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Discovering the Mind at Work /
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Charlging Views of Cognitive Competence in He Young ROCHEL GELMAN and ANN L. BROWN It was once commonly thought that the newborn child cannot hear, see, or smell; that the first year of life is spent in a blooming-buzzing confusion; and that infants lack ability to form complex ideas about the world. For much of this century, most experimental and developmental psychologists accepted the traditional thesis that the newborn's mind is a blank slate (or tabula rasa) upon which the record of experience is gradually impressed. It was further held that language is an obvious prerequisite for any abstract thought (e.g., Vygotsky, 1962; Whorf, 1956), so in its absence, a baby could not have knowledge of anything other than sensations. Since babies are born with an extremely limited repertoire of behavior and spend most of their early months asleep, they certainly appear passive and unknowing; there is no obvious way for them to demonstrate otherwise. But challenges to this view arose. On the theoretical side, it is hard to overestimate the impact of Piaget, Chomsky, Simon, and the Gibsons, who profoundly influenced psychologists' ideas of what to look for and how to characterize the child. These new theoretical views stimulated innovative research programs with Me very young. It became clear that with carefully Partial support for the preparation of this chapter came from fellowships to the authors while at the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences, Stanford, California. While there both authors received funds from the Spencer Foundation, and Rochel Gelman was also supported by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation and a National Institute of Child Health and Development (NICHD) Fellowship F32 HD-06623. Additional support for the work came from National Science Foundation grant BNS-8140573 to Gelman and NICHD grants HD-06864 and HD-05951 to Ann Brown. 175
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176 ROCHEL GELMAN and ANN L. BROWN designed methods one could find ways to pose rather complex questions to infants and young children. A substantial new body of data has now accumulated about the capacities of infants and young children and stands in contrast to the older emphasis on what Hey lack. From these data a contemporary view has emerged that the very young can be competent, active agents of their own conceptual development. In short, the mind of the young child has come to life. This essay is divided into four parts. First, we introduce the seminal theoretical ideas that have influenced psychologists' conceptions of the child's emergent mind. Next, we delineate some of the evidence in support of infant and preschool cognitive competence and illustrate some of the methods developed to make the study of young minds plausible. Finally, we ask how this putative youthful brilliance interacts with formal learning tasks in school, emerging with a seeming paradox: Young children seem to know more than we thought possible, but older children in schools seem to be much less competent than was once assumed. The natural learning settings of young children are contrasted with the formal environments they encounter at school, and we see that instructional programs that capitalize on young children's natural propensities to create and test theories can significantly accelerate learning. THEORETICAL BACKGROUND The first step away from the empiricists' "tabula rasa" view of the infant mind was taken by the Swiss psychologist Jean Piaget. Beginning in the 1920s, Piaget argued for the need to postulate complex cognitive structures in the young human mind, which empiricist accounts of human thought had tended to play down or deny. Piaget did not think that human infants are born with innate cognitive structures, but rather that structures develop due to the child's ever-present tendency to engage the environment actively, interpreting it in accordance with progressively changing cognitive "schemes." From close observations of infants and careful questioning of children, he concluded that cognitive development proceeds through certain stages, each involving radically different cognitive schemes, so that sometimes young children even form practical convictions contrary to those held by older children and adults. While Piaget observed that infants actually seek environmental stimu- lation that promotes their intellectual development, he thought that their initial representations of objects, space, time, cause, and self are constructed only gradually during the first two years. He concluded that the world of young infants is an egocentric fusion of the internal and external worlds, and that the development of an accurate representation of physical reality
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CHANGING VIEWS OF COGNITIVE COMPETENCE IN THE YOUNG 177 depends on the gradual coordination of schemes of looking, listening, and touching. Piaget thought that for many months the infant does not realize that an object producing a given sound is the same as an object that looks a certain way. The very young infant, up to 10 months or so, was said to think that an object exists only as long as she can touch, hear, or see it; once out of direct sensory contact, it ceased to exist. From this view, it followed that babies do not represent an independent space in which three- dimensional objects exist. In this regard, Piaget's account of infant cognition is actually close to being empiricist; still the position that cognitive schemes are actively constructed rather than passively impressed separates him from empiricists (or in modern terminology, behaviorists). Noam Chomsky (1957), focusing on language, proposed that the human mind is innately prepared to learn language without needing much help from the environment. He provided explicit hypotheses about the nature of the language structures that produce and comprehend language, an account that held out the promise of explaining how young children can say things they have never heard, e.g., "I'm unthirsty," "I have two footses," "I wented home." Chomsky's hypotheses are still controversial (Wanner and Gleitman, 1982), but the effect of his work gave strong impetus to a "nativist" account of mental abilities, which maintains that humans are born with conceptual structures that guide the acquisition of knowledge about the world. Like Piaget, the Gibsons have maintained that infants actively explore the environment, but in sharp contrast, they deny that the infant slowly constructs the world. They maintain that, shortly after birth, the infant's world is a remarkably veridical one, filled with three-dimensional objects in real space, not unconnected elementary sensations. They support their view with findings that neonates integrate sight and sound and respond as if they assume that the world is out there waiting to be explored. The Gibsons assign a role to learning but propose that it proceeds rapidly due to the initial availability of exploration patterns that can yield accurate information about objects and events. Simon (1972) and his colleagues (e.g., Klahr and Wallace, 1976) helped introduce a somewhat different perspective, that development means over- coming information-processing constraints, such as limited short-term mem- ory capacity and lack of general knowledge. Those working in the information- processing tradition focused both on the possibility that early failures in completing Piagetian tasks are due in part to limits on processing capacity and the conditions under which children actively employ strategies for problem solving and knowledge acquisition. All these theoretical developments challenged the empiricist account and influenced the direction of research in developmental psychology. The claim
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178 ROCHEL GELMAN and ANN L. BROWN that young children have different mental structures and ideas about the world was taken up in investigations of their concepts, strategies, and problem-solving abilities. These studies led to the conclusion that, despite the many differences between young and old, the young have remarkable abilities to participate actively in their acquisition of knowledge. STUDYING INFANT KNOWLEDGE Because infants are so limited physically, experiments to find out what they know and how they think have had to find methods suitable to the level of infant motor capabilities. A good example is a method used by Kalnins and Bruner (1973~. They showed 5- to 12-week-old infants a silent color film and gave the infants a pacifier to suck, the nipple of which was connected to a pressure switch controlling the projector lens. The infants quickly learned to suck at a given rate to bring the movie into focus, showing not only that they were capable of and interested in learning how to control their own sensory environment but also that they preferred a clear image to a blurry one. A second method demonstrates and depends on an infant's thirst for novelty. The "habituation paradigm" involves presenting babies with a stimulus a picture, sound, or series of sounds to which the baby attends either by looking at it, turning to it, or doing something to keep the stimulus on. Over a series of trials, infants, like everyone else, stop responding to repeated presentations of the same stimulus; that is, they habituate. They recover interest if a recognizably different stimulus is presented. For ex- ample, four-month-old infants will suck vigorously when first introduced to the phoneme (speech sound) "ha," then gradually lose interest and stop sucking in response to it. But when presented a different phoneme, "pa," they resume sucking (Eimas et al., 19711. Fantz (1961, 1966) directed attention to the power of the preference method to study infants' tendency to explore. He determined what infants looked at by watching their eyes closely. Infants lying on their backs in his laboratory could look up to the left or right at, for example, a bull's eye and a checkerboard. The experimenter recorded whether and for how long the baby looked left or right. Even newborns chose to look at patterned displays over homogenous gray ones. Infants generally prefer somewhat novel displays over ones they have seen before (e.g., Kagan et al., 1978; Kessen et al., 19721. Studies like these do more than simply show that infants actively select experiences; they can also tell us what the infant is capable of perceiving and knowing. Recovery of interest in a novel speech sound could not occur if infants could not recognize the rather subtle difference between "pa"
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CHANGING VIEWS OF COGNITIVE COMPETENCE IN THE YOUNG 179 and "ha." (See Aslin et al., 1983.) The same holds for visual preferences. Discovering that very young infants can see, hear, smell, and be particular about what exactly they perceive led to an emboldened attitude about the kinds of experimental questions that could be asked. The answers about infant understanding of the physical and numerical properties of objects have been quite remarkable. Early Knowledge of Objects Piaget concluded that before infants could know about objects, they would have to discover regularities between their sensations and actions, then gradually integrate the sense-action schemes formed when they touched, heard, and looked at objects, and finally come to appreciate the object as a separate reality in the external world. Like the empiricists, Piaget thought infants responded to the immediate stimuli, i.e., flashes of light on the retina or sound waves in the eardrum, long before they recognized sources of stimuli. Recent experiments (Gibson and Spelke, 1983; Harris, 1983) have told a different story. For example, Spelke (1976) used visual-preference meth- ods to determine that four-month-old infants already integrate the sight and sound of an event. Infants were shown two films projected side by side- a person playing peek-a-boo and a hand beating a tambourine. The sound accompaniment of one film was fed to a hidden loudspeaker placed midway between the films. The babies reliably preferred to look at the movie cor- responding to the sound source. Other research indicates that babies are born with a tendency to turn to a sound and visually search for something there (Field et al., 1980; Mendelson and Haith, 1976; Wertheimer, 1961~. This integrative capacity extends beyond auditory and visual properties to include the sense of touch. In recent experiments, Gibson and Walker (1984) gave one-month-old infants either a hard lucite cylinder or a lookalike soft sponge cylinder to explore with their mouths. The experimenter then showed each infant both cylinders, squeezing the spongy cylinder in one hand and rotating the hard cylinder with the other hand. The infants preferred to look at whichever cylinder had not previously been explored orally, showing a capacity to integrate what they saw with what they had mouthed. Meltzoff and Borton (1979) reported similar findings with objects that were smooth or had tiny notes on their surface. These findings establish two important points about the cognitive struc- ture that infants employ to interpret sensory input from objects: (a) They endow objects win properties, such as rigidity, that transcend sensory modality; and (b) infants can appreciate such properties even when they are not acting on the objects.
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180 ROCHEL GELMAN and ANN L. BROWN Von Hofsten (1980) provides further evidence that babies know things about objects before they can successfully act on them. Around four months of age, infants are able to reach out and grasp objects. At the same time, without having had the experience of successfully catching a moving object, they also anticipate trajectories correctly and move their hand toward the spot where a moving object will be. This would appear to require reckoning of the velocity and direction of the object, foreknowledge of the time that the arm movement will take, and ability to combine these in calculating an intercept. Piaget noted the considerable difficulty infants have with occluded ob- jects. When infants four to eight months old are shown an interesting object, they reach for and grasp it and even follow its fall to the floor. But they stop reaching or looking if the object disappears behind a barrier. Infants 8 to 12 months old will seek and retrieve an object they see someone cover, but they show an odd tendency referred to as the "A not B error." If the baby sees an object taken from behind one barrier, A, and, while the baby watches, moved behind another barrier, B. the baby searches only behind the first barrier (A)! Piaget concluded that "the object is still not the same to the child as it is to us: a substantial body, individualized and displaced in space without depending on the action context in which it was inserted" (Piaget, 1954:641. Recent research suggests that the A not B error may be confined to particular experimental situations (Bjork and Cummings, 1984; Sophian, 1984~. After all, if babies can match what they mouth with what they see, distinguishing between solid and spongy substances, they must be sensitive to objects as substantial bodies. As further evidence for this view, Baillargeon et al. (in press) showed five-month-old infants a screen that rotated toward and away from them through an arc of 180 degrees. Once the babies were habituated to the rotating screen, a yellow cube was placed alongside the screen for two trials of viewing. Then the cube was placed behind the screen; on alternating trials, the infant saw either a screen that once again rotated through the full 180-degree arc (and at least from the adult perspective seemed to crush the covered object) or a screen that rotated through only a 120-degree arc, stopping at the angle at which its further rotation would be blocked by the presence of a solid object behind the screen. (One-way mirrors and varied lighting accomplished the visual effects.) Although the infants had previ- ously habituated to the full rather than partial rotation, they nonetheless looked longer at the full rotation, treating the habituated event as even more novel than one they had never seen before. These results suggest the babies expect solid objects to persist even when no longer in sight. In short, considerable research with young infants has shown that they treat objects and events as sources for multiple kinds of sensory input, and
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CHANGING VIEWS OF COGNITIVE COMPETENCE IN THE YOUNG 181 that they recognize in objects properties such as rigidity and solidity that transcend specific sensory modalities. Abstract Concepts Many theories of cognition have assumed that language is necessary to Tract n~c,nerties common to a set of objects. Premack (1976) tellingly ~v-~~~ rears J refuted this thesis when he showed that once a cn~mpanzee nab lea me symbol for apple, it could apply that symbol to various parts of an apple (seed, peel, etc.~. Preverbal human infants also recognize properties com- mon to sets of nonidentical objects. Ross (1980), for example, habituated one- and two-year-olds to one of five classes of items: O shapes, M shapes, furniture, men, and food. Then children were shown another item from the same class or an item from a novel class. They preferred the item from the novel class. The children's ability to recognize category membership was uncorrelated with their ability to supply a verbal label for the category. Number is a property of sets divorced from any description of the objects themselves. Hence, it is often treated as the ultimate in abstraction. A variety of results indicate that infants abstract number from visual displays of two, three, and sometimes four items (Starkey and Cooper, 1980; Starkey et al., in press; Strauss and Curtis, 19811. For example, six- to nine-month- old infants became habituated to color photographs of either two or three assorted common household items, e.g., sponge, cloth, vase, comb, apple, etc. (each trial displayed different items). Infants who were habituated to two-object displays then looked longer at three-item ones, and vice versa. Infants even abstract number intermodally (Starkey et al., 19831. They prefer to look at the one of two displays that matches the number of drumbeats (two or three) they hear emanating from a centrally placed loud- speaker. Summary We have sampled the evidence that infants are not passive, unstructured receivers of environmental input. Soon after birth they reveal an impressive degree of implicit conceptual structure allied to active learning endeavors. They behave as if they recognize that objects are independent of themselves, having size and solidity, and are specified intermodally. They reveal sen- sitivity to some properties of moving objects and form concepts about some abstract properties of sets. It is not at all obvious why infants bother to attend to the number of items they see or hear. But it looks as if human infants come prepared to learn quickly about objects and certain concepts, including number. These early competences provide a base from which
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182 ROCHEL GELMAN and ANN L. BROWN much natural learning proceeds during the preschool years. Acquisition of knowledge in these natural domains is guided as much by the availability of implicit structures and principles that guide the child's active learning about the nature of objects and events, causes, number, etc. as by the availability of a supportive environment. PRESCHOOL THOUGHT Principles About Numbers, Causes, and Objects Preschool thought and its development are much influenced by implicit knowledge of fundamental principles governing the determination and ma- nipulation of numbers, the character of physical causality, and the differ- ences between animate and inanimate objects. Number Many preschoolers spontaneously count collections soon after they learn to talk. Gelman and Gallistel (1978) propose that even these very young children make implicit use of some, if not all, of five principles of counting: (1) The tags used in counting must be placed in one-to-one cor- respondence with the items counted; (2) the tags must be drawn in order from a stably ordered list; (3) the last tag used represents the number in the set (cardinality); (4) the order in which the items are tagged is irrelevant; and (5) sets of arbitrary composition may be counted. What evidence is there for this view? First, counting behaviors in young children are systematic, even when they use nonstandard tags or orderings. For example, Gelman and Gallistel (1978) report a two-and-one-half year old who said "one, two" when counting a two-item array and "one, two, six" when counting a three-item array (the one-one principle). The same child used her own list over and over again (stable order principle) and repeated her last tag when asked how many items she had (the cardinality principle). Such nonstandard lists in counting are like the systematic errors made by young language learners (e.g., "I runner"; just as the occurrence of such language errors implies use of language rules by the very young, so the occurrence of stable non- standard lists can be taken as evidence of implicit counting principles. Further evidence for implicit counting principles is found in the fact that young children spontaneously self-correct their own and others' counting errors (German and Meck, 1983) and often are inclined to count without any request to do so. Such behaviors point to a representation that monitors and motivates performance (Greeno et al., 1984~. Other studies have shown that preschool children solve simple arithmetic problems by using counting strategies they invent (Groen and Resnick,
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CHANGING VIEWS OF COGNITIVE COMPETENCE IN THE YOUNG 183 1977; Siegler and Robinson, 19821. To illustrate, Groen and Resnick (1977) taught four- and five-year-old children to solve addition problems of the form x + y = ? by counting out x blocks, counting out y more blocks and then counting the combined set. Children who practiced their addition over several weeks got better. More surprising is that over half of them invented a better way of solving the problems; counting on from whichever was the larger of the two values in the problem. To account for such inventions, it is necessary to postulate the use of something like an implicit principle of commutativity. Finally, the preschool child also understands that addition and subtrac- tion, unlike displacement, rearrangement, or item substitution, alter nu- merosity. This has been shown in "magic" experiments where a child is confronted with unexpected alterations in the sets used in a kind of shell game (German, 19771. In these experiments children between the ages of three and five first learn to find plates holding different numbers of objects, e.g., two and three, underneath each of two cans. Then they discover surreptitious changes in the number, type, or arrangement of items in one array. Those children who encountered irrelevant changes deemed them such and those who encountered the effects of relevant transformations pronounced them relevant. For example, changes in number elicited con- siderable surprise, e.g., "Eeeeee, how did that happen?" Further, the children postulated the relevant transformation, e.g., "One gone Jesus Christ came and took it." They also could indicate what number they expected, what number they actually encountered, and what arithmetic operation would have to be performed to "fix" the came in this cases addition. Hence we see early implicit understanding of number, addition, and subtraction. We will later ask why this competence does not guarantee easy learning of mathematics in school. Causality The suggestion that young children work with implicit notions of cause will surprise those familiar with Piaget's work on the development of the child's conception of causality. In one set of inquiries, Piaget asked children to explain a variety of natural and mechanical phenomena, e.g., the cycle of the moon, floating objects, the movement of clouds, the op- eration of steam engines, and bicycles, etc. Analysis of the explanations led Piaget to characterize the young child's thought as fundamentally pre- causal. He wrote, "Immediacy of relations and absence of intermediaries . . . are the two outstanding features of causality around the age of four- five" (Piaget, 1980:2681. Piaget's conclusion that a concern for mechanism is completely lacking in the preschooler is contradicted by several later lines of experimental
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CHANGING VIEWS OF COGNITIVE COMPETENCE IN THE YOUNG 197 the children's competence in the familiar format. Having practiced familiar questioning rituals, the teachers were then able to introduce the unfamiliar known-answer routines with great success. Another case of easing the transition to formal schooling, by capitalizing on the children's strengths rather than exposing their weaknesses, is the remarkable gains in reading achievement shown by Native Hawaiian (Polynesian) children after reading lessons were set in the context of a familiar Hawaiian interactive game, "talk-story" (Au, 19801. Another successful intervention ploy is to lessen the gap between informal and formal learning settings. As we have seen, natural tutoring involves modeling on the part of the teacher and a gradual transfer of responsibility to the novices when and if they are ready to take control of their own learning. Instructional routines that mimic natural tutoring sessions are proving quite successful. For example, junior high school "passive" learn- ers with depressed reading comprehension scores were moved from tradi- tional instruction to a reciprocal teaching environment based on theories of natural tutoring. In reciprocal teaching, students of varying levels of com- petence and an adult teacher take turns "being the teacher," that is, leading a dialogue on a segment of text they are jointly attempting to understand and remember. The teacher responsible for a particular segment of text leads the ensuing dialogue by stating the gist in his or her own words, posing a question, clarifying any misunderstandings, and predicting what might happen next. All of these activities are part of a natural dialogue between the adult teacher and students. If a student has difficulty with any component of the dialogue, the teacher provides modeling and feedback at the student's current level, gradually leading each student to independent competence. Examples of such gradual transfer of responsibility can be found in Palincsar and Brown (1984~. Reciprocal teaching is based on certain central principles of effective learning: (1) the teacher models the desired comprehension activities, thereby making underlying processes overt, explicit, and concrete; (2) the teacher demonstrates the activities in appropriate contexts, not as isolated decon- textualized skills; (3) the students are fully informed of the need for strategic intervention and the range of utility of a particular strategy; (4) the students see immediately that the use of strategies works for them; (5) the respon- sibility for the comprehension activities is transferred to the students as soon as they can take charge of their own learning; (6) this transfer of responsibility is gradual, presenting students with a comfortable challenge; and (7) feedback is tailored to the students' existing levels, encouraging them to progress one more step toward competence. The reciprocal teaching procedure involves continuous trial and error on the part of the student, coupled with continuous adjustment on the part of
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198 ROCHEL GELMAN and ANN L. BROWN the teacher to the student's current competence. Through interactions with the supportive teacher and their more knowledgeable peers, the students are led to perform at an increasingly more mature level; some- times this progress is fast, sometimes slow, but, irrespective of the rate, the teacher provides an opportunity for the students to respond at a slightly challenging level. As the students master one level of involvement, the teacher increases his demands so that the students are gradually called upon to adopt the adult role fully and independently. The teacher then fades into the background as the students take charge of their own learning from texts. The results of the reciprocal teaching intervention with junior high school- ers were dramatic. The students improved their ability to clarify, predict, summarize, and ask questions. Consider the quality of the summaries; these seventh-grade students initially produced summaries ranked inadequate even by the standards set by fifth graders. At the end of two weeks of daily reciprocal teaching sessions, they were able to produce quite acceptable inventions, i.e., summaries, in their own words, of the gist of a particular dialogue. A predominance of inventions characterizes the untrained sum- marization performance of college freshmen (Brown and Day, 19831. Thus, guided instruction had taken these failing seventh graders to a level of competence far beyond that typical for their peers. Furthermore, they also became able to assume the role of teacher, producing their own questions and summaries and evaluating those of others. In addition, there were significant improvements in independent performance on laboratory, class- room, and standardized tests of comprehension. But perhaps more impor- tantly, the children's feelings of personal competence and control improved dramatically. Allowed to take charge of the dialogues, and even tutor less advanced students, these "failing" students increased their courage as well as their purely cognitive skills. Success bred positive expectations from teachers and improved students' personal "efficacy," i.e., the confidence to employ active learning strategies in the belief that they will work. It is important to note that mimicking natural tutoring styles has proved a successful instructional technique in areas other than reading: listening comprehension (Brown and Palincsar, in press), writing (Applebee and Langer, 1983; Scardamalia, 1984), storytelling (McNamee, 1981), studying (Frase and Schwartz, 1976), and problem solving (Bloom and Broder, 1950) have all responded well to reciprocal instruction strategies. In addition, it is not only teachers who can serve as the agent of change but also mothers (Ninio and Bruner, 1978; S. axe et al., 1984; Scollon, 1976; Wertsch, 1979), peers (Bloom and Broder, 1950; Whimbey and Lochhead, 1982), and even somewhat intelligent computer tutors (Brown et al., 1982; Heller and Hun- gate, 1984; Lesgold and Reif, 19831. The concept of expert scaffolding,
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CHANGING VIEWS OF COGNITIVE COMPETENCEIN THE YOUNG 199 the gradually guided transfer of learning responsibility from an expert to a novice, has wide applicability as an instructional philosophy. Summary Recognition of children's natural competence, both in terms of strategic rules and knowledge, is having a profound effect on instructional theory. Structured instruction, however, is necessary for the child to go beyond imprecise, and sometimes erroneous, implicit theories and to acquire the precise, explicit theories that constitute formal knowledge. Through the intervention of certain forms of formal schooling, children are turned into routine school experts (Hatano, 1982), able to perform, more and more efficiently, the procedures taught and practiced in schools. One problem, however, is that routine expertise can lead to the acquisition of "inert knowledge" (Whitehead, 1916), acquired by rote learning and practice but rarely used flexibly and creatively. Educational systems that promote adaptive expertise (Hatano, 1982), whereby students come to un- derstand, challenge, and flexibly apply their knowledge, depend on main- taining the active thirst for knowledge that the preschool child brings initially into settings of formal education. The more we learn about the knowledge structures that children bring to school and the instructional practices that foster their natural proclivities to build and refine theories, the more able we will be to design instructional modes that promote adaptive expertise rather than the acquisition of inert knowledge. CONCLUSION In this chapter we have concentrated on an apparent paradox concerning the cognitive competence of children. Recent research with infants and very young children suggests that they know far more about their world initially, and develop this understanding more rapidly, than was previously supposed. However, topical consternation over the putatively increasing incompetence of school-aged children in academic settings stands in sharp contrast to these claims of early ingenuity. In the first part of the chapter, we discussed the necessity of granting complex cognitive structures to the young human mind. This breaking away from an empiricist account of human thought took its impetus from sweeping changes in psychological theory pioneered notably by Chomsky, the Gib- sons, and Piaget. Buttressing these theoretical claims is a body of contem- porary research gleaned from a variety of ingenious techniques that make it increasingly feasible to interrogate infants. The outcome of a painstaking
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200 ROCHEL GELMAN and ANN L. BROWN set of inquiries is a window through which we can view the young child's cognitive world, a window that is only beginning to open. We now know that infants are sensitive to certain principles of movement early in life; that they garner multisensory and multimodal information about the nature of objects; that they endow objects with properties of rigidity and solidity; and that they possess rudimentary theories of categories, recog- nizing properties of sets of nonidentical objects, including numerosity, a property of sets divorced from any description of the objects themselves. Implicit principles of causality, numerosity, etc. guide the development of such knowledge at a rapid pace during the preschool years, a time during which children are busily engaged in exploring their environment. Char- acterized as "tireless explorers," they invent primitive but serviceable comprehension, learning, and memory strategies, and create and test con- tinously evolving theories to breathe meaning into their physical and social world. The pace of this development seems to slow down during the school years, but this may be because children's competence is increasingly viewed in the light of their performance on academic tests. Learning in schools differs from natural learning in that others are in charge of what must be learned, others control the timetable, and students must develop interest and skill in learning for learning's sake so that they can intentionally set about acquiring large bodies of decontextualized knowledge. In an increasingly complex and rapidly changing technological society, more than ever before, students must be equipped to acquire new infor- mation, critically evaluate it, and adapt to its implications. They must learn to waive their imprecise theories in favor of the precise, explicit, more encompassing theories that constitute formal knowledge. Profound theory change of this magnitude comes at a cost that many may be reluctant to pay without a supportive academic environment. In the latter part of We chapter, we discussed innovative pedagogical procedures that serve to main- tain and bolster the child's natural curiosity and theory-building capacities. In the exploitation of such techniques lies hope for solving the paradox of early competence and later academic crisis. REFERENCES Applebee, A.N., and Langer, J.A. 1983 Instructional scaffolding: reading and writing as natural language activities. Language Arts 60:168- 175. Aslin, R.N., Pisoni, D.B., and Jusczyk, P.W. 1983 Auditory development and speech perception in infancy. In M.M. Haith and J.C. Campos, eds., Handbook of Child Psychology. Vol. 2. Infancy and Developmental Psychobiology. New York: John Wiley and Sons.
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