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Good Ideas for Teaching Theories for Cognitive Development to Preservice Teachers

  • 1.  Good Ideas for Teaching Theories for Cognitive Development to Preservice Teachers

    Posted 07-13-2021 11:21 AM
    Hi - I'm an instructor at a community college and teach Child Growth and Development. Part of my curriculum is to teach about the current and historical theories of cognitive development of young children - Piaget, Vygotski, etc. Any ideas for an interactive instructional activity to make this important but dry topic fun and easy? THANKS, Susan

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    Susan Adams
    Pikes Peak Community College Child Development Center at Centennial Campus
    Colorado Spgs CO
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  • 2.  RE: Good Ideas for Teaching Theories for Cognitive Development to Preservice Teachers

    Posted 07-14-2021 07:54 AM
    Choose a good textbook.  I recommend Early Childhood Education Today, 15th Edition George Morrison,Lorraine Breffni, Nova Southeastern University, Mary Jean Woika.  This accessible book has many instructor supports including PowerPoint slides, test items, and capacity to load to many learning platforms.  There are prompts within the text for students to read as well as activities for you to implement in your college classroom in the Instructor's Manual.


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    Gayle Mindes
    Chicago IL
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  • 3.  RE: Good Ideas for Teaching Theories for Cognitive Development to Preservice Teachers

    Posted 07-14-2021 08:09 AM
    This is a fun question, Susan! I teach community college courses, too. What about asking small groups to imagine that they are each of the theorists and then watching a video of children at play? Each group would have to decide how their theorist would focus their observation and write it up. Then choose a spokesperson to share out to the group. The whole group could compare and contrast the small group's answers or analyze them for how closely they represented the theorist's work.

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    Lauren Stauble
    Consultant/Faculty/ECE Admin
    Boston, MA
    feelthinkconnect.com
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  • 4.  RE: Good Ideas for Teaching Theories for Cognitive Development to Preservice Teachers

    Posted 07-14-2021 09:15 AM
    I too have taught child development and agree that understanding theories of development is crucial. But we often teach the theories when students have limited real world experiences to connect them with, or we don't help them make the connections to their own lives. I know when I was in college I just memorized stage names and promptly forgot. Later, when I had some teaching experience and was working towards my Master's, my classroom became my laboratory and I saw the theories in action.

    Here's something that worked well for me. Provide students with several scenarios from classroom or family settings with differently aged children and ask them to apply each theory to help generate questions about the child's development. I found this type of activity helped show both the strengths and limitations of each theory. Stage theories provide one lens for understanding; learning theories something different. Social-emotional theories and cognitive theories also provide different views of the same event. Contrast behaviorism with Piaget, for example, when thinking about toilet learning. And the focus of theories, in my mind, is helping frame questions for further investigation or understanding.

    Another idea is to have the srudents interview family members about their behaviors during different times of their childhood, and use theories to reflect on what might have been going on.

    Thanks for the opportunity to reflect on my teaching experience from years past. 😊

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    Dottie Bauer
    Professor emerita
    Keene State College
    Antrim NH
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  • 5.  RE: Good Ideas for Teaching Theories for Cognitive Development to Preservice Teachers

    Posted 07-15-2021 03:51 PM
    I taught early childhood development for a pretty long time. The best text that I have found is Early Childhood Development: A Multicultural Perspective, 7th Edition (2018), by Jeffrey Trawick-Smith. This text comes with many stories and activities. It comes with many online resources for the instructor as well as PowerPoints for each chapter.

    When I taught the child development class, the big assignment was for students to find someone who they could connect to and observe, writing down field notes using rich descriptions. This was hard for the students but with some work almost all of them mastered it. Later they had to analyze/interpret what they observed using developmental theories to which they had been exposed and about which they had read. They started by articulating clearly what typical behavior in each developmental domain looked like for a child the age of the child they observed.

    The feedback that I got on this assignment was universally favorable.

    Using a jigsaw-type activity to review each theorist's ideas is also a great tool. This can be done with many topics in the course.

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    Nora Krieger, PhD
    Associate Professor Emerita/Past Chair NJEEPRE
    Bloomfield College/NJ Educators Exploring the Practices of Reggio Emilia
    Highland Park, NJ
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  • 6.  RE: Good Ideas for Teaching Theories for Cognitive Development to Preservice Teachers

    Posted 07-14-2021 06:07 PM
    The Jigsaw activity is one I learned at a Train the Trainer many years ago (unfortunately I no longer have the name of the college instructor who introduced it) The way it works is you divide the students into groups and have each group research a theorist and create a poster board with information about their theorist. Then during a class you seat them at tables with one person from each group and you rotate the poster boards. When the board is at their table they share their research with the people from the other groups who are at their table. It sounds complicated but the beauty of it is that everyone gets all the information and each person in each group has to share. If there is no time for group research out of class you can adapt it so that you give them some research materials to consult and materials they can use to create their poster board for the first half of the class and then do the sharing during the second half. I have done it that way successfully.
    Another way to make the topic more interesting and relevant is to include some historical voices that have been "forgotten". In her book "Learning from the Past: Historical Voices in Early Childhood Education" Jennifer Wolfe includes chapters on Patty Smith Hill, Caroline Pratt, and Lucy Sprague Mitchell contemporaries of Piaget, Erikson, and Dewey whose theories are as important to our field and whose influence on today's classrooms are evident. The book, which is rich in photographs and reproductions of relevant material, appears to be out of print but used copies seem to be available.

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    Margery Heyl
    Chicago IL
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