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ESSAY 561

Clare Little 32201954

1. Piaget’s stages of cognitive development highlight some important milestones and


implications for teachers at the primary and secondary levels. Considering your chosen
level –

a. Explain the process of learning, according to Piaget. Use examples and Piagetian
terms to describe the process.

Cognitive development is a term used to describe the way we think, reason and process our
surroundings. Cognitive development is developed through all stages of life and is measured
through factors such as problem solving, decision-making and recalling information
(Duchesne & McMaugh, 2019, pp. 96). Jean Piaget, A Swiss man born in 1896 has developed
his own personal theory on cognitive development. Piaget describes cognitive development
as a process in which a child acts directly on their environment in order to learn, Piaget also
describes children as being almost like miniature scientists, whom are always testing their own
hypothesis and reflect on the world around them to make sense of a better understanding
(Duchesne & McMaugh, 2019, pp. 96). Piaget presents many ideas and factors that describe
his theory of cognitive development, his theory that children are active in their development
and this is how they make sense of their experiences is one of the key factors that describes
his theory (Duchesne & McMaugh, 2019, pp. 96).

Piaget’s theory delves into four main factors that he believes contribute to the development in
learning from early childhood, right through to adulthood. These four main factors are
maturation, activity, social interaction and equilibrium (Duchesne & McMaugh, 2019, pp. 98).
Maturation is described as the stage at which a child’s brain has developed in order to process
certain information. Activity and social interaction are factor’s that Piaget describes as the
direct social and physical world in which a child develops, social interaction is a vital factor for
a child’s development, not only in developing the skills for talking to their peers but also on
how to interact correctly with adults and those who may share different perspectives to them
(Duchesne & McMaugh, 2019, pp. 98). The fourth factor is equilibrium, this factor describes
the way in which children react to conflicts between that they are exposed to in every day life
and knowledge that they can already comprehend, Piaget describes this factor as one of the
most important in a child’s development (Duchesne & McMaugh, 2019, pp. 98). Children also
develop schemes to assist in development, schemes are mental illustrations of people,
objects, and principles (Duchesne & McMaugh, 2019, pp. 100). Schemes may be altered
through what Piaget describes as assimilation and accommodation. Assimilation is information
we already understand, and accommodation involves adapting one's existing knowledge to
what is perceived (Woolfolk, 2004, pp. 33). When a child reaches equilibrium, assimilation
and accommodation have combined to create a new stage of development (Woolfolk, 2004,
pp. 33).

In order to measure and define cognitive development, Piaget’s theory is moulded around four
main stages of development. Each stage has its own respective age range and Piaget argues
that his four stages of development can not only be universal but that they are also invariant
meaning that each stage must be passed through in sequence and can be applied to everyone
(Duchesne & McMaugh, 2019, pp. 96). The first stage of Piaget’s theory is the Sensorimotor
stage, here, children are aged between zero and two years old and heavily rely on their five
senses to achieve goal-directed actions. An example of goal-directed behaviour is when a
child learns the consequence of its action and has the ability to influence the actions of others
(Duchesne & McMaugh, 2019, pp. 102). An example can be when a child focuses its attention
at a cup on a table, picks it up and drops it on the floor, knowing that the reaction from this is
that another person is going to pick the cup up and place is back on the table.

Stage two is defined between the ages of two to six, children in this age range are classified
into the preoperational stage. Children in this stage are described to be egocentric in that they
believe that everyone shares the same points of view (Woolfolk, 2004, pp 36.). In this stage
children can manipulate real materials and are believed to follow a critical concept called
‘symbolic thought’. Symbolic thought is a concept that describes how children can use certain
objects and relate them to other (Duchesne & McMaugh, 2019, pp. 104). For example, A child
may look through the end of a hollow object, such as a toilet roll, and think that they are a
great explorer looking through a telescope identifying different stars in the night sky. Interactive
play is a huge role in this stage and it is where children learn to establish a thinking process
based on their immediate surroundings and how they can relate that to real world scenarios
(Duchesne & McMaugh, 2019, pp. 105).

The third stage is called concrete operational thought and children between the age of seven
and eleven are described in this area. One of the main principles described in this area is the
term conservation. This essentially means that the child is able to understand the concept that
certain characteristics of an object don’t change, even if the physical appearance of it may
(Duchesne & McMaugh, 2019, pp. 107). Piaget highlights in this stage three basic reasoning
skills that may be developed, these include; identity, compensation, and reversibility (Woolfolk,
2004, pp. 39). In this stage, children are also described to learn best through hands-on
discovery learning and working with tangible objects. Reversibility is a term used to describe
a reverse thought, such as taking something away that was originally added to a problem
(Duchesne & McMaugh, 2019, pp. 107). This concept may be particularly hard for some
children to comprehend, along with compensation, which is described as the process of
understanding that in increase on one dimension is compensated by a decrease in another
dimension (Duchesne & McMaugh, 2019, pp. 107).

Piaget’s fourth and final stage of cognitive development is called formal operations and
includes the ages from twelve into adulthood. Piaget believes that in this stage, an individual
can now think in a logical sequence and can use critical thinking to solve real world problems
(Duchesne & McMaugh, 2019, pp. 111). Deductive and inductive reasoning are concepts in
this stage and can describe different ways of processing information. Deductive reasoning is
a key factor based on when an individual draws on certain rules and concepts to conclude on
a specific topic, these concepts can then be made into a hypothesis to better understand if the
initial predictions are true. Inductive reasoning is a concept where ideas are drawn from past
knowledge or previous experience and are then drawn on to predict future outcomes
(Duchesne & McMaugh, 2019, pp. 111). For example, a child may know that when they leave
home at 7am that they will be on time for school, therefore if they leave home at 7.10am, they
will be late.

b. Considering your future as an early childhood/ primary/ secondary teacher, what are
the main implications of Piaget’s ideas for your teaching? Give specific examples to
support your discussion.

Piaget describes his stages by two factors, one being that his stages are universal and that
they apply to everyone, and the second factor being that his stages are invariant, in that they
work in a sequence moving from stage to stage methodically (Duchesne & McMaugh, 2019,
pp. 96). I believe that a teacher plays one of the most influential aspects in a child’s life,
especially at a primary school age. Children may not be able to comprehend other ways of
thinking about problems using their own abilities and may need the help and encouragement
from a teacher to extend and expand their thought process. I also believe that aspects of
hands-on discovery learning are vital for young minds to understand certain concepts.

There can be many implications for Piaget’s theory regarding primary teaching. Piaget has a
great focus on the process of a child’s way of thinking, and not just of its products. An example
for using this theory for primary school ages students would be the act of using certain games
when learning math problems. Rather than being focused on the answer, using games and a
systematic hands-on approach can help students logically think about a problem (Ojose, 2005,
pp. 29). Blocks and tangible objects can be used when learning addition and subtraction from
one another. Teachers can then clearly observe the thought process that students take when
thinking about these problems (Duchesne & McMaugh, 2019, pp. 118).

Piaget describes children as active learners and are directly involved with the environment
around them (Duchesne & McMaugh, 2019, pp. 96). Children are encouraged to participate
and interact with the environment around them to discover a new understanding to problems
and are not often presented with materials that are intangible. An example of this that can be
used in a primary classroom environment can be when students are learning about
measurements and heights (Duchesne & McMaugh, 2019, pp. 107). Instead of using wrote-
learning methods to teach a topic like this, students can have active involvement, and can
participate in activities such as ordering objects in height order and measuring volumes by
pouring varying amount of liquids into different sized cups. This allow students to be self-
initiated and active in their learning to understand a new concept (Ojose, 2005, pp. 29).

A concern with Piaget’s theory is the age defining ranges in each stage. There may be children
that because of their age are placed in a specific development stage, however they are not
capable of displaying the key factors that are described. The concept that every eleven-year-
old has already established the key factors in the concrete operational stage such as the ability
to compensate and reverse their thinking may not always be the case as some children may
still struggle to grasp these concepts. However, Piaget argues that the ages aren’t necessarily
a concrete factor and that it is only the principle that each stage must work in sequence
(Duchesne & McMaugh, 2019, pp. 115). This could present a challenge when teaching at a
primary school age. In a classroom of eleven-year old’s, teachers will have to always adjust
for the students who may ahead of their year level, and there may be students that are not yet
up to the ability of most of their peers. As no child is the same, neither is their style of learning
and teachers need to be accepting of individual differences in developmental progress and
adjust classroom activities for those students who may need extra attention, rather than
approaching some topics assuming the class has the same mentality (Duchesne & McMaugh,
2019, pp. 118).

In conclusion, I believe that there are a lot of insights on how to help nurture a child’s cognitive
development through key factors described by Piaget. Incorporating games for learning and
allowing students to be active in their environment can prove beneficial for young minds to be
able to visualise certain topics that may seem challenging to comprehend. Giving children the
opportunity to manipulate objects and test out their own ideas can give students a sense of
accomplishment when it comes to learning. I hope to be able to incorporate some of Piaget’s
concepts in my journey to becoming a teacher.
References

Duchesne, S., & McMaugh, A. (2019). Educational Psychology – for learning and teaching.
(6th ed.). Australia: Cengage AU, 2018.

Woolfolk, Anita. (2004). Educational Psychology. (9th ed). Boston: Allyn and Bacon.

Ojose, B. (2015). Applying Piaget's Theory of Cognitive Development to Mathematics


Instruction. The Mathematics Educator, 18(1). Retrieved
from http://tme.journals.libs.uga.edu/index.php/tme/article/view/193/180