Development of the Thinking Powers in Children

Sister Wilfrid McMahon, Fordham University


The child does not attain general truths and laws at one great stride of thought. He gets a very imperfect concept of a class at first, only a glimpse of the truth or law, and must wait for further experience to perfect his knowledge. His first inductions are only partial generalizations. He must act on his imperfect knowledge and test his conclusions by applying them. Miller in his "Psychology of Thinking" asks, "What can the elementary school do in the matter of training the child to think, and how can it do it? If the child is to be trained to think he must be given opportunity to consciously adjust means to ends. But the emphasis must fall upon those types of situation in which ends are results, that are definitely related to processes from which they spring. All the manual training and industrial activities are, from this point of view, especially valuable as furnishing the right sort of problems. The child will ultimately come to the appreciation of principles and laws themselves. In nature study also, it is easy to correlate cause and effect in a multitude of simple situations." Speaking of the child, he says: "His training in, thinking should begin with a pretty concrete consciousness of results and the means to secure them; from which should be gradually developed a more generalized sense of the relation between means and ends. The child in the grades should be so trained, that before he leaves, he has acquired the habit of not taking things as mere brute facts, but of thinking of them as having a back ground, a setting, a context, as being the result of certain conditions and causes, as belonging to some system or other, and as finding their explanation in some set of relationships within a larger whole. Give the practical interest of the child full and free satisfaction, and you furnish a dynamic basis for the development and rapid expansion of the reflective interest which is more characteristic of adolescence."

Subject Area

Developmental psychology|Educational psychology|Education|Cognitive psychology

Recommended Citation

McMahon, Sister Wilfrid, "Development of the Thinking Powers in Children" (1926). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI29281876.