Jean Piaget theory
n Children "construct" their
understanding of the world through
their active involvement and
n Studied his 3 children to focus not
on what they knew but how they
n Described children's
understanding as their "schemas”
and how they use:
Piaget’s Cognitive Development
n Cognition: How people think & Understand.
n Piaget developed four stages to his theory of
¨ Sensori-Motor Stage
¨ Pre-Operational Stage
¨ Concrete Operational Stage
¨ Formal Operational Stage.
Sensori-Motor Stage (0-2 years)
n Sensory contact understanding.
n The child explores the world surrounding them
using it’s senses
n Initially sucking/grasping reflex and moving onto
reaching for objects out of reach.
n Major development within this stage.
n Initially the baby cannot understand that objects
exists out of sight.
n As the baby reaches around 7/8 months he/she
will begin to understand the object/person still
exists when out of sight.
Pre-Operational stage(2-7yrs old)
n Toddler can understand the use of symbols and
language. This is an example of symbolic
thinking. E.g. pretend play.
n Language is now understood.
n Animism…child believes inanimate objects have
feelings as they do. E.g. ‘bad table. I’ll not talk to
n Egocentricism…Can only see the world from
their own point of view
n All these developments take place in the Pre-
Preoperational Stage (2 to 7 years)
•"Operation" - Forms of mental action
through which older children solve problems
and reason logically
•Key feature of stage is extensive
•Pre-op kids develop “theory of mind”
(understanding of mental processes)
Some Dimensions of
Conservation: Number, Matter,
conservation Number Matter Length
presentation Two identical Two identical Two sticks are
rows of objects balls of clay aligned in
shown to child shown to child front of child
One row is Experimenter Experimenter
spaced changes shape moves one
of one ball stick to right
Preoperational “No, the one
child’s answer to “No, the longer “No, the longer on top is
“Are they still row has more” one has more” longer”
Concrete Operational Stage (7-11 years)
n The children are now able to conserve,
n They understand that although the
appearance has changed the thing it self
Formal Operational Stage (11- 16 years )
n Most of previous characteristics discussed
have now developed.
n The child shows logical thinking and is able to
work through abstract problems and use logic
without the presence of concrete
n E.g. If Kelly is taller than John and John is
taller than Pete who is the tallest? This is an
example of inferential reasoning.
Example: Pendulum problem
•Formal operational children will
systematically test all possibilities
before arriving at a conclusion
Summary of Piaget: Criticisms
n Underestimated the importance of
n Gagne: Complex skills can be acquired easily
once simpler prerequisite skills have been
learned. Development is based on LEARNING
new skills - continuous not discontinuous.
n Underestimated the ability of children
n . Tasks were methodologically flawed
n Underestimated the impact of CULTURE:
n Piaget’s tasks are culturally biased
n Schooling and literacy affect rates of
n This suggest that there were design flaws with
Piagets original study.
Summary of Piaget: Criticisms
n Demand characteristics:- the children may
have wanted to please the experimenter
therefore changing their behaviour.
n Social setting:-Piaget ignored the effect of
the social setting upon the child.The way
adults use language and gestures.
•Active rather than passive view of the
•Revealed important invariants in
•Perceptual-motor learning rather than
language important for development.