AbstractVery few theorists have impacted and influenced child development as did the work of Jean Piaget and Arnold Gesell. Although they stand at opposite poles, both have recorded facts useful to parents and professionals alike. This paper presents the highlights of their theories and focuses on their major differences.
The views of Piaget and Gesell on how development occursIntroductionIn Psychology, very few theorists have impacted and influenced child development as did the work of Jean Piaget (1896-1980) and Arnold Gesell (1880-1961). Although they stand at opposite poles, both have recorded facts useful to parents and professionals alike. Piaget's contributions to learning theory and intellectual development have helped shape many educational programs in our schools, while Gesells schedules of behavior development are still used as clinical and diagnostic tools by many pediatric developments. (Meyerhoff, 2007)While they have contributed a tremendous amount of knowledge about growing infants and children, we will be analyzing their main theoretical views on child growth and development as well as discussing the differences between the two.
Gesell's theory on developmentGesell said that the child's growth or development is influenced by two major forces: The environment and the action of the genes. Gesell called this process maturation (Crain, 2005). He observed that a child's development occurred in a fixed order through a series of stages. This is an outstanding feature in maturational development. (Gale Group, 2001).
By observing how an embryo adhered to a specific order in its own development, Gesell proposed that a child post natal neuromotor development also followed a strict specific order (Crain, 2005).
His concept of maturation allowed him to see that just like a baby learns to run by first sitting, then standing, then walking, the principles of maturation also have a "rate" of development that is controlled by internal genetic mechanisms (Crain, 2005). And the forces of socialization that are so important in the growing and developing of a child have a positive and direct effect only if they are in tune with the inner maturational principles. Therefore, he opposed any instructional efforts on placing a child ahead of "schedule"; when the time is right, the child will simply begin to master the task through his/her own inner urges. Until then, teaching will be of little value and will only create tension between the child and the caregiver (Crain, 2005).
Therefore, Arnold Gesells theories on how developmental changes occur were based on a maturationist view stance, that is, his theory of development is that heredity promotes unfolding development in a predetermined series; almost like a timetable with very few individual differences (Meyerhoff, 2007)Piaget theory on developmentJean Piaget developed his curiosity in childhood development while at working in the Binet Laboratory in Paris. While in assignment to conduct intelligence test on children, Piaget became bored in scoring children's answers right and wrong, as required by intelligence tests. But he became very fascinated on the wrong answers given by younger children. He found that their mistakes had a consistent pattern and speculated that they were not "dumber" than older children or adults, but that they were thinking in an entirely different way (Crain, 2005).
It was through these events that he began to notice that children at distinct ages had certain answers wrong. And so Piaget quickly abandoned the standardized tests, which he said forced children to respond in an artificial channel of questions and answers (Crain, 2005). As a result, Piaget "devised a more open-ended clinical interview which encourages the flow of spontaneous tendencies. He also spent many hours observing children's spontaneous activities. The point was to suspend his own adult preoccupations about children's thinking and to learn from the children themselves"...
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