Cognitive Development: Learn How Your Students Learn

Throughout high school I always had an interest in psychology, specifically looking at why people are the way they are. With that said, my research was mostly focused on behavioral aspects of the idea rather than educationally. As an educator, it is extremely important to get to know your students, not just their names and their strengths but their weaknesses and how they learn. In chapter two of Educational Psychology by  Wollkfolk they discuss how everyone learns differently for different reasons rooting back to brain development and function. Though this is something I have always known I believe that this point cannot be stressed enough. In many schools, students are all evaluated by examination and though many might succeed, for students like myself examination is often the route to failure. From elementary to high school I was academically strong, however, as I got older school not only got harder to learn but harder to study and prepare for. My difficulty succeeding, however, was not because the material was too hard but because I was being forced to learn in a way that did allow for me to fully understand the material, and instead I memorized strategies. Jo Boaler also discusses the idea of memorization over learning in her book What’s math got to do with it by simply stating “the problem with memorizing is that it provides the opportunity to forget”. As someone who has tutored for years, I understand that it is extremely difficult to teach to all the different types of learning especially in a classroom setting, but as Boaler goes on to explain in her text there has to be away, and the easiest way to get there maybe by allowing yourself to lose control and grant students freedom to learn and explore themselves or with a peer(s).

In my time in psychology, I have spent much time reviewing theories done by Bronfenbrenner, Freud,  and Piaget. Though I agree with many points each psychologist states, no belief is flawless as the human brain is a very complex object to study. Specifically looking at Piaget and his developmental timeline broken down from birth to age 15 creates a very easy environment to underestimate developing youth by placing them in broad and simple categories. Despite the fact that I have been overseeing Piaget’s theory for years it was not until looking at it from an educational standpoint that I noticed this poor evaluation. It is my true belief that students need to challenged and have the opportunity to fail to truly succeed in life. As teachers we have a breakdown of what students are expected to learn and what they are already supposed to know but why stop there? When discussing education I believe it is important to always push students to understand deeper or learn more; learning is never done.

In a general sense, people are classified into two categories: mature, and immature. Maturation is an easy argument regarding nature vs. nurture either way whether you want to argue. One could simply blame behavior on a child being spoiled and getting away with inappropriate behavior at home or very popular saying that I truly despise “boys will be boys”. I believe in “Coactions: joint actions of individual biology and environment”.  I believe that individuals nurture (how one is raised) and their nature (genetics) is equally responsible for the person created. During my life I was always told I was “mature for my age” and I assumed it was because my parents were strict enough not to allow me to behave any differently. Now after looking more scientifically at maturation, I can understand the nature of my development. The text continues by saying “during adolescence, changes in the brain increase individuals’ abilities to control their behavior in both low-stress and high-stress situations to be more purposeful and organized”. This means that behavior cannot be caused directly by nature or nurture but can be affected by the stage of development in which their brain is at, which was a new perspective for me. From this, I think it is important for teachers to take away that behavior is not something that can be blamed on one aspect of a student’s life but is always something that can be worked on.

It’s a common idea stating that a person is more left-brained or right-brained depending on their strengths and weaknesses. I grew up with this idea of separate brain hemispheres, and thought one was always stronger than the other since we “only use 10% of our brain”. Both of those points were told to me as facts to excuse my weaknesses and I always believed until reading this article. It is true that the left and right sides of the brain control different things as the human brain is broken into many different sections controlling different aspects of our movement and thinking. The left side of the brain is to control sequencing, language, math, and rational thoughts, whereas the right side is more creative, and focuses on the entire picture while learning in a more visual and kinesthetic manner.  I grew up with a passion and talent in sports and music both considered very “right-brained” and because of this many people assumed that I would struggle in factually based classes such as Math and English. However, I was quite strong academically because of my connection to music. It is so often people focus on being left or right-brained dominant that people are unable to see the connection between the two. Music has proven to benefit people in math and language as there is a logical side of music that allows musicians to count and keep track of music, meanwhile hearing a creating different sound has also benefited many students in the use of learning a new language as it opens their mind to new sounds.  No activity, question, or situation is “exclusively the work of a single part of the brain”  implying that it is important to encourage students to challenge themselves academically with logical thinking, as well as creatively.

Overall my ending question is this: As a teacher how can you recognize when your students have developed their maximum understanding on a topic or are there a maximum understanding? Are all people capable of having full understanding or are there somethings certain people will never fully grasp?

The only point I have for present and future teachers in this Learn how your Students Learn and you will see a new light in their academic future.



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