Aarhus University (AU) in Denmark publishes booklets on diverse topics under the rubric Reflections, written by experts, yet in a common language aiming for the general public to read. In 2014, two booklets in this series were translated into English, (1) Trust by G. T. Svendsen, Professor and trust expert at AU, and (2) Positive Psychology by Hans Henrik Knoop, Associate Professor at AU and President of the European Network for Positive Psychology. Continue reading G.T. Svendsen, Trust – Reflections 1 & H.H. Knoop, Positive Psychology – Reflections 2 (Aarhus: Aarhus University Press, 2014)
This book counts 10 chapters and a preface and it is framed by the preface and the tenth chapter. Throughout the preface, the reader is “scaffolded” into the complex and dense text to come, as a relaxed yet vivid and clear explanation of the main content of the consequent nine chapters is presented. Both a novice and an expert may truly find this introduction useful since it allows them, as they pass through the book, to repeatedly go back to the preface and regain their track in case they lost it in the midst of the rich information. The tenth chapter then concludes the massive gathering of research of the previous chapters and gives the reader a delightful feeling of eventually getting the grasp of this powerful area of research.
The first chapter introduces the history of neo-piagetian research on cognitive development and stresses among other things both its similarities and dissimilarities as compared to the original theory of Piaget. Thus, one can find congruence with Piaget, since adapting to the constructivist view continues, and dissonance with Piaget as neo-piagetians argue that the improvement of processing information, including the importance of working memory skills rather than logical properties, count for growth and development of cognitive capacity. Chapters two trough nine explain distinct, yet somewhat similar, neo-piagetian theories such as those developed by Pascual-Leone (Ch 2), Halford, Chapman and Demetriou (Ch 3), Siegler (Ch 4), and Fischer and Case (Ch 5 and 6). As well as explaining in detail the different theories, specific topics and their relation to neo-piagetian research are intertwined with theoretical discussion. These topics are of importance to any scientist interested in cognition, as well as those who apply any evidence-based information within the area, such as teachers, psychologists and medical professionals to name a few. The first topic, also the most elementary or fundamental, is the act of problem-solving in children (Ch 4). Another topic, maybe just as old within the field as the problem-solving topic, yet probably less discussed, is the intertwining of cognitive and emotional development, including personality development (Ch 8). Applications of research-based knowledge are important to teachers in particular, since they conduct and are in charge of educational plans (Ch 9). Where inclusive school policy is practiced, and each student is supposed to get his or her educational needs met, the teacher gets support from the constructivist approach in making all individualised educational plans that are needed. Furthermore, psychological and educational tests that are necessary to detect students’ capacity in order to underpin individualised education programs, especially if students are believed to have special needs (gifted or handicapped) are obviously based on research on problem-solving, capacity of working-memory load, working speed and other aspects of mental or cognitive ability. Hence, future progress for both psychological testing of cognitive capacity and educational planning relies on and follows the footsteps of research on cognitive development.
As it has been indicated earlier in this review, the text of this book was to some extent overwhelmingly complex. Had it not been for the sake of the preface in the beginning of the reading and for the excellent conclusion (Ch 10) in the end, the reader might easily have given up over and over throughout the book. Again, since the information provided in the book is invaluable, it would be a shame if readers let it down. A few pictures from real life here and there and some more constructivism in practice (applied constructivism) visible on the pages from one chapter to another, and the reader might embrace and incorporate the educational message of this book. However, in spite of these shortages, I highly recommend this book on cognitive development as a course book for post-graduate students at least within the area of education and psychology.