Piaget’s Model of Cognitive Development

Thursday, 5th October, 2017. As I sit down to reflect upon the topics we have covered in the past few weeks, I find myself drawn to Piaget’s model of cognitive development. This is, particularly, because I feel that it covers the nature and development of human intelligence or cognition.

So, who was Piaget? He was a Swiss developmental psychologist.

Piaget 1
Jean Piaget

He believed that cognitive development is a progressive reorganization of mental processes resulting from biological maturation and environmental experience. He stated that children construct an understanding of the world around them, experience discrepancies between what they already know and what they discover in their environment, and then adjust their ideas accordingly. He proposed four main stages of cognitive development are:

  • Sensorimotor: Birth through ages 18-24 months
  • Preoperational: Toddlerhood (18-24 months) through early childhood (age 7)
  • Concrete operational: Ages 7 to 12
  • Formal operational: Adolescence through adulthood

Each stage has its own characteristic.

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Find Out More

During the sensorimotor stage children focus on physical interactions with their immediate environment. Since they don’t know how things react, they constantly experiment such as by putting things in their mouth. During this stage, they try to accommodate and assimilate their knowledge of the world through trial and error.

During the preoperational stage, young children are able to think about things symbolically. Their thinking at this stage is based completely on intuition and still not completely logical. They are still unable to grasp more complex concepts like comparisons.

During the concrete operational stage, elementary-age and preadolescent children start demonstrating logical and concrete reasoning.Their thinking becomes less egocentric. They begin to realize that one’s own thoughts and feelings are unique.

During the formal operational stage, children are able to understand abstract concepts and relationships. They can think in systematic ways, formulate hypotheses, and consider possibilities.

How is this understanding of cognitive development important? Can you guess? The  importance of Piaget’s model lies in the fact, that it helps educationists to understand what to expect from children at a particular stage. You cannot expect a child of 7 years to understand abstract relationships, therefore “forcing” this down their throats, at this stage, is a folly. This model provides a realistic insight of what children are capable of doing at particular stages and hence our education system should focus on realistic milestones and goals.

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