Cognitive development is defined as “the construction of thought processes, including remembering, problem solving, and decision-making from childhood through to adolescence to adulthood.” The ability to gather, sort, and process information is not only for adolescents and adults but is a crucial part of the thought process in young children. We use cognitive skills to think and process information. In assessing the abilities in children, we test their cognitive skills. The intelligence of the child is determined by their ability to reason and process the information gathered and the ability to understand what they learn. It is a known fact that children learn from their surroundings. The things they see, touch, and hear provide a basis for learning. Their cognitive skills determine how they respond to their surroundings.
Cognitive development in children’s education relies heavily on the environmental factors which play a great role in shaping or developing the intelligence of children.
According to Jean Piaget, a French psychologist (1896–1980), cognition develops in stages in all children. Some children go through the stages at a faster rate than others making them above average. Schemas are the building blocks in cognitive development in children. A schema is defined as a diagrammatic representation; outline or model: or a pattern imposed on complex reality or experience to assist in explaining it, mediate perception, or guide response. It is the presentation to the mind in the form of an idea or image. According to Piaget, schemas have two processes; assimilation and accommodation. Assimilation refers to the process of getting or gaining new information and adding it to what is already there. Accommodation refers to the change in an existing schema in order to accommodate the new information or knowledge.
In his theory, Piaget discusses the four distinct stages of cognitive development. These are:
Sensorimotor Stage–from birth to age two: in which little children are able to remember the things that are constantly present.
Pre-operational stage: from age two to six – the period in which the child has developed language and is able to use symbols to communicate. At this time memory continues to develop alongside imagination and egocentric thinking becomes very evident.
Concrete Operational Stage is between the age of seven and eleven. At this stage in cognitive development; logic comes into play. The child is able to intelligently use and understand and manipulate symbols in relation to objects around him. He understands how to work with numbers, length, liquid, mass, weight, area, and volume. At this stage, a child’s thoughts do not center on himself. He understands that he can do things but with the option of un-doing what is in-correct.
The Formal Operational stage; the last stage in Piaget’s theory on cognitive development involves the adolescent and adult.
Cognitive development in children’s education plays a large role in the mental development and intelligence of the child. Being able to process and react to data in relation to the child’s surroundings is extremely important. The atmosphere in which a child is educated matters greatly. If the learning environment is friendly, even when the challenges are great, the children have the ability to adapt and step up to the challenges. Children learn from what they see, hear and do. They will explore and test their surroundings. They build on what they have already learned. Routines are helpful in developing understanding. As the child grows, logic comes into play. The memory develops. Children are able to solve problems by reasoning.
The introduction of cognitive development in children’s education is essential for ensuring that the child is exposed to matter in an environment that will boost his mental skills. It is useful in the general education of the child and it is also useful in determining the intelligence level of the child. Because cognitive skills determine how we think, process information and respond to the same; cognitive development in children’s education provides a useful tool for the teacher who has to plan and execute the daily lessons in the classroom.