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Cognitive Development According to Piaget

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Cognitive Development According to Piaget

Cognitive development is defined as gradual orderly changes by which mental processes become more complex and sophisticated, or the scientific study of how human beings develop in certain orderly stages as they get older. The actual study of cognition refers to the process of knowing; it is the study of all mental activities related to acquiring, storing, and using knowledge (Microsoft, 2001, p.3). How we as humans develop cognitively has been thoroughly observed and researched by Jean Piaget. He was a cognitivist: he believed that our environment stimulates us to learn on our own (make our own intelligence).

Piaget was a Swiss psychologist who had a major impact on educational theory in the early 20th century. He called himself a "cognitive biologist." He was considered a boy genius, publishing his first paper at the age of ten. By the age of fifteen, he had written and published more than twenty articles. He received his doctorate in biology at the age of twenty-two from the University of Neuchatel (Microsoft, 2001, p.5). When Piaget became interested in cognitive development, he started studies and did research and writing on his theories of cognitive development. Piaget wrote extensively on the development of thought and language patterns in children. He examined children's conceptions of numbers, space, logic, geometry, physical reality, and moral judgment (Microsoft, 2001, p.1).

Piaget was one of the first child psychologists who worked one-on-one with children instead of with a group study. During the one-on-one time he spent with the children, Piaget noticed that at different ages, specifically as they got older, children were

able to learn more and understand more complex concepts. This is when he came up with his four stages of cognitive development. He said that we, even as adults, attain intelligence at different levels. He referred to this as hierarchical fashion and said that learning is adaptation (assimilation and association) with structure. What we learn is either combined with previously learned material or that we adjust to the new material (Woolfolk, 2001).

Piaget's first stage of cognitive development is called the Sensory Stage. It lasts from birth to approximately two years old (Woolfolk, 2001). Here, children have no object permanence (out of sight, out of mind). Everything that is learned here is through the five senses and children don't not see the world separate from himself. Within the Sensory Stage, there are six sub-stages. The first sub-stage is from birth to one month, known as the reflex stage. When something enters their hand or touches their feet, they attempt to grasp it. Also, when something is placed on their lips, they try to suck on the object thinking it is food. Next is from one to four months, primary circular reaction. Now children begin to follow objects with their eyes, they have some coordinated movements (everything they hold, they put in their mouth), and they start repeated motions (kicking). Next is from four to six months, secondary circular reaction. This is when children start to coordinate their eyes with their hands, they now have foresight, and they start to act for results (behavior = attention). They start to experiment; they connect events in the places they occur ( bath in the bathtub, changing on the changing table). Also in this stage they develop object permanence. The fourth sub-stage is from

six to twelve months, known as the coordination of secondary schema. They now have deliberate plans of exploration (know where they want to go and what they want to

do when they get there). They can also play simple games, like taking objects out of a box and putting them back in. The next sub-stage is from twelve to eighteen months and is called the tertiary circular reaction stage. Children LOVE experimentation in this stage. They begin to walk and get into everything. Also in this stage they get fixed on sequence. For example when eating, they may take a bite and then take a drink, bite, drink, bite, drink...etc. The final sub-stage is from eighteen to twenty-four months and is called mental combinations. This is when they start to pretend. They now have symbolic play where they imitate mom, dad, brother or sister, babysitter, etc. They can now remember the past and certain isolated events.

Piaget's second stage of cognitive development is the Preoperational Stage and is from age two to six or seven years (Woolfolk, 2001). This is the stage where children really start to use symbolic representation. There are only two sub-stages here, but they last for longer amounts of times with more learning occurring in each. The first sub-stage is from two to three or four years and is called the preconceptual phase. At this stage children start to judge from their own experiences. However, the world still revolves around them; if they want it, it will happen (or so they think). They also think that others have access to their thoughts. Therefore, when children of this age start to talk about random ideas or people they know, they don't give specifics because they think others know exactly what or who they are talking about. In this stage, children are very egocentric. More than forty percent of the time, they talk about themselves. Their

imagination in this stage is very active. They talk to inanimate objects (their toys, a rock, a stick, etc.). This is when they start to mix play with reality. They are afraid of monsters

and fictional bad guys from their favorite cartoon show. They take violence very personally in this stage. For example, if someone on T.V. gets hurt, they want to help that person. Also in this stage they really start to imitate people that are close to them. They might have a toy lawn mower and mow the lawn with dad, or have a play kitchen set and cook



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