- consider and explain cause and effect,
- compare and contrast,
- problem solve,
- figure out how to best relate our ideas and opinions to others,
- or even when conducting a witch trail (like Monty Python in the video attached).
While Piaget is more well known for his stages of cognitive development, what most appeals to me is his theory of how kids begin to reason and construct levels of understanding:
According to Piaget, reasoning involves "assimilating" (or incorporating) new information into our existing 'schema' (or rules of understanding). When we face something we can't define, predict, or understand, we enter an (uncomfortable) state of "disequilibrium". When in this state we try to tweak and work out inconsistencies until they make sense. Piaget termed this process reflexive abstraction as we reflect, compare, contrast, reason rehearse, and rearrange facts and observations to reach a more comfortable level of understanding.
As we reason and build understanding we will either:
- ignore what we can't understand, OR
- construct newer levels of understanding, incorporating more aspects of the problem we face to accommodate the conflicting information.
Piaget provides a famous "conservation" experiment to show how kids construct knowledge. This is best done with kids ages 5-8 who are beginning to go beyond the obvious or "concrete" and begin to "abstract," factoring a variety of aspects including those which are so obvious.
WE BEGINS WITH A QUESTION: In front of your child, measure a given amount of liquid, say 1/2 cup of water (using measuring cup "B") and pour the liquid into a tall narrow glass "A" and another 1/2 cup into short wide glass "C". Ask your child which has more - glass "A" or glass "C"?
[Sound familiar:? How many times have siblings argued because you poured "more" lemonade or milk shake for one and not the other because you had different sized glasses?]
A young child (typically below the age of 7) will tell you that glass "A" has more because it is "taller" or "higher" or "more." This is because younger kids will focus on one aspect of the problem, typically what they see. In this case it is the height. They do not look at volume.
So, to help them reason and grasp the concept of volume, Piaget would then have the child pour 1/2 cup of liquid from "B" into "A" and that same amount again from "B" into "C" asking again which has more, "A" or "C"? If child still said "A" - because it is higher, have the child write down the exact amount going into "A" and then "C" pointing out that it is the same amount. Then ask why "A" still looks like more.
Piaget might also play around with different glasses. He might, for example add glass"D" (the same size as "C") and have the child pour the same amount that is in "C" into "D" - asking which has 'more" (with the child answering 'they're the same'). Piaget would then have the child pour the liquid from "D" into "A" and ask again which has more. The point is to create a state of disequilibrium where the child begins to recognize that maybe "A" (for some reason) doesn't have more. Through questioning and experimenting adults can help their child reason that it is not just the height of the glass but its width as well.
HOW DOES THIS TRANSLATE FOR YOU AND YOUR CHILD?
HOW CAN YOU HELP YOUR CHILD LEARN TO REASON? PRACTICE! Talk and ask questions about the world around you:
- When walking outside ask why some robins have bright read breasts and others don't. Why some mallard ducks have bright green or blue on their necks and others don't.
- Why do some birds have long beaks and others short ones?
- Ask why some streets have stop signs or lights and others don't.
- Ask them to predict things, ask why people they see in a movie or read about in a book do something unusual or silly.
- When driving in a car at night, ask them if they think the moon is following them? Why? How? What if one of you want in one direction, and your friend in another - would the moon follow both of you? How?
- Please let me know if you'd like me to pursue this further, or if you have any other questions.
- In your comments, Please share the types of questions you ask your kids and please share their wonderfully funny responses. Here are a few Art Linkletter collected over his career.
For further reading, here are some related blogs I've posted:
- "Options, Shining Opportunities, Opening Worlds..." http://departingthetext.blogspot.com/2011/04/options-shining-opportunities-opening.html
- "Kicking Back a Bit...What's All This About Inference?" http://departingthetext.blogspot.com/2011/03/kicking-back-bitwhats-all-this-about.html
- "INSPIRING: Looking at the World From Another Perspective - Richard Feynman Style"http://departingthetext.blogspot.com/2011/03/looking-at-world-from-another.html
- "On Creativity"http://departingthetext.blogspot.com/2010/08/words-to-whys.html
- "Departing the Text 101: Beginners Manual http://departingthetext.blogspot.com/2010/07/departing-text-101-beginners-manual.html