The neo-Piagetian perspective of Case, and Siegler’s model of strategy choice, have incorporated ideas from information processing approach to present alternative explanations to Piaget’s view on cognitive development. Explain and evaluate their viewpoints.
This question assumes that you are already familiar with Piaget’s theory (Chapter 6). Only if you are will you be able to appreciate the additions that Case’s development theory of information processing make to out understanding of cognitive development (Berk, 2006, pp.276-278)
Another developmental approach to information processing is Siegler’s model of strategy choice. Explain his view of the diversity and changing nature of how children process information.
What is the main idea of each theory? What stages of development, if any, does the theory propose? Which factors influence cognitive development? End by critically evaluating each theory.
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The store and connectionist models of information processing do not offer any explanation of how children’s thinking changes the developmental approaches of Case and Siegler do offer explanations. The neo-Piagetian theory of Robbie Case using Piaget’s theory as a starting point is the most influential of the approaches Siegler’s model of strategy choice draws on evolutionary concepts of variation to explain diversity and changing nature of children’s cognition.
The neo-Piagetian perspective of Case
Main idea of theory
Neo-Piagetian theory accepts Piaget’s stages but attributes changes and movement from one stage to the next, to increases in working memory capacity. A core aspect of the theory is the development of central conceptual structures.
Factors influencing cognitive development
Each major stage it considers involves a distinct cognitive structure:
Infancy – sensory input and physical actions
Early childhood – internal representations
Middle childhood – simple transformation of representations
Adolescence – complex transformations of representations
This advance is made possible through the amount of information they can hold and combine in working memory. The factors responsible for gain in working-memory are:
Brain development – synaptic growth and myelination improves efficiency (biological). At any given time child cannot exceed certain upper limit of processing capacity.
Practice with schemes and atomization – In Case’s theory Piagetian schemes are the child’s mental strategies. Case’s mechanisms of change, practicing schemes and scheme combination and construction, offer a clarified view of Piaget’s concepts of assimilation and accommodation.
Formation of central conceptual structures – this is a network of concepts and relations that enable children to think about a wide range of situations in a more advanced way. It is when new central conceptual structures are formed that children move to the next stage of development
Contributions gained from information processing approach
A problem with Piaget’s stage of concrete operational thought is that children do not generally come up with a general logical principal which is then applied to all relevant situations, rather each situation appears to be worked out separately giving rise to the term horizontal decalage which means development within a stage.
Case’s theory offers an information-procession account of horizontal decalage – different forms of the same logical insight require different working-memory capacity which accounts for the delay in some understandings. Case’s theory is better able to account for the unevenness in cognitive development.
Siegler’s model of strategy choice
Main idea of theory
When given a challenging problem Robert Siegler’s model of strategy choice theory has an evolutionary perspective and proposes that children develop a variety of strategies, some of the successful strategies become more frequent in use and survive others die off. Variation and selection characterize children’s mental strategies yielding adaptive problem solving techniques.
Diversity and changing nature of how children process information
Because the strategies are adaptive there is great diversity in how children process information in counting bags of marbles for instance a variety of strategies might be used, for instance counting as the bags come to hand, or the “min” method where the smaller is added to the larger number thereby minimizing the work, the result might already be memorized of with practice the number of finger digits representing the count might be recognized. The adaptive criteria is accuracy and speed as children hone in on more effective strategies
Siegler’s model also reveals that no child thinks in just one way, even on the same task. A child given the same problem on two occasions often uses different approaches. Even on a single item the child may generate different procedures between their speech and their gestures.
Evaluation of Case’s developmental theory
Whilst incorporating the structure of Piaget’s stages Case’s neo-Piagetian theory offers a better account of the unevenness in cognitive development and provides some biological foundation which Piaget’s theory lacks, and more substantial clarification of the mental process through linking this to working memory-capacity.
Evaluation of Siegler’s model of strategy choice
The model of strategy choice provides an image of development that evolves through experience, this overcomes the deficiency of the stage approach in accounting for diversity and constant change in children’s thinking.