In this short review of Usha Goswami’s report, Children’s Cognitive Development and Learning, I will focus on two of Goswami’s conclusions:
- Children think and reason largely in the same way as adults.
- Language is crucial for development.
Usha Goswami (2015) is of the opinion that a child’s brain works in the same way as an adult’s brain but, as youngsters, they lack awareness and understanding of their own thought process due to less cognitive experience. To help build on this, we need to offer them an environment and atmosphere that will expand and stimulate them.
We can put this stimulation in the classroom by offering a wide range of activities to influence the children, which will build on their experiences. During my placement, the classroom had several areas where the children could play, build, read, draw and create. The play area was equipped with costumes allowing children to act out their own imaginative worlds. This type of play supports the child in logical thinking, creativity and the comprehension of their environment; it is an important stepping stone for them to start understanding their own thoughts and the external world. (Goswhami, 2015) These areas allow children to work on their independence as they were free to choose what they want to do (during a certain time of the day) but also on their collaborative skills. I observed, many times, how a group of children would collectively decide on making a big drawing for the headmaster and they spent this time discussing what they should draw and how to make and present it. This was such a wonderful example of learning happening naturally, whilst playing. The children were assigning actions and responsibilities to each other to finish a task; it was, fundamentally, the same actions and behaviors adults would employ in a similar situation.
Shirley Clarke (2003) talks about the teacher’s need to encourage students to engage in discussions, both with their peers and teachers, and how this can lead to new understanding or reflections of ones they already possess.
I find that this argument should not only be about something that the children learn in school, but also what they experience in their wider, external environment. A great example during my placement was “Show and Tell”; every Friday, children were encouraged to bring an item to the class that was special to them. This could be anything from a story they had written, a football ticket, a medal or award they had won, or a history book. Each child was given an opportunity to tell the class their story about the particular object, and then the class was to ask questions. The teacher would then ask leading questions like “why is this item important to you?”, “where did you get it from?” and the children were then encouraged to elaborate more and, if they did not know the answer, they were to investigate and tell the class the following Monday.
Often this invited discussions in the classroom sparked new interests and made the children more curious and eager to know more. It also encourages everyone to talk and share; I did not see anyone unwilling to take part. Not all children will come from a home where such discussions have prominence; for their school to offer such participation and stimulation is vital for their cognitive and language development. This is an excellent activity where talk happens naturally and something that I intend to bring with me into my own teaching practice.
There is no doubt that language and every day stimulating classroom experiences are some of the most important developmental tools schools have at their disposal and all go hand-in-hand with academic learning. If such discussion and participatory exercises do not happen, how can we expect the children to properly learn to read and write? If the children are not stimulated, there is a risk of them missing these early opportunities to fully develop their skills.
I am heading to a Year 5 class for my second placement; I will bring with me both Goswamis’ and Clarke’s words about the importance of language and how this can help with our learning. I am looking forward to comparing the differences in the age groups ( Year 2 to Year 5) and see how this will affect and change my learning style and the language I use in class.
Goswami, U. C. and Cambridge Primary Review Trust (2015) Children’s cognitive development and learning.
Clarke, S. (2011) Formative assessment in action weaving the elements together. Londres: Hodder Murray.