Despite challenges to his theory of four stages of cognitive development and later advances in understanding, his work remains a foundation for the modern understanding of child development. The point is that there is a continual process of building cognitive abilities where later skills are built on earlier skills. Piaget was interested in the sequence.
Piaget’s stages of cognitive development
As a guide to what changes and how, his four cognitive development stages describe one part of his great legacy. Driving the four stages of cognitive development is a perpetual iterative process that results in progress. As children develop knowledge, they learn activity patterns consisting of emotion, sensation, motor movement, and perception, learned in response to a particular interaction with the world schemes.
Piaget's Theory of Cognitive Development
Assimilation: The child understands new experience in terms of past experience i. For example, when a baby sees a rattle she will assimilate it to her grasping scheme based on her past experience with rattles and have expectations based on that previous experience.
Accommodation: But because each new experience is somewhat different the child will accommodate to those differences and thus extend her knowledge in new ways.
This stage links action to thinking during the first 18 months. Babies employ action schemes like sucking, pushing, hitting and grasping, in order to explore and manipulate the world.
At the outset, the newborn has no self-consciousness and no clear awareness of what effects she produces.
By coordinating her actions and through imitation of others, she learns a sense of self and how she relates to people and things. Piaget described a series of 6 sub-stages within this stage.
The baby sucks, roots, grasps, touches, cries, moves arms and legs, and gets better at all of these actions. The baby was not intending to make the doll sway, just enjoying that they did and learning about the link between the swaying and the kicking.
At this stage of development, babies are learning by accidental discovery.
The process underlying Piaget’s stages of cognitive development
The baby starts active experimentation. The child will apply a scheme to achieve a result; if it does not work, the baby will try another scheme in the repertoire.
Toddlers start to find new ways of doing things on their own initiative. The first stage comes to an end when the baby develops the ability to think through a problem without actually having to test it out physically.
A child at this stage does not distinguish between individuals and the category they belong to.
The child starts to combine schemes in order to infer things. The classical experiment is having two identical glasses of water with the same amount of water in each, then pouring one glass into a narrower glass, so the water is higher.
The child, operating in one dimension only, deduces on the basis of existing schemes that a higher water level means more water. At this stage, the child understands the principle of conservation: there must be the same amount of water in each glass, because none was added or taken away. The child starts to apply logic, working things out through thought, not just action. A child will group, count and measure objects at this stage.
The child is now systematically experimenting, forming hypotheses and testing them out by trying out alternatives, just like scientists do.
Piaget recognised that not everyone expresses skills at this stage as if they were scientists in a laboratory. He thought that every adult may reach this stage in their own area of expertise — farmers, bakers, mechanics and so on.
Some have claimed his experiments were too difficult for children, but making them easier would not change the underlying sequence of development he was describing. Others have criticised the ages associated with the stages and have pointed to diversity among children.
Again, for Piaget, it was the sequence that was important, not the precise age at which a child reaches a particular point. Another criticism is that children are inconsistent in each stage and can move backwards for particular tasks or in particular situations.
Again, Piaget observed that himself, without undermining the theory. The idea of cognitive development stages is often criticised for underestimating the social factors that are part of cognitive development.
Piaget is sometimes compared to Vygotsky, who so strongly emphasised social aspects. The bottom line is that the Piaget stages of cognitive development remain the greatest foundation of modern developmental psychology.
Further discoveries are serving to confirm the central thrust of his argument rather than to challenge it. Copyright Contact Us. Hit enter to search or ESC to close. Professor Jeremy I.
Sensorimotor during the first two years This stage links action to thinking during the first 18 months. Sub-stage 1: Reflex activity The baby sucks, roots, grasps, touches, cries, moves arms and legs, and gets better at all of these actions. Photo: Shutterstock.
Piaget’s stages of cognitive development
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