Research on the Cognitive & Moral Development Theories of Jean Piaget & Lawrence Kohlberg

Topics: Jean Piaget, Theory of cognitive development, Kohlberg's stages of moral development Pages: 10 (2704 words) Published: December 1, 2014
Running head: PIAGET & KOHLBERG





The intention of this paper is to provide an overview of the psychological theories of Jean Piaget and Lawrence Kohlberg. While Piaget's perspective was psychological, Kholberg's viewpoint was psychological with emphasis placed on moral development and both theories will be compared and contrasted in this paper. Furthermore, the implications of these theories for counselling will be examined.



Jean Piaget, Swiss biologist, philosopher, and behavioral scientist, was born on August 9, 1896 (Piaget, 2001). One of his most significant achievements was his research in developmental psychology and the resultant theory in cognitive development. Although many of the principles developed by Piaget have been criticized, the impact he has made in the field of cognitive development cannot be exaggerated. According to Morris and Maisto (2008), Piaget is the most influential cognitive development theorist.

Piaget's segue into cognitive development started while developing French versions of questions on English intelligence tests at the Binet Institute, Paris, in the 1920s. He became fascinated with the reasons children gave for answering incorrectly on questions requiring logical thinking. He believed that the incorrect answers showed significant qualitative variances between the way older children and younger children think. Hence, he made a systematic study of children, including his own, by observing and studying them playing, solving problems, and participating in everyday activities. He asked them questions and tested them in order to learn how they thought. His observations and studies led him to believe that children were not only receiving knowledge from their parents and teachers, but they were also creating ideas and cognitive development is a way of adapting to the environment. Paiget found that the differences were not attributed to the younger children being less intelligent than their older counterparts, as was the general assumption in psychology at the time. Neither did they think at a slower pace than adults. Rather, they just think very differently.

His interest in how knowledge develops in humans during different stages of development led to what is popularly known as the stages theory or stage theory of cognitive development. The name is derived from Piaget's description of cognitive development as four distinct stages in children, ranging from sensorimotor, preoperational, concrete, and formal, beginning in a logical manner in childhood and ending in adulthood. This four-stage model shows how the mind processes new information encountered. Children are born with a mental structure that is genetically inherited and which evolves over time. This mental structure forms the foundation for all subsequent learning and knowledge. Cognitive development, therefore, is a "progressive reorganization of mental processes resulting from maturation and experience" (Singer & Revenson, 1997). According to Singer and Revenson (1997) all children will pass through these stages, which unfold over time, in order to achieve an intellectual functioning at the adult level. The sequence of the stages is fixed and unchangeable and children cannot skip a stage but must go through the stages in the same order, although at different rates. Later stages evolve from and are built on earlier stages, with the child acquiring more complex motor and cognitive skills, moving between stages in a very gradual and subtle transition. The main elements of Piaget's cognitive development theory are schema, the four processes that enable the transition from one stage to another, and the four stages of cognitive development.

Piaget was...
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