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Piaget's Theory of Cognitive Development

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Piaget's Theory of Cognitive Development

During the 1920s, a biologist named Jean Piaget proposed a theory of

cognitive development of children. He caused a new revolution in thinking

about how thinking develops. In 1984, Piaget observed that children

understand concepts and reason differently at different stages. Piaget

stated children's cognitive strategies which are used to solve problems,


experience in the world.

Research on cognitive development has provided science educators with

constructive information regarding student capacities for meeting science

curricular goals. Students which demonstrate concrete operational

thinking on Piagetian tasks seem to function only at that level and not at

the formal operational level in science. Students which give evidence of

formal operational thinking on Piagetian tasks often function at the

concrete operational level in science, thus leading researchers to

conclude that the majority of adolescents function at the concrete

operational level on their understanding of science subject matter. In a

study by the National Foundation of subjects in Piaget's Balance Task were

rated as being operational with respect to proportional thought

development. In addition, seventy-one percent of subjects did not achieve

complete understanding of the material studied in a laboratory unit

related to chemical solubility. The unit delt with primary ratios and

proportions, and when overall physical science achievement was considered,

about forty-three percent of the formal operational studies were not able

to give simple examples of the problem that were correctly solved on the

paper and pencil exam (Inhelder & Piaget, 1958, p. 104).

Piaget was primarily concerned with the developmental factors that

characterize the changes in the child's explanations of the world around

him or her. Piaget's early research showed

three parallel lines of development. First, from an initial adualism or

confusion of result of the

subject's own activity with objective changes to reality to a

differentiation between subject and object. Second, from a

phenomenological interpretation of the world to one which is based on

objective causality. Third, from a unconscious focusing on one's own

point of view to a decentration which allocates the subject a place in the

world alongside other persons and objects. In functional terms, these

concepts are termed assimilation and accommodation in reference to

interaction with the physical world, and socialization in reference to

interaction with other people (Inhelder & Sinclair, 1974, p.22).

Piaget's states many secondary level science courses taught in the past at

the have been too abstract for most students since they are taught in

lecture or reception learning format. Thus, students who only have

concrete operational structures available for their reasoning will not be

successful with these types of curricula. Programs using concrete and

self-pacing instruction are better suited to the majority of students and

the only stumbling block may be teachers who cannot understand the

programs or regard them as too simplistic. Since the teacher is a very

important variable regarding the outcome of the science, the concern level

of the teacher will determine to what extent science instruction is

translated in a cognitively relevant manner in the classroom.

Educators who prefer to have children learn to make a scientific

interpretation rather than a mythological interpretation of natural

phenomena, and one way to introduce scientific interpretations is to

analyze any change as evidence of interaction. One way in which this

teaching device can function is if there is an instructional period of

several class sessions in which the students are engaged in "play" with

new of familiar materials; followed by is a suggestion of a way to think

about observations; lastly there is a further extermination in which the

students can explore the consequences of using their discoveries .

Through the process of guided discovery, the student

goes from observation at the beginning to interpretations at the end

(Athey & Rubadeau, 1970, p. 245).

In Piaget's study of the operations that underlie the system of scientific

concepts related to number, measurement, physical quantities, and logical

classes and relations, structural models were needed to explain



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