Piaget’s Theory of Cognitive Development Essay Sample

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• Swiss psychologist who studied cognitive development
• Felt that younger children think differently than older children and adults
• Developed the most influential theory of intellectual development

How do children learn?
• According to Piaget, children actively construct knowledge as they manipulate and explore their world
– Use and form SCHEMAS through a process of Adaptation and Organization
– SCHEMA: an organized way of making sense of experience/ categories or ways of thinking

• Building schemas through direct interaction with environment
• Assimilation: use current schemas to interpret external world
• Accommodation: create new schemas or adjust old ones First try to assimilate, then accommodate

• Internal way of rearranging schemas and linking them with other schemas

4 Stages of Cognitive Development
• Sensorimotor stage: birth-2yrs.
• Preoperational stage: 2-7 yrs.
• Concrete Operational stage: 7-11 yrs.
• Formal Operational stage: 12- adulthood

Sensorimotor Stage
• Children experience the world through senses and actions
• The child is working on 2 activities:
– Sensation
– Movement
– “Think” with eyes, ears, hands etc.

Infants are working on mastering their bodies and movements. Then they work on goal directed behavior.

Object Permanence

• Objects are not permanent to infants at this stage. Once something is out of vision, it no longer exists.

Stranger anxiety

• At the end of the stage, children begin to represent the world around them with language.
• They also have a sense of self recognition that allows them to begin to imitate and play.

Preoperational Stage
Children represent things with words and images, but lack logical reasoning. Make believe play is a way to practice/strengthen schemas.
Stage is dominated by egocentrism and centration

• World only exists in term of himself/herself.
• Children are unable to see things from someone else’s point of view.

• Children also display animistic thinking.

Children do not understand…
• Reversibility: that a relationship that goes in one direction can go in the other direction too.
• Conservation: you can change some of an object’s characteristics while keeping others the same.
• Due to CENTRATION: children focus only on 1 aspect of a situation
• Types: mass, area, length, number, gender, volume

Children do not understand…
• Hierarchical Classification: cannot organize objects into classes and subclasses on the basis of similarities and differences.

Concrete Operational Stage
• Ages 7-11 years
• Children are thinking logically about concrete events and can grasp concrete analogies and perform arithmetical operations.
– However, thinking is extremely concrete and “Black and White.”
– Children are “rule followers” at this stage

Concrete Operational Children are capable of:
• Seeing something from someone else’s point of view.
• Conservation
• Reversibility
• Classification
• Seriation

Formal Operational Stage
• Ages 12 through adulthood
• Children are capable of abstract reasoning and forming a hypothesis.
• Piaget argued that there are varying degrees of this.

Piaget’s Strengths
• Changed early education for children
• Convinced people that children are active learners capable of thought

Piaget’s Limitations
• Underestimated children’s abilities.
• Described children in terms of what they can’t do.
• Tests used items unfamiliar to the children
• Didn’t account for culture and social interactions enough

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