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Piaget(TM)s theory on cognitive development

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Piaget's theory on cognitive development Piaget believed that children were born with an innate desire (and need) to adapt to their environment, and that they do this by interacting with it and learning from it. He came up with the idea of 'schemas' which are the basic building blocks of intelligence. Babies start out with minimal in-built schemas for things such as sucking and grasping and moving limbs. As the baby grows its schemas are refined and combined to create more complex schemas such as for walking. This development takes place through the processes of 'assimilation', 'accommodation' and 'equilibrium'. A baby will try and apply its schema of sucking its mother's nipple to obtain nutrients to sucking a cup of juice; this is the baby's attempt to assimilate the task of drinking from a cup into its existing schemata. The sucking schema is inadequate for the task and the child will be in a state of disequilibrium. In order to restore balance the child must modify its existing schemas to accommodate the new task or experience. This is the process of 'adaptation'. Piaget identified four main stages of cognitive development through which all children pass as they grow older. Each stage is typified by the kind of schemas a child a child has within that stage. ...read more.


During this stage the child's ability to perform logical operations continues to grow and is freed from the need for actual experience of the object or situation. This enables the child to think in more abstract terms allowing them to consider hypothetical situations as well as real experiences. The child also becomes capable of 'reflective abstraction' which allows them to acquire new knowledge by considering and reflecting upon existing knowledge. One of the first criticisms of Piaget's work is that he often only used his own three children as test subjects for his experiments. This could introduce several confounding variables and problems with the validity of the results. First of all the use of only three participants for any kind of experiment is too small, especially when the results are to be applied to the whole world. Any kind of anomalies or unusual traits of his three children would be magnified. For instance, if one of his children was able to perform a particular mental operation at a very young age, this could be interpreted as meaning a third of the whole world's children would be able to do the same, even though only a tiny proportion actually could. Piaget's theory, however, has been criticised for underestimating infants. Bower shows that if an object disappeared behind a screen, and a screen was lifted, babies at the age of five months will show surprise if the object was not there. ...read more.


This educational method is called discovery learning because this theory is constructivist in which they suggest that knowledge is constructed individually. One major strength of Piaget's approach in education, is that it has had an enormous influence on education in the UK. The Plowden report, recommended that primary education should move from being teacher led to being child-centred and justified this in terms of Piaget's view that learning is only truly successful when the tyre invented for him or herself. One criticism of Piaget's approach in education is the fact that his research of than they had to explore alternative explanations for observed phenomena means that his insight into cognitive development is flawed. For example, in the object permanence experiments. He failed to exclude the possibility that babies know the object still exists but simply can't do anything about it. Also many fear that discovery activities in the classroom may actually reduce real learning because the reduced time there can be spent on content learning related to the basics (reading and writing). In addition, judging a child's stage of maturation may be beyond most teachers in terms of time available, as well as skill. However Vygotsky suggested that the desire to learn is an outcome of learning rather than being a prerequisite for learning. Because he also felt that expert guidance is needed to move the child through the zone of proximal development, and that without active intervention that child learns less. ...read more.

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