Jean Piaget's cognitive theory is concerned with the reasoning process, viewing children as learners in their own right who learn through their experiences. Piaget developed the "schema" theory that children take in information, recognise it and accommodate it by altering what they already know. Teachers can utilise schema theory by building lesson plans based on students' own ideas and experience. According to Piaget's theory, teachers are facilitators of learning; they allow learning to happen and do not do not simply impart information to their class.
Recognise that the child is central to the learning process; all activities and tasks should be planned so that the student is involved in his own learning. Provide hands-on activities and problem-solving tasks, allowing students to research topics to discover information for themselves.
Introduce a new subject by discussing what a student already knows or thinks she knows about that topic. If the lesson is about fractions, for example, spend some time brainstorming with the class, writing down their ideas about fractions, whether or not the ideas are correct. Allow students to spend time discussing the subject in pairs or small groups, feeding back their information to the rest of the class.
Introduce new information. In fractions, for example, your class may already have learnt about halves and quarters; now you introduce different fractions such as eighths and thirds. Encourage a student to discuss ideas about new information and give him the opportunity to challenge what he knows. Offer him a variety of shapes cut from paper and ask him to fold the papers to show you what he thinks an eighth looks like, for example.
Give your student the right learning experience for her developmental stage. Differentiate lessons and tasks according to each student's individual ability, preferred learning style and previous knowledge. Provide tasks that encourage her to think, plan and experiment. Try dividing the class into groups and provide each group with a practical problem to solve; building a marble run for example, or constructing a bridge from a set amount of materials.
Allow students to learn from mistakes. Have him review a story he has written, for example, and using the learning objective and success criteria for the lesson, check through his work. For example, if the learning objective was to use capital letters and periods in every sentence, have him look for these punctuation marks and recognise where errors have been made and what he needs to do to correct them.
Use your students' mistakes and errors to improve your knowledge of your class. Mark and assess work carefully, in relation to the learning objective for that lesson and ensure that you clearly communicate, either verbally or in a written note on the piece of work, to your students where they have met the objective and where they have not. When they have made a mistake or failed to meet the learning objective, provide informative feedback and the time and opportunity for students to address their mistakes using the feedback provided.
- "How Children Learn"; Linda Pound; 2005
- "Cognitive Development Today: Piaget and his Critics"; Peter Sutherland; 1992
- Scholastic: Pioneers In Our Field: Jean Piaget - Champion of Children's Ideas
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