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Describe and evaluate Piaget's theory of cognitive development

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Introduction

Describe and evaluate Piaget's theory of cognitive development Piaget believed that through interaction, children have to build their own mental framework for understanding and interacting with their own environment. They do this through the use of schemas. A schema is an internal representation of a specific physical or mental action. An infant is born with certain innate schemas, such as a sucking schema. However these schemas continue to develop and increase in their complexity and ability to let their owners function well in this world. When a child is in a state of equilibrium, they are believed to have understood everything that they have learnt. If they come across information that they are not familiar with, then they use schemas to accommodate/assimilate the information to get back into a state of equilibrium. Assimilation is the process where new ideas are understood in terms of the schema that the child already possesses, whereas accommodation is the process whereby the existing schema has to be modified to fit new ideas. Piaget defined four stages of cognitive development. The first stage, the Sensori-motor stage, occurs when the child is between 0-2 years. Very young children deal with the environment by manipulating objects. This is intelligence through action. The key achievement of this stage is object permeance. This involves being aware that the notion "out of sight, out of mind" is not true, and that objects continue to exist even when they are no longer in view. ...read more.

Middle

First comes conservation of number and liquid (age 6-7), then comes conservation of substance or quantity and length (age 7-8) and the conservation of weight (age 8-10). Finally there is conservation of volume at about the age of 12. Formal operations stage is the fourth and final stage, occurring in children aged 11 and upward. At this stage a child can think logically about potential events or abstract ideas, such as mathematics and hypothetical ethical issues. Thinking goes beyond limitations of immediate reality, so one is not tied to perceptions/concrete reality. Piaget tested formal operational thought by asking children to work out what would affect the frequency of the swings of the pendulum. When pre-operational children are presented with this problem they mistakenly thought that the strength of the push is the main factor. Concrete operational children argued that that the length of the string affects the frequency of swinging the pendulum, but they could not isolate that factor from all the others. Many formal operational children manage to solve the problem. Many criticisms for Piaget's experimental evidence can be identified. Some argue, for example, that the three-mountain task that Piaget asked three-year-old children to solve was too complex to test children's ability to see someone else's perspective. It is now believed that young children can see someone else's point of view in a simple way. Similarly, the conservation tests may also have been too complex, and further research has indicated that if a conservation task was presented in a simplified, fun manner, children were able to understand the concept of it much more easily. ...read more.

Conclusion

According to paiget, the child should have hidden the doll where they themselves could not see it, however Hughes found that 90% of children aged 3 1/2 and 5 were successful in the task. This proves that his task was more successfully conducted as his task was more meaningful and interesting for young children. Piaget's theory can be compared to vygotsky's four stage theory. Piaget took a very different approach to Vygotsky. He explained that children tended to interact more with the environment (self discovery) and develop through accommodation and assimilation. The role of social factors are not seemed as important. Both Piaget and Vygotsky agreed that children's cognitive development took place in stages. Piaget's stages are more rigid in age, whereas Vygotsky was more abstract in his thinking. Vygotsky believes that speech moved from social speech (communicative) to inner egocentric speech. He believed that children began by voicing a personal dialogue and then moved to social speech. He argued that it became internalised as an adult. In contrast, Piaget claimed that egocentric speech was simply an accompaniment to a child's actions and that egocentric speech went away with maturity. However, even though they both had different opinions on the purpose of egocentric speech both agreed on the importance that it played in cognitive development. Piaget ignored individual and cultural differences, but much of Vygotsky's theories were based around this. Vygotsky's stages are difficult to test therefore not much evidence is available to support his theory, whereas Piaget used much experimentation to support his research. ?? ?? ?? ?? ...read more.

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