In this article we will discuss about the Jean Piaget’s theory of cognitive development of a child.
Jean Piaget (1896-1980), a Swiss Biologist is regarded as one of the Pioneers in Psychological investigation of children although he neither undertook format study nor passed any examination in psychology. At an early age of 22, he obtained his Doctorate degree in Zoology on Mollusks of Vlios.
In 1920, he associated himself with the Binet Testing Laboratory in Paris. By observing, dissecting and experimenting with children, he developed his educational theory regarding cognitive development or learning by children. Piaget began his study of child development with the observation of his own three children. From this beginning, his investigations were gradually extended to other children.
1. The Language of Thought of the Child, (1923).
2. Judgement and Reasoning in the Child, (1924).
3. The Child’s Conception of the Physical World, (1926).
4. The Moral Judgement of the Child, (1932).
5. The Origin of Intelligence in the Child, (1937).
6. The Child’s Conception of Number (1941).
7. The Child’s Conception of Time (1946).
8. The Child’s Conception of Space (1948).
9. The Psychology of Intelligence (1950).
10. Logic and Psychology (1953).
11. The Early Growth of Logic in the Child (1964).
12. The Mechanism of Perception (1969).
13. The Psychology of the Child (1969).
14. Science of Education and the Psychology of the child (1969).
15. The Grasp of Consciousness (1976).
Piaget’s Work on Cognitive Development:
Piaget introduced four concepts for formulation of his theory. These are as follows:
(i) Schemes (Cognitive Structures):
The initial cognitive structure of infants is supposed to incorporate only those cognitive abilities or potentials which help them to do such acts such as look, reach out or grasp. Piaget named these abilities or potentials as schem as. Piaget called ‘Schemas’ as cognitive structures or the patterns of behaviour that children and adults use in dealing with objects in their environment. As the development proceeds, each pattern enlarges and changes. It is coordinated with other patterns to form more complex patterns. The various schemas with their contents form the basic structure of the human mind.
Assimilation refers to a kind of matching between the already existing cognitive structures and the environmental needs as they arise. It implies incorporation of something from the environment. When a child is engaged in sucking, there is a certain pattern of movements of the cheeks, lips and hands. When a child is confronted with a new object, he tries to understand the new object by applying his old schema to it.
It involves modification or change of some elements of an old schema or learning a new schema which is more appropriate for the new object. A baby who has already got a schema of sucking mother’s breast accommodates to the object placed in the mouth-finger, nipple, pencil, a toy- depending on its shape, form and the size. Thus, the baby develops a new Schema or a modified Schema, called, ‘Accommodation’.
The Schemas or the structures change from one stage to another by the process of equilibration-maintaining balance between the child and his changing environment. Piaget asserted that the process of assimilation or accommodation helps the organism to adjust or maintain a harmonious relationship between himself and his environment. The process of restoring balance is called equilibration. According to Piaget learning depends on ‘Equilibration’.
Stages of Child (Intellectual) Development:
Piaget traced the initiation of human cognitive development in terms of biologically inherited ways of interacting with the environment.
He divided the stages of cognitive development of the child into the following five categories:
1. Sensori-Motor stage (from Birth to 2 years)
2. Pre-conceptual stage (2 to 4 years)
3. Intuitive stage (4 to 7 years)
4. Concrete operation stage (7 to 11 years)
5. Formal operations stage (11 to adolescence).
1. Sensori-Motor Stage:
This stage is marked by sensation. Simple learning occurs but the child doesn’t think at this stage. This stage covers the period from birth to two years. These early sensori-motor experiences of the child have a great bearing on the development of his later intellectual abilities.
In the early part of this stage, the children seem to identify objects by their names and put them into certain classes. However they usually make mistakes in this process of identification and concept formation. By the end of two years, the child develops the concept which is characterised by relationship among objects and between objects and his own body.
2. Pre-conceptual Stage:
The child develops ways of representing events and objects through symbols, including verbal symbols of language. This stage is roughly between two years and four years. By imitation and other forms of behaviour, the child demonstrates that he is capable of extending his world beyond here and there. These actions of the child indicate the use of symbols. The child at this stage is concerned with his egocentric nature i.e., Primarily concerned himself.
3. Intuitive Stage:
In this stage the reason of the child is not logical and is based on intuition rather than systematic logic. The intuitive thought is Primarily concerned with static conditions but the child is able to use concepts as stable generalization of his past and present experiences. This stage covers the age of four to eight years.
4. Concrete Operation Stage:
At this stage a child is concerned with the integration and stability of his cognitive system. The stage of development is usually between the age of six and eleven or 12 years. The child develops logical operations from simple associations. He learns to add, subtract, multiply and divide. He is in a position to classify concrete objects. These operations are called concrete because they relate directly to objects. These operations do not involve abstract thinking.
5. Formal Operations Stage:
At this stage the thought process of the child becomes quite systematic and reasonably well integrated. The child is in a position to free himself from the concrete operations related directly to objects and to groups. This stage is roughly from 12 years to adolescence.
Educational Implications of Piaget’s Cognitive Theory of Development:
1. A teacher should arouse curiosity of the child through planned activities.
2. Children learn quickly and efficiently if concrete materials are provided to them.
3. The theory provides a broad development perspective to the educator for building a curriculum for the children.
4. The theory states that the child is to be actively involved in the teaching learning process for his intellectual growth.
5. A child should be helped to develop internal consistency of the system.
6. Variety of cognitive activities like story-telling, rhymes, singing etc. are included in the programme in a systematic manner.
7. Teaching learning situation should be geared to a point where the child is neither too familiar nor too unfamiliar with the objects and ideas.
8. Educational programme should enable the child to integrate the information.
9. Real events and concrete object play an important role in learning.
10. A child’s development is retarded if he is not allowed a fairly wide sensory and motor experience in his early years.
11. In mathematics and science, learning from physical environment is more important than what is learnt from, books people or television.
12. Most of the activities of the Piaget type require simple equipment and material.