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    Fischer, Kurt W. and Bidell, Thomas R. 2007. Handbook of Child Psychology.

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  • Print publication year: 2005
  • Online publication date: September 2009

4 - Building general knowledge and skill: cognition and microdevelopment in science learning

Summary

Consider what knowledge, skills or insights you might need to meet this challenge successfully: light a bulb with only one length of wire and a battery. What do you need to know, and how do you integrate this knowledge? What role did development play in preparing you for this challenge? Science educators can identify the skills that are necessary to deal with this task. Cognitive scientists can outline the developmental progression of skills that learners build and organize to create possible solutions. In this chapter we put together cognitive development with task performance. We use a research-based practical definition for skills that allows educators and cognitive scientists to judge the complexity of activities and solutions, and to identify the processes and steps by which learners build richer understandings as they cope with challenges such as turning on the light bulb.

With these tools, we present a model of how by groping in context with a new task, people (a) construct novel skills and thus novel understanding and (b) generalize the new skills to related contexts (Fischer, Yan, and Stewart, 2003). This analysis is generally consistent with Piaget's (1952/1936; 1950/1947) emphasis on groping and adaptation as mechanisms for creation of new knowledge. It adds specific tools for describing how people use groping and adaptation to build new knowledge in specific contexts and to generalize that knowledge to other contexts. Other theories of ontogenesis have generally neglected this question and process, except in research on microdevelopment (Granott and Parziale 2002).

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Cognitive Developmental Change
  • Online ISBN: 9780511489938
  • Book DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9780511489938
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