Jean Piaget (1896-1980) was a biologist who originally studiedmolluscs (publishing twenty scientific papers on them by thetime he was 21) but moved into the study of the developmentof childrens understanding, through observing them andtalking and listening to them while they worked on exercises heset.His view of how childrens minds work and develop has beenenormously influential, particularly in educational theory. Hisparticular insight was the role of maturation (simply growing up)in childrens increasing capacity to understand their world: theycannot undertake certain tasks until they are psychologicallymature enough to do so. His research has spawned a greatdeal more, much of which has undermined the detail of hisown, but like many other original investigators, his importancecomes from his overall vision.
He proposed that childrens thinking does not develop entirelysmoothly: instead, there are certain points at which it "takes off"and moves into completely new areas and capabilities. He sawthese transitions as taking place at about 18 months, 7 yearsand 11 or 12 years. This has been taken to mean that beforethese ages children are not capable (no matter how bright) ofunderstanding things in certain ways, and has been used as thebasis for scheduling the school curriculum. Whether or notshould be the case is a different matter.From his observation of children, Piaget understood thatchildren were creating ideas. They were not limited to receivingknowledge from parents or teachers; they actively constructedtheir own knowledge.
Piagets work provides the foundation on which constructionisttheories are based. Constructionists believe that knowledge isconstructed and learning occurs when children createproducts or artifacts. They assert that learners are more likely tobe engaged in learning when these artifacts are personallyrelevant and meaningful. In studying the cognitivedevelopment of children and adolescents, Piaget identifiedfour major stages: sensorimotor, preoperational, concreteoperational and formal operational. Piaget believed allchildren pass through these phases to advance to the nextlevel of cognitive development. In each stage, childrendemonstrate new intellectual abilities and increasingly complexunderstanding of the world. Stages cannot be "skipped";intellectual development always follows this sequence. Theages at which children progress through the stages areaverages--they vary with the environment and background ofindividual children. At any given time a child may exhibitbehaviors characteristic of more than one stage.
StagesSensori-motor (Birth-2 yrs)Differentiates self from objectsRecognizes self as agent of action and begins to act intentionally: e.g. pulls astring to set mobile in motion or shakes a rattle to make a noiseAchieves object permanence: realizes that things continue to exist even whenno longer present to the sense (pace Bishop Berkeley)Pre-operational (2-7 years)Learns to use language and to represent objects by images and wordsThinking is still egocentric: has difficulty taking the viewpoint of othersClassifies objects by a single feature: e.g. groups together all the red blocksregardless of shape or all the square blocks regardless of colourConcrete operational (7-11 years)Can think logically about objects and eventsAchieves conservation of number (age 6), mass (age 7), and weight (age 9)Classifies objects according to several features and can order them in seriesalong a single dimension such as size.Formal operational (11 years and up)Can think logically about abstract propositions and test hypothesessystematicallyBecomes concerned with the hypothetical, the future, and ideologicalproblems
Piaget’s Stages of Cognitive DevelopmentSensory Motor Period (0 – 24 months)Stage-Age Characteristic BehaviorReflexive Stage Simple reflex activity such as grasping, sucking.(0-2 months) Reflexive behaviors occur in stereotypedPrimary Circular Reactions(2-4 months) repetition such as opening and closing fingers repetitively. Repetition of change actions to reproduceSecondary Circular Reactions interesting consequences such as kicking one’s(4-8 months) feet to more a mobile suspended over the crib. Responses become coordinated into more complex sequences. Actions take on anCoordination of Secondary Reactions “intentional” character such as the infant(8-12 months) reaches behind a screen to obtain a hidden object. Discovery of new ways to produce the sameTertiary Circular Reactions consequence or obtain the same goal such as(12-18 months) the infant may pull a pillow toward him in an attempt to get a toy resting on it.Invention of New Means Through Mental Evidence of an internal representational system.Combination Symbolizing the problem-solving sequence(18-24 months) before actually responding. Deferred imitation.
The Preoperational Period (2-7 years)Stage-Age Characteristic Behavior Increased use of verbal representation but speech is egocentric. Beginnings of symbolic rather than simplePreoperational Phase motor play. Transductive reasoning. Can think about(2-4 years) something without the object being present by use of language. Speech becomes more social, less egocentric. The child has an intuitive grasp of logical concepts in some areas. However, there is still a tendency to focus attention on one aspect of an object while ignoring others. Concepts formed are crude and irreversible. Easy to believe inIntuitive Phase magical increase, decrease, disappearance. Reality not(4-7 years) firm. Perceptions dominate judgment.In moral-ethical realm, the child is not able to show principles underlying best behavior. Rules of a game not develop, only uses simple do’s and don’ts imposed by authority.
Piaget’s Stages of Cognitive DevelopmentPeriod of Formal Operations (12 years and onwards)Characteristic Behavior:Thought becomes more abstract, incorporating the principles offormal logic. The ability to generate abstract propositions, multiplehypotheses and their possible outcomes is evident. Thinking becomesless tied to concrete reality.Formal logical systems can be acquired. Can handle proportions,algebraic manipulation, other purely abstract processes. If a + b = xthen a = x – b. If ma/ca = IQ = 1.00 then Ma = CA.Prepositional logic, as-if and if-then steps. Can use aids such as axiomsto transcend human
Piaget’s Stages of Cognitive DevelopmentPeriod of Concrete Operations (7-12 years)Characteristic Behavior:Evidence for organized, logical thought. There is the ability to performmultiple classification tasks, order objects in a logical sequence, andcomprehend the principle of conservation. thinking becomes lesstransductive and less egocentric. The child is capable of concreteproblem-solving.Some reversibility now possible (quantities moved can be restoredsuch as in arithmetic:3+4 = 7 and 7-4 = 3, etc.)Class logic-finding bases to sort unlike objects into logical groupswhere previously it was on superficial perceived attribute such ascolor. Categorical labels such as “number” or animal” now available.
Piagets Key IdeasAdaptation What it says: adapting to the world throughassimilation and accommodationAssimilation The process by which a person takesmaterial into their mind from the environment, whichmay mean changing the evidence of their senses tomake it fit.Accommodation The difference made to ones mind orconcepts by the process of assimilation.Note that assimilation and accommodation gotogether: you cant have one without the other.Classification The ability to group objects together onthe basis of common features.Class Inclusion The understanding, more advancedthan simple classification, that some classes or sets ofobjects are also sub-sets of a larger class. (E.g. there is aclass of objects called dogs. There is also a class calledanimals. But all dogs are also animals, so the class ofanimals includes that of dogs)
Conservation The realisation that objects or sets of objectsstay the same even when they are changed about or madeto look different.Decentration The ability to move away from one system ofclassification to another one as appropriate.Egocentrism The belief that you are the centre of theuniverse and everything revolves around you: thecorresponding inability to see the world as someone elsedoes and adapt to it. Not moral "selfishness", just an earlystage of psychological development.Operation The process of working something out in yourhead. Young children (in the sensorimotor and pre-operational stages) have to act, and try things out in the realworld, to work things out (like count on fingers): older childrenand adults can do more in their heads.Schema (or scheme) The representation in the mind of a setof perceptions, ideas, and/or actions, which go together.Stage A period in a childs development in which he or she iscapable of understanding some things but not others