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Behavior and Bruner’s Cognitive Development Theory Essay

The cognitive development of a child depends on different aspects and types of interaction of an individual with the world. Depending on different theories of cognitive development, it is possible to choose the effective approach for addressing the behavioral goal for a person while integrating this approach in the educational setting. In this context, it is necessary to refer to Jerome Bruner’s theory of cognitive development in order to change specific aspects in Rad’s behavior (Slee, Campbell, & Spears, 2012, p. 172). The paper aims to demonstrate how Bruner’s theory of cognitive development can be used in the educational setting in order to affect the student’s behavior.

The Behavioral Goal for Rad

The behavior of Rad does not address the criteria for the behavior of students who participate in classroom discussions and group activities. Thus, Rad demonstrates the lack of attention to students’ answers, and he prefers to make inappropriate comments when other students speak. Furthermore, Rad lacks attention to the teacher’s questions, and he does not demonstrate willingness to answer these questions.

In addition, Rad often interrupts the studying process and rejects to participate in group activities as well as to cooperate with other students. Therefore, the general behavioral goal for Rad is to improve participation in the classroom activities with the focus on the increased attention to other students during discussions, to the teacher, and to the members of the group during cooperation. Specific behavioral goals include the following ones: by the end of a three-month period, Rad will listen attentively to the students’ answers, react to four out of five answers, and increase his cooperation with students in groups by 30%; by the end of a four-month period, Rad will participate in class discussions and answer the teacher’s questions in a respectful manner in three out of five cases.

Jerome Bruner’s Theory of Cognitive Development

Jerome Bruner developed his theory of cognitive development in the 1950s. This theory is based on the idea that persons learn and develop their thinking abilities as a result of the interaction with the society. Furthermore, they form their vision of the world depending on such three modes of thinking as the enactive mode, the iconic mode, and the symbolic mode. These modes are determined with references to the types of the knowledge representation (Schwartz, Chase, Oppezzo, & Chin, 2011, p. 760).

In spite of the fact that individuals develop different types of thinking successively, certain modes can dominate the way of thinking when persons completed the enactive and iconic stages and learnt the basics of using words and other symbols. Therefore, while teaching a student, it is important to pay attention to his dominant mode that can differ from the stage of his development (Uttal, O’Doherty, Newland, Hand, & DeLoache, 2009, p. 160). Bruner also focused on the role of the language in the person’s cognitive development. Thus, teachers need to concentrate on developing the symbolic mode of thinking in students in order to make their social interactions easier.

The other important notion developed by Bruner is the idea of discovery learning. According to Bruner, students need to learn symbols in order to categorize the knowledge and then to code it according to their visions and needs. The first step is the teacher’s guidance and the next step is the student’s work with the information to discover and organize it in the most appropriate way (Wecker & Fischer, 2011, p. 750). The result of such learning is the autonomy of a student and his ability to construct the knowledge according to the personal needs.

Application of the Theory According to the Behavioral Goal

In order to start applying Bruner’s theory to the realization of Rad’s behavioral goal, it is necessary to assess what mode of representation is dominant in case of Rad at the current stage of his development. Assessment and observation can demonstrate that Rad prefers working with images while learning and he also likes to act during lessons instead of writing, reading, or speaking. Thus, the prevalent modes of representation for Rad are enactive and iconic ones. The symbolic mode is not developed effectively, and this fact causes problems with participating in class discussions.

Referring to the received information, it is possible to develop the program of improving the behavior for Rad according to the previously set goal. The first step is demonstration of a model that can explain how to listen to the classmates’ answers and react to them. Referring to Rad’s dominant iconic mode of thinking, it is necessary to propose the model in the form of a diagram and pictures to demonstrate the principles and advantages of the desired behavior.

The second step is the organization of the consultation for Rad to help him in preparing for the lessons to guarantee the participation in class discussions and question-answer sessions. The Instructor needs to apply the principles of Bruner’s discovery learning and propose Rad to organize the learning material in tables. Furthermore, to develop the symbolic mode of thinking, it is necessary to assist Rad in organizing his vocabulary for answering the Instructor’s questions. It is important to determine what aspects of the language are difficult for Rad, why he has barriers in understanding the other students’ answers, what words are frequently used by Rad while speaking at lessons. The vocabulary hints for the homework can also be presented in the iconic form. The next step is the organization of group interactions based on games that require movement and actions (Wecker & Fischer, 2011, p. 751).

The development of the symbolic thinking can also be integrated in the form of the game, when Rad is asked to manipulate cards with words, definitions, phrases, and quotes or when Rad is allowed to jump or dance if he answers the questions correctly.

The impact of using the principles of Bruner’s theory of cognitive development on Rad is expected to be positive because the integration of the ideas on thinking modes and discovery learning into the completion of Rad’s behavioral goal can lead to high results. The reason is that it is possible to change Rad’s behavior with the focus on his dominant mode of thinking, while developing the other modes simultaneously.

Furthermore, following the principles of discovery learning, it is possible to make Rad be attentive at lessons and more organized because of using the coding system that is appropriate for him to understand the material and develop the behavioral strategy while participating in discussions or cooperating with the other students. The impact of the theory application on the Instructor is the improvement of approaches to determining the students’ individual dominant modes of representation in order to address their needs with the help of focusing on discovery learning.


References to Bruner’s theory of cognitive development are important to change the student’s behavior while organizing the learning according to the mode of representation and principles of discovery learning. The reason is the focus on the student’s way of thinking and coding system to make the process comfortable for them.


Schwartz, D. L., Chase, C. C., Oppezzo, M. A., & Chin, D. B. (2011). Practicing versus inventing with contrasting cases: The effects of telling first on learning a transfer. Journal of Educational Psychology, 103(1), 759-775.

Slee, P., Campbell, M., & Spears, B. (2012). Child, adolescent and family development. New York, NY: Cambridge University Press.

Uttal, D. H., O’Doherty, K., Newland, R., Hand, L. L., & DeLoache, J. S. (2009). Dual representation and the linking of concrete and symbolic representations. Child Development Perspectives, 3(2), 156-159.

Wecker, C., & Fischer, F. (2011). From guided to self-regulated performance of domain-general skills: The role of peer monitoring during the fading of instructional scripts. Learning and Instruction, 21(1), 746-775.

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