Theory of Cognitive Development

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As stated by David Elkind in the book Children and Adolescents, "Jean Piaget, the Swiss psychologist, has been studying the development of children's thinking for more than fifty years. Only in the last decade, however, has American psychology and education come to recognize that Piaget is in fact one of the giants of developing psychology." This idea, as well as others throughout my readings, has given me a better understanding of the way children develop psychologically through education and Piaget's stages of cognitive development. Piaget proposed four different developmental stages of cognitive development. According to our text book, Educational Psychology Developing Learners, by Jeanne Ellis Ormrod, "Piaget hypothesized that major physiological changes take place when children are about 2 years old, again when they are 6 or 7, and again around puberty, and that these changes allow the development of increasing complex thought." Piaget's four stages of cognitive development are sensorimotor stage (birth until 2 years) where schemes are based on behaviors and perceptions; schemes don't yet represent objects beyond a child's immediate view. The second stage is the preoperational stage (2 years until 6 or 7 years), where schemes now represent objects beyond a child's immediate view, but the child does not yet reason in logical adult like ways. The third stage is concrete operations stage (6 or 7 years until 11 or 12 years), where adult like logic appears but is limited to reasoning about concrete reality. Lastly, the fourth stage of Piaget's cognitive development is formal operations stage (11 or 12 years though adulthood), where logical reasoning processes are applied to abstract ideas as well as to concrete objects. I chose to do my experiments on more than just a child and an adolescent. I thought it would be more interesting to test a few children in different stages along with an adolescent to see what results I came up with. I chose a boy who is a 6 year old kindergarten student who I will call child "A", a 6 year old first grade girl child "B", and a 7 year old girl who is in second grade, child "C". I chose three different tasks to ask each student. The first task was a conservation of liquid. I had two identical cups filled with the same amount of water, and one empty cup that was shorter and wider than the other two cups. I asked each student if the water was equal in the two cups, if they said yes, then I poured one of the cups of water into the third cup, and if they said no I would add a little more water to one of the cups until the student thought it had an equal amount of water in each cup and then I would pour one of the cups of water into the third one. Next I asked each student which cup had more water, the third cup that I just poured water into or the first cup that I never touched that still had water in it.

My first thoughts before I started the experiments were how each child would perform. I knew each child personally which caused me to have different predictions based on what I already knew about each child, and I didn't just base my predictions on their age and what stage they most likely should be in according to their age. I work with these students a lot after school, and based on what I know about each child I made my hypothesis about how each child would perform on the task. My predictions for the first task, on conservation were also influenced by information in Barry Wadsworth's book, PIAGET'S theory of cognitive development. Wadsworth said, "The child does not develop conservation schemata overnight in an all-or-nothing manner. Conservation concepts are acquired slowly after much experience and subsequent assimilation and accommodation." Based off of this information and what I know about each child I thought child "A" and child "B" would guess one of the cups to have more water and I predicted child "C" would say both the cups have an equal amount of water.

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