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Developmental Psychology on Education - Dictionary of Arguments

Upton I 97
Education/schooling/developmental psychology/Upton: The experiences children are exposed to in school, whether through discovery learning or direct instruction,(…) seem to influence cognitive development. But how does school influence development and is school necessary? Although the topic may be the same, the content may not, and variations are seen in terms of the depth and breadth of information that children are expected to cover (NRC, 1996)(1).
In maths and science, for example, an international survey found that the content covered was dictated in part by the social and cultural setting in which the child lives and the expectations of that culture (NRC, 1996)(1).
Curriculum delivery has also been found to be different within as well as across cultures (NRC, 1996(1); Moor et al., 2006)(2).
There has been a lot of debate in education about the extent to which schooling and curriculum content matter for intellectual development (e.g. Hanushek, 2003(3); Sammons et al., 2004)(4).
Separating learning and development – often expressed as the influence of school versus individual ability – is particularly difficult (Carneiro et al., 2001)(5).
Cultural differences: Cross-cultural studies have shown that cognitive skills develop at different rates and may manifest themselves in different ways depending on the context in which a child lives (Cole, 1990)(6). Nunes et al. (1993)(7) showed, for example, how child street traders in Brazil who had not been exposed to formal schooling had difficulty finding the correct solution to hypothetical mathematical problems when these problems were given to them in written form. However, they did statistically better when the same problem was presented orally.
Upton I 98
Logic: Development of logical thought is not influenced by schooling – it will develop anyway. However, what school does influence is how those skills develop and are manifest, by teaching the language and expectations of a specific cultural setting in relation to particular cognitive tasks (Cole, 1990)(6). This happens in two ways. First, children learn the jargon necessary to access academic tests of cognitive ability at school. Second, they learn how to manipulate a new set of linguistic symbols by learning to read and write.

1.National Research Council (NRC) (1996) Mathematics and Science Education Around the World: What can we learn from the Survey of Mathematics and Science Opportunities (SMSO) and the Third International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS)? Washington, DC: National Academy Press.
2. Moor, H, Jones, M, Johnson, F, Martin, K, Cowell, E and Bojke, C (2006) Mathematics and Science in Secondary Schools:the Deployment of Teachers and Support Staff to Deliver the Curriculum (DfES Research Report 708). London: DfES. Available at
3. Hanushek, EA (2003) The Economics of Schooling and School Quality. London: Edward Elgar.
4. Sammons, P, Elliot, K, Sylva, K, Melhuish, M, Siraj-Blatchford and Taggart, B (2004). The impact of pre-school on young children’s cognitive attainments at entry to reception. British Education Research Journal, 30 (5): 691–712.
5. Carneiro, P, Heckman, JJ and Vytlacil, E (2001) Estimating the Return to Education when it Varies among Individuals. Available online at (accessed 12 March 2011).
6. Cole, M (1990) Cognitive development and formal schooling: the evidence from cross-cultural research, in Moll, LC (ed.) Vygotsky and Education. New York: Cambridge University Press.
7. Nunes, T, Schliemann, AD and Carraher, DW (1993) Street Mathematics and School Mathematics, New York: Cambridge University Press.

Explanation of symbols: Roman numerals indicate the source, arabic numerals indicate the page number. The corresponding books are indicated on the right hand side. ((s)…): Comment by the sender of the contribution. Translations: Dictionary of Arguments
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Developmental Psychology
Upton I
Penney Upton
Developmental Psychology 2011

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