O2. – Offer appropriate challenge in the content area.
When I compare Piaget’s theory of development to information processing theory the aspect that stands out in terms of application is how to provide lessons that offer an appropriate challenge for my mixed-age K/1 students. If I were teaching the concept of fractions to a 6 and 7-year-old class, I would use experiential learning to provide a meaningful context for the learning. The Informational Processing Theory (IPT) posits that learners need new information to stimulate all of their senses in order to commit it to long-term memory. I think a cooking lesson is an effective lesson for accessing all the learner’s senses while applying the concept of fractions to real life. Each stage of making an apple pie provides an opportunity for thinking about parts of a whole from gathering the apples, to preparing and measuring the pie ingredients, to dividing the pie into portions. This apple pie making lesson could be followed with formal assessment of interviewing each child with a supplementary worksheet that the teacher fills out to determine if they conceptualize parts of a whole.
The students that I work with are 6 and 7 years old so they are on the cusp of Piaget’s Pre-Operational and Operational stages. In light of the fact that conservation is a skill that emerges in the Concrete Operational Stage I would want to challenge my students to think about the concept of conservation throughout the entirety of the apple pie making lesson. This strategy would provide disequilibrium for learners to begin to conceptualize conservation in several practice support activities throughout the apple pie making unit. For example, when we visit the garden to gather the apples I would ask the students about what portion of the leaves from the apple tree had fallen on the ground and what portion of the leaves were lying on the ground. I would stress the fact that all the leaves still exist within our environment as the same amount of leaves that were on the tree before the leaves fell. I would repeat this teaching of conservation throughout the unit, each time referencing the prior lesson, and challenging the students to transfer the concept onto our new context for learning. Pressley and McCormick (2007) describe elaboration as, “the construction of a meaningful context for the to-be-learned information that can be either verbal or visual” (p. 99). In my philosophy of teaching the meaningful context for learning is essential to honoring both the IPT as an approach to helping children retain knowledge, and considering a student’s stage in terms of Piaget’s theory.
Reference: Pressley, M. & McCormick, C. B. (2007). Child and adolescent development for educators. New York, NY: Guilford Press.