(2.1) One of the most cited theories of human development is that of Swiss biologist Jean Piaget. After reading about Piaget’s basic assumptions (p. 27-32) look with particular attention at the stage of child development you would like to teach. The other most cited theory of human development belongs to Russian developmentalist Lev Vygotsky. Vygotsky’s theory of cognitive development leads us to expect greater diversity among our same-aged students than Piaget. Given these two influential theorists’ ideas on cognitive development, how might you accommodate students who are not yet working at the level of their peers?
From a standpoint of a future middle school teacher, I would expect that each student in my classroom is learning through their own creativity and gaining knowledge on different levels than their peers. On one hand, Piaget's assumptions are that children are active and motivated learners, construct knowledge rather than absorb it, learn through accommodation and interact with their environmental In general, "children think in qualitatively different ways at different ages" (pg 29). Vygotsky theory states that children develop increasingly advanced and integrated schemes through assimilation and accommodation (35). One way to accommodate students who are at different working and knowledge levels based on these theories combined, is to let the students class-wide peer tutor. Students can pair up and work with one another. This will also give them the opportunity to use their strong skills to help those who may be lacking in that subject, or vice versa. They can also learn to construct knowledge from one another by learning from different perspectives and using those ideas to build on their own experiences. It is necessary to encourage peer-tutoring, because in an ideal classroom, students are at a variety of levels of learning.
Students may also work on class projects in order to get hands on experiences. They may have a choice to create it the way they would like (as long as it would fit directions) and construct it with their individuality This way, I could see where each student stands academically, and at the same time, hold them accountable to create something that would meet their maximum ability. For example, students could create a "cell" cake, poem, movie, etc. in a middle school science classroom. This would hopefully give students the opportunity to be able to learn in their own way and create something based on their background and interests, but still learn the material needed to master the lesson. They would have the opportunity to walk and talk themselves through a task to construct new knowledge. It would be better to allow lee-way for those students who are not yet on the same levels as their peers.
(2) Theories in educational psychology promote the idea that language plays a critical role in cognitive development. Examine Table 2.2 (p. 51), paying particular attention to the age range that you are interested in teaching. Consider how you might incorporate or adapt the strategies presented for use with your own students.
Strategies suggested for middle school students include: assign reading materials that introduce new vocabulary, introduce some of the terminology used by experts in various academic disciplines, conducted structured debates to explore controversial issues, ask students to consider the underlying meanings of common proverbs, and explore the nature of words and language as entities in and of themselves. I will be teaching in a middle school science or social studies classroom. I think it would be very beneficial to have my students do research or hands on projects that require them to use the professional language used in the unit. I also think it could be very fun and interactive if I used a debate type scenario in order for my students to learn. For example, a debate on the topic of evolution. Students could research the arguments for and against evolution and create their own debate teams to perform with in class. Not only would this require students to research and learn terms, but they would also be discussing and breaking down a theory. This could be helpful later on in their academic careers when they must explore new theories in their other classes. It will also be beneficial in that students will have to explore controversial issues, use professional language, and use their thinking skills on the spot. I believe these would be useful tools and strategies to incorporate in my classroom because they not only focus on science or social studies, but will also incorporate reading and writing skills as well. Students that are able to take skills from one class and apply it to another subject are likely to have greater success in their academic careers.