Concept formation and cognitive development

  • David Fontana
Part of the Psychology for Professional Groups book series (PPG)


The ability to think clearly and sensibly, which involves being able to follow a line of reasoning, to grasp concepts and to initiate lines of enquiry oneself, is obviously central to children’s educational progress. No matter what subject is being studied, failure to understand what is required, or to identify and tackle the problems it involves, are obvious barriers to any real progress. Although they are fully aware of this, some teachers are unclear of the level of thinking (or cognition) they can reasonably expect of a child at a given age. Much educational failure, indeed, stems from the fact that forms of thinking are demanded that children are incapable of supplying.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Baillargeon, R. (1987) Object permanence in 3 1/2-and 4 1/2-month-old infants. Developmental Psychology, 23, 644–55.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Beilin, H. (1992) Piaget’s enduring contribution to developmental psychology. Developmental Psychology, 28, 191–204.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Butterworth, G. (1994) Infancy. In A.M. Coleman (Ed.) Companion Encyclopedia of Psychology, Vol. 2. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  4. Bryant, P.E. and Trabasso, T. (1971) Transitive inferences and memory in young children. Nature, 232, 456–58.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Case, R. (1985) Intellectual Development: A systematic reinterpretation. New York: Academic Press.Google Scholar
  6. Coleman, J.C. and Hendry, L. (1990) The Nature of Adolescence, 2nd edn. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  7. Donaldson, M. (1986) Children’s Minds, 2nd edn. London: Fontana.Google Scholar
  8. Gellatly, A. (1985) Development of Thought. In A. Branthwaite and A. Rogers (Eds) Children Growing Up. Milton Keynes: Open University Press.Google Scholar
  9. Keil, F.C. (1989) Concepts, Minds and Cognitive Development. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.Google Scholar
  10. Klahr, D. (1982) Nonmonotone assessment of monotone development: an information processing analysis. In S. Strauss (Ed.) U-Shaped Behavioural Growth. New York: Academic Press.Google Scholar
  11. Kozulin, A. (1990) Vygotsky’s Psychology. Brighton: Harvester.Google Scholar
  12. Mandler, J. (1983) Representation. In P.H. Massen (Ed.) Handbook of Child Psychology, VoL 3. New York: Wiley.Google Scholar
  13. Piaget, J. (1952) The Origins of Intelligence in Children. New York: International Universities Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Piaget, J. and Inhelder, B. (1969) The Psychology of the Child. New York: Basic Books.Google Scholar
  15. Povey, R. and Hill, E. (1975) Can pre-school children form concepts? Educational Research, 17, 180–92.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Sylva, K. and Lunt, I. (1985) Child Development: A first course. Oxford: Basil Blackwell.Google Scholar
  17. Turner, J. (1984) Cognitive Development and Education. London: Methuen.Google Scholar
  18. Vygotsky, L.S. (1978) Mind in Society: The development of higher psychological processes. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  19. Vygotsky, L.S. (1986) Thought and Language. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar

Additional reading

  1. Branthwaite, A. and Rogers, D. (Eds) (1985) Children Growing Up. Milton Keynes: Open University Press. Reviews by expert authors of children’s cognitive, social, personal and biological growth. Strongly recommended (also recommended for Chapter 2).Google Scholar
  2. Bruner, J., Goodnow, J. and Austin, G. (1956) A Study of Thinking. New York: Wiley. Bruner is easily tackkd through his own writings, since he presents his ideas clearly and engagingly (and see Chapter 7 for other references to his work). This book deals particularly with cognitve development. (Also recommended for Chapter 8).Google Scholar
  3. Flavell, J.H. (1985) Cognitive Development 2nd edn. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall. An excellent survey of the whok field, including the work of Jean Pioget.Google Scholar
  4. Gelman, R. and Galistel, C.R. (1986) The Child’s Understanding of Number Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press. A comprehensive examination of the field concerned, with due regard to Piagetian concepts.Google Scholar
  5. Inhelder, B. and Piaget, J. (1958) The Growth of Logical Thinking from Childhood to Adolescence. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul. A classic text tluJt provides a comprehensive outline of Piaget’s ideas on cognitive development for the non-specilllist.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Meadows, S. (1993) The Child as Thinker: The Acquisition and Development of Cognition in Children. London: Routledge. One of the most readable and up-to-date surveys of the whole field of cognitive growth.Google Scholar
  7. Modgil, C. and Modgil, S. (1984) The development of thinking and reasoning. In D. Fontana (Ed.) The Education of the young Child 2nd edn. Oxford: Basil Blackwell. Comprehenswe resumé of the work of Piaget and of Bruner.Google Scholar
  8. Modgil, S. and Modgil, C. (Eds) (1982) Jean Piaget: Consensus and Controversy. London: Holt Rinehart & Winston.Google Scholar
  9. Modgil, S., Modgil, C. and Brown, G. (Eds.) (1983) Jean Piaget: An interdisciplinary critique. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul.Google Scholar
  10. Mussen, P.H., Conger, JJ. and Kagan, J. (1984) Child Development and Personality 6th edn. New York: Harper & Row. The chapters on cognitive development and allied topics, like the rest of the book, are first class. (Alro recommended for Chapter 1).Google Scholar
  11. Piaget, J. (1983) Piaget’s theory. In P.H. Mussen (Ed.) Handbook of Child Psychology Vol. 3. New York: Wiley. Piaget’s final statement on the nature and implications of his work.Google Scholar
  12. Sutherland, P. (1992) Cognitive Development Today: Piaget and his Critics. London: Paul Chapman. An excellent overview for teachers of current approaches to cognition. Highly recommended.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Tizard, B. and Hughes, M. (1984) Young Children Learning. London: Fontana. A highly informative summary of the authors’ own research which supports the view that Piaget underestimated the thinking capacities of young children.Google Scholar
  14. Vygotsky, L. (1962) Thought and Language. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press. Sets out his own ideas fuflly, but not an easy book for newcomers to the field.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© David Fontana 1995

Authors and Affiliations

  • David Fontana
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.University of Wales College of CardiffUK
  2. 2.University of MinhoPortugal

Personalised recommendations