Cognitive theory is concerned with the development of a persons thought processes, it also looks at how these thought processes influence how we understand and interrelate with the world. One of the principal cognitive theorists was Jean Piaget, who proposed ideas that revolutionised how we think about child development and whether children think differently than adults. This essay will introduce Jean Piaget as a theorist, prior to discussing Jean Piaget’s theory ‘stages of children’s intellectual development’ and explore the experiment Piaget carried out to obtain his theory. Furthermore this essay will examine whether the research method for Piaget’s experiment was able to conclude using a different method to the one used. Jean Piaget was born in Switzerland in 1896, at the age of 10 years Piaget had his work on Molluscs published and after receiving his doctoral degree aged 22, formally began a career in zoology, but Piaget regarded his central interest in epistemology (the study of knowledge and how we understand the world we live in). In 1920, Piaget began working on some of his first intelligence tests by observing children and asking them simple questions. Piaget focused his attention on the origins of knowledge as they manifest in children, he was not interested in the amount of information children possessed but in the ways their thinking and inner representations of outer reality changed at different stages in their development, becoming increasingly intrigued by some of the replies he got from the children after he had asked them questions. Piaget observed children of the same age tended to make similar mistakes and younger children followed different logical rules from older children, believing
children’s errors were predictable and could be described in terms of stages of development theory, (Eysenck, 2006). This suggested, errors made at certain ages formed stages of development and that these stages formed a sequence, changing the child’s thoughts as they pass through the stages. Babies are born with similar biological equipment, senses, the brain and reflexes such as sucking and grasping, at the start of life infants have a set of basic reflexes and also a set of natural schema. Piaget introduced schema, meaning a psychological structure representing everything an infant/child knew about an object or an action built and developed as a result of interactions with the environment and new experiences leading to new schemas being developed. A schema describes both mental and physical actions involved in understanding and knowledge, helping the subject to interpret and understand the world, Piaget believed schemas included both a category of knowledge and the process of obtaining that knowledge, as experiences happen the new information is used to modify, add or change previous/existing schemas. Piaget proposed two ways in which this may happen, by assimilation, which is the process of taking in new information into previously existing schema, this may be somewhat subjective as we tend to modify information or experiences to fit into pre-existing beliefs. Secondly Piaget believed this may happen by accommodation which is another part of adaption and involves changing or altering our existing schemas or ideas in light of new information or new experiences, this process may also develop into new schemas, (Roth, 1991). Piaget believed all children strike a balance between accommodation and assimilation, which is achieved through equilibrium. As children progress through stages of cognitive development it is important to maintain a balance between applying previous knowledge (assimilation) and changing behaviour to account for new knowledge (accommodation), equilibrium helps explain how children are able to move from one stage of thought into the next, (Cardwell et al, 2000). This suggests Piaget’s theory takes the view that children learn by constructing their own knowledge when placed in novel situations,...
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