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MEP learning pack

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


Cognitive development


The brain – what are the roles of different parts of the brain?

As a teacher it is useful to understand basic anatomy and how this relates to cognition. Due to the advancement of science, today neuroscience, genetics and biochemistry further our knowledge and understanding of cognitive development. Neuroscience is teaching us much more about how the brain works by adopting new techniques such as Magneto encephalography (MEG), which maps brain activity by recording magnetic fields and Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), which measures brain activity by detecting associated changes in blood flow. Knowledge from genetics and biochemistry assists with our understanding of cognitive development and confirms that this is not a process that is completed during the early years of life but continues through adolescence and beyond. (For more information refer to ‘Topic 8 – Changing teens and changing brains’.) Additionally the brain has the capacity to ‘rewire’ or ‘reroute’ throughout life – this neuroplasticity (where changes in neural pathways and synapses occur because of changes in behaviour) can be seen in stroke patients for example.


Cognition: cognition is the acquisition, storage, transformation and use of knowledge (Matlin, 2009).

Cognitive development: cognitive development is expressed as a process where ‘children actively construct knowledge as they manipulate and explore their world’.


For more information about the brain watch the following YouTube clip:

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How do specific areas of the brain work?

  • The Frontal Lobe is associated with reasoning, planning, parts of speech, movement, emotions, and problem-solving.
  • The Parietal Lobe is associated with movement, orientation, recognition and perception of stimuli.
  • The Occipital Lobe is associated with visual processing.
  • The Temporal Lobe is associated with perception and recognition of auditory stimuli, memory, and speech.

However the brain is a bit like the M25! Activity constantly occurs between one area of the brain and another. No area of the brain functions in isolation. If damage occurs then ‘rerouting’ can happen – a bit like in a traffic jam where you may see alternative routes.

This is important when understanding that no action or learning takes place in isolation. Consider a child reading a book, for example; they are holding the book, sitting on a chair, listening to the world around them, trying to focus and follow the words on the page and understand the text.  This requires several different parts of the brain to be activated at once.

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