Developmental Theory

Topics: Jean Piaget, Theory of cognitive development, Kohlberg's stages of moral development Pages: 5 (1738 words) Published: November 10, 2010
Summary of the Contributions and Shortcomings
Of Piaget’s Theory.

This essay will be summarising the contributions and shortcomings of the Cognitive-Developmental theory and firstly explore the background and key concept’s of Piaget’s work behind child development. Secondly Piaget’s ideas about cognitive change and the four stages of development from birth which are the sensorimotor stage, the pre-operational stage, the concrete operational stage and the formal operational stage and how this impacts development. Thirdly the main weaknesses of the cognitive theory and why, and look at whether any studies/theories support or refute Piaget’s theory and if they are credible to apply to real life. Finally determining whether Piaget’s theory is applicable, and if it’s a strong theory overall.

Jean Piaget who was born in Switzerland in 1896 developed the cognitive theory which can be understood as the study of knowledge. This theory can also be described as ‘A comprehensive theory about the nature and development of human intelligence’ (Berk, 2009) According to Piaget, human infants do not start out as cognitive beings. Instead, out of their perceptual and motor activities, they build and refine psychological structures- in other words, mental “maps,” schemes, or networked concepts for understanding and responding to physical experiences within his or her environment. Piaget further attested that a child’s cognitive structure increases in sophistication with development, moving from a few innate reflexes such as crying and sucking to highly complex mental activities. What Piaget noticed from observation was that young children’s answers were qualitatively different to older children. This suggested to him that the younger children were not less knowledgeable but, instead, answered the questions differently than their older peers because they thought differently, so through years of observation he produced an explanation to how children learn.

Piaget argued that intelligence stems from actual ‘motor movements, as the baby begins to move itself- and things-around the world, it slowly acquires, first, co-ordination and the schemas’. (D. Cohen 1993). Piaget claimed 2 processes were responsible for all cognitive development firstly, Assimilation which children use the mental schemas they have to interpret the environment. Then secondly, accommodation this schema changes as the child gains experience of the world. Piaget then created four different developmental stages which he believed every child experiences in a fixed order therefore no stage can be skipped which applies to children everywhere. The sensorimotor which is the first stage (birth- 2 years) is when infants construct an understanding of the world by coordinating sensory experiences (such as seeing and hearing) with physical, motoric actions. Infants gain knowledge of the world from the physical actions they perform on it. The second stage pre-operational applies to 2-7 year olds by observing sequences of play, Piaget was able to demonstrate that towards the end of the second year, a qualitatively new kind of psychological functioning occurs.(Pre)Operatory Thought during this stage, the child learns to use and to represent objects by images, words, and drawings. The child is able to form stable concepts as well as mental reasoning and magical beliefs. The child however is still not able to perform operations; tasks that the child can do mentally rather than physically. Thinking is still egocentric and the child will have difficulty taking the viewpoint of others. Concrete operational (7-11 years) children start to gain a better understanding of mental operations. They also begin to think logically about concrete events, but have difficulty understanding abstract or hypothetical concepts. The fourth stage formal operational (11 years and older) by this point, the child’s cognitive structures are like those of an adult and include conceptual reasoning. This next...

References: David Cohen (1983). Piaget Critique and Reassessment. Croom Helm: J.Chisholm. 30-32.
John McShane (1991). Cognitive Development. Cambridge: Basil Blackwell. 21-25.
Laura E.Berk (2009). Child Development. 8th ed. United States: Allyn and Bacon. 236-244.
Samuel, J. & Bryant. (1984) Asking only one question in the conversation experiment. Journal of child psychology and Psychiatry, 25,315-18.
Kendra Cherry. (2010). Support and Criticism of Piaget stage theory. Available: Last accessed 11 may 2010.
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