CAT4 Skills Development

Shows a young boy riding a bike through the park. Fundamental skills of balance, control, and strength are used.
Practice makes perfect

A cognitive skill or a physical skill like riding a bike is only difficult until you know how to do it. Children are experts at learning and the way they do this is one step at a time. They start with the foundations and then keep going until they finish building a house.

On the way of course they fall down, but there are key stages which once they have completed they won’t need to go back to except to refine. The persistence and determination of children is something which is truly amazing – as adults we are quick to give up but a child doesn’t until they take their first steps.

Foundational skills on which other talents continuously develop as a child grows – see CAT4 Assessment post for details. These skills are the skills that the CAT4 test attempt to measure. In the past assessments would only focus on knowledge but in the modern age problem solving and the ability to learn quickly are more important than being able to recall information which can just as easily be found by browsing the web.

Brain Function and Cognitive Growth

Shows illustrations of the brain as it develops over age.
Brain Development

The thinking skills that are developed come from the brain and the way in which it is being wired together – and this wiring is dependent on the stimulus and challenges the child faces and overcomes. Brain cells or neurons fire off in all directions and create millions of connections as they branch out and reach other neurons. These multitudes of connections – or neural pathways are basically communication paths synonymous to the internet where computers are able to communicate with any other computer connected to the network.

These neurons don’t touch rather they pass information through electrical impulses (or synapses) – so a system of electrical chemical processes allows are thoughts to form and our abilities to develop. The more we are exposed to a particular problem the more synapses and connections are made and reinforced and thus a child becomes gifted in a particular skill.

So to develop the Cognitive Abilities that are useful as we age and part of the CAT4 assessment – children need to be exposed to simpler but similar challenges and puzzles to help these pathways to develop. The brain is truly an amazing organ but as with any part of the body if it’s not used it falls into disarray. In the same children need to be exposed to different experiences to expand their awareness and understanding of the world around them.

Cognitive Skills

Diagram showing a breakdown of cognitive skills such as memory, brain process speed, problem solving, and attention - which are measured by tests like the CAT4.
Improving Cognitive Skills

Cognitive skills are enhanced by memory, speed, problem solving and attention. CAT4 tests evaluate specific skills, verbal, non-verbal, quantitative, spatial; but these are time constrained so if a student is unable to think quickly or solve problems or focus or remember similar scenarios they are highly unlikely to score highly. So the development of these attributes along with focusing on the different types of CAT4 tests is key to higher cognitive abilities. Simply having practiced similar tests is not enough but it does provide context which removes a degree of complexity which would otherwise potentially overwhelm a student when faced with an unfamiliar setting.

Nature or nurture – Why are some children smarter?

There is an age old debate over nature and nurture – now without going into too much detail not all brains process information the same way – some children have more “flexibility” in their structures and easily take in knew knowledge and setup new networks. Other children take a little longer to develop these abilities. One child may retain these abilities for longer even without using them while another may simply “drop” the unused skill (or network) after a short period. We are all different but we all have the ability to develop our skills at any age so even if a child is not scoring so well on tests – or on the CAT4 – there is nothing to say that without practice and patience abilities can’t be developed.

There are so many skills as an adult you think you know instinctively about how the world works but its very likely that you have been exposed to similar knowledge problems and patterns as you developed as a child. All the information we accumulate is useful knowledge and helps us process new situations based on past lessons. People accumulate all this useful knowledge through experience, so during childhood parents need to provide challenging scenarios to help their children develop the necessary foundational skills.

What do you think? Is it nature or is it nurture that determines abilities?