This paper is related to find out the cognitive development of a child by using conservation tasks. Cognitive development can be referred to as changes in the personality by going through problem solving, decision making and remembering from childhood to become an adult (Wertsh, 1990). Conservation task can be termed as a test to check the ability of a child to see or observe changes when an object goes through some physical transformation (Buckingham, 1979). In this paper, we have performed a fieldwork by taking a child and then two conservation tasks were performed with him. After getting information from him about the task, we were required to state that he is at what stage of cognitive development. For this task, I selected a child named John was seven years old. He seemed very energetic and observant so I decided to test his cognitive development. He lives in my neighborhood and I don’t have any direct relation with him. After that, I was required to select two conservation tasks to proceed further.
I was free to choose any two conservation tasks for analyzing the child’s ability so I did. My selected two conservation tasks are as follows:
1) Water task: In this task, we were to present two identical water filled cups with the same amount of water to the child. After the confirmation from the child that water in both cups is same, we were to move towards the second step of the task. In this step, we took water from both cups and poured it in two cups with different shapes. One cup was wider and shorter and second was narrower and taller. Obviously, level of water would be higher in a narrower one. Now the child was required to answer that which cup has more water.
2) Block task: In this task, we had a different block and were to make equal piles with the blocks and child would confirm that both piles have equal blocks. After that we laid down the blocks in line, intentionally by giving spaces in one line, we made one line longer than the other. Now the child was to answer that which line has more blocks.
I selected these two conservation tasks and at the playground near our home, I performed this task to give the child a casual environment and to relax his mind.
As mentioned above that I selected a boy who was seven years old, I first performed a water task with him. When I asked from him that in which cup, water is more, he answered that in the longer one, which is obviously a wrong answer. He claimed that up with a higher level of water has more water. I asked him if he is sure then he was very confirmed about his answer and did not want to even reconsider it once. He was a lot comfortable during the task as he was enjoying all this setting. When I was pouring water in different bowls, he was very excited and wanted to help me as well. He liked doing things at all times.
As far as the second task, block task is concerned, John answered it correctly. He counted the blocks and was able to conserve the amount of the blocks. He picked up the point that if one line is longer than it doesn't necessarily mean that it has more. It is important to state here that materials in both tasks were different from each other. A difference between these two specific studies or tasks was that the placement of the observer, child and note-taker. In the first task, note taker was sitting in front of the John and in the second task, he was sitting behind him.
After that, I told him about Heinz Dilemma and asked that if Heinz did right or wrong when he stolen drug. He answered that he did right as he wanted to save his wife. In his view chemist was a bad person who refused to give that drug for the sake of money. I told him that every drug has a cost and no one gives it free of cost then he replied that his wife was in pain and he was begging for his life but chemist was demanding more money.
Results or outcomes of these tasks lead us toward knowing the cognitive learning status of the child. John, the 7-year-old second grader, was entering the concrete operational stage and it was due to the fact that he was able to conserve the blocks, but he was not able to conserve the water. Additionally, the child was motivated and excited to learn new things and he also wanted to participate in exciting activities. He was showing adaption to the world of experiments dealing with their developmental stages. These both aspects are part of Piaget's theory which is related to children learning and their cognitive stages.
Another important part of Piaget's theory, that was present in this case was the interaction and involvement of the physical means of the experiment and with other people. John shows textbook signs of the pre-operational stage by showing how he remembers what a snake, building, castle, and 'J' look like. He also shows this stage when seeing how he can use the remainder of the blocks from the 'J' to make an 'A' resulting in a more complex figure. He was also able to remember that what he wants to say instead of using hand to make us understand. According to Erickson’s theory of development, we can state that he is entering the next level of cognitive learning that is one of the multiple classifications and deductive reasoning (Muuss, 1988). I observed this multiple classification when was spreading the blocks into categories simultaneously. He also showed deductive reasoning when he saw the red light of the tape recorder on and he instantly inferred that he was being recorded. He also was unable to test his hypothesis that the amounts of water were different as indicated by Piaget in the same theory (Wadsworth, 1996)
Kohlberg has provided morality development theory and, in the light, if his theory. John is at the level 1 which is Pre-conventional morality. As far as the stage is concerned, he is at stage one, which is Obedience and Punishment Orientation. In this stage, children think that if you don’t obey anyone, you will be punished, and also the behavior of one person is the result of other person’s behavior (Duska, 1975).
In conclusion, it can be stated that this experiment was extremely beneficial based on the fact that we were able to see the cognitive levels of children first hand, and not out of a textbook. I performed tasks with the child directly and observed changes in his behavior and emotions. I was also able to see how we interact with the children for future reference and how one should address the individual needs of each child in our classroom, keeping aside their developmental levels. Understanding the cognitive abilities of any child is very important. It is important for different reasons and the main reason is that by knowing these abilities, family and teachers can observe that either he is developing properly or not. If any child is not helping in such tasks then no doubt, he needs more attention and focus.
People around him should spend more time with him and try to involve him in different activities. A teacher can motivate such child by showing and pushing them towards better examples. Sometimes it happens that children get bored with easy and routine work and they started having behavior problems. These problems can be solved by giving them some challenges work, it will sharpen their mental abilities and will make them active. From conservation tasks, understanding a child’s development is important so that the teacher can treat the kids accordingly and understand the children better and help those who need it. Conclusively, knowing a child’s conservation abilities are very important to teachers as it will help to see what the children know and how they have developed. This will ultimately allow them to tend to the individual child’s needs and to help the child where he needs the assistance.
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