THE NATURE OF THE INFORMATION-PROCESSING APPROACH
Information-processing approach: A cognitive approach in which children manipulate information, monitor it and strategic about it. Central to this approach are the cognitive process of memory and thinking.
Children attend to information being presented and tinker with it. They develop strategies for remembering. They form concepts. They reason and solve problems.
Information, Memory, and Thinking
The information-processing approach emphasizes that children manipulate information, monitor it and strategic about it. Central to this approach are the processes of memory and thinking. According to the information-processing approach, children develop a gradually increasing capacity for processing information, which allows them to acquire increasingly complex knowledge and skills.
Some information-processing approaches have stronger constructivist leanings than others. Those that do have a constructivist bent see teachers as cognitive guides for academic tasks and children as learners who are trying to make sense of these tasks. Information-processing approaches that emphasize a more passive child who simply memorizes information provided by the environment are not constructivist.
Behaviorism and its associative model of learning was a dominant force in psychology until the 1950s and 1960s, when many psychologists began to acknowledge that they could not explain children's learning without referring to mental processes such as memory and thinking.
Robert Siegler described three main characteristics of the information-processing approach: thinking, change mechanisms, and self-modification.
Thinking In Siegler's view, thinking is information processing. In this regard, Siegler provides a broad perspective on thinking. He says that when children perceive, encode, represent, and store information from the world, they are engaging in thinking. Siegler believes that thinking is highly flexible, which allows individuals to adapt and adjust to many changes in circumstances, task requirements, and goals. However, there are some limits on the human's remarkable thinking abilities. Individuals can pay attention to only a limited amount of information at any one moment, and there are limits on how fast we can process information. Later in the chapter we will explore children's powers of attention.
Change Mechanisms Siegler argues that in information processing the main focus should be on the role of mechanisms of change in development. He believes that four main mechanisms work together to create changes in children's cognitive skills; encoding, automatization. strategy construction, and generalization (Siegler & Alibali, 2005).
Encoding is the process by which information gets into memory. Siegler states that a key aspect of solving problems is to encode the relevant information and ignore the irrelevant parts. Because it often takes time and effort to construct new strategies, children must practice them in order to eventually execute them automatically and maximize their effectiveness. The term automaticity refers to the ability to process information with little or no effort. With age and experience, information processing becomes increasingly automatic on many tasks, allowing children to detect new connections among ideas and events that they otherwise would miss (Kail, 2002).
The third change mechanism is strategy construction, which involves the discovery of new procedures for processing information. Siegler (2001) says that children need to encode key information about a problem and coordinate the information with relevant prior knowledge to solve the problem.
To fully benefit from a newly constructed strategy, generalization is needed. Children need to generalize, or apply the strategy to other problems. In chapter 9, we will discuss generalization under the topic of transfer of learning. Transfer occurs when the child applies previous experiences and knowledge to learning or problem solving in a new situation.
Self-Modification The contemporary information-processing approach argues that, as in Piaget's theory of cognitive development, children play an active role in their development. They use knowledge and strategies that they have learned in previous circumstances to adapt their responses to a new learning situation. In this manner, children build newer and more sophisticated responses from prior knowledge and strategies. The imparlance oi self-modification in processing information is exemplified in metacognition, which means cognition about cognition, or "knowing about knowing". We will study metacognition in the final section of this chapter and especially will emphasize how students* self-awareness can enable them to adapt and manage their strategies during problem solving and thinking