Enhancing Cognitive Development in College Classrooms: A Review

By Thompson, Jill M. | Journal of Instructional Psychology, March 1999 | Go to article overview
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Enhancing Cognitive Development in College Classrooms: A Review


Thompson, Jill M., Journal of Instructional Psychology


University professors encounter more cognitive challenges within the college classroom instructional process than in previous decades. As such, a push for instructional review is echoed on college campuses. This article includes a review of the current literature on cognitive enhancement from the theoretical framework of William Perry's and Jean Piaget's Cognitive State Theory and Lev. S. Vygotsky's Constructivist Theory. Moreover, the article provides an operational definition of development, outlines variables that affect the developmental process, articulates the impact of challenge and support as it relates to development and concludes with a template of cognitive theory for instruction within the college classroom.

The university is widely regarded as the place to develop academic skills and to disseminate knowledge (Winston, Banney, Miller and Dagley, 1988). However, universities must accept another responsibility, holistic development of students. Development occurs from scaffolding critical thinking and transforming character. As such, the task for both administrators and educators is to commit to developing students holistically. The point is, learning can lead to development. Therefore, development cannot be separated from its social context (Vygotsky 1977). Such an undertaking requires strategies other than one-to-one intervention provided by counselors-the college classroom. This researcher sought to review the mechanisms and principles of development, the acquisition and processing of knowledge and social interaction as related to enhancing cognitive development in college students via the classroom.

Development

Development refers to both qualitative and quantitative changes in behavior, physical abilities, social interactions and roles. Most important, development occurs as a consequence of physical maturation or deterioration, influences from the environment, or from an interaction between the current status of the organism and the environment which causes more quantitative shifts in beliefs, values, and attitudes that occur as a person attempts to adapt to the increasingly complex demands of the environment. (Hunt and Schroder, 1961). Developmental psychologists (Neugarten, 1988; Boltes; Reese & Lipsitt, 1980) argue that they are interested in patterns of change in abilities, structures and behavior.

On the other hand, social - cognitive developmental theories encompass what others have referred to as the cognitive-developmental and structural-adaptive theories (Piaget, 1970; Perry, 1970; Loveninger, 1976; and Kholberg, 1976). Cognitive - developmental theories focus on orderly changes in reasoning patterns. Reasoning patterns are constructs which act as filters through which an individual ascribes meaning to an event, issue or problem. Furthermore, Touchton, Wertheimer, Cornfeld and Harrison (1977) noted the variables important to developmental change:

* Openness to Alternatives Perspectives - respect for others opinions and thoughts.

* Analysis - the ability to see more than one perspective.

* Ability to assume Responsibility - the ability to accept consequences for decisions.

* World-view - how an individual discerns his world.

* Semantic Structure - communication styles and thought patterns.

* Self Processes - objective assessment of self.

* Interpersonal view

The individual act with more complexities within his (her)world as variables are integrated.

How Development Occurs

Agents of Change

Adaption is the process by which development evolves. The adaption process is divided into two complimentary parts, assimilation and accommodation. Through this dual process of adaption, the individual creates new structures to deal effectively with his environment. In the process of assimilation the individual actively incorporates features of the external world into his existing structures.

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