Jean Piaget’s Theory of Cognitive Development in Children

Jean Piaget's Theory of Cognitive Development

Jean Piaget’s Theory of Cognitive Development

The cognitive development of the child has been studied by Jean Piaget, a renowned psychologist from Switzerland, after earning a PhD degree in Zoology at the age of 22, he tried to find a connection between biology and the process of acquiring knowledge. He studied the organism how the organism acquires knowledge in a purely human context? Piaget raised many important questions in the context of cognitive development such as – How the development of symbols in children? How language and thought come through contact? How the process of cognitive development develops.

While explaining cognitive development, Piaget has said that cognition is the knowledge of the creature which is acquired by coming into contact with the environment. This type of knowledge involves many types of actions.

Processes involved in cognitive development: –

1. Schema: – Piaget says that schema is the patterns of behaviour that children use in their actions along with physical objects. The schemas can be simple, such as the pattern of behaviour of a child when he knows how to capture an object that is within his reach. The schema can also be complex as the student learns to solve difficult math problems. Schema can be both physical and cognitive. It is physical when the task is to hold an object or to ride a bicycle. It can be cognitive when the problem is light or learning concepts. Babies learn about objects using the schema that they have developed themselves.

2. Assimilation: –
The concept that memories have used to assimilate is when the child uses the previously learned schema on a new object. Such as – Schema can be biting from the teeth, tossing, or rolling. Basically, assimilation is the process of incorporating a new object or event into the current schema. But it is necessary that the object or event to be included can be employed in the presented schema. For example, if a small child finds a new object that he has never seen but is similar to a known object, he will use a schema that has developed earlier, such as tossing, catching, biting etc.

3. Accommodation: – The accommodation gives the message to make changes to the current schema so that it can incorporate new things into itself. Many times the current schema does not work. For example – If a child is given a glass bottle and he bangs it on the floor according to the old schema, then the bottle is broken but while throwing stones, there was a sound. Thus, instead of listening to the sound, the child will face an outcome which he did not expect (the bottle breaks). In this case, the child can bring changes in the schema.

4. Equilibrium: – When the established schema cannot handle a completely new state, then according to Piaget, a state of imbalance arises between what is understood and what is presented. In such a situation, the person tries to reduce the imbalance. It is done by focusing its full attention on the stimuli that have created the imbalance and creating a new schema or changes the old schema to the extent that the imbalance goes away. This is the process of bringing equilibrium.

Levels of cognitive development: –

Jean Piaget has proposed a four-stage theory to explain cognitive development in the child. Those four states are as follows:-

1. Sensorimotor stage (0-2 years)

This condition lasts for 2 years after birth. Among other actions in infants at this stage, physically moving things around, trying to identify things, catching something and often putting it in the mouth to study, etc. are prominent. Apart from this, one has to acquire knowledge through sensorimotor means and with the help of other muscles, knowledge is to be obtained and with their help, the knowledge is revealed.

In that stage cognitive development passes through the following 6 stages: –

  • Stage of reflex actions – (0-1) months
  • Stage of Primary circular reactions – (1-4) months
  • Stage of Secondary circular reactions – (4-8) months
  • Stage of Coordination of reactions – (8-12) months
  • Tertiary Circular reactions – (12-18) months
  • Stage of Problem-solving (18-24) months

2. Pre-operational Stage (2-7 years)

The pre-interactive stage is divided into two parts: –

(a) Pre-conceptual thinking (2-4 years): –

This condition lasts for 2 to 4 years. The Pre-conceptual period is a period of change. In this state, the concept is ​​formed based on previous experiences. It is also called the initial stage or elementary stage. In this initial stage, the child begins to identify objects by name. But it sometimes makes errors in recognition such as he begins to consider all men of his father’s age as his father. Through the construction and simulation of these concepts, they learn from their elders. And at this stage, the child’s thinking becomes so imaginary that he becomes far away from the truth. This type of situation is often seen in sports.

(b) Intuitive Thinking (4-7 years):-

This period is from 4 to 7 years. In this period, children’s thinking and reasoning become more mature than before. As a result, he can do simple mental processes which are involved in addition, subtraction, fold, division etc. but he cannot understand the hidden rules behind mental processes. Intuitive thinking is thus a thought in which there is no systematic argument. There is also a flaw of the intuitive thinking in Piaget’s theory, and that is, a child of this age does not have a reversible quality. Like a child can understand that 2 x 2 = 4 but 4 ÷ 2 = 2 could not be understood how it happened.

Some unique features of the Pre-operational stage are as follows:

  • Egocentrism: Piaget identified the egocentric mentality of pre-op children. At the Preoperational stage, children cannot put themselves in the perspective of someone else. Consider a child watching a cartoon show on television, the child does not think of others whether the rest of the people like the show or not, the child just thinks of himself and not others. This is ego-centrism. Piaget also pointed out that ego-centrism is not selfishness, it is the limitation of the child in the pre-operational stage. Egocentrism vanishes as the child gets older.
  • Inability to reverse operation:A pre-operational child will not be able to understand that numbers or objects can be changed and then returned to their original state. For Example – The child cannot understand that if 2×5 = 10 then 5×2 is also 10.
  • Animism: Animism is a belief that inanimate objects are capable of actions and have lifelike qualities. For example – the child believes that his teddy bear is like him and provides it with food.

3. Concrete operational or pre-operative stage (7-12 years)

This stage starts from 7 years and lasts up to 12 years. The speciality of this stage is that the child easily solves the problem by performing mental operations based on concrete objects. But if those objects are not shown to them and by making a literal statement about the object, if the problem is presented, then they are unable to reach any conclusion by doing mental operations on such problems. For example, if they are given 3 items A, B, C, then looking at them, they will easily tell which of them is bigger. But when it is said in a literal statement, he is not able to give a correct answer about it.

Five important theories develop in children of this stage: –

  • Decentering – When the child can derive logical solutions to the concrete problem by considering multiple aspects of the given problem.
  • Reversibility – A concrete operational child will be able to understand that numbers or objects can be changed then returned to their original state. For Example – The child can easily understand that if 2×5 = 10 then 5×2 is also 10.
  • Conservation – The ability of the child to understand the length, number or quantity of object is unrelated to the arrangement of the object.
  • Classification – The children can classify objects according to their shape, size, colour, appearance or other characteristics. For example – If the child is given a playing card deck then the child can classify and separate the cards according to the shape(Spades, Hearts, Diamonds and Clubs) and colour(Red and Black).
  • Serialization – The ability to sort objects according to their shape, size, volume or other characteristics.

4. Formal operational stage

This stage starts from 11 years and lasts until the adult stage. In this stage, teenagers thinking is more flexible and effective. There is complete serialization in his thinking. Now they can solve a problem by thinking hypothetically and can concentrate on a problem. At this stage, the object doesn’t need to be concretely present in front of the child to solve the problem. In this way, the role of objective and reality increases in the thinking of teenagers.

Some unique features of the Formal operational stage are as follows:

  • Hypothetical reasoning: Hypothetical reasoning is the ability to simulate a situation or aspect that is not present in front of them and they have no direct experience of it.
  • Analogical reasoning: Analogical reasoning is the ability to relate things. For instance, they can compare time with a flowing river, i.e. using metaphors and similies.
  • Deductive reasoning: Deductive reasoning is to make a logically definite conclusion from one or more arguments (assumptions). An example of deductive reasoning is – An animal has 4 legs and a table has also four legs but the table is not an animal because it is not a living being.
  • Reflective abilities: The ability to systematically produce all potential solutions to a problem with their previous experience and incorporate them through analysis.

Educational implications of Piaget’s Theory of Cognitive Development

  1. Piaget has described the role of the student child in his theory as very active and important. This facilitates the teachers to prepare especially keeping an eye on the need, motivation and interest of the learners while preparing the syllabus.
  2. Piaget’s theory clearly states that defects like animism and autism occur in children. This enables the teacher to prepare his teaching work in such a way that the learners get rid of such defects as soon as possible.
  3. Piaget’s theory of cognitive development also gives a clear indication that the cognitive development of children in Concrete operational Stage is of such a level that they can solve conservation and classification problems. So at this stage i.e. at the age of 7 to 12 years, if the teacher increases these complex mental operations then their level of intellectual development increases very fast and the basic purpose of education i.e. to create a personality that is cognitive, inventive and to be analytical is complete in itself.
  4. Piaget’s theory of cognitive development has led to a feeling among teachers that to increase the level of formal operative thinking in teenagers, it is mandatory to give a higher level of education to him. It is clearly stated in Piaget’s theory that the Formal operational thinking of the child is directly affected by the level of education.
  5. Piaget’s theory of cognitive development clearly instructs teachers that they can help the learners to develop a new understanding and suggestion through their own actions. This means that the teacher should not excessively help the learner because by doing so they do not develop the qualities like self-interest in them that prove to be an obstacle in cognitive development.

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