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Jean Piaget was a Swiss psychologist and genetic epistemologist most famous for his theory of cognitive development, which examines how children develop intellectually throughout childhood. Piaget believed that the way children think is fundamentally different from the way adults think. This theory was pretty groundbreaking at the time as, before Piaget, people often thought of children as 'mini adults'.
Epistemology is a branch of philosophy that examines the nature, origin, and limitations of human knowledge. It is often referred to as 'the theory of knowledge'. Genetic epistemology is mainly interested in the origins of human knowledge and was established by Piaget in the 1950s.
Piaget's theory was influential in the field of language acquisition and helped to directly link language learning with intellectual development. Piaget suggested that language and cognitive skills are directly related, and that stronger language skills lead to stronger cognitive skills. Additionally, Piaget's theory of cognitive development remains influential in language teaching today.
In 1936, Piaget was the first psychologist to undertake a systematic study on children's cognitive development. His findings, alongside his theory of cognitive development, played a significant role in establishing developmental psychology.
Developmental psychology is a branch of psychology concerned with the changes in cognitive, motivational, psychophysiological, and social functioning that occur during a lifetime.
Thanks to his groundbreaking work and contributions to the field of education, Piaget is also considered the pioneer of the Constructivist theory, otherwise known as Constructivism.
Constructivism states that learners are active in their learning process rather than passive and actively construct their knowledge of the world based on their own experiences, interactions, ideas, and previous understandings of the world.
|Name||Jean-William Fritz Piaget|
|Born||August 9th, 1896 - Switzerland.|
|Died||September 16th, 1980 - Switzerland.|
Piaget began his career in Zoology and published several articles on molluscs by the time he was just 15 years old! However, after completing his PhD in Zoology and Philosophy, Piaget became increasingly interested in Psychology and Epistemology.
In the 1920s, Piaget began working at the Binet Institute, where he helped develop intelligence tests. Here, Piaget showed an interest in the incorrect answers that children gave and noticed that children got the questions wrong when they required more logical thinking. He believed these incorrect answers highlighted important differences between how adults and children think and perceive the world.
It was Piaget's observations of his own children that served as a basis for many of his theories, and he went on to write over 50 books and monographs on the development of children.
The principal goal of education in the schools should be creating [men and women] who are capable of doing new things, not simply repeating what other generations have done.
(Jean Piaget, The Origins of Intelligence in Children, 1953) ¹
Piaget's theory of cognitive development revolves around the central idea that intelligence changes as children grow. Piaget believed that cognitive development occurs as a child's mind evolves through a series of set stages until they reach adulthood. Piaget named these 'the four stages of cognitive development'.
Piaget's four stages of cognitive development are laid out in the table below:
Birth to 18-24 months
2 to 7 years
Concrete operational stage
7 to 11 years
Formal operational stage
Ages 12 and up
Let's take a look at each of these stages in a little more detail:
At this stage, children will learn predominantly through sensory experiences and manipulating objects. The main goal of this stage is gaining object permanence - recognising that objects still exist, even when they cannot be seen.
At this stage, children begin to develop symbolic thought and are able to create an internal representation of the world via language and mental imagery. Children are not yet able to think logically and have a very egocentric view of the world.
During this stage, children begin to think more logically about concrete events and solve problems. Thinking is still very literal at this stage.
The final stage of cognitive development involves increased logical thought and the beginning of the ability to understand more abstract and theoretical concepts. Teenagers will begin to think more about philosophical, ethical, and political ideas that require a deeper theoretical understanding.
Piaget stated that no stage can be missed out during cognitive development. However, the rate at which children develop may vary, and some individuals never reach the final stage. Dasen (1994), for example, found that only one in three adults ever reach the final stage.²
Piaget believed that knowledge could not simply emerge from an experience; instead, an existing structure is necessary to help make sense of the world. He believed that children are born with a primary mental structure upon which all new knowledge can be built. He suggested that cognitive mental growth is achieved by integrating simpler concepts of knowledge into higher-level concepts at each stage of development. Piaget named these concepts of knowledge schemas.
It is helpful to think of schemas as building blocks that children use to build their mental representation of the world. Piaget saw children as constantly creating and recreating their model of reality based upon these schemas.
A child can build a schema for cats. At first, they will see a singular cat, hear the word 'cat', and associate the two. However, the term 'cat' will eventually become associated with all cats over time. While the schema for cats is still in the developmental stages, the child may accidentally associate all small four-legged furry friends with the word 'cat'.
In relation to language acquisition, Piaget suggested that children can only use certain linguistic structures once they already have an understanding of the concepts involved.
Piaget argued that a child cannot use the past tense until they have understood the concept of the past.
Language is how we as humans learn new ideas and share our thoughts and feelings, and is arguably an essential part of cognitive development.
Piaget suggested that some schemas are built-in from birth ( inbuilt schemas ); however, most are learned ( learned schemas ).
The suckling or grabbing reflex that all babies have from birth is an inbuilt schema.
The 'script' we use when ordering food in a restaurant is a learned schema.
Although highly influential, Piaget's work has been met with some criticism.
Firstly, Vygotsky and Bruner, cognitive development theorists, note that Piaget's work fails to account for social settings and culture. Both Bruner and Vygotsky place a lot more emphasis on a child's social environment than Piaget ever did and state that adults should play an active role in the development of children's cognitive ability and language acquisition.
Secondly, Vygotsky and Bruner reject the idea of cognitive development happening in stages and prefer to view development as one big continuous process.
Finally, Piaget's data collection methods of observation and clinical interviews are open to bias and fail to distinguish between competence (what a child can do) and performance (what a child is willing to do under observation).
¹ Jean Piaget, The Origins of Intelligence in Children , 1953.
² P. Dasen, ' Culture and cognitive development from a Piagetian perspective.' Psychology and culture . 1994
Jean Piaget was a Swiss psychologist and genetic epistemologist most famous for his theory of cognitive development. Piaget is also considered the pioneer of developmental psychology, constructivism, and genetic epistemology.
Piaget was most famous for his work on cognitive development. His theory was groundbreaking as he was the first to suggest that children's intelligence differs from that of adults. Piaget stated that cognitive development occurs as a child's mind evolves through a series of set stages until they reach adulthood.
According to Piaget, intelligence changes as children grow. Piaget believed that cognitive development occurs as a result of innate capabilities and environmental events as a child's mind evolves through a series of set stages until they reach adulthood. The four stages of cognitive development are the sensorimotor stage, the preoperational stage, the concrete operational stage, and the formal operational stage.
True or false, Piaget believed that children thought differently to adults?
True. Piaget believed that the way children think is fundamentally different to the way adults think.
Piaget was the pioneer of which type of psychology?
What are the four stages of cognitive development according to Piaget?
The sensorimotor stage, the preoperational stage, the concrete operational stage, and the formal operational stage.
Piaget believed that children build their own construction of reality based upon categories of knowledge. What did he name these categories of knowledge?
Bruner and Vygotsky stated that Piaget failed to acknowledge what in his theory of cognitive development?
Social setting and culture.
True or false, Piaget believed that children are passive in their learning?
False. He believed that children are active in constructing knowledge.
Piaget was a psychologist and what else?
A genetic epistemologist.
Piaget was a psychologist and what else?
A genetic epistemologist.
True or false, Piaget is considered the pioneer of constructivism?
What is constructivism?
Constructivism is a theory that suggests learners are active in their learning process rather than passive. Constructivists believe that individuals actively construct their knowledge of the world based on their own experiences, interactions, ideas, and previous understandings of the world.
According to Piaget, how is cognitive mental growth achieved?
Piaget suggested that cognitive mental growth is achieved by integrating simpler concepts of knowledge into higher-level concepts at each stage of development. Piaget named these concepts of knowledge schemas.
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