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Child Case Study

For my Child Case Study project I conducted several activities with an eight-
year old boy named Cole (pseudonym). The interview was conducted on November
12, 2015 at G.E.T. elementary school in an empty classroom. I removed Cole to
participate in these activities during a free-play time in his class.

Part 1: Cognitive Development

Task 1:
To determine whether Cole is in the preoperational stage of cognitive
development, I conducted three different exercises based on the idea of
conservation. Each of these exercises focused on one of the following areas of
conservation: Liquid, Mass, and Area.

The first of the exercises I set up for Cole was to investigate his
understanding of Liquid conservation. I began by filling 2 tall clear glasses with milk.
Both Cole and I agreed that the two cups contain the same amount of milk. Then, as
Cold watched, I poured the milk from one of the glasses into a shallow baking pan. I
asked Cole which he believed to have more milk inside, the glass or the pan. Cole
stated that he thinks they both have the same amount of milk. When I asked why, he
laughed and replied that I just poured it from the cup, so he knows its the same
amount of milk. This experiment suggests that Cole is not in the Preoperational
stage of Piagets theory of development, but has moved on the Concrete Operational
The second exercise I devised to expose more information about Coles
cognitive development involved testing his comprehension of Area. I used small
blocks for this exercise. I began by first arranging the blocks in an outline of a
square, then filling the inside area with blocks as well. Next I counted the number of
blocks this construction required. I used the same amount of blocks to construct a
rectangle instead of a square. Though this experiment seems like it may be testing
volume, it was really more of a one-dimensional experiment, because I only used
one block for the height. A similar picture could be drawn on paper, but the blocks
interested Cole more. I instructed Cole to look at both the shapes and determine
which is bigger. At first, he said the long rectangle was bigger. In response, I
requested that he count the number of blocks. Cole counted number of the blocks
comprising both of my structures. He then answered that they both have 10 blocks,
and that means they are the same size. The results of this exercise show that Cole
does have an understanding of area, but may still be transitioning between
preoperational and concrete operational. He did not initially think to count the
blocks, but when I suggested, Cole understood that the same amount of material
could be used to make different shapes.

The last exercise I devised assessed Coles grasp on the concept of

conservation when related to Mass. I used a small foam ball and a small steel ball.
First, I asked which he thinks is heavier. He responded that he thinks the steel ball
will be heavier, because foam is very light. I instructed Cole to hold the foam ball in
one hand, and the small ball in the other. Then I asked him which one is heavier. He
said that he was right, and that the ball is heavier. This results of the activity show
that Cole understands that two objects of the same size can have a different mass.

Task 2:

After completing these investigations, I conducted an activity to assess Coles

abilities in seriation. I used straws cut into different lengths as the tools for
completing this activity. We began with five straws. I told Cole to put the straws in
order of length. He started by spreading all the straws out on the table so he could
see them. He grabbed the biggest one, and then searched for the next smallest. He
continued this process for all five of the straws. Cole finished the first five in about
five minutes, and they were all correct when he asked me to check. I added in the
rest of the five straws, and he was able to order all of them from largest to smallest.
Cole began having difficulty distinguishing the differences when I added in the
eighth straw, but he was able to correct all of his own mistakes before asking me to

Task 3:

The next test was also the skill known as transitivity, which is part of the
preoperational stage of Piagets theory of development. The first commonality he
noticed was the color. He looked for one color at a time, starting with red. Then he
wanted to sort by object type. Again, he looked for one object at a time. Overall, I
believe he does understand transitivity, which is in his age range.
List of materials introduced: Red crayon, Red bouncy ball, Red marble, red pencil,
red eraser, red pen, blue crayon, blue bouncy ball, blue marble, blue pencil, blue
eraser, blue pen, yellow crayon, yellow bouncy ball, yellow marble, yellow pencil,
yellow eraser, yellow pen
Sort #1 Color 1.Red crayon, Red bouncy ball, Red marble, red
pencil, red eraser, red pen,
2. blue crayon, blue bouncy ball, blue marble, blue
pencil, blue eraser, blue pen
3. yellow crayon, yellow bouncy ball, yellow marble,
yellow pencil, yellow eraser, yellow pen
Sort #2 Object type 1.(crayons) yellow crayon, blue crayon, red crayon
2. (bouncy balls) blue bouncy ball, red bouncy ball,
yellow bouncy ball
3. (marbles) red marble, blue marble, yellow marble
4. (pencils) Red pencil, blue pencil, yellow pencil
5. (erasers) red eraser, blue eraser, yellow eraser
6. (pens) red pen, blue pen, yellow pen.
Sort #3 Object use 1.(toys) Red bouncy ball, Red marble, blue bouncy
ball, blue marble, yellow bouncy ball, yellow marble
2. (Writing Utensils) Red Crayon, red pencil, red
eraser, red pen, blue pencil, blue eraser, blue pen,
Blue crayon, yellow pencil, yellow eraser, yellow
pen, yellow crayon

Task 4:
Inferred reality is a developmental trait of concrete operational children.
This means they are able to understand things in the context of other meanings. For
this case study, I created two tasks for Cole to determine if he can respond to
inferred reality. For the first of these tasks, I provided a toy car and a magnifying
glass. At first, I told Cole to look at the car without the magnifying glass. Then I told
him to view it through the magnifying glass. I asked him if the car got bigger, or if it
was still small. Cole responded that the car is still the same, it just looks larger
through the magnifying glass. The second task I created was using old 3D movie
glasses. The glasses have one blue lens and one red. I instructed Cole to put them on
and observe all of his surroundings. Then I asked him what color my hair is. He told
me it is brown , even though it would look blue and red through the glasses. Cole
seemed to operate using inferred reality, because he knew the true nature of the
objects based on what he had seen before it was altered.

I also tested Cole to get an idea of his understanding of abstract. I did this by
asking him questions. When I was finished asking questions, I concluded that Cole is
in the stage of concrete thinking. I believe this because he doesnt seem to
understand be able to answer questions like Why do we have seasons. When I
asked this question, he responded by telling me seasons occur because it gets cold
and hot. He was not able to tell me about the revolution of the planets around the
sun. I also asked him, if your dogs fur was sharp, would you still pet him? Cole
answered that question by stating his dogs fur is not sharp. This illustrates that he
cannot think abstractly about hypothetical situations. He knows from prior
experience that the dogs fur is not sharp, and Cole is not able to envision a
circumstance where it is not.

Part 2: Physical Development

Task 1:

For this case study I observed Cole participating in three different large-
motor activities. The first was a simple game of catch. I threw the ball to him, and he
back to me. The ball was relatively small, just a little larger than my hand. I noticed
that he did not seem to struggle with this activity. We threw the ball back and forth
20 times, and he caught the ball 19 out of the twenty. Cole was also very successful
in throwing the ball back to me. Out of the 20 times we threw the ball back and
forth, the ball went right to me (or very close) for seventeen of the twenty. The
second activity was jumping with both feet together. Cole struggled with this
activity more than the catch. He understood that I was asking him to jump with both
feet together, but could not seem to keep them together while actually completing
the task. When he was attempting to jump, he had a tendency to put his right foot
first instead of keeping them both together and jumping with both feet. After eleven
attempts at this exercise, Cole was able to jump with both feet mostly together. On
the twelfth attempt, Coles legs stayed together, with only a slight inclination to land
on his right foot. The final large motor activity I conducted with Cole was skipping. I
demonstrated skipping, and explained it in words as well. When it came time for
Cole to actually participate in the skipping, he began galloping. I observed him for
about 30 seconds, and then I stopped him. Again, I attempted to explain and
demonstrate skipping. I requested that Cole resume skipping, and he began
galloping once more. Overall, his movements did not seem choppy or rough.
However, they are not necessarily smooth either. It seemed he had good control
over his movements, but at times did not understand what I was asking of him. In
the jumping activity I believe he understood the task, but could not physically keep
his feet together as well as I could.

Task 2:

I assessed Coles use of scissors by providing 4 different shapes for him to cut
out. The first observation I made is that his left hand is dominant. He held the scissor
with his left hand. The scissor was specifically made for children who are left hand
dominant, so this was not difficult for him. First I gave him a square to cut out. He
did not cut out the square by rotating the scissor around the corner. Instead, he cut
the entire side of the paper through the segment that created each side of the
square. The next shape I provided was a circle. He succeeded at cutting fairly close
to the line, but the cuts were very choppy, small lines instead of one smooth, curved
cut. The third shape Cole cut out was a hexagon. He did not attempt to use the
method he employed for cutting the square. Rather, he did attempt to rotate the
scissor at each vertex of the hexagon. This method caused him to rip some of the
edges, but he did finish cutting out the hexagon. The last shape I instructed that Cole
cut out was a concave polygon. He used the same method for this shape as he did for
the hexagon. Cole finished cutting out the concave polygon as well, but it was ripped
in several locations. Generally, he had a good grip of the scissors. He did struggle
somewhat with maneuvering the scissors around turns in the shape, once he had
already begun cutting into the paper. He also appeared to be rushing to finish the
cutting, as he was making very quick, jerky movements with the scissors.

Task 3:

Cole is a child who would be radicalized as white. He has brown hair and
brown eyes. He is 8 years old, and about 4.3 feet tall. When I was observing him, he
was wearing black sweatpants and a white hooded sweatshirt. His hair did not
appear to be greasy, and I did not notice any particular smell about him. Cole told
me that he takes a shower every other day. He said his mother washes his clothes
each time he wears them, except for his winter jacket and some sweatshirts. He has
some teeth missing, and he told me he lost them and that new teeth are growing.
Cole told me that he picks out his own clothes, not his mother. He seemed very eager
to tell me about himself. From this I conclude that he is not a shy child. He has not
started puberty yet. He likes to do things himself, but can accept help when

Part 3: Moral Development

Task 1:

To discover more about Coles moral development, I asked him a series of

questions about the rules in his classroom at school. First I asked him who created
the classroom rules. He told me the teacher made them. Then I asked if he always
follows the rules of the classroom. Cole answered that he does not always follow the
rules. I asked him why he does not follow the rules. He answered by stating that
sometimes he wants to do things that are against the rules, like go past the fence at
recess time. I asked him how he feels when he does not follow the rules. Cole
responded that he feels bad and wishes that he did not break the rule. Next, I asked
him if there were any other rules that he did not always follow. He said that
sometimes, when he gets angry, he hits other children in the classroom. Cole stated
that one of the classroom rules is to keep your hands to yourself. He told me that
he always feels sad and upset when he hits another child in the classroom. When I
asked him why he felt sad after hitting another child, Cole responded that he doesnt
like to get in trouble. He said he feels sad because the teacher is mad at him. When I
asked, Cole stated that breaking the classroom rules is wrong. He believes that
following the rules is the right thing to do.

Task 2:

After discussing what Cole believes to be right and wrong, I questioned him
about what he believes would be a good response to situations where he wants to
break the rules. He stated that he sometimes wants to hit a classmate when he is
angry. I asked him if he knew what a nice friend would do instead of hitting other
students. He said that he could go away from them and play with someone else until
he wasnt angry anymore. Cole also stated that he could use his words to tell his
friend they are upsetting him, instead of hitting the student. Then I asked him if he is
a nice person. Cole responded that he is a nice person. I asked him why he thinks he
is a nice person. He said that he always plays with everyone and doesnt bully other
children. I asked him what bullying is, and Cole answered that bullying is when he
doesnt play with everyone. He stated that a speaker came and presented about
bullying to the class. Last, I asked him if he likes school. He said that he does like
school. I asked him why he likes school. Cole said that he likes school because he can
see all of his friends and the teacher at school, and that he misses them when hes at
Part 4: Synthesis

Through this child case study I learned a great deal about the importance of

development in teaching. Before conducting this study I understood that child

development plays an important role in understanding children and their needs.

However, I was not familiar with all the different types of development, or the stages

that exist within each type. A greater understanding of cogitative development helps

me understand more clearly the needs of my students. This knowledge also helps

me in my current job. I work in a toddler classroom, and often find myself becoming

frustrated with the children. This case study helped me better understand that the

young students are in certain stages of development, and they are often not able to

understand why their actions are frustrating to the teacher.

I learned a lot about how to create activities to investigate student development.

I now know ways to keep the student more interested and engaged. My interactions

with Cole helped me alter my activities to be more interesting for the student while

still providing the information I needed. I think this skill will be very useful in my

classroom, because I can incorporate these activities into my day more successfully

and smoothly. If the children are interested, the activity will run much more


Before completing this assignment, I did not ever seriously consider the methods

I can use in my own classroom to investigate my students abilities. Now I am aware

of many ways to investigate my children, whether it is through observation or

planned activities. I plan to use this in my classroom when I am a teacher. I believe

many teachers do not investigate their own students enough, and consequently do
not have a clear understanding of how to teach the students. I believe that each year

and each class of students may have different needs, and that teachers can use the

theorists and stages I used in this study.

This study gave me a new appreciation of the complexity of each student. Often,

teachers generalize students for the sake of simplicity in the classroom. I believe this

is a significant problem. Each student has so many different aspects to who they are,

and this activity really reminded me that students have aspects of development that

are not even addressed in the traditional classroom. As a teacher, I will attempt to

address every type of development that students go through.

One of the main areas of development that I believe is often forgotten is moral

development. When I am a teacher I will focus on working to understand what stage

of moral development my students are in. This can help me better understand their

interactions and how to assist them in resolving conflicts. An example of this is

helping Cole understand choices like using his words or leaving the situation rather

than hitting a friend when he is angry.

Though I conducted this case study on a young child, I believe the same basic

principles will apply with older students as well. Though older students will likely

not be as interested the same games and toys as elementary students, I can use my

creativity to change them to work better with the older students. All ages of

students need to be engaged and interested in the activities, or the case study will

likely be unsuccessful. Overall, this child case study greatly impacts my teaching

philosophy. I believe I can use the knowledge I gained by conducting this study to

understand my students and work with them to help them further develop.