Cognitive Development in Middle
Chapter 9 from page 299
Final Exam
 Final exam will be Wednesday, December 7
 8AM-11AM
Piaget’s Theory: The Concrete
Operational Stage
 Concrete operational stage
 Extends from about age 7 to 11 years
 Marks a major turning point in cognitive development
 Thought s much more logical, flexible, and organized than it
was at earlier ages
Concrete Operational Thought:
 The ability to pass conservation tasks provides clear evidence of
 Operations – mental actions that obey logical rules
 Children at this stage are capable of decentration
 Decentration – the ability to focus on several aspects of a problem at
once and relate them to one another
 Ex. Recognizing that when 1 of 2 identical glasses of water is poured into
a shorter wider container, that the amounts are still the same because
even though it is now shorter, the width of the container makes up for the
loss in hight
 They also demonstrate reversibility
 Reversibility – the ability to go through a series of steps in a problem and
then mentally reverse them and return to the starting point
Concrete Operational Thought:
 Between ages 7 and 10 children pass Piaget’s class inclusion problem
 This indicates greater awareness of classification hierarchies
 They can focus on relations between a general category and two
specific categories at the same time
 That is, on three relationships at once
 Ex. Children can now understand that there are more “flowers” than
“yellow flowers” because both blue and yellow flowers fall under the
category of “flowers”
Concrete Operational Thought: Seriation
 Seriation – the ability to order items along a quantitative dimension, such as
length, weight, or height
 To test for seriation, Piaget asked children to arrange sticks of different
lengths from shortest to longest
 Older preschoolers can put the stick in a row, but they do so haphazardly, making
many errors
 But, 6-7 year olds create the series efficiently, moving in an orderly sequence
from the smallest stick, to the next largest, and so on
 Concrete operational children are also capable of transitive inferences
Transitive inference – the ability to seriate mentally
This requires children to integrate multiple relationships at once
Ex. Piaget showed children parings of sticks of different colors
From observing that stick A is longer than stick B and that stick B is longer than
stick C, children must infer that stick A is also longer than stick C
Concrete Operational Thought: Spatial
 School-age children’s understanding of space is more accurate than that of
 Evident from children’s cognitive maps – mental representations of
familiar large-scale spaces, such as their neighborhood
 Drawing a map of a large-scale space requires considerable perspective-taking
skill because the entire space cannot be seen at once, children must infer its
overall layout by relating its separate parts
 Around ages 8-10, children’s maps become better organized, showing
landmarks along an organized route of travel
 At the same time children become bale to give clear, well-organized instructions
for getting from one place to another by using a “mental walk” strategy
 “Mental walk” strategy – imagining another person’s movements along a route
 By the end of middle childhood, children form an overall view of a large-scale
Limitations of Concrete Operational
 Children at the concrete operational stage think in an organized, logical
fashion only when dealing with concrete information that they can perceive
 Their mental operations work poorly with abstract ideas that are not apparent in
the real world
 Ex. When shown the pairs of different size sticks, children are able to infer that
stick A was longer than stick C, but they have considerable difficulty with a
hypothetical version of the problem: “Susan is taller than Sally, and Sally is taller
than Mary. Who is the tallest?”
 Children are not able to solve this problem until ages 11-12
 School-age children master Piaget’s concrete operational tasks step by step
 They work out the logic of each problem separately instead of coming up with
general logical principles that they can apply globally
 Ex. Children usually grasp conservation of number first, followed by
conservation of length, liquid, and mass, and then weight
 Rather than learning a general “conservation” principle, they figure out the logic
of each problem individually
Follow-Up Research on Concrete
Operational Thought
 According to Piaget, brain development combined with
experience should lead children everywhere to reach the
concrete operational stage at about the same time
 But, recent evidence indicates that specific cultural and
educational practices have much to do with children’s
mastery of Piagetian tasks
 Information-processing research helps explain the gradual
mastery of logical concepts in middle childhood
Follow-Up Research: The Impact of
Culture and Schooling
 In tribal and village societies, where children rarely attend school,
even the most basic conservation tasks are often delayed until age 11
or later
 This suggests that taking part in relevant everyday activities (like sorting
your crayons by color or pouring your own glass of juice) helps children
master conservation and other Piagetian problems
 Specifically, the experience of going to school seems to promote master
of Piagetian tasks
 Based on the differences between cultures, some researchers have
concluded that the forms of logic required by Piagetian tasks do not
emerge spontaneously
 Rather, they are heavily influenced by training, context, and cultural
Follow-Up Research: Information
Processing View
 Some neo-Piagetian theorists argue that the development of operational thinking can
best be understood in terms of gains in information-processing speed rather than a
sudden shift to a new stage
 With practice, cognitive schemes demand less attention and become more
This frees up space in working memory so children can focus on combining old
schemes and generating new ones
Ex. A child who sees water poured from one glass to another recognizes that the
height of the liquid changes
As this understanding becomes routine, the child notices that the width of the water
also changes
Soon children coordinate these observations, and develop conservation of liquid
As this logical idea becomes well-practiced, the child transfers it to more
demanding situations
 Once the schemes of a Piagetian stage are sufficiently automatic, enough working
memory is available to integrate them into an improved representation
 Allowing children to acquire central conceptual structures – broadly applicable
principles that result in increasingly complex, systematic reasoning
Evaluation of the Concrete Operational
 Disagreement continues over whether children’s cognitive
development occurs as continuous improvement in logical skills or as
discontinuous restructuring of children’s thinking, as Piaget’s stage idea
 Many researchers think that both types of change may be involved
 In the school years, children apply logical schemes to many more
 In the process, their thought seems to undergo qualitative change,
toward a comprehensive grasp of the underlying principles of logical
 A blend of Piagetian and information-processing ideas holds the
greatest promise for understanding cognitive development in middle
Information Processing Perspective
 Focuses on separate aspects of thinking rather than overall cognitive change
 Attention and memory, which underlie every act of cognition are central concerns
in middle childhood
 Advances in metacognition and opportunities for self-regulation aid in development
 Researchers believe that brain development contributes to basic changes in
information processing that facilitate divers aspect of thinking
 Increases in information-processing speed and capacity – time needed to process
information on a wide variety of cognitive tasks declines rapidly between ages 6-12
 Suggests a biologically based gain in speed of thinking, possibly due to myelination and synaptic
pruning in the brain
 Faster thinkers can hold on to and operate on more information in working memory
 Gains in inhibition – the ability to control internal and external distracting stimuli
 Strides in inhibition occur in middle childhood possibly due to further development of the
frontal lobes of the cerebral cortex
 Inhibition can prevent an individuals mind from straying to irrelevant thoughts, which
supports many information-processing skills by preserving space in working memory for the
task at hand
Information-Processing: Attention
 In middle childhood, attention becomes more selective, adaptable, and planful
 Between ages 6-10, children become better at deliberately attending to just those
aspects of a situation that are relevant to their goals
 Researchers study this by introducing irrelevant stimuli into a task and seeing how
well children attend to its central elements
 Older children can flexibly adapt their attention to task requirements
 When asked to sort cards with pictures that vary in both color and shape, children
age 5 and older can switch their basis of sorting from color to shape when asked to
do so
 Planning improves greatly in middle childhood
 School-age children scan detailed pictures and written materials for similarities and
differences more thoroughly than preschoolers
 On tasks with many parts, the make decisions about what to do first and what to do
next in an orderly fashion
 Some children have great difficult paying attention
 Learning and behavior problems sometimes can be attributed to attention-
deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
Information-Processing: Memory Strategies
 Memory strategies are deliberate mental activities we use to store and retain information
 Rehearsal – involves repeating information to oneself
 First memory strategy, appears in the early grade school years
 Ex. Repeating each state’s capitol over and over again
 Organization – grouping together related items
 Second strategy to appear, increases recall dramatically
 Ex. Remembering all state capitols in a specific region of the country
 Elaboration – creating a relation between two or more items that re not members of the
same category
 Appears by the end of middle childhood, is highly effective techniques and requires considerable
effort and space in working memory
 Ex. If two words on a list to be remembered are “fish” and “pipe,” a child might generate the
verbal statement or mental image “the fish is smoking a pipe.”
 Gains in organization and elaboration permit older children to combine items into more
meaningful chunks, allowing them to retain more information and further expand working
 Additionally, when children link a new item to information they already know, they can retrieve
it easily by thinking of associated items
The Knowledge Base and Memory
 During middle childhood, children’s long-term knowledge base grows larger and is
organized into increasingly elaborate, hierarchically structured networks
 Knowing more about a topic makes new information more meaningful and familiar
so it is easier to store and retrieve
 In one study, children were 4th graders were classified as either experts or novices in
knowledge of soccer and then gave both groups lists of soccer and nonsoccer items
to learn
 Kids in the expert group remembered far more items on the soccer lists, but not on
the nonsoccer list, than kids in the novice groups
 During recall, experts’ listing of items was better organized, indicated by clustering
of items into categories
 This better organization at retrieval suggests that highly knowledgeable children
organize information in their area of expertise with little or no effort
 Academically unsuccessful children fail to make use of previously stored
information to clarify new material
 By the end of the school years, extensive knowledge and use of memory strategies
support one another
Culture, Schooling, and Memory Strategies
 Memory strategies are usually used to remember information for its own sake
 On many other occasions, memory occurs as a natural byproduct of participation in
daily activities
 People in non-Western cultures who lack formal schooling do not use or benefit
from instruction in memory strategies because they see no practical reason to use
these techniques
 Tasks that require children to recall isolated bits of information, which are common in
classrooms, strongly motivate use of memory strategies
 In fact, Western children get so much practice doing this that they do not refine
techniques relying on cues available in everyday life, such as spatial location and
arrangement of objects
 Ex. Guatemalan Mayan 9 year olds do better than their North American agemates
when asked to remember the placement of 40 familiar objects in a play scene
 North American children often rehearse object names when it would be more
effective to keep track of spatial relations
 The development of memory strategies, then, is not just a product of a more
competent information-processing system
 It also depends on task demands and cultural circumstances
The School-Age Child’s Theory of Mind
 Theory of mind (metacognition) – set of ideas about mental activities – becomes
more elaborate and refined during middle childhood
 Unlike preschoolers, who view the mind as a passive container of information, older
children regard it as an active, constructive agent that selects and transforms
 They have a much better understanding of cognitive processes and the impact of
psychological factors on performance
 Ex. They know that doing well on a task depends on focusing attention, concentrating,
and exerting effort
 School-age children realize that people can extend their knowledge not only directly
but also by making mental inferences
 An understanding that enables knowledge of false belief to expand, bringing a greater
understanding of others’ perspectives
 They are better able to pinpoint the reasons that another person arrived at a certain
 Experiences that foster awareness of mental activities, such as teachers asking
children to pay attention, also contribute to children’s more reflective, processoriented view of mind
Cognitive Self-Regulation
 School-age children are not yet good at cognitive self-regulation
 Cognitive self-regulation – the process of continuously monitoring progress
toward a goal, checking outcomes, and redirecting unsuccessful efforts
 Ex. A child may know that she should group items when memorizing and that
she should reread a complicated paragraph to make sure she understands, but she
probably doesn’t do this all the time
 Because monitoring learning outcomes is cognitively demanding, it develops
 By adolescence, self-regulation is a strong predictor of academic success
 Parents and teachers can foster self-regulation
 Particularly by explaining eh effectiveness of strategies
 Children who acquire effective self-regulatory skills develop a sense of
academic self-efficacy
 Academic self-efficacy – confidence in their own abilities
 Negative messages from parents and teachers can undermine children’s
academic self-esteem and self-regulatory skills
Applications of Information Processing
to Academic Learning
 Fundamental discoveries about the development of
information processing have been applied to children’s
learning of reading and mathematics
 Researchers are identifying the cognitive ingredients of
skilled performance, tracing their development, and
pinpointing differences in cognitive skills between good and
poor readers
 They hope to design teaching methods that will improve
children’s learning
Applications of Information Processing:
 Reading taxes all aspect of our information-processing systems,
making use of many skills at once
 We must perceive single letters and letter combinations, translate
them into speech sounds, recognize the visual appearance of many
common words, hold chunks of text in working memory while
interpreting their meaning, and combine the meanings of various
parts of a text passage into an understandable whole
 Because reading is so demanding, most or all of these skills must
be done automatically
 If one or more are poorly developed, they will compete for space in
our limited working memories, and reading performance will decline
Applications of Information Processing:
 As children make the transition from emergent literacy to
conventional reading, phonological awareness continues to
facilitate their progress
 Other information-processing activities also contribute
 Gains in processing speed foster children’s rapid conversion of
visual symbols into sounds
 Visual scanning and discrimination are also important and
improve with reading experience
 Performing all these skill efficiently releases working
memory for higher-level activities involved in
comprehending the test’s meaning
Applications of Information Processing:
 Until recently, researcher were involved in an intense debate over the best
way to teach beginning reading
 Proponents of a whole-language approach, argued that reading should be
taught in a way that parallels children’s natural language learning
 From the beginning, children should be exposed to text in its complete form – stories,
poems, letters, posters, and lists – so that they can appreciate the communicative function
of written language
 According to this view as long as reading is kept whole and meaningful, children will be
motivated to discover the specific sills they need
 Others favored a phonics approach, in which children were first coached on
phonics – the basic rules for translating written symbols into sounds
 Only after mastering these skills should children get complex reading material
 Many studies show that children learn best with a mixture of both
Applications of Information Processing:
 Over the early elementary school years, children acquire basic math facts
through a combination of frequent practice, experimentation with diverse
computational procedures, reasoning about number concepts, and teaching
that conveys effective strategies
 Ex. When 1st graders realize that regardless of the order in which 2 sets of
numbers are combined (ex. 2+6=8 and 6+2=8), they yield the same result,
they more often start with the higher digit (6) and count up, which minimizes
the work involved
 Arguments over how to teach mathematics resemble those about reading,
pitting drill in computing against “number sense” or understanding
 Again a blend of both is most beneficial, encouraging students to apply strategies
and making sure they understand why certain strategies work well are essential
for solid mastery of basic math
 Ex. Students greatly benefit when they realize that multiplication problems
involving 2 (8 x 2) are equivalent to addition doubles (8+8)
Individual Differences in Mental
 Around age 6, IQ becomes more stable than it was at earlier
ages, and it correlates moderately will with academic
achievement, typically around .50 to .60
 Children with higher IQs are more likely when they grow up to
attain higher levels of education and enter more prestigious
 Because IQ predicts school performance and educational
attainment, it often enters into educational decisions
 Do intelligence test accurately assess the school-age child’s ability
to profit from academic instruction? = controversial issue
Defining and Measuring Intelligence
 Virtually all intelligence tests provide an overall score (IQ) which
represents general intelligence, or reasoning ability, and an array of
separate scores measuring specific mental abilities
 But, intelligence is a collection of many capacities, not all of which are
included on currently available tests
 Test designers use a complicated statistical technique called factor
analysis to identify various abilities that intelligence tests measure
 Identifies which sets of test items cluster together, meaning that test-
takers who do well on one item in a cluster tend to do well on the
 Distinct clusters are called factors, each of which represents an ability
Defining and Measuring Intelligence
 Group-administered tests permit large numbers of pupils to be tested at once
and are useful for instructional planning
 Usually given to classrooms as a whole
 Teachers need little training to administer them
 Can identify children who require more extensive evaluation
 Individually administered tests are used for more extensive evaluation of
 Require considerable training and experience to be given well
 The examiner considers both the child’s answers and behavior and notes
reactions such as attention to and interest in the tasks
 These observations give insight into whether the test results accurately reflect
the child’s abilities
 Examples include the Stanford-Binet and the Wechsler, which are used to
identify highly intelligent children and to diagnose children with learning
Defining and Measuring Intelligence
 The Stanford-Binet Intelligence Scales, 5th Edition
 For individuals from age 2 to adulthood
 Assesses general intelligence and 5 intellectual factors: knowledge,
quantitative reasoning, visual-spatial processing, working memory, and
basic information processing (such as speed of analyzing information
 Each factor includes both a verbal and a nonverbal mode of testing,
yielding 10 subtests in all
 The knowledge and quantitative reasoning factors emphasize culturally
loaded, fact-oriented information, such as vocabulary and arithmetic
 But the visual-spatial processing, working-memory, and basic information
processing factors are assumed to be les culturally biased because they
require little specific information
Defining and Measuring Intelligence
 The Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children (WISC-IV), 4th Edition
 The 1st test to be standardized on children representing the total
population of the U.S., including ethnic minorities
Widely used for 6-16 year olds
Measures general intelligence and 4 broad factors: verbal reasoning,
perceptual (or visual-spatial) reasoning, working memory , and
processing speed
Each factor is made up of 2 or 3 subtests, yielding 10 separate scores in
Was designed to downplay culturally dependent knowledge, which is
emphasized on only 1 factor, verbal reasoning
According to the test designers, the result is the most “culture-fair”
intelligence test available
Recent Efforts to Define Intelligence
 Some researchers combine the mental testing approach with the
information-processing approach
 Believe that once we identify the processing skills that separate those
who test well from those who test poorly, we well know more about
how to intervene to improve performance
 They conduct componential analyses of children’s mental test scores
 To look for relationships between components of information processing, such
as basic working-memory capacity and children’s scores
 Ex. Measures of basic working-memory such as digit span, correlate highly with
mental test scores
 Major problem with the componential approach: it regards intelligence
as entirely due to causes within the child
 Disregarding cultural and situational factors that are known to affect children’s
Sternberg’s Triarchic Theory of
Successful Intelligence
 Triarchic theory of successful intelligence expands the
componential approach into a comprehensive theory that
regards intelligence as a product of both inner and outer forces
 Identifies 3 broad, interacting intelligences:
 Analytical intelligence – information processing skills
 Creative intelligence – capacity to solve novel problems
 Practical intelligence – application of intellectual skills in everyday
 Intelligent behavior involves balancing all three intelligences to
achieve success in life according to one’s personal goals and the
requirements of one’s cultural community
Triarchic Theory: Analytical Intelligence
 Consists of the information-processing components that
underlie all intelligent acts:
 Applying strategies, acquiring task-relevant and metacognitive
knowledge, and engaging in self-regulation
 However, on mental tests, processing skills are used in only a
few of their potential ways, resulting in far too narrow view of
intelligent behavior
 Ex. Children in tribal and village societies do not necessarily
perform well on measures of “school” knowledge but excel
when processing information in out-of-school situations that
most Westerners would find highly challenging
Triarchic Theory: Creative Intelligence
 In any context, success depends not only on processing familiar
information but also on generating useful solutions to new
 People who are creative think more skillfully than others when
faced with novelty
 Given a new task, they apply their information-processing skills in
exceptionally effective ways, rapidly making these skills automatic
so that working memory is freed for more complex aspects of the
 Consequently, they quickly move to high-level performance
 Although all of us are capable of some creativity, only a few
individuals excel at generating novel situations
Triarchic Theory: Practical Intelligence
 Intelligence s a practical goal-oriented activity aimed at adapting to, shaping, or
selecting environments
 Intelligent people skillfully adapt their thinking to fit with both their desires and
the demands of their everyday worlds
 When they cannot adapt to a situation, they try to shape, or change, it to meet their
 If they cannot shape it, they select new contexts that better match their skills, values,
or goals
 Practical intelligence reminds us that intelligent behavior is never culture-free
 Children with certain life histories do well at the behavior required for success on
intelligence tests and adapt easily to the testing conditions
 Others, with different backgrounds, may misinterpret or reject the testing context
 Yet such children often display sophisticated abilities in daily life
 Ex. Telling stories, engaging in complex artistic activities, or interacting skillfully
with other people
Sternberg’s Triarchic Theory of
Successful Intelligence
 Triarchic theory highlights the complexity of intelligent behavior and the
limitations of current intelligence tests in assessing that complexity
 Out-of-school, practical forms of intelligence are vital for life success and
help explain why cultures vary widely in the behaviors they regard as
 Ex. Researchers asked ethnically divers parents to describe an intelligent 1st
 Caucasian Americans mentioned cognitive traits
 Ethnic minorities (Cambodian, Filipino, Vietnamese, and Mexican immigrants)
identified noncognitive capacities: motivation, self-management, and social
 According to Sternberg, mental tests can easily underestimate, and even
overlook, the intellectual strengths of some children, especially ethnic
Gardner’s Theory of Multiple
 Theory of multiple intelligences defines intelligence in terms of distinct sets of
processing operations that permit individuals to engage in a wide range of
culturally valued activities
 Dismisses the idea of general intelligence
 Proposes at least 8 independent intelligences (listed in table 9.1, pg. 311 in text)
 Gardner believes that each intelligence has a unique biological basis, a distinct
course of development, and different expert, or “end-state,” performances
 Also emphasized that a lengthy process of education is required to transform any
raw potential into a mature social role
 Cultural values and learning opportunities affect the extent to which a child’s
intellectual strengths are realized and the ways they are expressed
 However, Gardner’s list of abilities has yet to be firmly grounded in research and
neurological evidence for the independence of these abilities is weak
 Still, Gardner’s theory highlights abilities not measured by intelligence tests (such
as interpersonal and intrapersonal intelligences)
Explaining Individual and Group
Differences in IQ
 When we compare academic achievement, years of education, and
occupational status, it quickly becomes clear that some sectors of the
population are advantaged over others
 In trying to explain these differences, researchers have compared the IQ
scores of ethnic minorities and SES groups
 African American children score, on average, 12-13 IQ points below which
American children, although the difference has been shrinking
 Hispanic children fall midway between black and white children
 The IQ gap between middle-SES and low-SES (about 9 points) accounts for
some, but not all, of the ethnic differences
 When black and white children are matched on parental education and income,
the IQ gap is reduced by 1/3 – 1/2
 In the 1970s, the IQ nature-nurture debated drastically escalated after the
publication of a book stating that heredity is largely responsible for
variations in intelligence
Nature Versus Nurture
 Bases on evidence from kinship studies, which compare family members,
especially twins, researchers estimate that about ½ of the differences in IQ
among children is due to genetic makeup
 However, because heritabilities risk overestimating genetic influences and
underestimating environmental influences, disagreement continues over how
large the role of heredity really is
 Adoption studies offer a wider range of information
 Findings consistently show that when young children are adopted into caring,
stimulating homes, their Iqs rise substantially compared with the IQs of
nonadopted children who remain in economically deprived families
 2 adoption studies have found that African-American children adopted into
well-off homes during the 1st year of life scored very high on intelligence test
(mean IQs of 110-117, 20-30 points above means for African-Americans
living in poverty)
 This indicates that poverty severely depresses the intelligence of large numbers of
ethnic minorities
Cultural Influences
 A controversial issue is whether or not ethnic differences in IQ
are due to test bias
 Experts disagree over whether intelligence tests are biased
 Ethnic groups may not have equal opportunity to be exposed to
information on the tests and the testing situation may impair the
performance of some but not others
 Some experts reject that the tests are biased, claiming that because
IQ predicts academic achievement equally well for majority and
minority children, IQ tests are fair to all groups
 Others believe that lack of exposure to certain communication
styles and knowledge, along with negative stereotypes about the
test-taker’s ethnic group, can undermine children’s performance
Cultural Influences: Communication
 Ethnic minority families often foster unique language skills that do not match
the expectations of most classrooms and testing situations
 In one study, a researcher spent many hours observing in low-SES black
homes in a southeastern U.S. city
 Found that African-American parents rarely asked their children the knowledge
training questions typical of middle-SES white parents and of tests and classrooms
 Ex. “what color is it?” “What’s this story about?”
 Instead, they asked only “real” questions, ones they themselves could not answer
 Often these questions were analogies (“What’s that look like to you?”) or story-starter
questions (“Did ya hear Miss Sally this morning? What did she tell you?”), these types of
questions call for elaborate responses about everyday evens and have no “right” answer
 These experiences lead low-SES children to develop complex verbal sills at
 As a result, children may learn to communicate emotional and social
concerns more than facts and may be confused by the “objective” questions
found on tests
Cultural Influences: Test Content
 Many researchers argue the IQ scores are affected by specific
information acquired as part of a majority-culture upbringing
 Consistent with this view, low-SES children often miss vocabulary words
on mental tests that have alternative meanings in their cultural
 Ex. Interpreting the word frame as “physique” of an individual rather than a type of
border or something that holds a picture
 Toys such as blocks and video games increase children’s success on spatial
tasks, however, low-SES minority children often grow up in more
“people-oriented” than “object-oriented” homes and may lack the toys
that promote certain intellectual skills
 Also, just the amount of time a child spends in school predicts IQ
 Thus, exposure to the factual knowledge and ways of thinking valued
in classrooms has a sizable impact on children’s intelligence test
Cultural Influences: Stereotypes
 Stereotype threat – the fear of being judged on the basis of a negative stereotype
 Can trigger anxiety that interferes with test performance
 Researchers gave African-American, Hispanic-American, and Caucasian-American
6-10 year olds verbal tasks
 Some children were told that the tasks were “not a test” and others were told they
were “a test of how good children are at school problems”
 Among children who were aware of ethnic stereotypes, African American and
Hispanic American children performed far worse in the “test” condition than in the
“not a test” condition
 In contrast, Caucasian American children performed similarly in both conditions
 Over middle childhood, children (especially those from stigmatized groups)
become increasingly conscious of ethnic stereotypes
 By junior high school, many low-SES minority students start to say that doing well
in school is not important to them
 Self-protective disengagement, parked by stereotype threat, may be responsible
 This weakening of motivation can have serious, long-term consequences
Reducing Cultural Bias in Testing
 Many experts acknowledge that IQ scores can underestimate the
intelligence of culturally different children
 There is special concern about incorrectly labeling minority children as
slow learners, after which they are placed in remedial classes which
provide a less stimulating environment
 Culturally relevant testing procedures enhance minority children’s
test performance
 Dynamic assessment – a innovative testing approach which is consistent
with Vygotsky’s zone of proximal development, the adult introduces
purposeful teaching into the testing situation to see what the child can
attain with social support
 Children’s receptivity to teaching and capacity to transfer what they have
learned to novel problems contribute substantially to gains in test
Reducing Cultural Bias in Testing
 But rather than adapting testing to support ethnic minority
children’s learning needs, North American education is placing
greater emphasis on traditional test scores
 With the advent of the high-stakes testing movement that requires
satisfactory test performance for progress through school
 This emphasis on standardized testing has narrowed the focus of
instruction (only teaching what’s on the test) and may widen SES
and ethnic differences in educational attainment
 Testing remains important to aid educational decisions, but
intelligence tests need to be interpreted with sensitivity to
cultural influences on performance
Language Development
 Vocabulary, grammar, and pragmatics continue to develop in
middle childhood
 Although less obviously than at earlier ages
 Additionally, school-age children’s attitude toward language
under goes a fundamental shift
 They develop language awareness
 Schooling contributes greatly to these language competencies
 Reflecting on language is extremely common during reading
 Fluent reading is major new source of language learning
 In the elementary school years, children learn about 20 new words a day,
and vocabulary increases fourfold
 Children continue to benefit from conversation with more expert speakers,
especially when their partners use complex words and explain them
 Reading contributes enormously to vocabulary growth
 Children who engage in as little as 21 mins of independent reading per day are
exposed to nearly 2 million words per year
 School-age children think about and use words more precisely than
 Ex. In addition to the verb fall, they also use topple, tumble, and plummet
 As school-age children learn to grasp the double meanings of some words,
they develop an understanding of metaphors and of riddles and puns
 Ex. “the refrigerator keeps food cool.” and “what a cool shirt!”
 Ex. “sharp as a tack” and “spilling the beans”
 Mastery of complex grammatical constructions improves in
middle childhood
 Ex. English-speaking children use the passive voice more
frequently, and they more often extend it from an abbreviated form
(“It broke.”) into full statements (“The glass was broken by Mary.”)
 During middle childhood children also develop an advanced
understanding of infinitive phrases
 Ex. The difference between “John is eager to please.” and “John is
easy to please.”
 Appreciation of subtle grammatical distinctions is supported by
an improved ability to analyze and reflect on language
 Improvements in pragmatics (the communicative side of language) occur as
children’s conversational strategies become more refined
 Children’s narratives increase in organization, detail, and expressiveness
 A typical 4-5 year old’s narrative states what happened
 Ex. “Went to the lake. We fished and waited. Paul caught a huge catfish.”
 6-7 year olds include orienting information (time, place, and participants) and
many connective that lend coherence to the story (“next,” “then,” “so,” “finally”)
 Gradually narratives lengthen into a classic form in which events not only build to
a high point, but also resolve
 Ex. “After Paul reeled in the catfish, Dad cleaned and cooked it. Then we at it all up!”
 Evaluative comments rise dramatically, becoming common by age 8-9
 Ex. “The catfish tasted great. Paul was so proud!”
 Because children pick up the narrative styles of significant adults in their
lives, their narrative forms vary widely across cultures
 Practice in relating personal stories (ex. In families who regularly eat meals
together) promotes gains in language and literacy development
Learning Two Languages at a Time
 Many children are bilingual, learning 2 or more languages in
 An estimated 15% of American children (6 million) speak a
language other than English at home
Bilingual Development
 Children can become bilingual by acquiring 2 languages at the same
time in early childhood or learning a 2nd language after mastering
the 1st
Children who learn both languages in infancy and early childhood
attain early language milestone according to a typical timetable
When school-age children acquire a 2nd language after they already
speak the 1st, they generally take 5-7 years to attain speaking and
writing skills on par with those of native-speaking agemates
Sensitive period for 2nd language learning: to achieve full proficiency
in a 2nd language, mastery must begin sometime in childhood
Children who are fluent in 2 languages do better than other on
tests of selective attention, analytical reasoning, and concept
Bilingual Education
 The advantages of bilingualism provide strong justification for bilingual education
programs in schools
 In Canada, about 7% of elementary school students participate in language immersion
programs (in which English-speaking children are taught entirely in French) and
become proficient in both French and English
 In the U.S., disagreement exists over how best to educate ethnic minority children
with limited English proficiency
 Some believe that time spent communicating in the child’s native tongue detracts
from English language achievement, which is crucial for success at school and work
 Others are committed to developing minority children’s native language while
fostering mastery of English
 This approach prevents inadequate proficiency in both languages, which is believed to lead to high
rates of school failure and dropout among low-SES Hispanic children
 Currently, U.S. public opinion and educational practice favor English-only
 However, when both languages are integrated into the curriculum, minority
children are more involved in learning and acquire the 2nd language more easily
Learning in School
 Schools are vital forces in children’s cognitive development
 How do school exert such a powerful influence?
 Research looking at schools as complex social systems provides
important insights
 Class size
 Educational philosophies
 Teacher-student relationships
 Larger cultural context
Class Size
 Smaller class sizes are most beneficial
 Teachers spend less time disciplining and more time teaching and giving individual
 Children who learn in smaller groups show better concentration, higher-quality
class participation, and more favorable attitudes toward school
 In one study, more than 6,000 Tennessee kindergartners were randomly assigned to
3 class types, in which they remained until 3rd grade
 Small – 13-17 students
 Regular – 22-25 students
 Regular with a teacher plus a full-time teacher’s aide
 Results
 Small-class students (especially ethnic minority children) scored higher in reading
and math achievement each year
 Placing teacher’s aides in regular-size classes had NO impact
 Being in small classes from kindergarten through 3rd grade predicted substantially
higher achievement from 4th-9th grades, even after children had returned to regularsize classes
 Smaller class size also predicted greater likelihood of graduating from high school
Educational Philosophies
 Each teacher brings an educational philosophy to the
classroom, which plays a major role in children’s learning
 2 philosophies have received the most research attention
 Traditional vs. Constructivist
 They differ in what children are taught, the way they are
believed to learn, and how their progress is evaluated
Traditional Versus Constructivist
 Traditional – teachers are the sole authority for knowledge, rules,
and decision making and does most of the talking
 Students are relatively passive – listening, responding when called on,
and completing teacher-assigned tasks
 Students progress is evaluated by how well they keep pace with a
uniform set of standards for their grade
 Constructivist – encourages students to construct their own
 Many are grounded in Piaget’s theory, that views children as active
agents who reflect on and coordinate their own thoughts rather than
absorbing those of others
 Constructivist classrooms provide richly equipped learning centers and
allow small groups and individuals to engage in problem solving
 Students are evaluated in terms of their progress in relation to their
own prior development
Traditional Versus Constructivist
 In the U.S., the pendulum has swung back and forth between
traditional and constructivist views
 Older elementary school children in traditional classrooms
score slightly higher in achievement tests
 But, constructivist classrooms are associated with many
benefits such as gains in critical thinking, academic
motivation, social and moral maturity, and positive attitudes
toward school
 In preschool and kindergarten, teacher-directed instruction
undermines academic motivation and achievement, especially
in low-SES children
New Philosophical Directions
 New approaches are grounded in Vygotsky’s sociocultural
 Capitalize on the rich social context of the classroom to spur
children’s learning
 Social-constructivist classrooms
 Children participate in a wide range of challenging activities with
teachers and peers, with whom they jointly construct
 As children acquire knowledge and strategies from working
together, they become competent, contributing members of their
classroom and advance in cognitive and social development
New Philosophical Directions
 Important themes in social-constructivist classrooms include:
 Teachers and children are partners in learning
 A classroom rich in both teacher-child and child-child collaboration transfers culturally
valued ways of thinking to children
 Children experience many types of symbolic communication in meaningful
 As children master reading, writing, and mathematics, they become aware of their culture’s
communication systems, reflect on their own thinking, and bring communication and
thoughts under voluntary control
 Teaching is adapted to each child’s zone of proximal development
 Assistance that both responds to current understandings and encourages children to take
the next step helps ensure that each child makes the best progress possible
 According to Vygotsky, more expert peers can spur children’s learning
 Evidence confirms that this approach is effective in the context of cooperative
learning – in which small group s of classmates work toward common goals
Teacher-Student Interaction
 In classrooms where teachers are caring, helpful, and stimulating, children make gains in
motivation, achievement, and positive peer relations
 But, too many U.S. teachers emphasize repetitive drill over higher-level thinking, such as
grappling with ideas and applying knowledge to new situations
 Teachers don’t treat all students the same
 Well-behaved, high-achieving students typically get more encouragement and praise
 Unruly students have more conflicts with teachers and are criticized more
 Unfortunately, once a teachers’ attitudes toward students are established, they can become
more extreme than is warranted by students’ behavior
 Can lead to an educational self-fulfilling prophecy in which children start to live up to
their teachers’ positive or negative views of them
 This effect is especially strong when teachers emphasize competition and publicly compare
children, regularly favoring the best students
 Inaccurate views held by teachers affect low achievers more than high achievers
 When a teacher is critical, high achievers can fall back on their history of success
 Low-achieving students’ sensitivity to self-fulfilling prophecies can be beneficial when teachers
believe in them, but, biased teacher judgments are usually slanted in a negative direction
Grouping Practices
 In many schools, students are assigned to homogeneous groups of classes in
which children of similar ability levels are taught together (ex. Reading
 This can be a strong source of self-fulfilling prophecies
 Low-group students, who as early as 1st grade are more likely to be low-SES,
minority, and male, get more drills on basic facts and skills, engage in less
discussion, and progress at a slower pace
 Gradually, they decline in self-esteem and motivation
 Not surprisingly, homogeneous grouping widens the gap between high and low
 Partly because of these findings, some schools have increased the
heterogeneity of classrooms by combining 2 or 3 adjacent grades
 In these multigrade classrooms, academic achievement, self-esteem, and attitudes
toward school are usually more favorable than in single-grade classrooms
 Maybe multigrade grouping decreases competition and promotes cooperative
learning, which also fosters these positive outcomes
Teaching Children with Special Needs
 So, we’ve seen that effective teachers flexibly adjust their
teaching strategies to accommodate students with a wide
range of characteristics
 These adjustments are especially challenging and the very
low (children with learning difficulties) and very high (gifted
children) ends of the distribution
Children with Learning Difficulties
 U.S. legislation mandates that schools place children who require special supports
for learning into the “least restrictive” (meaning as close to normal as possible)
environments that meet their educational needs
 Inclusive classrooms – students with learning difficulties are placed in regular
classrooms for all or part of the school day
 This practice is designed to prepare them for participation in society and to combat
prejudices against individuals with disabilities
 Largely as the result of parental pressures, and increasing number of students
experience full inclusion – full-time placement in regular classrooms
 Some students in inclusive classrooms have mild mental retardation: their IQs fall
between 55-70, and they also show problems in adaptive behavior, or skills in
everyday living
 But, the largest number have learning disabilities – great difficulty with one or
more aspects of learning, usually reading
 As a result, their achievement is considerably behind what would be expected on the
basis of their IQ
Children with Learning Difficulties
 Although some students in inclusive classroom situations benefit academically, many
do not
 Achievement gains depend on both the severity of the disability and the support
services available
 Furthermore, children with disabilities are often rejected by regular-classroom
 Often these children do best when they receive instruction in a resource room for
part of the day and regular classroom for the remainder
 In the resource room, a special education teacher works with students on an
individual and small-group basis
 Then, depending on their progress, children join regular classmates for different subjects and
amounts of time
 Special steps must be taken to promote peer relations in inclusive classrooms
 Cooperative learning and peer-tutoring experiences, in which classmates and
teachers work together with children with learning difficulties, often lead to friendly
interaction, improved peer acceptance, and achievement gains
Gifted Children
 Gifted children display exceptional intellectual strengths,
including creativity and talent as well as high IQ
 1 or 2 students in every grade have IQ scores above 130, the
standard definition of giftedness based on intelligence test
 High-IQ children have keen memories and exceptional
capacity to solve challenging academic problems
 Yet recognition that intelligence tests do not sample the entire
range of human mental skills has led to an expanded conception
of giftedness
Gifted Children: Creativity and Talent
 Creativity is the ability to produce work that is original yet appropriate
 Something others have not thought of that is useful in some way
 Children with high potential for creativity can be designated as gifted
 Tests of creative capacity tap divergent thinking – the generation of multiple and unusual
possibilities when faced with a task or problem
 Divergent thinking contrasts convergent thinking – involves arriving at a single correct answer
and is emphasized on intelligence tests
 Because highly creative children (like children with high IQs) are often better at some tasks
than at others, a variety of tests of divergent thinking are available
 Verbal measures might ask children to name uses for common objects
 Figural measures might as them to create drawings based on a particular theme
 “real-world-problem” measures require students to suggest solutions to everyday problems
 Responses can be scored for the number of ideas generated and their originality
 But, critics of these measures point out that they are poor predictors of creative
accomplishment in everyday life because they only tap one of the complex cognitive
contributions to creativity
 Also involved are defining new and important problems, evaluating divergent ideas, choosing the
most promising, and calling on relevant knowledge to understand and solve problems
Gifted Children: Creativity and Talent
 To understand why people usually demonstrate creativity on only one or a few related areas,
consider this:
 Even individuals designated as gifted by virtue of high IQ often show uneven ability across
academic subjects
 This is partly why definitions of giftedness have been extended to include talent –
outstanding performance in a specific field
 Talents usually appear in early childhood, but talents must be nurtured
 Parents should be warm and sensitive, provide a stimulating home life, are devoted to
developing their child’s abilities , and provide models of hard work
 These parents are reasonably demanding but not driving or overambitious and arrange for caring
teachers while the child is young and more rigorous master teachers as the talent develops
 Many gifted children are socially isolated, partly because their highly driven, nonconforming,
and independent styles leave them out of step with their peers and partly because they enjoy
 Still, gifted children desire gratifying peer relationships and some (more often girls than boys)
try to become better liked by hiding their abilities
 Although many talented youths become experts in their fields, few become highly creative,
because rapidly mastering an existing field requires different skills than innovating in the field
Educating the Gifted
 Debate about the effectiveness of school programs for the gifted typically focuses on
factors irrelevant to giftedness
 Whether to provide enrichment in regular classrooms, pull children out for special
instruction (the most common practice), or advance brighter students to a higher
 Overall, the extent to which programs foster creativity and talent depends on
opportunities to acquire relevant skills
 Meaningful activities, each tapping a specific intelligence or set of intelligences,
serve as contexts for assessing strengths and weaknesses and, on that basis, teaching
new knowledge and original thinking
 Ex. Linguistic intelligence might be fostered through storytelling or playwriting
 Ex. Spatial intelligence through drawing, sculpting, or taking apart and reassembling
 Ex. Kinesthetic intelligence through dance, acting, or pantomime
 Although evidence is still needed on how effectively these programs nurture
children’s talents, the have been successful in highlighting the strengths of some
students who had previously been overlooked
 Especially talented low-SES and minority children
How Well Educated Are North American
 Many factors, both within and outside schools, affect children’s learning (societal
values, school resources, quality of teaching, and parental encouragement)
 Nowhere are these multiple influences more apparent than when schooling is
examined in a cross-cultural perspective
 U.S. students fare poorly when their achievement is compared to that of children
in other industrialized nations
 Studies of reading, mathematics, and science achievement
 Internationally: Hong Kong, Korea, Japan, and Taiwan are consistently at the top
 Among Western nations: Canada, Finland, Netherlands, and Switzerland are in the top tear
 Students in the U.S. usually perform at he international average and sometimes below it
 Why?
 Compared with students in the top-achieving nations, many more U.S. students
report studying by memorizing rather than by relating information to previously
acquired knowledge
 Achievement also varies much more among U.S. schools, reflecting an uneven
distribution of quality of education
How Well Educated Are North American
 To clarify the factors that support high achievement, research has been conducted on learning
environments in Asian nations
 Emphasis on effort – where as North American parents and teachers tend to regard natural
ability as key to academic success, Japanese, Korean, and Taiwanese parents and teachers believe
that all children can succeed academically with enough effort
 Parents devote many more hours to helping children with homework, and children (due to the collectivist values)
typically view striving to achieve as a moral obligation to their family and community
 High quality education for all – ability grouping is absent from Japanese, Korean, and Taiwanese
elementary schools; all students receive the same nationally mandated, high-quality education,
delivered by teachers who are better paid than in the U.S.
 Lessons are well-organized and presented in ways that capture children’s attention, and also encourage high-level
 Further, Japanese elementary school teachers are 3 times as likely as U.S. teachers to work outside class with
students who need extra help
 More time devoted to instruction – in Japan, Hong Kong, and Taiwan, the school year is more
than 50 days longer than in the U.S.; and on a day-to-day basis, Asian teachers devote much more
time to academic pursuits but still allow time for recess and field trips
 Overall, families, schools, and the larger society must work together to upgrade U.S. education

Cognitive Development in Middle Childhood