child grows; the ability to process information and organize it then develops leading to an increase or the development of the whole aspect of the child understanding the world around her or him.On one side, the cognitive development of a child is closely related to the biological development of the brain while on the other side, a child will grow as a result of the interaction with the environment (Goswami, 2010). This is to suggest that, though the brain grows biologically, this is not enough reason for a child to develop the ability to acquire process and organize information in the mind. Therefore in this case, the environment of a child influence the child's cognitive development altogether. According to the cognitive theory of Jean Piaget, the first stage of the cognitive development of a child is realized at the age of 0-2 years whereby the child develops his or her sensorimotor (Goswami, 2010, p.474).
At this stage, the child is described by sensory and motor activity. This means that the child uses built-in schemas and reflexes as well and as such unable to imitate as well as integrate information. By the time a child is at the age of two years, he or she has the ability to imitate and thus integrate information with precision. This is where a child is seen using some objects to represent others. This is known as symbol representation. For instance, the child may use a cup as a car or as a boat while playing a game. This shows that the child has began to integrate some information though limited.In the same line of thought, the second stage of cognitive development by Jean is the preconception period which is well established at the age of 2-4 years of age. Several manifestations of the child's cognitive development are realized. As such, the child is seen to have an increased development in the aspect of language, internal representation of symbols and the creative development (Machado, 2009). This is where the child makes use of symbols and language to represent the world around him or her.At this stage, the child only sees the world from one point of view of which it is the child's and thus this time, the child only thinks of things for him or herself. In line with this, there is the third stage which is concrete operational stage. In this stage, the child is able to make use of logic. This is where a child possesses the ability to sort objects and thus arrange them in order of their appropriate characteristics which may range from size to shape among others. Arguably, it is at this stage that the child grows the ability to name and identify sets of objects as they appear in their various characteristics like size and appearance.In the same manner, the child at this stage has the ability to recognize logical relationships among some elements in a serial order. Accordingly, a child can integrate multiple aspects of a problem in order to solve it. So to articulate, a child at this stage has the capacity to understand change of numbers and objects along with the ability to get the understanding of quantity and mathematics of things in terms of length and numbers altogether (Machado, 2009). This is where the child becomes aware of the surrounding environment by being in a position to integrate other's points of view of the world around and thus selfishness in this sense is eliminated.At this point, it is important to bring in the fourth stage which is known as formal operational stage. Outstandingly, it is at this stage that the child begins to think abstractly, logically and thus has the ability to draw conclusions from the present information and therefore predict situations. From this point thence, the child grows to maturity in the sense that he or she can reason logically by managing to effectively acquire information, process it and thereof organize it altogether. On the other hand, Vygotsky though addressing the same topic, he drew his argument from another point of view whereby he pointed out that children learn through the interactions they make with their surrounding social environment or culture and thus the importance of a guidance of children by people who have more experience than them and as such this is seen as paramount (Galotti, 2009).
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In this context, the research has concentrated on the two theories for bringing out the basic truths about cognitive development; this does not necessarily mean that there are no other theorists in the field. In fact, others have ventured in the field but the most interesting thing is that they have relied heavily on these two theories. One may question the reason for engaging so much on the topic of cognitive development as a primary development mode in a child's development. However, at a close examination of the way the theories have been framed, one can realize the benefits embedded on this research.There is actually very great importance of studying this topic. In this context, knowledge about the cognitive development of the child helps greatly in the formation of learning materials of children in schools. It is on the basis of this topic that ways of teaching the children are developed and as such, teachers make it to maximize the development of the children as well as understanding those that have not attained the expectations of development. In the same line of thought, one can understand when a child has a problem with the cognitive development if for some reason or another, a child does not reveal some characteristics as it has been highlighted.Additionally, studying cognitive development on the basis of Vygotsky who points out that the cognitive development of a child is made through the interactions he or she makes with the surrounding culture is of great importance. This is to mean that a child can be by means of someone who is more experienced be guided towards developing cognitively and thus be well positioned to integrate the environment, interpret it and then on the basis of logical analysis bring out conclusions. As a matter of fact, Vygotsky believed in the fact that children taught through social interaction with their parents, teachers, peers and the people around develop in their cognitive skills (Shevell, 2009).Needless to state, he also states that cognitive development does take place in two different patterns. The patterns take in the use of the knowledge that is shaped by the environment whereby parents, teachers and peers along with care givers among others bring about this development. Since the first cognitive development pattern by Vygotsky is described by interpersonal interactions between the child and the surrounding environment which is the social sphere, Vygotsky puts it that there is the second pattern (Galotti, 2009). The second pattern in this case is the intrapersonal or individual level whereby he called this kind internalization. In most cases, one may find a child talking to herself or himself while playing or rather trying to solve a problem. This suggests that a child has realized the contribution of him or herself if it may be said. From this point of view, Vygotsky points out to social interaction as a point that contributes great deal towards any cognitive development. Vygotsky continues to argue that parents and teachers realize this kind of a pattern and given to this point, they tend to interact with children according to their level of development and capabilities (Machado, 2009, p. 171). In simple terms, Vygotsky implied that children's cognitive development is influenced by the social interaction the child has and thus parents, teachers and the people around any child, should be careful how to interact with children in order to positively contribute to their cognitive development.Arguably, the information of cognitive development is an important tool that can be useful and thus used by educators and clinical child psychologists on a practical point of view. Similarly, intervention programs that have been formulated to aid in the cognitive understanding of children are based on the cognitive development theories (Machado, 2009). This is to suggest that there is a benevolent relationship that exits between the theory and practice and thus understanding of the cognitive development can be utilized to solve many problems on psychology of children and in their education altogether. There is however challenges that the foundational cognitive development theories have faced in the sense that they have been challenged and thus they have been labeled to have been limited. Given to this point, Piaget argued in his theory that infants do not have problem solving skills in the infancy. However, research has pointed out that the children have this skill at infancy as they can retrieve something if it happens to be hidden (Shevell, 2009). It has been argued according to Piaget that children develop in their cognitive as they grow due to the factors of the biological development and the interaction with the environment. However, critics develop this factor by suggesting that children growth is accompanied by a development in the memory capacity and the processing efficiency. In connection to this point, other critics have pointed out to the limitation of Piaget's theory as a limited theory in the sense that he did not consider the social and cultural factors and what they contribute to the cognitive development of a child (Machado, 2009, p. 644).From the above information that has been provided, it is evident that the founding fathers of the topic of cognitive development theory are Jean Piaget and Vygotsky. The development of their theories has been developedt by a close study of children and what makes up the cognitive development of them altogether. Arguably, Piaget takes in that there are four stages through which this development takes place. As such, there is the first stage which is the sensorimotor stage whereby the child thinks about the world through the actions he or she takes to it. The second stage in this case is the preoperational stage which involves thinking by utilization of symbol representations.As well, the third stage is concrete operational stage which increasingly reveals the logical thinking of a child. More to this point, there is the fourth stage which is known as formal operational stage whereby a child is able to think more abstractly and hypothetically. On the other hand, there is Vygotsky who took another point of view to explain the cognitive development of a child. As such, he explains it into two patterns which take the interpersonal and intrapersonal levels meaning that a child will learn by the social and cultural influence and while he or she grows will learn by means of the individual learning (Machado, 2009, p. 171).In the same line of thought, challenges to the theories have been highlighted pointing out to their being limited in the scope of the considerations made. Some challenges have stemmed from critics who put it for example that Piaget's theory portrayed a child as a solitary learner and thus did not take into account the role played by the social and cultural factors around the child. Although the theory has been in use as foundational theories for cognitive development it is clear that there are challenges from critics and the other theorists in the field who have pointed out to cognitive development as analogy of computer and the human mind.The importance of this study has also been explored which involves the contribution that the study has to educators by helping them formulate ways of teaching children along with at what age a child should be taught what. In this context, the study has been made use of by psychologists to develop ways through which to intervene in the cognitive development of a child in case of a problem in that line of thought. Conclusions and Recommendations
In conclusion, the study of cognitive development of a child is important as it has great contribution to educators as they plan ways of teaching and as well to child psychologists who utilize it in formulating intervention methods. Research is still ongoing and thus it is recommendable that more research should be done in order to establish the factors that influence cognitive development of children. As such, this will help educators and child psychologists to apply theory into practice with efficacy not forgetting that science is a growing subject that will always grow with modulations of the past theories. This means that the foundational theories will continue undergoing development as time goes on.