The concrete-operational period refers to a phase of cognitive development in which a child can perform various mental activities and develop thoughts by utilizing concrete concepts. Ordinarily, children are in the age bracket of between seven and eleven years and have the capacity of conversation about volume, area, numbers, and orientation. Conversation refers to the ability to acknowledge that something stays in the same quantity even if there is a change in its appearance. Children understand that the redistribution of material does not affect its volume, length, mass, or number. Therefore, children are rational and organized in their thinking and can solve issues in a logical way. However, they lack the ability to think in a hypothetical or abstract manner (Halpenny & Pettersen, 2013). In this period, a child can conserve liquid as one understands that pouring water into a glass with a different shape will not change its quantity.
The formal-operational phase in the cognitive development theory usually begins at the age of eleven years. Children at this stage have the capacity to develop abstract thoughts, which refers to their ability to combine and categorize objects in a sophisticated manner and have the ability to reason in a higher order. Also, children begin to process ideas in their heads without the need for concrete manipulation. In the formal-operational phase, a child can perform mathematical computations, utilize abstract reasoning, and visualize the consequence of specific actions. A child at the formal-operational phase is not only able to realize that not following certain directions leads to particular consequences but also may acknowledge that the consequences may lead to ethical and moral issues such as dishonor and distrust. At this stage, a child does not have to utilize an object or draw a picture but can reason an answer in his head (Halpenny & Pettersen, 2013). For instance, it is possible for a child at this stage to determine the answer to “If Mary is taller than Susan, and Susan is taller than Rose, who is the tallest?”
Gardner’s Theory of Multiple Intelligences
Harvard’s Howard Gardner conducted cognitive research and came up with a theory that identifies seven different bits of intelligence. The theory outlines the level at which students apply their distinct minds to learning, remembering, performing, and understanding in different ways. The theory states that individuals have the ability to get to know their world through language, spatial representation, logical-mathematical analysis, musical thinking, the use of the body to make things or solve issues and understanding themselves and others. However, they differ by how they invoke and combine the profile of intelligence in conducting tasks, solving problems, and make progress in different fields (Gardner, 2011). The different intelligences are: visual-spatial intelligence that involves the ability to perceive in pictures and images in an abstract and clear manner; verbal-linguistic intelligence that relates to well-developed sound sensitivity and verbal ability, and the rhythm and meaning of words; bodily-kinesthetic intelligence referring to the ability to control body movements and skilful handling of objects; musical intelligence that relates to the ability to produce and recognize rhythm, timbre, and pitch; inter-personal intelligence that is the ability to recognize and respond to moods, desires, and motivations; intrapersonal intelligence, which is the ability of self-awareness and being consistent with inner feelings, beliefs, values, and thoughts; naturalist intelligence is the capacity to recognize and classify animals, plants, and other natural objects; and existential intelligence, which is the ability to have the sensitivity to handle deep questions on human existence. Gardner’s theory is based on the notion that one cannot define intelligence using the only ability. Therefore, focusing on the multiple intelligences can assist educators to identify their students’ potential and customize instructional and assessment techniques. However, the theory should be improved by including spiritual intelligence as it is an important aspect of human life (Fogarty & Stoehr, 2008).
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Sternberg’s Triarchic Theory
The triarchic theory of intelligence was developed by Robert Sternberg using a wider definition of intelligence. The theory defines intelligence regarding an individual’s ability to achieve success in life. This depends on the capacity to utilize one’s strengths and overcome one’s weaknesses. An individual achieves success by balancing creative, analytical, and practical capacities, which enable one to adapt to, mold, and choose environments. Creative abilities relate to how individuals approach new tasks with new information, analytical abilities relate to how individuals process and analyze information, and practical abilities relate to how individuals react, adapt to, or change an environment to suit their needs (Velliotis, 2008). However, the theory does not incorporate abilities gained from experience and could be improved by incorporating this component.
Hereditary and Environmental Factors That Influence Intelligence
There are different positions on the origin of intelligence. While some people argue that it comes from people’s genetic heritage, others state that it is affected by people’s experiences and environment. There is some evidence that hereditary factors include the relationship between the speed of processing information and IQ scores. Such processing relies on maturation and neurological efficiency. Also, individuals with genetic effects such as Down syndrome have considerably lower IQ scores than individuals with such disabilities. Alternatively, there is evidence that environmental factors influence intelligence. For instance, early nutrition affects neurological development, which influences intelligence and cognitive development. Also, exposure of children to substance abuse during their prenatal or early post-natal environments increases the probability of developing mental retardation, delayed language, and poor motor skills (Velliotis, 2008). Environmental factors influence intelligence more than hereditary factors. Nisbett, et al. (2012) state that the theory of the environment’s impact on people’s IQ scores is supported by the considerable improvement in adopted children from working-class families living in middle-class households. Also, early childhood interventions have a considerable impact on academic performance and life outcomes.
Gifted and Special Needs Children
Gifted children are children that register higher performance than their age mates. Gifted children exhibit various characteristics: highly knowledgeable, varied interests, highly-developed language abilities, and high sensitivity. Special needs children are children that require additional assistance, medicine, or therapy in school because of emotional, medical, or learning problems (Gordon & Browne, 2015).
Integrated classrooms combine special needs children and “general education” children with the aim of offering extra support to the kids with learning challenges without isolation. Also, they are supposed to help children to get used to interactions with those who are “different” to develop empathy and learn how to assist others. Pros of integrated schools include better post-school outcomes, greater value, and acceptance of individual differences, improved self-esteem, gaining new skills, and a genuine ability to create friendships. Some cons include the possibility of disruption of learning due to the extra help required, and some students may resent others (Gordon & Browne, 2015).