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Describe how Piaget's approach to children's intellectual development has been extended to explain their development of social understanding. In what ways does the approach of Donaldson and her followers differ from that of Piaget?

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Introduction

Describe how Piaget's approach to children's intellectual development has been extended to explain their development of social understanding. In what ways does the approach of Donaldson and her followers differ from that of Piaget? The work of Piaget provided the foundation for developmental psychology. He concentrated on the development of cognitive abilities, leaving much scope for later research. Before exploring how Piaget's approach has been extended it might be helpful to outline his theory. Piaget's theory is constructivist; it shows how knowledge is actively constructed by the individual. Knowledge of the world is built through interaction with the environment. The development, in 4 stages, is divided into broad age groups, although he stressed that the ages were guidelines only. All children progress at different rates and move gradually from one stage to the next. The 4 stages must be passed through sequentially and are called the Sensori-Motor (0-2 years), the Pre-Operational (2-6 years), the Concrete-Operational (6-12 years) and the Formal Operational (12 years onwards). Children think differently to adults and Piaget believed that as children pass through these 4 stages of development they mature into adult modes of thought. ...read more.

Middle

His famous 3 mountains task illustrates the inability in young children to decentre from their own viewpoint. If Piaget had studied the children in a social context he may have seen examples of them taking each other into account. In T.V. program 2 we saw one child direct another in putting out an imaginary fire whilst playing at being firemen. He had put himself in the others place and decided what the other should do. Being unable to appreciate viewpoints other than your own, is a feature of egocentrism, which Robinson & Robinson (1976) were able to illustrate within the social context, with their study on communication failure. Their results corresponded with Piaget's findings; the ability to take account of another's expectations improves as children develop into the concrete operational stage. As the study on communication failure involved assessing another's needs and placing blame, it extends Piaget's' theory to encompass social understanding. Robinson & Robinson were not alone in their endeavour to extend Piaget's work, there are many similar examples. The approach of Donaldson and her followers however, was fundamentally different to that of Piaget. ...read more.

Conclusion

A study by Light, Buckingham & Robbins (1979) involved 2 groups of 6 year olds. The first group were shown some pasta shells poured from the first breaker to a wider one and 95 per cent of the children confirmed Piaget's finding as being non-conservers. The second group of children were told that the shells were to be used in a game and the reason for the transference of shells was a chip on the rim of the first beaker. This time only 30 per cent of the children gave non-conserving answers. It would seem that the task must make human sense to the child, not just to the investigator. Even though Donaldson's approach highlights the way in which Piaget underestimated children's abilities, it made no criticism of the theoretical framework. The lasting aspects of Piaget's admirable body of work include the concept of a progression through developmental stages. There is a general agreement that the changes involved in the progression are of a qualitative nature, and, as Piaget explained, they come about as a result of constructive activity. Developmental psychology will continue to evolve, grateful for the solid foundation created by Piaget. Piaget & Donaldson Linda Healy Page 1 ...read more.

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