Human Intellectual Development
Jean Piaget studied intellectual growth of children and formulated intellectual development theory that describes the sequential mental development process during childhood. When children are born, they use their senses of touch to feel and understand the world up to the age of two years. As the children grow from the age of 2 to 7, they gradually begin to expand their senses and incorporate language in their expressions.
Between the age of 7 and 11, children begin to develop logical reasoning in terms of numbers and processes. Four factors are integral during intellectual development in children, and these are naturation, experience and social interaction, all these links with the fourth factor of equilibration bringing about maturation of the mental structures.
For a child to develop mental structures properly, differential learning is necessary. Children can get differential learning skills through teachings, discoveries, and experiences and therefore, teachers should integrate the three learning processes when imparting knowledge to the children. Since actions trigger thoughts of the children, experience has proved to be the best way of learning. The Jean Piaget theory of cognitive development has greatly influenced educational curricula for young children in modern society.
The cognitive theory of human development postulates that intellectual growth during childhood is more rapid as compared to other stages of development. In view of the fact that intellectual development is unique in children, teachers must consider that children learn according to their own pace, they have different perspectives, they need facilitation, and they learn best through experience.
Therefore, Jean Piaget cognitive development theory has provided the basis of the current educational curricula that seeks to define child-centered learning process.
A Russian psychologist Lev Vygotsky theorized that social interactions have significance influence on cognitive development. According to him, learning takes place in two levels; interactive and integrated levels. Interaction of children with their peers and teachers occurs first followed by the integration of the experiences into the mental structures. Socially rich environments such as availability of good teachers and influential peers are very important for the children to develop high cognitive capacity.
Lev Vygotsky elucidates three stages of speech development in children. The first stage of speech development relates to the intellectual development because the children use expressions such as laughter, shouting or crying to get the attention of others.
The second stage occurs at age of 3 to 7, where children begin to realize the connection between thoughts and speech for they use language to express their actions. As the mental structures mature, the children enter third stage where speech becomes soundless and the logical memory directs behavior and thinking. Generally, language is very important in the development of intellectual capacity.
Early Childhood Programs
Childhood programs are designed to meet the unique needs the children should gather, even for children with special needs in the society. In designing the appropriate programs, teachers should note age appropriateness, which predicts normal intellectual growth conventionally. This gives teachers an idea about the intellectual requirements of the children enabling the teachers to create appropriate environment and design customized experiences.
The second dimension is individual appropriateness, which seeks to consider the unique abilities and interests of different children thus providing them with right education. Cultural appropriateness is the third dimension that teachers should consider when designing relevant experiences since they are critical in the learning process of the children. Many studies have found out that learning environment and experiences are essential in enhancing learning in children.
Early childhood programs depend on family-centered services since families have great influence on the educational progress of children. For effectiveness of the educational programs, the cooperative relationships between the families and the schools provide a basis of monitoring progress of the children’s performance. The use of quality programs and constant monitoring of customized interventions ensures optimization of the programs.
Formative assessment of the children’s performance gives comprehensive data that is essential in redesigning programs to gather for the unique abilities of some children who need special programs. Several studies have confirmed that merging of two learning approaches; that is, developmental appropriate practice and early childhood special education, give an inclusive participation of children and teachers in the learning process, thus enhances the performance of the children with disabilities.
Developmentally Appropriate Academics
Studies have shown that successful children had early childhood experiences of writing, reading, and doing some mathematics at their pre-school ages. The early childhood programs should direct the children and encourage the development of skills that are critical in academics. In early childhood programs, “we are looking at the roots of academic learning – prerequisites – to be sure that children get what they need to be able to do well with the school-level academics when proper time comes” (Cryer 61).
Hence, pre-school learning is a fundamental foundation of academics because it exposes children to the learning process thus enhancing their interests. Therefore, the objectives of the early childhood programs focus on building solid foundation for academics in children.
Apart from the academics, play in children has a significant role in the development of cognitive and social skills. Preschool learning needs to be child-centered so that children can exercise their play skills, which is imperative in the development of social and cognitive skills. Teachers should facilitate rather than direct the learning process because directive learning interferes with children’s ability to exercise free will, which is the basis of discovery.
When children exercise their freedom well, they tend to discover many things on their own and thus build empirical skills that are fundamental in learning. The preschool learning models are child-centered in that, they encourage play and freedom of exercising various practical skills while the teachers only act as facilitators.
The realization that play contributes to the learning process of the children, preschool educational models have included different types of plays to the educational curricula for optimization of early childhood abilities.
To cope with the challenges in life, children need social and emotional skills. Children with social and emotional skills can easily adapt changing environments in terms of classroom, interacting with teachers, and other children in the field. Since social interaction is very important in enhancing cognitive development, teachers should aid the children in developing both emotional and social skills. Social and emotional skills guide the children while interacting with others, developing sense of responsibility and obedience to the school rules.
Therefore, intellectual development of the children is a complex process that begins very early in childhood. Complex interaction of the natural environment, experiences, social interaction, and equilibration process bring about maturation of mental structures that are important in learning.
Cryer, D. Developmentally Appropriate Academics: From Infants Through Kindergarten. New York: Chapel Hill, 1996