Piaget’s Theory of Cognitive
• Swiss psychologist who studied cognitive
• Felt that younger children think differently
than older children and adults
• Developed the most influential theory of
How do children learn?
• According to Piaget, children actively construct
knowledge as they manipulate and explore
– Use and form SCHEMAS through a process of
Adaptation and Organization
– SCHEMA: an organized way of making sense of
experience/ categories or ways of thinking
• Building schemas through direct interaction with
• Assimilation: use current schemas to interpret external
• Accommodation: create new schemas or adjust old ones
First try to assimilate, then accommodate
• Internal way of rearranging schemas and
linking them with other schemas
4 Stages of Cognitive Development
• Sensorimotor stage: birth-2yrs.
• Preoperational stage: 2-7 yrs.
• Concrete Operational stage: 7-11 yrs.
• Formal Operational stage: 12- adulthood
• Children experience the world through senses
• The child is working on 2 activities:
– “Think” with eyes, ears, hands etc.
Infants are working on mastering their bodies
and movements. Then they work on goal
• Objects are not permanent to infants at this
stage. Once something is out of vision, it no
• At the end of the stage, children begin to
represent the world around them with
• They also have a sense of self recognition that
allows them to begin to imitate and play.
Children represent things with words and
images, but lack logical reasoning.
Make believe play is a way to
Stage is dominated by egocentrism and
• World only exists in term of himself/herself.
• Children are unable to see things from
someone else’s point of view.
• Children also display animistic thinking.
Children do not understand…
• Reversibility: that a relationship that goes in
one direction can go in the other direction
• Conservation: you can change some of an
object’s characteristics while keeping others
• Due to CENTRATION: children focus only on 1 aspect of
• Types: mass, area, length, number, gender, volume
Children do not understand…
• Hierarchical Classification: cannot organize
objects into classes and subclasses on the
basis of similarities and differences.
Concrete Operational Stage
• Ages 7-11 years
• Children are thinking logically about concrete
events and can grasp concrete analogies and
perform arithmetical operations.
– However, thinking is extremely concrete and
“Black and White.”
– Children are “rule followers” at this stage
Concrete Operational Children are capable
• Seeing something from someone else’s point
Formal Operational Stage
• Ages 12 through adulthood
• Children are capable of abstract reasoning and
forming a hypothesis.
• Piaget argued that there are varying degrees
• Changed early education for children
• Convinced people that children are active
learners capable of thought
• Underestimated children’s abilities.
• Described children in terms of what they can’t
• Tests used items unfamiliar to the children
• Didn’t account for culture and social
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