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Describe and Evaluate the Work of one Major Psychologist. Jean Piaget

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Describe and Evaluate the Work of one Major Psychologist Jean Piaget, a Swiss psychologist, was a pioneer in the field of developmental psychology. He developed many fields of science, but is recognised primarily for his contribution to the field of genetic epistemology (the theory of knowledge). He believed that there was a biological explanation for the development of knowledge, and that children had their own processes of learning, and their thought processes were separate and distinct from adults. He developed a broad theory, based on his studies of children, which described four main stages in the learning process. He began studying children and the development of knowledge when he moved to Paris and began working on the Simon-Binet intelligence study, and this was the foundation for his later work. His work with children was a major part of his life up until his death, in 1980. Piaget's theory forms the basis of many educational principles used in the present day, and has greatly expanded our understanding of the way in which knowledge is acquired. He believed that children created their own theories of the world, and were constantly testing those theories, in order to develop their understanding of the world. This was in direct contrast to the generally-held belief at that time that children should be taught by rote, that simple repetition would ensure knowledge and that children were merely 'empty vessels waiting to be filled'1. ...read more.


The 'sensorimotor' stage lasts from birth to approximately two years old; during this stage the child develops his intelligence through motor interactions with his environment (through rudimentary explorations with his hands and mouth) and has a knowledge of the way things behave (whether they are hard, soft, warm, cold) but not why. The child will modify his behaviour through experience and actively experiments with his surroundings, gradually realising that objects are 'external and permanent'3. The 'preoperational' stage lasts till between the ages of 6 and 8 years old; during this stage the child begins to use symbolic thought to reason out situations and its symbolic representations are unique to its experience. The child has formed representations in its own mind, which are used to classify certain actions or objects, e.g. Daddy or Ball, and these objects have properties based on the child's experience to date. The child also has images associated with actions, e.g. hot water for shaving, and reasons accordingly - this process was called 'transduction' by Piaget, the child using its own library of concepts to form a hypothesis, and linking events that do not necessarily have a relationship to explain a situation (using a juxtaposition of concepts/images, e.g. explaining the workings of a ship by describing the smoke exiting the funnel). During this period language becomes increasingly useful in translating the images in order to share them; the child is aware of its social status and the world ...read more.


in the subsequent experiments, the researchers asked the children a question once, instead of repeating it two or three times as Piaget had done5 and found that the children made less errors. Piaget's questions were very individual (specific to each child) and statistical analysis was very difficult; it was hard to compare results among children because of the differing questions and some psychologists deemed his interpretation of the data subjective. There have also been many debates regarding the stages of development; although there have been challenges to Piaget's description of the separate nature of the stages (many professionals believe they overlap, instead of being separate distinct stages), it is widely accepted that there is a sequence in development, and many psychologists and educational systems now use age boundaries to distinguish between developmental periods in a child's life. Children tend to vary their thinking according to the situation they are in and it has been found that in a large group of children of a similar age, there can be a spread of ability across the stages, unlike the theory propounded by Piaget. The stages are sometimes unclear and children may display only a few characteristics of a stage before progressing onto the next, but it is acknowledged that the basic principle behind Piaget's theory is sound. His work has undoubtedly not only initiated but stimulated and inspired some of the greatest research and discoveries in the field of human intelligence today. ...read more.

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