Cognitive Development (Information Processing Perspective) and Language Development
Think back over your childhood. What informal, (outside of school), literacy and math experiences did you have while growing up? Based on what you’ve learned, how do you think those experiences contributed to your academic progress after you started school? Which concepts and/or strategies, from the lesson, did you use in school? Which strategy you could use now? How?
Analyzed the question(s), fact(s), issue(s), etc. and provided well-reasoned and substantive answers.
Supported ideas and responses using appropriate examples and references from texts, professional and/or academic websites, and other references. (All references must be from professional and/or academic sources. Websites such as Wikipedia, about.com, and others such as these are NOT acceptable.)
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Cognitive Development (Information Processing Perspective) and Language Development
The topics for this week are information processing and language development. We will explore the information processing approach to cognitive development. Additionally, We will examine the theories of language development, along with pre-linguistic, phonological, semantic, grammatical, and pragmatic development. We will study the development of metalinguistic awareness and bilingualism.
Topics to be covered include:
- Model for Information-Processing
- Attributes of Attention and Memory Development and Their Effect on Cognition
- Information Processing and Academic Learning
- Case Studies Related to Information Processing
- Stages of Language Development
General Model for Information Processing Perspective
Information-processing research seeks to understand how children develop the attention, memory, and self-management skills to succeed with complex tasks. Those who study this approach compare the human mind to a computer, or an intricate, symbol-manipulating system through which information flows.
THE STORE MODEL
Research that occurred in the late 1960s and early 1970s led to the adoption of a term known as the store model. This model assumes that we store information in three parts of a mental system for processing: the sensory register, the short-term memory store, and the long-term memory store. As information moves from one part to the next, individuals use strategies to retain and effectively utilize the information.
Imagine stepping into a room at a museum, looking around for a minute, and then closing your eyes. Your sensory register has just been activated. It took in a wide variety of new information; however, the majority of this information will be lost in just a moment. If you did not use a mental tactic to focus on a particular feature of the room, it is likely that what you saw will not move to the subsequent part of the mental system, the short term memory store.
Working Memory and Long-Term Memory
- WORKING MEMORY
The short term memory store temporarily retains information so that we can do something with it. It has a basic capacity, which allows us to hold onto a small amount of information at a time. For example, most adults can remember a list of about seven numerical digits. However, just attempting to simply recall the digits will not allow you to maintain the information. You have to put in some effort to keep it, which is why contemporary researchers also refer to this part as your working memory (the number of items that can be briefly held in mind while also engaging in some effort to monitor or manipulate those items). The more information we manage in working memory and the more effectively we utilize strategies to process it, the more likely we will commit it to our long-term memory.
Developmental Models of Information Processing
Robbie Case considered a developmental approach to information processing which is similar to Piaget’s stage theory of development. However, in Case’s neo-Piagetian theory, attributes change within and between stages to increase the efficiency with which children use their limited working-memory capacity. As children improve their abilities to process data, the amount of information they can manage in their working memory increases, making it possible to advance to the subsequent stage. Several factors assist children in making these increases. First, neurological changes learned about in the previous lesson, such as synaptic growth and synaptic pruning, improve the efficiency of thought. Second, repeated use, or practice, of schemes causes them to become automatic, which releases the working memory for more advanced activities. Finally, as children begin to combine schemes, they create a network of concepts that allows them to think about situations in more advanced ways.
SIEGLER’S MODEL OF STRATEGY CHOICE
Robert Siegler developed a model of strategy choice which views cognition from an evolutionary perspective, specifically utilizing the idea of natural selection. As children generate new strategies for solving problems and test the efficacy of those strategies, some strategies are selected and survive, whereas others die off. By experimenting with basic strategies, children often discover more successful strategies. Also, when directly taught an effective strategy, children typically replace their less successful strategies, although this change is not always immediate. Using new strategies challenges the working memory, which may cause some children to resist using it at first.
This model of information processing reveals that the way children approach problems is incredibly unique. Given the same problem in two different instances, a child may use different approaches to solving the problem each time. This flexible use of strategies is imperative for developing fresh methods of thinking in order to solve increasingly complex types of problems.
If you have ever worked with young children, you are aware that they have limited spans of attention in which you can expect them to be wholly engaged in a given task. However, as we will learn, attention to task is essential to thinking because it helps an individual determine which information needs to be considered.
Attention is typically dissected into the following three categories: sustained, selective, and adaptable attention.
Development of attentional strategies tends to occur in four phases:
- production deficiency (failure to produce the strategy)
- control deficiency (failure to execute the strategy effectively)
- utilization deficiency (consistent use of the strategy, but with little or no performance improvement)
- effective strategy use
Over time, children gain an increased capacity for planning, or thinking out a sequence of acts ahead of time and allocating attention accordingly to reach a goal. While even infants demonstrate a basic aptitude for planning, young children tend to have more difficulty considering future events which they have not experienced than those which they have already observed. Most often, their plans tend to be successful when there are a limited number of steps involved. Children learn from cultural tools that support planning (e.g., directions for playing games, recipes, construction patterns), adult guidance and encouragement, and opportunities to practice.
As the ability to sustain attention grows, memory also improves. The implementation of memory strategies increases a child’s likelihood of transferring information from the working memory to the long-term memory. There are three strategies that enhance memory in order to capture and retain new information: rehearsal, organization, and elaboration.
If you need to remember a phone number, you may repeat the sequence of numbers to yourself. This is a memory strategy known as rehearsal. If you need to remember a list of items to buy at the store, you may group related items (e.g. all dairy products together), which is a strategy called organization. While both strategies will help hold the information in your working memory, they need time and practice to perfect. When children learn to use several strategies at once, they increase their chances of remembering. By the end of middle childhood, children begin to utilize another strategy known as elaboration. This is when they establish a relationship between or among pieces of information that do not obviously belong in the same category. In other words, they make meaning out of something that is not meaningful. For example, remembering a locker combination by associating the numbers with the numbers on sports jerseys. This sophisticated memory strategy becomes more common during adolescence.
Once you have done the work of transferring information from your working memory to your long-term memory, to use it again, you have to go through the process of retrieval. Retrieval of information from our long-term knowledge base occurs in three ways: recognition, recall, and reconstruction.
OTHER TYPES OF MEMORY INCLUDE:
Metacognition is the awareness and understanding of one’s own thought. This is another form of knowledge that may influence how well children remember and solve problems. This awareness significantly increases in early and middle childhood as children build a naïve theory of mind, or a coherent understanding of people as mental beings. They begin to develop the ability to interpret their own mental and emotional states (e.g., perceptions, feelings, desires, beliefs), as well as those of others. This understanding is revised as they encounter new facts.
As children learn what it means to be effective thinkers, they begin to directly examine their cognitive processes. In other words, they think about their thinking. This is known as metacognition. When children meet mental challenges, they use what they know about thinking strategies to reach their goals. For example, after reading a confusing scientific article, the child may decide to slowly reread it, underlining key terms and details to aid memory and comprehension. Although this ability to apply metacognitive strategies increases with age, this is not a skill that is easily mastered in school-age children or adolescents. Though they may understand the importance of utilizing metacognitive strategies, they may still require practice in applying cognitive self-regulation, or the process of continuously monitoring and controlling progress toward a goal—planning, checking outcomes, and redirecting unsuccessful efforts. Parents and teachers play critical roles in helping advance a child’s self-regulation skills by pointing out important elements of a task and proposing strategies to approach problems and self-monitor performance. In addition, explaining to children why certain strategies are more effective than others prompts them to utilize those strategies in the future.
Applications of Information Processing to Academic Learning
Fundamental discoveries about information processing have been applied to children’s mastery of academic skills, particularly in the areas of reading and mathematics. Identifying differences in cognitive skills between weak and strong learners can lead to strategies and interventions to increase performance.
Reading involves the simultaneous use of many skills, which can challenge a child’s information-processing system. If basic skills do not become automatic over time, reading performance will suffer.
Reading begins with emergent literacy, or children’s active efforts to construct literacy knowledge through informal experiences. Very young children demonstrate understanding of written language before they read and write in conventional ways. They may “read” memorized versions of stories or recognize familiar signs, even if they do not yet comprehend the symbolic function of the elements of print.
As children grow in their knowledge of words, they begin to reflect on and manipulate the sound structure of spoken language. This is known as phonological awareness and is a strong predictor of later reading skills. Children with strong phonological awareness skills are aware of changes in sounds within words, rhyming, and incorrect pronunciation. Drawing their attention to letter–sound associations and playing word games develop children’s phonological awareness. Interactive reading and adult-supported writing activities are also essential literacy experiences that will develop awareness of how print represents language.
There has been much debate on the best way to teach children to read. The whole language-approach, which exposes children to meaningful text in its complete form, is said to promote appreciation of language as a communication tool. This is distinguished from the phonics approach, which promotes phonics (sound-symbol rules) as the most effective introduction to reading. However, now studies show that reading instruction is more effective when a combination of both approaches is utilized.
Strengths and Weaknesses of Information Processing Approaches
A strong point of the information-processing approach is its explicitness and precision in breaking down multifaceted cognitive activities into smaller components. This helps us understand how children of different ages and abilities use cognitive processes to collect, remember, and apply information, which has led to the design of teaching strategies that promote children’s thinking skills. However, one must note that, when you break down these cognitive components, it makes it difficult to reassemble it into a broad, comprehension theory of development. In addition, computer models of cognitive processing do not reflect the richness of real-life learning experiences and overlook aspects of cognition that are not linear and logical, such as creativity.
Which behavior refers to individuals thinking about their own thinking in order to better utilize strategies for problem solving?PlanningReconstructionRehearsalMetacognitionI don’t knowOne attemptSubmit answerYou answered 0 out of 0 correctly. Asking up to 1.
Research studies provide examples of the use and impact of information processing theory. The first case study examines the long-term impact of lack of development in attention strategies. The second case study is an exploration of how age plays a factor in the fuzzy-trace theory.
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- STUDY 1
Long-Term Consequences of Attention Problems in Childhood
Objective:To examine the long-term consequences of attention problems in childhood, Friedman and colleagues (2007) used data on 866 twins who were participating in the Colorado Longitudinal Twin Study. Participants were followed from age seven to age 17.
Using archival data, the researchers gathered the following information:
- Each year, teachers completed the Attention Problems Scale, which measures impulsivity, overactivity, organization, learning, and attention.
- When participants were 16 years old, they were given an intelligence test.
- When participants were 17 years old, they completed an attentional control task, which measures participants’ ability to inhibit automatic responses, ignore irrelevant information, and shift from one task to another.
- Example of Inhibition Task: The individual is presented with a list of color words in different-colored font. Instead of reading the word, the individual is told to name the font color.
- Example of Ignoring Irrelevant Stimuli Task: The individual is presented with a series of letters or words of unpredictable length. The goal is to read only the final three letters of each series, while ignoring all the other letters.
- Example of Shifting Task: The individual is presented with a series of shapes of different colors and, for each, must name either the shape or the color, based on the cue given.
- Teachers rated their relationship quality with each child on five dimensions: conflict/anger, warmth/positive emotions, open communication, dependency, and troubled feelings.
- Teachers rated participants’ overall school adjustment by identifying the prevalence of problem behaviors (for example, acting out, aggression, learning problems) and strengths/competencies (for example, leadership, frustration tolerance, social skills).
Results indicated that attention problems were stable over childhood and into adolescence. That is, teacher ratings of attention problems at age seven moderately predicted attention problems at older ages. In addition, participants who were identified as having attention problems in childhood scored lower on the executive functioning task at age 17 than participants who were not identified as having attention problems. Interestingly, attention problems were more strongly related to inhibition than to the ability to ignore irrelevant stimuli and shift attention from one task to another.
It is possible that the inhibition task required more attentional control than the other tasks, although the study did not specifically address this. Also, attention problems were more strongly related to inhibition than to IQ. According to Friedman and colleagues (2007), this suggests that the relationship between attention problems and inhibition cannot be simply explained by lower levels of cognitive ability. It is important to note, however, that children who were identified as having attention problems had lower IQ scores than children who were not identified as having attention problems. Taken together, these results support the notion that attention problems arise primarily from a deficit in inhibition. Moreover, attention problems seem to have a differential impact on various aspects of attentional control.
Witnessing a child’s development of language is a fascinating experience. Language acquisition is one of the most remarkable, universal human achievements and develops at an astonishing rate during early childhood. This velocity has led researchers to question how children are capable of acquiring so much knowledge in such a short period of time. Naturally, this curiosity has led to theories on how language skills develop in childhood.
COMPONENTS OF LANGUAGE DEVELOPMENT
To master a particular language, an individual must combine four components of speech into an adaptable system of communication. These include elements of sound, meaning, overall structure, and everyday use. As children obtain knowledge in each area of language, they gain insight into others.
Theories of Language Development
We have learned that some researchers strongly believe in behaviorism, or the theory that behavior can be explained in terms of conditioning. In regards to language, the behaviorist perspective assumes that language is also learned through operant conditioning and imitation. Children learn the rules of language when correct uses of words and phrases are positively reinforced by others. This perspective is one of the earliest explanations of language development.
Pre-Language Development by Newborns
We have previously learned that infants discover the organization of sound in their native language by listening to people talk. They learn to recognize familiar voices and develop the ability to disregard sounds not used in their own language. This receptivity to language is a key aspect of prelinguistic development. Infants pay attention to and respond to speech. As people speak, they concentrate on meaningful sound variations, which eventually leads to the ability to organize speech into the phonemic categories of their own language. Older infants begin to detect the internal structure of sentences and words, including recognizing phonemic sequences and syllable stress patterns. This ability to detect patterns in language likely underlies the development of basic syntax.
We can see that infants obtain a great deal of knowledge about language before they even begin to talk! Let’s review some methods for supporting early language learning:
Let us discuss phonological development in more detail. If you recall, phonological development is a complex process that depends on the child’s ability to attend to sound sequences, produce sounds, and combine them into understandable words and phrases. During the first four years of life, young children make rapid progress in this area as they attempt to reproduce the sounds they hear from others.
While babies can understand sounds, it is more difficult for them to correctly pronounce them. That is why their first words are typically influenced by sound sequences that are easiest to articulate, such as those that begin with consonants, end with vowels and include repeated syllables (e.g., Mama, Dada). At first, they may also use the same sound to represent more than one word. The more words they learn, the more speech sounds they can recreate. Again, adults often use IDS to simplify difficult words, such as choo-choo for train. This builds a foundation for pronunciation and encourages children to attempt new speech sounds. Although toddlers are sensitive to listening for the correct pronunciation of familiar words, they often make pronunciation errors when learning new words. This is likely because they are focusing on the thing that a word or phrase stands for, thus causing them to miss subtle details in the sounds of the word.
Children around the age of two begin to focus on and attempt to pronounce each individual sound within a word. As they do this, they make errors. Words that are more common in their environments help them apply those same phoneme patterns to other words. Words with unique patterns make pronunciation more difficult. Throughout the preschool years, pronunciation expands, as the vocal tract matures and the child begins to actively apply phonological strategies (see table). Therefore, the majority of phonological development is complete by the age of five, with only a few syllable stress patterns signaling subtle differences in meaning to be acquired later in adolescence.
Remember, semantics is the branch of language that deals with meaning. Young children can recognize the meaning of words, but cannot always recall or retrieve the word in order to communicate. In other words, children understand words before they begin to use words. As their comprehension of words increases, they free space in their working memories for new words and the challenging task of using them to communicate. Semantic development is extraordinarily rapid as preschoolers demonstrate a steady, continuous increase in rate of word learning.
Children cannot use grammar until they begin to utilize more than one word in a statement. As children begin to join two words together, they omit unimportant words, such as can, the, and to. This telegraphic speech helps them use simple word combinations to articulate a range of meanings. However, most toddlers do not yet have a reliable, adaptable grammar. When prompted to use new verbs in ways they have not already heard them being used, they have difficulty grasping the subject-verb and verb-object relationships. This tells us that toddlers most likely begin to use simple grammar based on word pairings that they commonly hear in their environment.
By the age of three, children who speak English begin to speak in sentences consisting of three words, which follow a subject-verb-object order. Once this occurs, children begin to add grammatical morphemes, or smaller units of language that alter the meaning of sentences (e.g., Tom’s hat). Gradually, preschoolers refine and generalize grammatical forms, eventually mastering auxiliary verbs (verbs used in forming the tenses, moods, and voices of other verbs), negatives (words that mark the absence, rejection, or denial of something), questions, and other complex constructions (such as connecting words, embedded sentences, tag questions, and passive sentences). Typically be the age of six, children’s grammar usage follows the majority of rules from their native language; however, development continues into middle childhood as children master the aforementioned complex constructions and extend their knowledge to include infinitive phrases.
Researchers are intrigued by grammar development, so there is much debate on how children master this complex component of language. Is grammar a product of general cognitive development? Or do children utilize specific techniques, such as semantic bootstrapping (using word meanings to decipher sentence structure) to build their grammar knowledge? Or, is grammar simply a product of intense observation, as children learn to effectively use language in social contexts?
PRAGMATIC DEVELOPMENT‹ 1/5 ›
- Although phonology, vocabulary, and grammar are fundamental components of language acquisition, it is also important that children learn to use language pragmatically, or appropriately, in various social settings. Pragmatic development includes following established rules for interaction, such as taking turns, staying on topic, and clearly stating points. All of this occurs over time, as children practice language in a variety of social contexts. Even toddlers can participate in a conversation, although the interaction may not be prolonged at this point.
You may recall learning about metacognition, when a child begins to think about his or her own thinking. Metalinguistic awareness is when a child begins to think and talk about language, recognize it as a system, and understand that this system can be manipulated. Phonological and morphological awareness are part of metalinguistic development. While preschoolers may begin this process, we see this awareness ripen throughout middle childhood as cognitive abilities grow more complex.
Which component of language development is concerned with the meaning behind words?SemanticsPhonologyPragmaticsGrammarI don’t knowOne attemptSubmit answerYou answered 0 out of 0 correctly. Asking up to 1.
Language development concepts can be explored in further detail by analyzing research. The first case study examines the effects of an early language and literacy intervention on low-income preschoolers in order to consider the impact of environmental factors on early language development. The second case study further examines the developmental importance of gestures for early language development.
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- STUDY 1
An Early Language and Literacy Intervention for Low-Income Preschoolers
Research consistently shows that children from low-SES homes are more likely than their higher-SES age-mates to experience delays in both language and early literacy skills. However, when provided with high-quality early intervention (for example, Head Start), many low-SES children demonstrate gains in spoken language and emergent literacy. In one study, McIntosh and colleagues (2007) recruited 97 preschool-age children from low-SES backgrounds. Half of the children were assigned to the intervention group, while half received only their regular preschool curriculum. To monitor gains in language skills and phonological awareness, children were assessed at four separate intervals over the course of a school year. Baseline data were also collected at the onset of the study. The intervention consisted of small-group and whole-class language and reading activities. Teachers were given books with specific themes that were incorporated into the curriculum for 10 weeks. For example, one theme might be various types of animals, such as amphibians, birds, farm animals, fish, and reptiles.Results
Language activities focused on reading stories to the children and then retelling the stories with children using props to reenact the story. They also practiced categorization skills (sorting pictures that were associated with the story), recall of main events in the story, and following directions (“What did the bird do next?”). Phonological awareness activities included syllable segmentation, rhyming, and sound identification during storybook reading. At each of the four intervals, the researchers administered a test of language skills and a test of phonological awareness. Findings revealed that children in the intervention group scored significantly higher on measures of language development and phonological awareness than children in the control group. Moreover, when compared to the normative samples used with each assessment instrument, children in the intervention group scored similarly to their higher-SES peers. It is important to note that at the onset of the study, both groups of children, on average, scored significantly lower than expected for their chronological age. Therefore, the gains made by children in the intervention group were especially meaningful.
Information-processing research seeks to understand how children develop the attention, memory, and self-management skills to succeed with complex tasks. Those who study this approach compare the human mind to a computer, or an intricate, symbol-manipulating system through which information flows. Attention to task is essential to thinking because it helps an individual determine which information needs to be considered. Development of attentional strategies occurs in phases and, over time, children gain an increased capacity for planning. As the ability to sustain attention grows, memory also improves, and the implementation of memory strategies increases a child’s likelihood of transferring information from the working memory to the long-term memory. Children also develop metacognition, which is another form of knowledge that influences how well children remember and solve problems. Fundamental discoveries about information processing have been applied to children’s mastery of academic skills, particularly in the areas of reading and mathematics. Identifying differences in cognitive skills between weak and strong learners can lead to strategies and interventions to increase performance. In addition, intelligence tests are helpful in identifying highly gifted children and diagnosing learning problems. The use of various types of intelligence testing has led to specific educational programs for diverse groups of students.
Language acquisition is one the most remarkable, universal human achievements and develops at an astonishing rate during early childhood. To master a particular language, an individual must combine four components of speech into an adaptable system of communication. These include elements of sound (phonology), meaning (semantics), overall structure (grammar), and everyday use (pragmatics). As children obtain knowledge in each area of language, they gain insight into others. The behaviorist perspective assumes that language is learned through operant conditioning and imitation. Children learn the rules of language when correct uses of words and phrases are positively reinforced by others. Noam Chomsky rationalized that the rules for sentence organization are too intricate to be learned merely through imitation or discovery. Instead, his nativist perspective proposed that all children have an innate language acquisition device (LAD), or system that instinctively allows them to combine words into grammatically consistent, novel statements and to comprehend the meaning of sentences said to them. Interactionists propose that language development is a result of both biological and social factors. Metalinguistic awareness occurs when a child begins to think and talk about language, recognize it as a system, and understand that this system can be manipulated.
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McIntosh, B., Crosbie, S., Holm, A., Dodd, B., & Thomas, S. (2007). Enhancing the phonological awareness and language skills of socially disadvantaged preschoolers: An interdisciplinary programme. Child Language Teaching and Therapy 23, 267–286.
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