Piaget (1896-1980) described development as going through different mental processes. He believed that all children pass through the stages but environmental influences on children will vary the ages each stage is reached. A child who is given more learning opportunities will develop faster by progressing through the stages at a faster rate. Therefore play and children activites facilitated by an adult increase he rate of development. Sensory Motor Stage: Birth to 2 Years-An enormous amount of growth and development takes place in the first two years of life. During that time span, children go from being completely helpless to walking, talking, and to a degree, being able to make sense of the world around them. One of the most important milestones that children achieve in their first few years, according to Piaget, is their mastery of "object permanency," or the ability to understand that even when a person or object is removed from their line of sight, it still exists. Early on, children are only able to perceive things that are right in front of them, but as they mature, they understand that if a ball rolls under a chair and they can no longer see it, it still exists, under the chair. This is an especially important understanding for children, helping them to have an increased sense of safety and security since they can now grasp the fact that when mum leaves the room, she hasn't disappeared, but will soon return. Preoperational Stage: 2-7 Years-Once object permanency is achieved, children move onto this next stage, which is marked by a number of advancements. Language skills develop rapidly, allowing kids to better express themselves. Also, children in the preoperational stage are egocentric, meaning that they believe that everyone sees the world the way that they do, leaving no room for the perspectives of others. For example, a child will sometimes cover their eyes so that they cannot see someone and make the assumption that the other person now cannot see them, either. A major indicator of this stage is called conservation, or the ability to understand that quantity does not change just because shape changes. Concrete Operations Stage: 7 to 11 Years-During the concrete operations stage, the centristic thought process is gradually replaced by the ability to consider a number of factors simultaneously, giving them the ability to solve increasingly complex problems. Also, kids at this stage can now understand how to group like objects, even if they are not identical.Another important developmental advancement that occurs during this phase is seriation, the ability to place things in order according to size.
Formal Operations Stage: 11 and Beyond-In the final phase of cognitive development, children hold a much broader understanding of the world around them and are able to think in abstract ways. They are also able to hypothesise possible outcomes to a given problem and then think of ways in which to test their theories. Children in the formal operations stage learn to use deductive reasoning to draw conclusions, which opens them up to a wider base of knowledge than ever before. Les Vygotsky (1869 – 1934) had similar theories to Piaget. He also saw an adult role as important in children’s learning. His theories accepted that a child learns actively by using the information in the environment but looks towards a more social setting for learning. He believed strongly that language had an important part to play in a childs learning, and that interaction between a child and others in their community was hugely beneficial to a child’s language development. He developed the theory known as the zone of proximal development (ZPD). This is the time between learning or the next level in development, he stated the next level was only obtainable by a child’s interaction with an adult. This theory emphasises the importance of a teacher in a child’s learning. His theory recognised that adults in a child’s...
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