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Masters in Educational Practice: Child and adolescent development 0-19


Cognitive development


How does understanding about the brain relate to learning?

Think about the processes you are using to read this topic – this involves using several cognitive tasks simultaneously including:

  • recognising the pattern of lines on each page to form letters and words
  • memory and knowledge to derive meaning and link words together
  • attention to the task at hand and blocking external interference
  • decision-making – whether to stay reading the page or not!

There have been a number of models proposed to try and understand this complex relationship between behaviour (what we do) and cognition (thinking process). Morton and Frith (1994) describe a model that demonstrates the interaction and how brain processes, thinking processes and learning behaviour are affected by environmental factors.

The figure below describes the Morton and Frith Model as it applies to Autism (Morton & Frith, 1995).

Figure 1: The Morton and Frith Model as it applies to Autism (Morton, J & Frith, U 1995)

‘Casual modelling: a structured approach to developmental psychology’. In: Cicchetti D & Cohen D. (eds) Manual of Developmental Psychopathology. Willey, New York.

This model moved away from a purely behavioural presentation in the way we learn. It considers the complex interaction (2-way) between biological, cognitive and behavioural levels and additionally the effect of the environment on development. In some conditions we understand more about one level than another so far.

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