Swiss psychologist Jean Piaget (1896-1980) is a famous scientist, his works have made an important step in development of psychology. Piaget’s concept takes a significant place among the widespread psychological theories of learning and cognition. It highlights not only the wealth of experimental data and original ideas, but the latitude of theoretical system and its detailed elaboration.
According to Langer and Killen, Piaget concurred in the search for general laws of developmental processes and structures. Author claims that Piaget formulated one of the evolutionary new theories of the origin, development and transformation of mentation (Langer & Killen, 2010, p. 5).
Piaget's theory of intellectual development is a dynamic concept of intelligence, which considers the process of its transformation during individual development.
Stages of cognitive development
According to Piaget, development of intelligence includes formation of four main cognitive structures (or thought schemas, as Piaget called them) that correspond to four stages of development. The first stage is sensorimotor intelligence, beginning at child’s birth and continuing util about the age of 2.
Within this period, a newborn sees the world, he does not know himself as a subject and does not understand his own actions. Child’s contact with the outer world depends on movements they make and sensations they experience.He watches, listens, touches, smells, tastes, hits, squeezes, rolls and makes other sensory and motor actions. During this stage leading role belongs to immediate sensations and perceptions. Therefore, this stage is characterized by formation and development of sensory and motor structures. Around the age of 1, children first understand the concept of object permanence, that an object still exists beyond their field of vision.
According to Piaget, after sensimotor stage comes the preoperational stage. It starts around age of 2 and ends around age of 6 or 7. During this stage children become able to think in symbolic items, to form ideas from words and symbols. But they remain to have difficulties in coping with abstract concepts. Through this stage child’s thinking is very egocentric. It means that child usually thinks that other people perceive situations from his point of view.
Third stage in Piaget’s cognitive concept is stage of concrete operations. It starts from the age of 6 or 7 and finishes by the age of 11 or 12. During it children perform specific actions with specific objects, they become able to create sequences of logical reasoning. Child acquires a certain capacity for abstraction. Children can start studying disciplines as mathematics, but they can solve problems only that invlolve observable phenomena.
The last, fourth stage of formal operations begins at the age of 11 or 12. During this stage of development thinking starts to correspond to laws of formal logic. In general, they think by judgments and conclusions. Abilities to operate abstract relationships are mastered by the age of 15. Teens begin to think about moral issues like justice.
According to Jardine, Piaget believes that the development of intelligence occurs not only in stages, but in sequence of stages. Moreover, in order to learn young children are helped by active manipulation with objects (Jardine, 2006, p. 2).
Theoretical concepts associated with Piaget’s cognitive development model
According to Marti & Rodrigues, in the development of his theory, Piaget always had the inveluable help of a large number of followers and collaborators, among whom he highlighted Hermine Sinclair, Aline Szeminska and Barbel Inhelder. These collaborators used principles of genetic epistemology to develop their own research (Marti & Rodrigues, 2012, introduction). Entry of Vygotsky’s ideas provided an influence outside of Geneva School during the late 1970s. According to Russian psychologist, cognitive development of human beings is too complex to be defined by four stages. Lev Vygotsky, and other scientists after him, took into account and accorded more importance to social and environmental influences on cognitive development.
Coversely to Piaget’s stages of development, Vygotsky’s followers found a difference between in what a children are able to learn on their own and what they can accomplish with the help of adults (Vygotsky, 1980, p. 9).
Jardine proves, that Piaget was always interested in genetic epistemology. It is important to define epistemology and genetic epistemology. Epistemology is concerned with the question “What is knowledge?” and genetic epistemology is concerned with the question “How does the knowledge grow?” (Jardine, 2006, p. 12).
According to Marti & Rodrigues, Piaget’s genetic epistemology was one of the main references in the study of human development (Marti & Rodrigues, 2012, introduction).
Piaget’s ideas were largely implemented in our daily life. For example, followers of Piaget offered practical trainings for students, appropriate to their level of development, that increase development of problem solving skills in school.
Piaget’s theory is based on stages, moreover, each stage starts with acquitance with different type of thinking. According to Piaget, children on the stage one can not think the same as children os stage 2 and 3. Another characteristic, that brings a great importance to Piaget’s theory is that stages of cognitive development are universal, they will work for every child in the world, regardless gender and culture differences.
Jardine, D. W. (2006). Piaget & Education: Primer. NY: Peter Lang Publishing, Inc.
Langer, J., & Killen, M. (Ed.). (2010). Piaget: Evolution and Development. Mahwah, New Jersey: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Inc.
Marti, E., & Rodrigues, C. (Ed.). (2012). After Piaget. New Brunswick, New Jersey: Transaction publishers.
Vygotsky, L. S. (1980). Mind in Society: The Development of Higher Psychological Processes. President and Fellows of Harvard College.