Early brain development

Brain stem: Highly developed at birth. Connects the brain to the spinal cord. Carried motor and sensory nerves to the brain from the body. Controls automatic functions e.g. heartbeat, breathing. Develops 1st.
Cerebellum: One of the last parts to develop. Located near the top of the spinal cord. The main role is the coordination of movement and sensory info. Develops 4th
Thalamus: Located deep inside the brain in each hemisphere. Acts as a hub of info, receiving and sending signals to and from other areas of the brain. Develops 2nd.

Cerebral Cortex: Cortex is thin, highly folded and covers the brain. Divided into two hemispheres and several regions: frontal cortex, visual and auditory cortex, motor cortex. Cortex functions in the womb and at birth is basic and develops through life. Develops 3rd.

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Roles of Nature and Nurture

Nature: Influence of things you have inherited.
Nurture: Influence of your environment on your development.

Smoking: Mothers who smoke during pregnancy may have smaller babies with smaller brains. Nicotine slows brain growth.
Infection: Mother who get German measles (rubella) during pregnancy (first 20 weeks) may have babies with brain damage and/or hearing loss.

Voices: Babies learn to recognise their mother's voice from inside the womb and even respond to book passages that have been read to them before birth. (DeCasper and Spence).
Your brain is formed due to nature but even in the womb your environment can influence the development of the brain. Nature and nurture rather than just one or the other.

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Piaget's theory of cognitive development

Piaget believed that children think differently from adults. 'Cognitive development' is about the changes in the way we think over time.
He believed that children's brains are not mature enough to think in a logical way at the beginning. Their brains develop in stages and at each stage different kinds of thinking happen.
Schema: A mental structure containing knowledge. As children develop they create mental representations of the world which are stored in the form of schemas. These become more complex through assimilation and accommodation.
Assimilation (same schema): When we understand a new experience through adding new info to an existing schema. E.g. a car schema is changed when a two-seater sports car is seen for the first time.
Accommodation (change schema): When we acquire new info that changes our understanding so we need to form a new schema. E.g. When a kid sees a tractor for the first time they create a new schema that is different from 'car'.

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Evaluation for cognitive development

Research evidence: Strength. Piaget's study led to many other studies being carried out. These tests have helped support his theory. This is an important part of any theory - if we can't test it, we don't know if it is right or wrong.

Real-world application: Strength. His theory has helped to change classroom teaching. Led to teachers doing more activity-based learning. Therefore had helped children learn in a more effective way.

The sample: Weakness. Much of the research was on middle-class Swiss children. Children were from families where academic studies were more important than making things. Therefore, his study may not be universal

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McGarrigle and Donaldson's study

Conservation: The ability to realise that quantity remains the same even when the appearance changes. Piaget's theory showed that younger children can't conserve with number or volume.
Aim: Wanted to see if younger children could conserve if there wasn't a deliberate change in a row of counters.

Method: 4-6-year olds were shown a naughty teddy and two rows of four counters. Teddy messed up one row. Each child was asked before and after the teddy appeared 'Is there more here or more here or are they both the same?'

Results: 41% of children conserved if the change was intentional (like Piaget). 68% conserved if the change was accidental. Older children gave more correct answers than younger children.

Conclusion: This shows that Piaget's method of testing conservation doesn't actually demonstrate what children are capable of. Children aged 4-6 conserved when the change was accidental, performing better than Piaget predicted. Supports Piaget's theory of age-related changes but not the age that conservation develops.

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Evaluation for McGarrigle and Donaldson

The sample: Weakness. Sample only came from one Uk city and a narrow age range. Their performance may not reflect how all children would respond in these situations. Therefore, age changes were unclear given the narrow age range.

The change was not noticed: Weakness. Children may not have noticed the change in the accidental condition. If the teddy actually took a counter away, children still said the rows were the same. This means the children weren't conserving, they were just distracted.

Challenges Piaget: Strength. Study challenges Piaget's theory. McGarrigle and Donaldson's study implies that Piaget's original study confused young children. Therefore, this study helps to refine this type of child development research.

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Hughes' study

Egocentrism: To see the world only from one's own perspective. Piaget tested children with his three mountains task and concluded that they are egocentric until age 7.
Aim: Aimed to create a test of egocentrism that would be more understandable to children younger than age 7.

Method:Children aged 3 1/2 to 5 were shown a model with two intersecting walls. The child was asked to hide one boy doll from one policeman doll to ensure they understood the task. The child's egocentrism was then tested by asking them to hide the boy doll from two policemen.

Results: 90% of children aged 3-5 could hide the doll from two policemen. When a complex model was used with five or six walls, 60% of 3-year-olds and 90% of 4-year-olds hid the boy doll correctly.

Conclusion: The study shows that children aged 4 years are mostly not egocentric. Piaget underestimated younger children's abilities because his three mountains task didn't make sense to the children.

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Evaluation for Hughes

More realistic: Strength. Task made better sense to children. Hiding from a policeman is easier to think about than selecting a view of a mountain top. Therefore, it is a more realistic test of children's ability.

Effects of expectations: Weakness. The researchers' expectations may have influenced children's behaviour. May have unconsciously have given the children cues how to behave in the policeman task. This could affect the results validity.

Challenges Piaget: Strength. Challenges Piaget's view. Results imply that Piaget's original study confused young children because the task didn't make sense to them. Therefore, this study helped to refine this type of child development research.

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Stages of cognitive development

Four main stages of cognitive development. As the brain matures you can think in a different way and this happens in the same order in all children all over the world.

Sensorimotor: 0-2 years approx: Focus of development is on relating what is seen/heard with movement. Object permanence: children over 8 months believe that an object that is not visible still exists.

Pre-operational: 2-7 years approx: By 2 years, toddlers can walk but language is not fully developed. Children under age 7 can't think with consistent logic so are egocentric and lack conservation.

Concrete: 7-11 years approx: At 7, most children can conserve and show less egocentrism. Logical thinking is the key characteristics but can only be applied to physical items, not objects that cannot be seen.

Formal operational: 11+: Children can come to conclusions about problems presented in an abstract form. They can focus on the form of an argument and not be distracted by its content.

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Evaluation for Cognitive stages

Underestimated children's abilities: Weakness. Piaget's theory is that he underestimated children's abilities. Other research has found that younger children can show conservation and a reduction in egocentrism. Suggests that certain types of thinking develop earlier than he proposes.

Overestimated children's abilities: Weakness. Piaget also overestimated what children could do. Argued that 11-year-old children should be capable of abstract reasoning when other research has found this is not true. Shows that not all children's thinking is as advanced as he suggested.

Basic idea is correct: Strength. Piaget is that it does show that children's thinking changes with age. Although research shows that changes in thinking occur earlier, the fact remains that they still occur. Therefore, the basic principle of the theory is valid.

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Application in education

Readiness: Piaget suggested that age-related changes mean you cannot teach a child something before they are biologically 'ready'.

Learning by discovery and the teacher's role: Children must discover concepts for themselves rather than rote-learn. Teachers plan lessons that challenge schemas so assimilation and accommodation occur, and thinking will develop.

Individual learning: Children go through the same developmental stages in the same order but at different times. Classroom activities should be for individual and groups of children rather than for the whole class.

Application to learning: Sensorimotor - Rich stimulating environment, sensory experiments to learn motor coordination. Pre-operational - Games that involve role play to reduce egocentricity. Discovery learning rather than written work. Concrete - Should be given concrete materials to manipulate. Cooking is good as it involves a logical sequence of instructions. Formal - Scientific experiments to develop logical thinking. Group discussions.

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Evaluation for Application

Very influential: Strength. Piaget's theory has had a positive impact on education in the UK. Led to schools taking on a more child-centred, activity-based approach. Has helped students learn more effectively.

Possible to improve with practice: Weakness. Theory suggests that practice should not improve performance. Children's thinking can develop at an earlier age than expected if they are given enough practice on a task. Suggests that children don't have to be 'ready'.

Traditional methods may be good: Weakness. Discovery learning may not always be the best. Bennett showed that formal teaching methods work best for maths, reading and English. Suggests that some parts of the curriculum are best delivered through direct instruction.

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Dweck's theory

Dweck's: The difference between people who are successful and not successful is their mindset.

Fixed mindset: People believe that abilities are fixed in the genes. They think that putting in extra effort won't help if someone is failing because success is talent-based. They are focused on performance goals and feel good when performing well.

Growth mindset: People think you can always improve yourself with effort. They enjoy a challenge and don't focus on success. Focus on learning goals and feel good when working hard.

Dealing with failure: Fixed - failure is due to lack of talent so no point trying harder. Growth - failure is an opportunity to learn more and put in more effort.

A continuum: People are not simply one or the other but a mixture, on a continuum from fixed- to growth-orientated. Where you are on the continuum depends on the situation

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Evaluation for Dweck's

Research support: Strength. Evidence that a growth mindset leads to better grades. Dweck found that seventh graders taught a growth mindset had better grades and motivation than a group who were just taught about memory. Suggests that the approach can improve performance.

Both mindsets involve praise: Weakness. Any sort of praise may be bad. Praising effort still leads people to do things for approval rather than doing it for themselves. A growth mindset can, therefore, discourage the types of independent behaviour it is trying to promote.

Real-world application: Strength. Good real-world application. Mindset is used to improve performance in schools, businesses, sports and relationship. Teaching people to see failure as a lack of effort rather than a lack of talent motivates future effort.

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Role of praise and self-efficacy

Positive effect of praise: Praise is a reward and makes someone feel good, so they repeat behaviours. Praise must fit performance and not be used for everything.

Praise effort rather than performance: Praising effort is motivating - it gives a sense of control as people can always put in more effort. Praising others for their performance is demotivating especially when you can't compete.

Self-efficacy: A person's belief in their own capabilities - related to the responsibilities that they have about future performance. Parents and teachers should create opportunities to experience success and therefore increase self-efficacy.

Effect of self-efficacy on motivation: Self-efficacy affects motivation because if it is high you will put in a greater effort, persist longer, have greater task performance and more resilience than if you think you can't do it.

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Evaluation for praise and self-efficacy

Praise destroys internal motivation: Weakness. Using praise to encourage learning is that it can have the opposite effect. Research by Lepper et al. found that children were less interested in doing a task if they had previously been rewarded for it. Suggests that praise can be demotivating.

Low self-efficacy can lower performance: Strength. Support for self-efficacy comes from research into the stereotype effect. Steele and Aronson found that African-American students scored lower on an IQ test if they had to indicate their race beforehand. Suggests that their performance was affected by how they expected to do, supporting the theory of self-efficacy.

Criticise effort instead of praising performance: Strength. Value of understanding rewards. Dweck found students who were criticised for their effort performed better on a test than those who had been previously praised. Shows that the kind of praise that is given in important.

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Learning styles

Learning style - People differ in how they learn. Matching teaching to student's preferred learning style should improve learning.

Verbaliser: Someone who prefers to process info verbally, by hearing it or reading it. They remember best by repeating sounds, talking or writing in words.

Visualizer: Someone who prefers process info visually, by seeing it - especially the spatial relationship. They remember best using diagrams, mind maps, graphs and charts. They find it more difficult to process written info.

Kinaesthetic learner: Someone who is a 'hands-on' leaner, preferring active exploration, making things and experimenting. They prefer physical activities rather than watching others or reading.

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Evaluation for learning styles

A change from traditional methods: Strength. They have encouraged teachers to focus on other teaching methods rather than just traditional verbal ones. Teachers have thus been encouraged to adopt a more varied approach. Has benefited their students' learning.

No supporting evidence: Weakness. Little evidence to suggest that learning styles work. Pashler et al. reviewed many good quality research studies and found no support. Challenges the claim that learning styles improve performance. 

Too many styles: Weakness. There are too many learning styles. Coffield et al. identified 71 different types. This is a problem as it makes it difficult for people to work out their preferred learning styles.

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Willingham's learning theory

Willingham's theory: Criticises the theory of learning styles because of a lack of scientific evidence. He argues that we can improve learning by applying the results of scientific research psychology and neuroscience.

Praise: Praising efforts should be unexpected. Lepper et al. found that, if performance depends on praise, a person works to get the praise rather than feel good.

Memory and forgetting: Memory research has found forgetting often occurs because of a lack of the right cues. People should practice retrieving info from memory.

Self-regulation: Is being able to control your behaviour: your emotions, attention and cognitive processes. This has been assessed with the marshmallow test. Linked to better school progress.

Neuroscience: Brain waves in children and adults with dyslexia are different from those in people without dyslexia. If a specific pattern is associated with dyslexia they could receive help earlier, which will benefit progress.

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Evaluation for Willingham

Evidence-based theory: Strength. The theory uses scientific evidence. Studies on which it was based were well-designed, objective investigations. Gives the claims of his they greater validity.

Real-world application: Strength. The theory is real-world applicability. Willingham has selected research that has clear relevance to education and has a better foundation than learning styles. His approach offers an explanation of what you learn.

Application of neuroscience: Weakness. Research is that dyslexia cannot just be diagnosed by observing people's brain waves. There would be a number of other causes that would need to be investigated. This makes it unlikely that brain waves would be used for diagnosis in this way.

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