In the early 1990s, many scholars of developmental psychology, disenchanted by the antimentalistic and biases of behavioral psychology and shortcoming of Piaget’s theory, shifted to cognitive psychology and computer science to seek new thoughts and insights about children’s thinking.
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Computer systems that rely on mathematically programmed operations to offer solutions enabled these researchers to formulate a framework for information processing perspective that could explain cognitive development (Shaffer and Kipp 58).
According to information processing theory, the human mind is like a computer storage on which information is stored, operated on and converted to answer and solutions to problems.
Proponents of this theory assert, using computer analogy, that human mind is a hardware comprising of the brain and nerves as peripherals, and that the mental processes are software.
The software exhibits themselves in form of attention, memory, perception, problem-solving and critical thinking strategies (Shaffer and Kipp 58).
The theory suggests a connection between biological and cognitive development. Unlike Piaget’s theory, which was vague about this link, information processing theory contend that brain maturation and the nervous systems allows children and adolescents to process information quickly (Shaffer and Kipp 58).
Therefore, developing children are able to sustain attention, recognize and store relevant information, and execute mental programs that enable them to process what has been stored to provide solutions to problems.
Information theorists are alive to the fact that strategies that children develop for processing information are significantly influenced by the experiences presented to them-that is, they are influenced by the nature of problems presented to them, instructions, and the cultures-specific information they get (Shaffer and Kipp 58).
The theory of information processing, like Piaget’s theory, construe that children’s thinking is controlled by internal (biological) systems, as well as culturally specific information.
However, proponents of this theory suggest that external elements are more influential than internal systems (Seigler, DeLoache and Eisenberg 265).
They contend that biological systems are essential information processing systems that depend on external forces, which are instructions and information obtained or gathered from culturally oriented learning environments (Taylor 89).
For this reasons, these theorists believe that natural or biological components, which consist of the brain and the nervous systems, should be secure and functional to gather, store, and operate on information and produce desired outcomes.
The theory of information process asserts that cognitive development is a continuous process, and is not stage-like. Ideally, the theory postulates that the strategies we adopt to collect, store and operate on information are evolutionary. They change over the course of childhood and adolescence (Taylor 89).
As a result, information-processing theorists believe that cognitive development is a gradual quantitative changes rather than large qualitative changes.
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The theory construes cognitive development as constructive waves that overlap, as opposed to a sequence of distinct stages of development. Children’s thinking is a process that incorporates progressive changes in learning strategies.
For example, children learning mathematics use strategies such as finger counting, Min counting strategy, and oral counting. They move from these easier, but less efficient approaches to complex, but efficient, approaches (Taylor 89).
The theory suggests that children’s thinking is marked by a slow quantitative change in cognitive development. This means that children’s cognitive development grows from one stage to the other in a uniform manner. As a result, information-processing theorists assert that this process is continuous rather than dramatic shifts.
The process does not happen or occur in a bang, but children’s comprehension of the environment follows a sequence of events, including growth of biological components and experiences presented.
According to this theory, cognitive abilities of children are task-specific rather than general. Like computers, children’s mind is able to process information based on specific instructions, which provide outputs (memory, attention, problem-solving skills) that are specific.
Unlike Piaget’s theory, information-processing theory contends that where vague instructions are provided, no accurate solutions can be arrived at.
Children’s thinking is governed by several domains that are able to gather, store, operate on, and process information. However, the theory acknowledges that no single domain works in isolation, but as an organized system of dependent variables.
Instructions should be such that they address specific cognitive skills (McDevitt, and Ormrod, Ellis 145). For example, instructions given for mathematical additions cannot be similar to those provided for language skills.
Individualized domains are capable of processing incoming information to yield solutions to problems presented to children (Taylor 89).
The theory has a huge bearing on how educationists should proceed to formulate school or learning and teaching curricula to match the needs of different children.
Since the theory suggests that information processing is domain-specific process, educators should design curriculum instructions that are specific, rather than general (Seigler, DeLoache and Eisenberg 265).
In addition, instructions should be given continuously to enable learners to make sense of the problems that are presented with in their daily lives.
The curriculum should also begin with simple, yet inefficient methods and proceed to complex and efficient strategies that build upon each other. This means that learning strategies should not be discrete, but rather continuous to help learners to relate complex problems with simple problems (Shaffer and Kipp 58).
Information process theory has had a significant impact on how educators and developmentalists view the thinking process in children.
This theory supports rigorous research methods, which have helped teachers to understand how children approach various challenges and reasons why they may make errors as they search for solutions (Taylor 26).
Since teachers are aware of how and why children are unable to solve mathematical problems, they are able to develop alternative strategies that can improve the performance of children.
Although theorists of information processing differ with other theories such as Piagetian thinking, they contend that intellectual development of human mind is influenced by nurture (experiences that children interact with in the environment) and nature (biological factors such as maturation).
While this theory has been criticized where critics contend that, the framework undermines the diversity and richness of human cognition. Notwithstanding its criticisms, information-processing theory can be used to shape the perception of educators and help in developing relevant curriculum instructions.
McDevitt, Teresa M., and Ormrod, Jeanne Ellis. Child Development and Education, Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall, 2012. Print.
Seigler, Robert S., Judy S. DeLoache., and Nancy, Eisenberg. How Children Develop, New York: Worth Publishers, 2010. Print.
Shaffer, David R, and Katherine, Kipp. Developmental Psychology: Childhood and Adolescence, Belmont, CA: Cengage Learning, 2010. Print.
Taylor, Laura M. Introducing Cognitive Development, Hove, U.K: Psychology Press, 2005. Print.