Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Differentiating instruction on the basis of cognitive tools: A case study of honors and mainstream middle school classes
by Learn, David T., Ph.D., Capella University, 2012, 136; 3503090
Abstract (Summary)

The idea that humans think by means of mental modules that evolved for various and possibly unrelated reasons is the basis of cognitive tool theory. Beginning with the work of Vygotsky and Luria in the early 20th century, much evidence has accumulated showing that the specific natures of these modules are dependent upon cultural factors. This implies that differences in student academic performance may be affected by cultural environment, and not only by genetic capability, biological conditions, learning style preferences, or second language ability. To effectively educate all students in the classroom, level of tool development should be determined, and mediation should be offered for under-developed tools. Although cognitive tool theory is not emphasized in most teacher training programs, Egan suggested that some teachers may employ it without realizing they are doing so, simply as a result of their experiences with what works in the classroom. This case study attempted to identify methods of such employment by exploring differences in the use and development of various cognitive tools between seventh grade mainstream and accelerated classes of a single representative teacher, using tools suggested by Egan as a starting point. It was found that only a few of Egan's tools were considered by the teacher participant in planned differentiations, but that two other cognitive tools, focused attention and deliberate memory, were the dominant cause of both student differences and teacher differentiations. These tools were described by Vygotsky, and much work has been done by Feuerstein, Kozulin, and others, to identify specific methods of improving them. This study's observations supported the premise of variation in development of cognitive tools among students, as well as the low priority such development is given in current public education.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Cleghorn, Dana
Commitee: Haas, Nancy, Horgen, Jerold
School: Capella University
Department: School of Education
School Location: United States -- Minnesota
Source: DAI-A 73/08(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Middle School education, Educational psychology
Keywords: Cognitive tools, Culture, Differentiated instruction, Egan, Kieran, Feuerstein, Reuven, Honors
Publication Number: 3503090
ISBN: 978-1-267-26551-7
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