PIAGET’S COGNITIVE DEVELOPMENT
Introduction Jean Piaget (1896-1980) was one of the 20th century’s most influential researchers in the area of developmental psychology. He was a child prodigy who published his first article at the age of 11. He originally trained in the areas of biology and philosophy and considered himself a “genetic epistemologist.” He was mainly interested in the biological influences on “how we come to know”. And believed that what distinguishes human beings from other animals is our ability to do “abstract symbolic reasoning.” While working in Binet’s test lab in Paris, Piaget became interested in how children think. He noticed that young children's answers were qualitatively than older children. This suggested to him that the younger children were not less knowledgeable but, instead, answered the questions differently than their older peers because they thought differently. This implies that human development is qualitative (changes in kind) rather than quantitative (changes in amount).
What is Cognition? o How people think and understand. o The act or process of knowing in the broadest sense; specifically, an intellectual process by which knowledge is gained from perception or ideas-Webster's Dictionary.
What is Cognitive Development? o The acquisition of the ability to think, reason, and problem solve. o It is the process by which people's thinking changes across the life span. o Piaget studied cognitive development by observing children in particular, to examine how their thought processes change with age. o He pioneered a way of thinking about how children grow psychologically. o It is the growing apprehension and adaptation to the physical and social environment.
Process of Cognitive Development As a biologist, Piaget was interested in how an organism adapts to its environment (Piaget described this ability as intelligence.) o Schema: To know an object one must act upon it either physically or mentally. The representation in the mind of a set of perceptions, ideas, and/or actions, which go together. o Organization: The way cognitive acts are grouped and arranged to form sequences, mental “folders” or schemata. o Assimilation: The process of using or transforming the environment so that it can be placed in preexisting cognitive structures. For Example: an infant uses a sucking schema that was developed by sucking on a small bottle when attempting to suck on a larger bottle. o Accommodation: The process of changing cognitive structures in order to accept something from the environment. For Example: the infant modifies a sucking schema developed by sucking on a pacifier to one that would be successful for sucking on a bottle. o Equilibration: This adaptation is driven by a biological drive to obtain balance between schemes and the environment.
STAGES OF COGNITIVE DEVELOPMENT Stage One: Sensory motor Stage (birth to 2 years - Infancy) o It is centered on the infant trying to make sense of the world. o An infant’s knowledge of the world is limited to their sensory perceptions and motor activities. Sub-stages of the Sensory motor Stage: It can be divided into six separate sub-stages. o Reflexes (0-1 month): the child understands the environment purely through inborn reflexes such as sucking, grasping and looking. o Primary Circular Reactions (1-4 months): It involves coordinating sensation and new schemas. For example: A child may such his or her thumb by accident and then later intentionally repeat the action. These actions are repeated because the infant finds them pleasurable. o Secondary Circular Reactions (4-8 months): The child becomes more focused on the world and begins to intentionally repeat an action in order to trigger a response in the environment. For example: A child will purposefully pick up a toy in order to put it in his or her mouth. o Coordination of Reactions (8-12 months): The child starts to show clearly intentional actions. The child may also combine schemas in order to achieve a desired effect. For example: A child might realize that a rattle will make a sound when shaken. o Tertiary Circular Reactions (12-18 months): Children begin a period of trial-and-error experimentation. For example: A child may try out different sounds or actions as a way of getting attention from a caregiver. o Early Representational Thought (18-24 months): Children begin to develop symbols to represent events or objects in the world. The child is clearly developing mental representation, that is, the ability to hold an image in their mind for a period beyond the immediate experience.
Stage Two: Preoperational Stage (2 to 7 years - Toddler and Early Childhood) o The child is capable of more complex mental representations (i.e. words and images). o Now that the child has mental representations and is able to pretend, it is a short step to the use of symbols. o A drawing, a written word, or a spoken word comes to be understood as representing a real dog. The use of language is, of course, the prime example, but another good example of symbol use is creative play, wherein checkers are cookies, papers are dishes, a box is the table, and so on. o Cannot yet use logic or other organized thinking processes. o The child has very narrow thinking. o Does not understand Conservation - that objects can have the same basic properties even if it appears differently. o Find difficulty with Reversibility-realizing that an action can be reversed by other actions. o Ability to solve conservation problems depends on an understanding of three basic aspects of reasoning: identity, compensation, and reversibility. o With mastery of 1. Identity: The student realizes that material remains the same if nothing is added to or subtracted from the material. 2. Compensation: The student realizes that changes in one dimension can be offset by changes in another. 3. Reversibility: The student realizes that a change may be canceled out by mentally reversing the steps and returning to the origin. 4. Centrism: Focuses completely on one point, and so cannot see the bigger picture. 5. Egocentrism: Thinks that everyone sees things from his/her point of view. E.g.:” If I can’t see you, you can’t see me!” 6. Animism: Treating inanimate objects as living ones. E.g.: Children bathing, dressing and feeding their dolls as if they are alive.
Stage Three: Concrete Operational Stage (7 to 12 years - Childhood and Early Adolescence) o The word operations refer to logical operations or principles we use when solving problems. In this stage, the child not only uses symbols representationally, but can manipulate those symbols logically. o The child learns classification and seriation (putting things in order) in this stage. o Able to form a mental representation of a series of acts. o Transversibility is known i.e., If A=2B and A=2C, then can understand B=C. o Can play any game according to rule. o Develops abstract thinking, problem-solving ability good at the use inductive logic, but not the deductive method. o Continue to show narrow thinking when abstract reasoning is required, cannot think “outside of the box!”. o Masters various conservation and reversibility concepts and begins to perform logical manipulations. o The children develop the ability to conserve number, length, and liquid volume. Conservation refers to the idea that a quantity remains the same despite changes in appearance. For examples: 1. We show a child four marbles in a row, then spread them out, the preoperational child will focus on the spread, and tend to believe that there are now more marbles than before. o 2. We have two five inch sticks laid parallel to each other, then move one of them a little, she may believe that the moved stick is now longer than the other.
Stage Four: Formal Operational Stage (from 11 to 12 years and up - Adolescence and Adulthood) o The most complete stage of development. o Thought becomes increasingly flexible and abstract, i.e., can carry out systematic experiments. o The ability to systematically solve a problem in a logical and methodical way. o Understand that nothing is absolute; everything is relative. o Skills such as logical thought, deductive reasoning, and systematic planning develop inductive as well as deductive logic. o Understand that the rules of any games or social system are developed by man by mutual agreement and hence could be changed or modified. o The child’s way of thinking is at its most advanced, although the knowledge it has to work with will change.
Educational Implications o Emphasis on discovery approach in learning. o Curriculum should provide specific educational experience based on children’s developmental level. o Arrange class room activities so that they assist and encourage self-learning. o Do not treat children as miniature adults; they think and learn differently from adults. o Practical learning situations. o Simple to Complex and Project method of teaching. o Co-curricular activities have equal importance as that of curricular experiences in the cognitive development of children. o Major goals of education are equal to the creative and critical thinking. An important implication of Piaget's theory is adaptation of instruction to the learner's developmental level. The content of instruction needs to be consistent with the developmental level of the learner. The teacher's role is to facilitate learning by providing a variety of experiences. "Discovery learning" provides opportunities for learners to explore and experiment, thereby encouraging new understandings. Opportunities that allow students of differing cognitive levels to work together often encourage less mature students to advance to a more mature understanding. One further implication for instruction is the use of concrete "hands on" experiences to help children learn. Additional suggestions include: • Provide concrete props and visual aids, such as models and/or time line • Use familiar examples to facilitate learning more complex ideas, such as story problems in math. • Allow opportunities to classify and group information with increasing complexity; use outlines and hierarchies to facilitate assimilating new information with previous knowledge. • Present problems that require logical analytic thinking; the use of tools such as "brain teasers" is encouraged. Huitt and Hummel (1998) assert that "only 35% of high school graduates in industrialized countries obtain formal operations; many people do not think formally during adulthood". This is significant in terms of developing instruction and performance support tools for students who are chronologically adults, but may be limited in their understanding of abstract concepts. For both adolescent and adult learners, it is important to use these instructional strategies • Use visual aids and models. • Provide opportunities to discuss social, political, and cultural issues. • Teach broad concepts rather than facts, and to situate these in a context meaningful and relevant to the learner.