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Jean Piagets Theory of Cognitive Development

"Piaget's work on children's intellectual development owed much to his early studies of water snails" (Satterly, 1987:622)1 Key Ideas: Adaptation (Assimilation and Accommodation), Primary circular reactions, Object permanence, Representational thought, Egocentrism, Schema, Principle of Conservation, Reversibility of ideas

I. Jean Piaget: A brief background in relation to his theory A. was a biologist who studied mollusks 2 B. became an assistant to Alfred Binet, developer of the Binet intelligence test 3 C. as an assistant, he was able to observe the consistency of a child to give wrong answers on the Binet intelligence test 3 D. he then moved into the study of childrens understanding through observing, talking and listening to them 2 II. Nature of the theory A. a developmental process through which an individual comes to know and understand the world by activities that involve: 1. thinking 2. perceiving 3. problem-solving B. involves two processes for environmental adaptation C. an idea that is composed of sequence of stages which relies on age III. Two processes involved The cognitive development of a child involves the basic process of assimilation and accommodation. These both processes are equally important as it helps the child to adapt at his environment. Assimilation is the process by which an individual perceives and adapt to new information from the environment and fits it in his schema. This occurs when humans are faced with new or unfamiliar information and refer to previously learned information to make sense of it4. And by accommodation, as a follow-up process, makes an individual create a new scheme by modifying an existing scheme after his interaction to the environment. For instance, an infant sees a rattle and grasps it; he is assimilating. When he changes the way he holds it out of his hand to be able to hold it, he is accommodating. These two processes are the means by which a persons cognitive adaptation to his environment is made possible5.

As cited from: (original reference: Satterly, D. (1987) "Piaget and Education" in R L Gregory (ed.) The Oxford Companion to the Mind Oxford, Oxford University Press 2 Piagets Key Ideas. (2011). In Retrieved from: learning/ piaget.htm 3 Jean Piaget. (n.d.). In www. Retrieved from: 4 Piaget's theory of cognitive development .(n.d.) In www. Retrieved from: i/Piaget %27s_ theory_of_cognitive_development 5 Bustos, A. S. et al. (1985) The Learner .Psychological, Anthropological, and Sociological Foundations of Education (Foundations of Educations 1). (p. 12-14). Quezon City, Philippines; Kaha publishing Co. Inc

IV. Stages involved5 A. Sensorimotor stage (birth to two years) 1. Thinking is displayed in action such as grasping, sucking, and looking schemes 2. The infant is unable to discriminate between him and the environment 3. No awareness of the existence of the objects 4. Unawareness of why things happen
Figure 1.1. The cub and the child still hasnt achieved object permanence as they still believed that the bread is still in the toaster.


5. Soon, the infant will display a behavior called primary circular reactions:
It is when a child around 1 month old starts to notice small patterns because they repeat in behavior that meets basic needs of the child. For example: if a baby sees its hands open and close it will continue this action because they are now fascinated by it. No matter what they do the result does not change.6

6. By repeating the behavior mentioned, the baby now exhibits intentional behavior 7. This display of intentional behavior yields to object permanence (awareness that an object has existence that is independent of his own actions and perceptions)
This is a giant step in intellectual development. The child has progressed from a stage where she apparently believed that her actions created the world, to a stage where she realizes that people and objects are independent of her actions.

8. Achievement of object permanence yields to representational thought (capability of a baby to picture or represent things on their minds. Language emerges)
primary circular reactions intentional behavior object permanence representational thought

Figure 1.2. The sensorimotor stage

B. Preoperational stage (two to six years) 1. Language first appears. Increased ability to assimilate new information and experience and interpret their meanings 2. Children have difficulty understanding the another persons point of view; egocentric 3. A childs thinking is irreversible. He lack the ability to rethink and go back to answer problems; incapable of logical thinking esp. in conservation problems (see below
Figure 1.3. A child who still have not developed the principle of conservation believes that the water who has greater liquid is the one which appears taller than the other though in the first place (B), they are identical in amount (A) A

Answer (n.d.). In Retrieved from:

C. Concrete operational stage (six to twelve years) 1. Able to understand conservation problems (principle of conservation) Principle of Conservation: states that a given quality does not change when its appearance is changed7 2. The childs thinking is reversible. He can understand logic ss: using subtraction to check addition or vice versa 3. The child has difficulty understanding hypothetical and abstract concepts D. Formal Operational stage (twelve years to adulthood) 1. Thinking becomes more abstract and hypothetical. The individual considers many alternative solutions to a problem, make deductions, contemplate the future and formulate personal ideas and values. 2. There is decrease in egocentricity

Lawrence Kohlbergs Theory of Moral Development

I. Lawrence Kohlberg: A brief background in relation to his theory8 A. He is a Jewish B. He has specialized moral education and reasoning C. A close follower of Jean Piaget II. Nature of the theory A. based from ethical behavior B. has six developmental stages III. Stages involved9
Stage 1 Stage 2 Obedience or Punishment Orientation Self-Interest Orientation Pre-Conventional Morality This is the stage that all young children start at (and a few adults remain in). Rules are seen as being fixed and absolute. Obeying the rules is important because it means avoiding punishment. As children grow older, they begin to see that other people have their own goals and preferences and that often there is room for negotiation. Decisions are made based on the principle of "What's in it for me?" For example, an older child might reason: "If I do what mom or dad wants me to do, they will reward me. Therefore I will do it." Conventional Morality By adolescence, most individuals have developed to this stage. There is a sense of what "good boys" and "nice girls" do and the emphasis is on living up to social expectations and norms because of how they impact day-to-day relationships. By the time individuals reach adulthood, they usually consider society as a whole when making judgments. The focus is on maintaining law and order by following the rules, doing one's duty and respecting authority. Post-Conventional Morality At this stage, people understand that there are differing opinions out there on what is right and wrong and that laws are really just a social contract based on majority decision and inevitable compromise. People at this stage sometimes disobey rules if they find them to be inconsistent with their personal values and will also argue for certain laws to be changed if they are no longer "working". Our modern democracies are based on the reasoning of Stage 5. Few people operate at this stage all the time. It is based on abstract reasoning and the ability to put oneself in other people's shoes. At this stage, people have a principled conscience and will follow universal ethical principles regardless of what the official laws and rules are.

Stage 3 Stage 4

Social Conformity Orientation Law and Order Orientation

Stage 5

Social Contract Orientation

Stage 6

Universal Ethics Orientation


(1986). Intellectual Development (Eds.). Understanding Psychology. (p. 188-193). Mission Hills, California: Glencoe/ McGraw- Hill 8 Lawrence Kohlberg. (n.d.). In www. Retrieved from: 9 Baker, M. (2011). In Retrieved from: