About Cognitive Development in Children

A social-cultural approach to children's cognitive development is a strategy for explaining what defines and makes children who they are in terms of socio-cultural activities in society (Brooker 2017, p.14). The method emphasizes the importance of the social order in children's learning. When implementing the social-cultural approach, fundamental aspects such as art, social norms, language, and social structures are always involved in playing a crucial part in the development of the cognitive abilities of individuals (Brooker 2017, p.15). Social-cultural approaches relate to guided participation when it comes to studying individual learning process. Guided participation is a process by which an experienced person offers assistance to a less skilled person, to become competent in socially and personally meaningful practices in the day-to-day life (Brooker 2017, p.15). In the psychological studies, socio-cultural approaches and guided participation are broad areas of study. It is important to study these concepts as they incorporate several theories and ideas that are significant in revealing a sensible understanding of the human behaviour.

The two ideologies cover a wide scope of important aspects such as behaviour, perception, and personality that are important for the study of psychology. The review of these aspects is relevant to study of children and in giving explanations as to why individuals think the way they do, and therefore distinguishing humans from other animals (Brooker 2017, p.16). Therefore, the following review will discuss some of the important ideas that relate to guided participation. The ideas will then be categorised into three themes and theories to discuss how they are linked to the children development.

According to psychological studies, guided participation is an approach to cognition where children develop their acquired skills through engaging themselves in activities and experiences alongside a teacher or a parent among other elder people around them (Brooker 2017, p.16). The main idea behind the approach of guided participation is that it is always necessary to lead the children through the experience around them while taking active participation in the learning process. It means that, instead of taking time and available opportunities to show the children whatever they should do, the children are left with the freedom of doing whatever they can do with the help given by those around them in a manner that is required (Brooker 2017, p.18). During the learning process, as the student mastering potential increases with the number of components skills rising, the master then reduces the level of support and participation bit by bit. Also, it involves providing minimal feedback to the apprentice. The concept puts it that, in the eventual process of learning, the master is always expected to fade away completely as the student constantly starts to perform the whole task smoothly.

Concept of Guided Participation

The concept of guided participation was introduced into the study of psychology by neo-Vygotskian, Barbara Rogoff. In her work of Apprenticeship in Thinking, Rogoff had the intentions of clarifying the nature cognitive development in children within the guiding framework of the socio-cultural theory. In her work, she applied three concepts which are significant in the review of cognitive development processes (Brooker 2017, p. 20). First, she focused on cognitive apprenticeship. Rogoff came up with the theory explaining the initial process of development and how the master introduces the apprentice into the basic skills needed in everyday life. The second theory was scaffolding where the teacher after introducing skills and models to children would step back to leave them to apply the skills needed in the problem-solving. The third theory was equal status and accountability, Rogoff focused on the development of freedom for private speech and self-recognition among children (Brooker 2017, p. 22). In this concept, she stated that children after learning get to a stage where they develop self-regulation and self-guidance of behaviour (Brooker 2017, p.22). Applied in the classroom, the concept of guided participation has made it possible for the teachers to recognise new potentials of children in the playgrounds and legitimise them during the activities in long-term and open-ended projects and of the mixed-age groupings.

Furthermore, it makes it possible to utilise the children’s experience with each other and incorporate that of other adults to build informed ideas. However, the concept of guided participation does not address the issue of children who are slow learners and how they can be affected in each stage of cognitive development (Pyle and Danniels 2017, p.50). It is important to note that the concepts are relevant in the study of cognitive development in children due to their theoretical and approach-based discussion that explains in detail the gradual process of cognition as evidenced in various individuals. Based on the understanding of guided participation, the knowledge of the concept is important in the literary works as the ideas expressed in this theory are applicable in parenting, teaching, and child development programs.

Theme of Cognitive Apprenticeship

Cognitive apprenticeship has been used to explain various social processes among the children. The theory was developed as a result of the constructivist approaches to the learning process of human beings (Pyle and Danniels 2017, p.52).It involved detailed explanations of all the activities that take place during the early childhood growth and necessary components in the initial stage of memory development in children (Pyle and Danniels 2017, p. 54). According to Rogoff’s (1990), the theme of apprenticeship holds the argument that masters of certain skills have always failed to take into consideration the implicit process that is undergone when introducing complex skills during their mentoring and coaching moments. To encounter such tendencies, then cognitive apprenticeship has been designed together with other themes to bring the tacit in to book (Pyle and Danniels 2017, p. 274). This provides a free platform where the children and student can enact, observe, and develop all the possible skills with the help of the teacher. In the research works addressing cognitive behaviour among children, the concept has been fully supported by the theory of modelling, which was done by Albert Bandura's (1997). In his theory, Bandura stated that for the modelling process to be successful, motivation was a key issue in winning learner’s attentiveness (Pyle and Danniels 2017, p. 274). Also, the process must have the ability to access and retain the presented information and must be able to produce accurate and desired results.

The theme of cognitive apprenticeship relates to the idea discussed above in the guided participation as explained by Barbara Rogoff in her theories. In her work, she based her theoretical argument on the concept of guided participation. Basing on her argument, she brought to book a discussion the mutual relationship embedded between the children and the contexts of the social-cultural beliefs. Rogoff noted that societal principles and individual are not analytically separate when it comes to creating influence on the course of children’s cognitive development (O’Reilly and Dolan 2017, p. 324). When talking about the issue of mutuality, she drew her argument on the Vygotsky’s and Piaget's theories. Rogoff also emphasised the cultural influence as being part of the cognitive activity. The thinking process involved the institution, economic situation, religious systems, instructional systems, and political systems (O’Reilly and Dolan 2017, p. 324). She placed more emphasis on schooling concerning the cognitive development of children. Also, her literary works made use of two cognitive skills closely linked to schooling to prove her point. They included memory and verbal syllogism. In her work, Rogoff summed up her arguments into one assumption that cognitive activities are the result of the socially structured situation that also involves the values of management and interpretation of the socially based relationships.

Rogoff also added that in any process where individual attempts to solve certain problems, the skills they gather are intrinsically related to social and societal values, goals and tools from the institution. Therefore, the first step of mind development in children is from the institution base teaching according to the social principles. As a result, the individual will grow and develop skills related to the society according to the teachings they received from the institutions (O’Reilly and Dolan, 2017, p. 324). Therefore, from the theme of cognitive apprenticeship, it is important to note that cognitive development starts from the societal institution. In children's development, it is necessary to ensure that a child passes through all the necessary institutions according to the cultural and societal norms, to develop good mental and thinking capabilities.

Theme of Scaffolding

In the field of education and cognitive and development, Scaffolding pays a huge role in the children learning process (Pyle and Danniels 2017, p.276). In a situation where the master introduces children into the models of solving process and then takes a back step after they have gained necessary knowledge (Pyle and Danniels 2017, p.276). Here, children are expected to start gaining mental balance with constantly increasing their reasoning capabilities (Pyle and Danniels 2017, p.277). The main idea in the theme is that the master does not step out completely from the student or child, but just follow the happenings from a distance (Pyle and Danniels 2017, p.277). The teacher is then ready to offer any correction need by the student at any time it is needed. The concept of scaffolding was introduced into the literature by instructional designer and psychologist Jerome Bruner (1960). The theory stated that when students are offered the support, they require when being introduced to something new in their life, they stand at a better position to develop and apply the acquired skills independently. Bruner, therefore, recommended the use of three modes of representation when offering support or teaching children. The modes included images, actions, and language, making it easy to understand quickly and grasp whatever is taught.

The non-verbal communications help to build and stabilise a bridge between the present to new situations. In the process of structuring a situation and shifting the responsibilities, the social world comes first in the determination of the activities that are available to children and their partners for participation and observation (Pyle and Danniels 2017, p.54). It then turns to the partner to make arrangement and offer appropriate material for the activities. The children develop the freedom of having a say in the said arrangement and choose what they do or do not want. Therefore, parent, teacher and elder only offer assistance according to the developmental skills that the children have gathered.

Also, the support is given basing on the understanding that the children have to take over on responsibilities from their partners. Therefore, after being taught on what is best and what is not, guided participation come to a two-way process where the parents govern the kids, and kids also have the freedom of governing their parents (O’Reilly and Dolan 2017, p. 339). The parent only comes in when it is necessary. The theme is important in the children cognitive development in that it gives guidelines on how and to what extent do people need to socialise. Parents get to learn when to keep off and when to come in to offer assistance to their children (O’Reilly and Dolan, 2017, p. 339). As a result, children develop mental stability and slowly learn on how to settle their issues by themselves.

Theme of Equal status and Accountability

According to the research publications, the theme of equal status and accountability highlights the third level of cognitive development where children and individuals develop control on oneself when it comes to communication, self-regulation, and self-guidance in behaviour (Pyle and Danniels 2017, p.279). Here, the children can be seen taking accountability for everything that they do. Whatever they do is not directed to the other. The masters have done their part in directing them how to behave, and, therefore, the choice of decision is left to them and is responsible for every act. The greatest achievement that individuals must have at this stage is the ability to engage in only activities that benefit them (O’Reilly and Dolan 2017, p.323). Children have learnt to protect themselves and control their feelings towards their environments. (O’Reilly and Dolan 2017, p.327). Studies have developed positive impact on privacy and freedom for speech and performance achievement. The moment one takes accountability for what he or she says and do, then the level of morality and development increases. The Individual kids are left to think alone. The state of mind then expands making it more independent and relevant.

Rogoff (1990), in her theory, discussed the similarities and differences shared in the mechanism of social interaction and how it influences the cognitive development of children. She based her argument posited by Vygotsky and Piaget when they place more focus on the level of expertise versus equal status (Pyle and Danniels 2017, p. 281). In the view of Piaget, who took an individual perspective Vygotsky a starting point, he argued that development was a continuous process of conflict between antagonistic forms of cognition and reasoning (Pyle and Danniels 2017, p. 282). When one is left to think along and implement his or her reasoning, it is easy and possible for the person to develop expertise based on self-regulation and guidance skills. Vygotsky, on the other hand, placed his focus on the social basis of mind and maintained that social interaction is essential for the joint solution of finding problems due to core guidance from skilled adults (Pyle and Danniels 2017, p.282). Piaget's (1936) in his view believed that children were impervious to the influence of the society due to their egocentrism and that social influence would exert effect during their middle childhood age (Pyle and Danniels 2017, p.283).

On the other hand, Vygotsky believed that children are involved in social influence and exchange right from their young age leading to the development of their cognition at a greater deal. Rogoff cited these and much other evidence to prove that children got their learning from adults. Barbara Rogoff found that little children who were not being guided performed better than those being guided. Children have more control when interacting with peers and other tasks more than adults (O’Reilly and Dolan 2017, p. 340). Therefore, after being taught what to do and how to do the tasks, it is important to let the children make their own decisions and be accountable for whatever they do. Such situation increased the children’s cognition and skills that can be very important in their old age (O’Reilly and Dolan 2017, p. 341). The study of these themes is important as they illustrate that, there is no need for parents to be overprotective to their children. Instead, kids should be left alone to perform alone to improve their skills.


In summary, Rogoff's discussion of the child development processes is very exhaustible and convincing. It is evident from her work that child cognitive development is a very significant process in the growth and development of human beings. The mental stage of a child dictates his or her intelligence quotient in future. Therefore, from the findings, parents, and teachers have a great opportunity of understanding the behaviour of their kids at each level of growth. The findings are important in that they give direction on what should be done in each process of child growth to improve their cognition. Basing on these findings, it is possible to improve the level of services in child care facilities and institutions of learning considering the factual, strict and possible guidelines from the literature.


Brooker, L., 2017. Learning to play, or playing to learn? Children’s participation in the cultures of homes and settings. Young Children’s Play and Creativity: Multiple Voices, p.14.

O’Reilly, L. and Dolan, P., 2017. The use of play skills during child protection and welfare assessments. The Routledge Handbook of Global Child Welfare, p.369.

Pyle, A. and Danniels, E., 2017.A continuum of play-based learning: The role of the teacher in play-based pedagogy and the fear of hijacking play. Early Education and Development, 28(3), pp.274-289.

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