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Development of the Individual - Piaget, Vygotsky, Erikson and Kohlberg

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Development of the Individual

Piaget, Vygotsky, Erikson and Kohlberg

Piaget

Jean Piaget was born in Switzerland in 1896. His interest in cognitive development came from his training in the natural sciences. Piaget was very interested in knowledge and how children come to know their world. He developed his cognitive theory by actually observing children (some of whom were his own children). He believed that every human being is endowed or burdened with unique characteristics that distinguish him or her from all other people. Those characteristics influence the ways in which the individual confronts challenges and responds to external pressures such as instruction. Although there are many variations in the ways that people, including youngsters in school, react to circumstances and interpret and acquire information, there are also many similarities. The similarities manifest themselves among human beings in the same stage of development.

In Piaget's view, heredity, environment, and maturation - the process of growing up - all interact in the development of intelligence. Children, and adults, strive continually to adapt to their environments. Adaptation, Piaget believes, represents a never -ending attempt to achieve a state of equilibrium or balance between individual and environment. Piaget calls that the equilibration factor. An example of equilibration: feeling energetic on a bright spring afternoon, you toss a ball, go jogging or bike-riding, or play some fast sets of tennis to work off the surplus energy; tired or sleepy, you read in the shade of a tree or take a nap to restore your energy. Because none of us is ever static, a perfect, continuing balance remains beyond our reach; but Piaget's view we keep trying for it.

Achievement of equilibrium even briefly involves, Piaget says, two processes that he calls assimilation and accommodation, which are essential to mental growth. Each of us has what psychologists describe as a cognitive structure or schema that represents what we know and how we look at our world. Our schemas determine how we respond at a given moment to people, objects, or occurrences, and we try to assimilate new experiences into schema. But much information and experience do not fit into our existing schemas, and disequilibrium results. So we alter our schemas to accommodate the new material. According to Piaget assimilation and accommodation are part of the cognitive process for adults as well as children.

It is a major premise of Piaget's theory that all children everywhere progress from birth through adolescence by four separate periods of cognitive development. The periods, each of which is divided into stages, never vary in order of their appearance, but children vary in the ages at which they enter the different periods. Even among mentally retarded youngsters, the progression from period to period differs from that of normal children only in that its pace is slower. Piaget states that each of the stages is essential for the development of the following stages. This isn't simply a lineal order in which you could jump over one stage and still get to the next one. Each stage integrates the preceding stage and prepares the way for the following one. Biological maturation is the preeminent force that dictates the emergence of stages. Experience determines the extent to which a person's intellectual potential is realized.

In each period, thought processes differ from those of past and future periods. Yet no definite boundaries set off one period from another. Children do not go to bed in period 2 and wake up in period 3.

Piaget calls the first period, which extends roughly from birth to tow years of age, the sensorimotor period. Infants explore the world at first only by senses such as touch, and motions such as thrusting their fingers into their mouths.

The sensorimotor period, like subsequent periods of development, divides into stages. In the sensorimotor period, the first stage lasts only a month or so and is marked by little but reflexes and random uncoordinated movements of arms and legs. By the second stage, from one to four months of age, accommodation and assimilation begin to manifest themselves. The baby accommodates to strange new objects such as a spoon and assimilates them. In the third stage, four to eight months, most children begin to discover cause and effect. Cognition develops from experience, and the more experience the more cognition. In this stage most babies have yet to comprehend that when something vanishes from view it still exists. The stages are no more sharply defined, by ages, than are the four major periods of development.

In the fourth stage, from about eight to twelve months, most children begin to search for vanished things and manifest a sense of objects' permanence. This stage is also a time of experimentation, setting goals independently and pushing aside obstacles.

In the fifth stage, twelve to eighteen months, experimentation accelerates. The throwing of objects continues and imitation begins.

In the sixth stage, from eighteen to twenty-four months, children become able to think about doing things instead of just doing things when the thought occurs. They begin to solve problems, opening a drawer. They are now aware of themselves as individuals.

In the six stages, Piaget believes, they have laid the while foundations on which they will build their intellects.

In the second period of cognitive development according to Piaget is the preoperational period, two to six years. During this period imaginative thinking begins and imaginative and egocentric logic begins. Vocabulary develops from 200 to 2000 words. Literal and limited interpretation of language develops and becomes more sophisticated through constant questioning.

The third period is the concrete operational period. This takes places approximately six to twelve years of age. During this period understanding of conservation and reversibility begins. Understanding of sets begins. Decentration is used in reasoning. Imagination is replaced with addiction to literal fact. Experimentation is replaced with a desire for simplicity, rules, and order. Visual problems are solved better than verbal problems.

The fourth period is formal operations and takes place between ages eleven and sixteen. At that time the ability to think abstractly develops, formal logic is used scientifically and ability for introspection develops. During this period assumption of adult roles begin. Awareness of and concern about society and one's role in it begin through this period. Physiological changes accompanied by

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