cognitive acceleration

DEVELOPING CHILDREN'S THINKING

Cognitive conflict

I thought at first the lesson starts were too low and slow but this seems to actually let you go much higher later in the lesson. Better than going back to things time after time after time.

This means presenting children with something which is puzzling, unexpected perhaps, which makes them stop to think. It is not simply a matter of presenting difficult material, but rather of leading to certain expectations which are then not met, so we have to 'think again'. Jean Piaget sees cognitive conflict as one of the main drivers of cognitive development. If a child is always presented with work he or she can do easily, there is little stimulation of the mind. Lev Vygotsky talks of the 'Zone of Proximal Development' - the difference between what a child can do unaided and what they can achieve with some leading questions and guidance from a teacher or another child. It is in this zone that the development of the mind occurs.

Each activity offers students a challenge which is a little beyond their current level of understanding, in order to encourage higher levels of thinking. This is not to say, that lower ability students do not benefit from the approach. In fact, research evidence indicates that pupils of all ability levels benefit from the approach, as the activities allow students access at different levels, according to their abilities whilst encouraging them to think at levels beyond that to which they are comfortable working. This is done by offering a problem with a familiar context but which is problematic in its detail, therefore throwing the student into cognitive conflict. For example:

Farm Animals II (Let's Think) asks children to sort a range of pictures of six types of farm animals, including babies and adults, in six different colours. The teacher then asks the group to sort the rabbits into one hoop and the red animals into the other. The children have to decide what to do with the red rabbits.

Broken Rulers (Let's Think 6-9) presents the children with a range of pictures of sections of rulers that do not necessarily start at 0. It asks the children to work out a way of measuring objects using one of these sections of rulers.

Text'n'Talk (Thinking Maths) asks the students to work out how many text messages will need to be sent if a group of friends of a given number each decide to text each other. It then challenges the students to describe the relationship between the numbers of friends and the number of texts algebraically.

Find out how schools in Reading used cognitive conflict to promote learning.

Theory and pedagogy: