This experiment attempts to explain Piaget’s theory of cognitive development through contesting his method .It is significant that we first comprehend Piaget’s cognitive development theory.
Piaget’s approach to child development gives a totally different explanation of child development. For instance Piaget’s believe that development is a structural, systematic process. According to him, it is not only the amount of knowledge that differentiates the young child from the older intellectual or cognitive development; it becomes more capable of carrying out actions upon its environment as the child’s intellect develops which ensures its survival.
Piaget thinks that intellectual development happens in stages and that a child will only proceed to the next level upon completing the first level.
Each level is viewed as a kind of building blocks to the next level of development to rest on. According to Piaget the child would develop new ways of thinking which would develop out of what preceded, which were different from previous ways the children had attained .Though, he pointed out that the ages are only averages and each child individually may go through the same order of stages at different speeds. The stages are;
1. Senior motor stage (birth to about 18 months).In this stage children gain understanding about its surrounding using its senses together with movement.
2. Pre-operational stage (18 months to around 7yeays).A child develops ability to represent objects or signs or events by symbols.
3. Concrete operational stage (7 to about 12 years) a child develops ability to sophisticated mental operation
4. Formal operation stage (12 years and above).This is a more developed stage of thinking reigned by formal thinking.
Piaget identified some numerous tests to highlight errors children made concerning some problems at the different stages. In one of his demonstrations showing a child two beaker containing water, one tall and thin while the other was fat and short, and asking the child which beaker contained more water, the pre-operational stage child would definitely say the tall beaker contained most water. The reason he gave for this was that the child had not developed ability to conserve volumes, which only happens during concrete operational stage.
He also demonstrated that when you roll a piece of clay to have a sausage shape ,then showing it to a pre-operational stage child and rolling it to a ball, the child would conclude there is more clay in the sausage shaped clay.
Piaget too demonstrated that presenting a pre-operational stage child with a row having five buttons spread out and also a row of five buttons close to each other, the child would conclude that the spread out row had more buttons.
According to Piaget the inability in children to conserve is as a result of the child’s failure to comprehend that things remain the same or constant even though their appearance changes.
The aim of this experiment is to study the conservation ability in children and to verify Piaget arguments or theory pertaining cognitive development. Purposely or to be more specific, it is aimed at teaching a non-conservative child how to conserve.
The participant is one child who is six years of age; the child is a male one and attending school and playground in and around Nairobi Kenya. The three conditions were;
1. Standard: This is the Piaget’s traditional two questions on conservation as he carried out the task. The child is questioned about the object size before and after the shape was altered.
2.One judgments; this is a conservation task similar to the original but this round with only one question asked ,that is post-transformation question. This means asking the child once concerning the size of the object and only after the size of the object has been altered.
3. Fixed array control; the child sees no transformation being carried out during this condition but it only sees the post-transformation display only, that the child sees the object upon transformation and before. Aim of this third condition is to find out whether the child, as he answered the post- transformation questions the right way in the other two conditions will also does so by bringing information from the transformation before display.
I used three different types of materials for the conservation task.
a) Mass; in this option I shown the child two equal and similar cylindrical shaped playdoh. I transformed one of the playdohs into a sausage shape and asked the child, “suppose you had two friends, whereby you loved one more than the other and you wanted to award them with this two playdoh aiming to give your best friend the one with more clay, which one would you choose for him?”He chose the sausage shaped one for his best friend.
b) Volume; in this task I shown the child two identical glasses having the shallow beaker. Then I transferred the water in one of the glasses in wide beaker which was shorter and wide and asked the child, “If you were very thirsty and you really desired to quench your thirsty, which beaker would you go for?”He definitely chose the shallow beaker.
c)Number; In this task I shown the child two row counters of equal length arranged side by side in one to one correspondence. The rows contained six counters. The one row was bunched up or spread out and then I asked the child, if you had a toy lorry and you wanted to transport this rows, and your toy lorry would carry to have the row with the many counters which one would you choose?”He would choose either of them since he believed they were all equal.
I recorded all the errors that the child committed. The errors committed includes when the child said between the two lumps one was bigger compared to the other and between the two glasses, one had more liquid than the other. I made the following conclusions;
1. The child found out one judgments task quite easier as compared to the standard conservation task and the fixed array control. This was sure to all the three types of materials.
2. The children made fewer errors on the number tasks compared with the other two tasks.
The reason why the child made fewer errors on the judgments conservation tasks compared to the standard conservation task is that in standard conservation, the question before transformation was questioned twice. For instance when the child is asked about the beakers volume and there after sees the experimenter pouring the liquid to another beaker from one of the beakers, the child may believe the experiment must be carried out for a reason and thus would like to give a different answer thinking that it is an important landmark in the theory of cognitive development by Piaget. Piaget’s theory explains why the ability of a child to think progressively through a series of distinctive stages as they mature. According to Piaget the stages were maturational.
According to this experiment as child learns more about the world they will adopt new strategies with which to process information.
Therefore children who do not show the ability to conserve simply have not acquired the skill in the right manner.
This experiment demonstrates this one finding which support Piaget’s theory.I discovered that child could conserve numbers before they could conserve mass and volume task.
Evaluation of procedure
Main strength of experiment is the amount of control I had over possible confounding variables .The child did attempt each conservation task thus eliminating the possibility that the child answered incorrectly by chance. I controlled order effects by altering the task orders.
A weakness of the number of tasks is that the child could have counted the number of counters used and this could account for the level of accuracy and the task number. A further weakness could be the child may have felt nervous carrying out the task thus answers being spontaneous rather than though.
Evaluation of explanation
Cognitive theory of development by Piaget has too much emphasis on maturation factors believing that children learn new skills and strategies. This experiment indicates that children learn in isolation and they also learn far more readily and efficiently when working together than when alone. However I do support Piaget’s theory in that it is still an influential theory of child thought.
A child can be taught conservation and this I verified through carrying out a repetition of the whole process of the experiment. Upon repeating the same process with the same several times, I found out that the mistakes done became fewer after every repetition. These made conclude that conservation process can be accelerated by exposing the child more often to conservation situations such as the processes I have taken the child through. The often they go through such processes the more they developed conservation.