Piagets Theory of Cognitive Development

23 Mar 2015

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Cognitive development theory can be explained as a continuous and systematic order through which mental process become more sophisticated and complex (Slavin, 2009). Cognitive development is an important part of children development. Piaget an erudite scholar of psychology in his research postulated four vital stages that are very gamine to the study of child developmental and intellectual skills.

All the details of Piaget's theory, findings, research, vis avis other theorist in this discipline will be evaluated. Issues related to the effectiveness and relevance of this theory will be looked into, light will be shed on the meaning as well as how this theory has impacted veritably into the academic leaning process of children and conclusion will be drawn based on general perceptions within the scope of this study.

Cognitive perspective is a sub division of psychology that deals with mental process, as well as how people think, learn and remember. As an integral part of the bigger aspect of the cognitive science, this part is equally connected to other fields such as the philosophy, linguistics and neuroscience.

The central main focus of cognitive psychology is underpinned by the systematic development of how people obtain and store information. Several practical applications have been research in this field, such as memory improvement methods, how to develop decision making accuracy and how to improve learning process via a restructured educational curriculum.

However, the development of human beings from a cognitive perspective has been thoroughly researched, as a result of this research; theorists have found out that it is not possible for children to understand the world they exist in not until they attain a specific stage of cognitive development. Cognitive development is the phenomenon whereby, the understanding of the world for any child changes by two determinant factors of age and experience. Cognitive development theories aimed to clarify both the qualitative and quantitative intellectual tendencies that arise in the course of human development.

It was once believed that infants lacked the ability to think or form complex ideas and remained without cognition until they learned language. It is now known that babies are aware of their surroundings and interested in exploration from the time they are born. From birth, babies begin to actively learn. They gather, sort, and process information from around them, using the data to develop perception and thinking skills.

This occurrence draws much attention to the way a person acquires, thinks and perceive of the world by the way of genetic reaction and some experience gained factors. Also, associated with cognitive development are, intelligence, information processing, language development, and reasoning. Jean Piaget did some erudite studies on how children think and how this ability develops as they grow older.


Apparently, Jean Piaget among his contemporaries stands to be the most well-known and influential theorist of cognitive development till date. A Swiss psychologist from 1896 to 1980. In 1952, Piaget's theory that evolved out of several numbers of numerous observations of children with his own inclusive was first published. This observation was carried out in a natural habitat as oppose to the laboratory experiment of the behaviourists. Although, he aimed at achieving the reaction of children to their environment, his plans was a very active role for them than what is achievable through the theory of learning. He conceive of a child's knowledge is made up of schemas, a process he described as a knowledge based units that can be used to gather previous experiences which function as a tool to understand fresh ones.

Undoubtedly, Jean Piaget's findings has impacted more than any other theory of cognitive development stages discovered , he identified four major stages in permanents manner that is universal to all the children. He observed that there is a variation in the quantity of information gain at every stage as well as in quality of understanding and knowledge.

Experience has been identified as the key major factor here; he observed that the advancement from one stage to the next took place after the child has acquired the proportionate level of maturation and the accumulation of necessary amount. Except they have been exposed to such experience the propensity of them getting to the highest cognitive potential will be greatly limited.

The sensorimotor being the first stage is from birth to approximately two years in a child. In the process of this stage, a child's ability to interpret competently the environment through visual images, language and symbols is relatively limited. An infant tend not to have any awareness of objects or people that are not immediately present at any given moment. Lack of object permanence is what Piaget described this to be.

The situation whereby object and people still continue to exist even though they are out of sight is called object permanence. Out of sight, to an infant is out of existence, if somebody goes to hiding they cannot comprehend that such person is out of sigh. Piaget inferred that the object or the person that disappeared is lost completely from a child's perspective.


The second level is called preoperational stage which is from the age of two to seven years. Language is the key factor here as the bed rock of development. Development of an internal representation of the world enables children to give account of people, feelings and events.

The use of symbols become active at this time, sometimes they pretend they are driving a toy over the table to represent a bridge. The level of a child thinking here is more advanced than the previous stage, even though qualitatively it cannot still be compare with that of an adult. Piaget, analysed that the preoperational stage is characterised by egocentric thought. The child's view of the world at this point is absolutely from a personal perspective and as a result the reports from them might not be informatively correct.

Generally, a Three-year-olds child will in most cases have their face cover when in trouble even when they can be seen clearly. They feel their lack of ability to see others imply they will not be seen by others. Any child in this preoperational stage would not understand the conservation principle. This principle can be simply explain that the physical appearance and arrange of an object have no correlation with the quantity.

Only children who have gone through this stage will understand the fact that the amount, length and volume of any object will not change in length even when the shape is rearranged. If a child is faced with two pieces of clay that look the same, if one is folded up like a ball shape and the other rolled up in a snake shape, the latter will appear bigger because is rolled out. Piaget explained that a child will not comprehend this until the next stage.

The concrete operational stage however, continues from age of seven to twelve years of age. This stage in the beginning is characterised by the full understanding principle of conversation mastery. The capability to think in a more logical way begins to grow up in children and the egocentric tendencies that are connected with the preoperational stage can now be surmounting. The idea of reversibility is greatly learnt here among others.


This idea is about ability to change back previously done action. A good example is the clay ball that can be rolled out to form a snake, at this stage there is a clear understanding here that the ball of clay can be obtained back by rolling the clay the other way. Children can formulate things via imaginative perception even without visible action. Children at this stage understand what time and space means. Piaget observed that children at this stage have limitation in term of their abstracts thinking.

The final stage is the formal operational stage, it starts in most people at age twelve and goes into adulthood. An entirely new type of formal, abstract and logical thinking is evolving here, observable events will no longer determine thinking process. Ability to apply hypothetical and logical aptitude to problem solving comes to display.

Modern theorists explain that the development of children in a cognitive concept can be attained through an approach that does not necessarily support concrete fixed stages. It has also, been proven by research that there is no consistency in the way children perform task at different stage. It is also, believed that Piaget has been able to supply accurate report on age oriented issues in cognitive development changes. Piaget postulate that, maturation and environmental stimuli are very imperative factors in determining how cognitive performance can be achieved and this has impacted into the educational curricula structure hugely.

A comparison between Piaget, Brunnet and Vygotsky

The works of Piaget's has been criticised, however some of the criticism levelled against his theory were borne out of the fact that Piaget use his own children as the basis of observing behaviour, he focused on an average child without looking outward. Recent research has revealed that some of these stages take place earlier than Piaget postulated. The process of the object permanence concept for example has been discovered to come earlier than assumed by Piaget.


Also, it is known that infant can now conceive ideas at a much earlier age. Although with or without this criticism, all the stages suggested by Piaget are mostly observe by children even if is happening at a much earlier stage. Undoubtedly, the fundamental basic factor in Piaget's theory has facilitated the understanding of a child learning process otherwise it would have been taught as that of the adult style.

Nevertheless, other critics like share some common view with Piaget but mostly align with Vygotsky. Bruner unlike Piaget conceptualised some stages through which development is postulated to come into play. Here rather than age and time as a determinant factors that they are more of variable factors. Bruner identified three stages that are highlighted thus; the enactive stage which is described as the knowledge based storage, in which knowledge is primarily stored in the form of motor responses.

The iconic stage is the next stage, which can be described as storage for knowledge in a state of visual image and the last stage mainly represent where knowledge are stored in a state of figures, words and symbols.

Bruner's theory is anchor on the fact that the learning process is not limited to the concept of what is obtainable in the environment or to solving problem rather he believed it should be centred on the capability to produce new creative-ideas. Unlike Piaget, Words, pictures and symbols are Burner's focus.

Piaget also differs to Brunner with the opinion that a child ought to be made prepared before the introduction of any subject issue, Bruner view is contrary in this matter, he believes, that as long as material that suit a particular age and stage of a learner is available and employ then the principle of any subject issue can be taught irrespective of age. As for Vygotsky, he concur with Bruner that children can be trigger to a more effective though process by an instructional difficulty.



Basically, it can be concurred to a large extent that, the cognitive development theory of Piaget has a tremendous impact in the institutional field of understanding children learning process, it has also motivated more theorists like Brunner and Vygotsky to develop more research that have evidently contribute to the development of learning process, indeed, it can be inferred that Piaget findings, in the theory of cognitive development is the bed rock of the curricula in many preschool and elementary school of learning.

His observation shed light on the fact that the experience of children in term of thinking process, understanding differs completely to that of adult. He identified four major stages from the first sensorimotor stage, preoperational stage, concrete operational stage and the formal operational stage which is the last. All these theories can be used collectively for instruction in the classroom as well as independently without distorting their originality.

A single theory can enhance greatly the quest and understanding of fresh information and knowledge so also a couple of them can ignite nebulous scope of learning and may be give way to a better acquisition and application of learning. It is very imperative to note that all the theorist concurred on the fact that educators and teacher will now have varieties of options available to fit the needs of every child in the learning process and that cognitive development is highly useful and the practical application and demonstration of this principle will not only help in discovery of the creative potentials of a child but also enhances development in a foreseeable future in learning institution.




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