1. INFORMATION PROCESSING THEORY
According to Miller (2003), the information processing theory approach is the study involving cognitive development in psychology. Developmental psychologists who recognize and use the information processing perspective has it that mental maturity according to the changes that take place are as a result of the child’s basic components changing (Hetherington & Parke, 1999). This theory is based on the concept that human beings when they receive information, they process it rather than responding to stimuli.
This equates the human mind to a computer whereby the information processed is from the environment that enters the mind through the attention mechanisms. There is the working memory for manipulation of the information and the long term memory for holding the information for future use after the desired feedback is given. Thus the theory of the mechanism of the human brain relates and addresses how the children’s minds mature, to be able to process information in an advanced manner and respond to the information received by their senses.This theory emphasizes the continuous pattern of development.
In the model where human beings are viewed as computers, the comparisons of the two are used as a means of understanding the way information is processed by the human mind and stored. Computers were first introduced to the study of development and provided a new way of studying and understanding intelligence as explained by Lachman (1979) hence it has made greater understanding to the scientific study of the human mind (Goodwich,2005). In the model information is taken in or simply it is input. Then it is encoded through the processing system to give a meaning which is compared to the stored information. A good example is that one of the computer central processing unit, where the information is encoded, given a meaning and compared to the previously stored information to perform the task.
1.2 Four Pillars of the Information Processing Model
There are four pillars that underlay and support this model. These are; thinking which is a process that encompasses the activities of perception of external stimuli, encoding the information and storing the data perceived and encoded in the person’s mental recesses. Secondly there is the analysis of the stimuli which involves the alteration of the encoded stimuli to merge the cognition and interpretation process of the brain and enhance decision making. There are four sub-processes that form the alliance to enable the brain come to a conclusion concerning the encoded information it receives and stores. These four are; encoding, strategization, generalization and automatization.
Thirdly, there is the situational modification which is the process by which an individual uses his or her experience by a collection of memories that are stored to control a situation of the same manner in the future.In the cases whereby there are any differences in the two situations, the person is able to clarify the decisions they received during their previous experience to find out solutions for the different problem. Lastly there is the obstacle evaluation which enhances the maintenance of the subject’s one’s development level ad the type of the obstacle at hand that is always taken into consideration when evaluating the subject’s intellectual, problem solving and cognitive acumen. There are times that that misleading information can confuse the subject hence she or he may not be able to solve a problem at hand of the same manner that he or she was comfortably able to solve before and may show signs of confusion.
1.3 Structure of the Information Processing System
The standard information processing model has three major components. These are; sensory register, short-term memory (working memory) and the long term memory. The sensory system in its sensory store, receives and stores information of internal and external stimuli for a very short period of time. The information is held in the sensory register for a long time to allow unconscious processes to operate on the traces of the information and find out whether the input can be received into the working or thrown away. There is the short-term/working memory. This is also called the center of the unconscious thought that is usually equated to the analogous to the central processing unit of the computer. This where information from the long term memory and the environment are merged to solve the problem according to the required answer and come up with a solution. Nevertheless, this type of memory has a limited capacity to hold information, hence the explanation behind the reason why human beings are not able to solve many problems at the same time.
The information processing perspective puts it that for children as they grow up until age 15 years, their visual/verbal information working memory also increases hence the increasing high performance on fluid intelligence tests. This increased working memory capacity is due to the increased speed of processing whereby, a person at a very high speed, can carry out the information processing task. It is believed that the physical maturity of the brain that takes place during a child’s lifetime can cause processing speeds to be performed faster. The person’s ability to master numerous items in this memory at once is normally improved by this faster processing speed in the working memory (Psychology 2010).
The long-term memory store the information which involves the representations according to the knowledge of that person.This information remains dormant until any a time that is required in the working memory to be utilized to solve a problem at the present. This type of memory consists of explicit and implicit memory systems. For children they posses the implicit long-term memory which they are not able to account hence affecting their behavior.. There are also two classes of explicit memory; the semantic and the episodic memory. Children have the ability to actualize semantic memories so quickly to the speed they use to learn words hence enabling them to grasp vocabulary at a faster speed. On the other hand episodic memories come up at slow speed, tending to be there when children are able to give answers about their past experiences at the age of 3 years .
Many psychologists do believe that the episodic memories formulation in children increases in the entire child’s life from one stage to another. This can be explained by the increased maturation of the brain, normally the prefrontal lobes. Before the development of this theory, psychologists had problems in defining intelligence. According to information processing , intelligence is defined as the ability to process the cognitive information from the internal and external stimuli and come up with the desired answer or solution according to the information store in the long-term memory.
Lastly information processing theory uses both the elements of qualitative and quantitative development.Under qualitative development there are aspects of new plans of information to be stored and later released for future use,enhancement of of abilities such as the representation of concepts by the use of language, and obtaining rules that aid in problem solving.The quantitative development aspect on the other hand, has it that advancement in the level of the knowledge acquired is dependent on one’s ability to recall more items in the working memory (Miller 2011).
Constructivism is a learning theory and an approach to teaching emphasizes on how people denote meaning of the world through a chain of constructs that are self-developed. According to Glaserfeld (1989), constructivism ids a theory of knowledge that roots out in philosophy, psychology, and cybernetics. He stated that it is a learning process whereby a student is able to experience at first-hand an environment thereby giving the student knowledge that is trust-worthy. Reich., eds (2009) observed that, “constructivists do not look for copies or mirrorings of an outer reality in the human mind,” but see humans as people who observe things, participates and are agents that generate and transform actively the patterns that aid them come up with the realities that fit them.
The type of the learner is self-directed, innovative and creative. This type of education enables the learner to be creative and innovative through the steps of analyzing situation and concepts synthesis of experience acquired before to form new knowledge. For fifth grade science class, the educator’s work is to mentor the student during the problem solving process of hard problems by the use of questions that enhance the knowledge that the learner and allow for the formulation of new knowledge . The objective of this process of learning which is problem solving, cognitive knowledge, creativity and originality of the knowledge (Lombardi, 2011).
For social constructivism, it recognizes the uniqueness and how complex the learner is and also, encourages, uses and rewards it as an integral part of the process of learning (Wertsch 1997). It encourages the learner to get the version of truth that he or she understands that is usually influenced by the background, culture and how the student looks at the world. The instructors have to adapt and employ the role of being facilitators and not necessarily teachers. This is because of the tender age of the learners they deal with hence they have to help them in their own understanding of the content.
Problem solving in psychology is the state of desire to arrive at a specific goal from a condition at hand that is in the initial stage does not seem to be moving towards the goal and requires complex logic to find a missing explanation of conditions so as to arrive at the goal (Robertson 2001). According to Goldstein & Levin (1987), it has been defined as a cognitive process of the most complex of all intellectual functions that requires the control of more fundamental skills. Problem solving occurs when, from a given present condition , one is moving to a desired objective or goal, sate is required for an artificial intelligence system.
Problem solving is a process that is generated mentally and usually involves discovering, analyzing and coming up with solutions to problems. The best strategy for problem solving depends entirely on the uniqueness of the situation. For students in the fifth grade class, the instructor is expected to help them learn everything they can learn through the simple steps of identification through observation about the issue at hand and use the knowledge learnt so far to arrive at the desired goal. During teaching lessons, the instructor leads the students to the problems they cannot identify themselves due to their level of understanding and then help them come up with the solutions through some well constructed guidelines. The guidelines are supposed to be easy and understandable to the students.
The guidelines includes the simple steps which involves identifying the problem to help the students avoid identifying the wrong source of the problem. There is definition of the problem so that is can be fully solved. Strategies or plans on how the problem will be solved depending on the uniqueness of the situation and the preferences. Before the solution can be arrived at, the available information with regard to the problem is organized starting from the information that is known to that which is not known. The resources to be employed are allocated which can be money or time depending on the priority of the problem. The progress being made is to be monitored to ensure that the students are moving towards the desired goal and lastly, the results are evaluated either immediately or later to determine whether a solution has been arrived at.
3.0 Critical Thinking
Critical thinking is a reasonable, and reflective thinking that is aimed at making a decision of what to believe or what to do (Ennis 1987). According to Brookfield (2000), critical thinking is a vital learning component in most professions hence it is included as part of the formal education process and is used as a progress evaluation tool for students in the university before they graduate. Critical thinking makes goals clear, evaluates assumptions, tries to understand hidden values, examines the evidence, accomplishes actions and assesses conclusions.
Core critical thinking includes observation, interpretation, analysis, inference, evaluation, explanation and meta-cognition. It is all about one having the ability ad willingness to evaluate his or her own thinking. This is because one does not always have the relevant information, may not be able to discover other information or the information may not be known hence critical thinking is necessary. On the other hand, one’s thinking may be criticized due to it being sub-optimal disposition. Its focus is in studying and coming up with the habitual intention that is be truth seeking , confidence in reasoning , analytical and prudent in making judgements.
To allow students to engage in reflective problem solving and do thoughtfully make decisions, the teacher will have to help them consider the evidence by investigating it, do the judgement according to the context using the applicable methods or techniques for the judgement and the theories applicable for understanding the problem and solving the question at hand. Srrong critical thinking is associated with the reflective aspect of human reasoning whereby one reflects on every idea that led to the decision that was or has to be made. Consequently, it is recommended that greater reflection and deliberation to decision making have to engage in solving problems that require critical thinking. Critical thinking also employs logic which can be formal or informal depending on the complexity of the situation and more so intellectual criteria like; explanation that are clear, credible, accurate, precise, relevant, significant and broad.
There are mind habits that categorize people who strongly rely on critical thinking to have that inner desire to follow reason and evidence as long as they lead to a systematic approach to problem solving.it is observed that weak sense critical thinking results from people having intellectual skills alone without the intellectual traits of the mind. The two have to be intertwined for strong critical thinking that makes sense to result. Thus, critical thinking with no intellectual traits will often result in wise thoughts but they will manipulative, unethical and subjective.
4.0 Use of constructivism, problem solving and critical thinking in school
In schooling, constructivism, problem solving and critical thinking are beneficial not only to students but also to the community and the entire democracy at large. The students are able to construct in their own minds the basic ideas, principles, and theories that are sensible according to the context. These ideas, principles and theories are always formulated out of the ability to the student’s innovation and creativity and to think critically according to the information and come up with a solution to the problem at hand. This is the process of internalization.There is the use of the ideas, principles and theories by the students to become relevant learners in their lives a process called application. As good teacher it is important to cultivate intellectual application of all these three, constructivism, problem solving and critical thinking at every stage of learning including the initial stage of 5th grade class to enhance the intellectual develop[ment of the students.