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Chapter 2 Discussion

Chapter 2
Kathleen Burger

Chapter #2 is the beginning of Part I of the text. This part will address 'Student Characteristics' and will include Ch. 2-Ch. 6. Chapter 2 specifically discusses 'Stage Theories of Development'. Theories call attention to the overall sequence, continuity, and inter-relatedness of aspects of development (p. 25). While the authors do go on to caution researching psychological development by theory alone, (they advise the inclusion and incorporation of both age level characteristics(Ch.3), and types of behavior(both Ch.2 and Ch.3)), the basis of Ch.2 involves understanding psychological development through the accepted theoretical views of Erik Erikson and Jean Piaget. An excellent resource to find additional information on Jean Piaget can be found at The Jean Piaget Society

Ch.2 begins with Erik Erikson's Theory of Psychosocial Development. Erikson's description of the development begins at birth and continues through old age. This theory provides valued educational opportunities according to Erikson. Psychosocial Development portrays people as active participants. Cultural influences, requirements, and expectations are also main components of this theory. Erikson arrived at this theory based on the epigenetic principle. He believed that just as biological development involves interrelated actions to produce a whole being; so the personality of an individual forms as the ego progresses through a series of interrelated stages. All of these ego stages exist in some form from the very beginning but each has a critical period of development (p.26). Erikson describes psychosocial development in eight stages. Of these stages the main focus of this chapter are 'Industry v. Inferiority' and 'Identity v. Role Confusion'. The authors tell us that 'to be committed to helping students learn as much as possible you need to have a basic knowledge of these two help students achieve a strong sense of industry and identity'(p.28) Erikson's theory has received some criticism. It is argued that this theory is somewhat vague and hard to test, the conclusions are too personally based, and that the stages most accurately describe those of male personality development. What happens if the stages are sucessfully navigated? What happens if they are not? What implications does this have for teachers and teaching?

The second development concept addressed in chapter 2 is that of Jean Piaget and the Theory of Cognitive Development. This principle includes his belief "that human beings inherit two basic tendencies: organization (the tendency to systemize and combine processes into coherent general systems), and adaptation (the tendency to adjust to the environment) (p.38). These tendencies develop through a need to maintain self-regulation obtained by equilibration. This equilibrium of knowledge is often broken down during our psychological development, creating disequalibration. What are schemes? What is assimilation and accomodation? This is valuable. According to Piaget, one process requires the other, and vice versa. This is the basis of constructivism, a recurring theme of the text, which is defined as the process of creating knowledge to solve a problem and eliminate a disequalibration (p.40). Piaget divides Cognitive Development into four stages. School aged children are mainly placed in one of two stages. The first of the two is the preoperational, or pre-logical stage. The main obstacles to overcome for children in this stage are perceptual centration, irreversibility, and egocentrism. Piaget classifies children in this stage as roughly 2-7 years old, although later in the chapter Lev Vygotsky interestingly redefines these age designations. (An interesting web site to compare Vgotsky and Piaget can be found at The second stage focused on for school-aged children by Piaget is the concrete operational stage. In this stage schemes are developing that allow a greater understanding of locic-based tasks as conservation, class inclusion and seriation (p.43). The limitation here is that logical thinking is limited to objects or situations that are actually present or to ones the child has concretely experienced. Vygotsky addresses this stage as well. Piaget's Theory of Cognitive Development is also both elaborated on (specifically by Vygotsky, and later in the chapter by Kohlberg) as well as criticized. Criticisms mainly charge that Piaget "missed the mark" when defining catagories related to the capabilities of children in preoperational and concrete operational stages. What is scaffolding? What is zone of proximal development? What implications do these have for teaching?

In my opinion this chapter offers a valuable framework for understanding the theoretical basis of educational psychology. Sections are included which offer guidelines for using technology to apply the principles addressed such as psychosocial and cognitve development. These sections offer many useful cross-curricular applications to the main ideas of the chapter.