JEAN PIAGET and THE FOUR MAJOR STAGES OF COGNITIVE THEORY The patriarch of cognitive theory was Jean Piaget(1896-1980). Piaget was a biologist, who became interested in human thinking while working to evaluate the results of child intelligence tests. As Piaget worked he noted the correlation between the child's age and the type of error they made. Intrigued by the discovery that certain errors occurred predictably at certain age, he began to focus his time and energy to the further investigation of his findings.
Starting with his children and moving on to other students, Piaget developed what is known as the Cognitive theory, a behaviorism theory which emphasizes the structure and development of thought processes. The theory says that thoughts and expectations have a direct affect on beliefs, attitudes, values, assumptions, and actions. Cognitive theory was the utmost studied theory in the later decades of the twentieth century. The theory consists of four main stages of development. The sensorimotor stage is first and takes place from the time the baby is born to the time the baby turns two.
This is the stage where an infant’s knowledge of the world is limited to their sensory perceptions and motor activities. the infants behavior is limited to simple motor responses caused by sensory stimuli. Children utilize skills and abilities they were born with, such as looking, sucking, grasping, and listening, to learn more about the environment. According to Piaget the development of object permanence is key to this stage of development. Object permanence is a child's understanding that objects continue to exist even though they cannot be seen or heard, for example toys or food.
Once the baby turns two he or she enters the Preoperational stage of their lives. During this stage of Piaget’s theory the child does not understand common logic and language is a big part of the stage as well. In addition children are expected to be egocentric; they think the world revolves around them. Whatever they want, whenever they want. During the preoperational stage, children begin to use symbols to represent other things in life. For example, pretending a broom is a horse or an orange is a ball.
This is also the stage where role playing first takes place, children begin to believe they are mommy daddy or even doctor. The Preoperational stage lasts from age two up until age six. The third stage of the Cognitive development theory is known as Concrete operational. The concrete operational stage begins around age seven and continues until approximately age eleven. During this time, children gain a better understanding of mental operations. Children begin thinking logically about concrete events, but have difficulty understanding abstract or hypothetical concepts.
One of the most important developments in this stage is an understanding of reversibility. An example of this is being able to reverse the order of relationships between mental categories. For example, a child might be able to understand that the dog is a husky, that a Husky is a dog, and that a dog is an animal. The final stage of Piaget’s Cognitive theory is the Formal operational stage. The formal operational stage begins at age twelve and lasts throughout the individuals’ life. During this time, people develop the ability to think about abstract concepts.
More lively learning such as logical thought, deductive reasoning, and systematic planning also begin to show during this stage. Piaget believed that deductive logic becomes important during the formal operational stage. Deductive logic requires the ability to use a general principle to determine an outcome. This type of thinking involves hypothetical situations. While children tend to think very concretely and specifically in earlier stages, the ability to think about abstract concepts emerges during the formal operational stage.
Instead of relying solely on previous experiences, children begin to consider possible outcomes and consequences of actions. This type of thinking is important in long-term planning in life. Piaget's focus on quality development had an important impact on education. While Piaget did not specifically apply his theory to education, many educational programs today are built upon the belief that students should be taught at the level for which they are developmentally prepared. In addition a number of instructional strategies have been derived from Piaget's work. These trategies include providing a supportive environment, social interactions and peer teaching, and helping children learn from mistakes and improve on their thought processes. Piaget’s theory fits into today’s society because as we see, children are always learning throughout every stage of their lives. They begin with touching, sucking, and squeezing. Then move along to learning language and interacting with their environment, before learning logical and abstract concepts. While each stage might not be exact to the age group, all stages provide building blocks necessary to move on to the next stage of life.
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