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Jean Piaget's Stages of Cognitive Development | Piaget theory of Cognitive Development


Jean Piaget's Stages of Cognitive Development b.ed notes 


1. The Sensory-Motor Period (From birth to nearly eighteen months) :

During this period the child creates his own individual world which is connected with the satisfaction of his physical wants and its scope lies in the immediate sensation.

During the last months of the phase the child begins to think about his experiences.

He begins to gain some consciousness about objects and specially he begins to gain some understanding regarding their stability.

He also gets some illumination regarding the causes of events. But on the whole during this period, he remains confused regarding himself and his environment.

Babies believe that objects exist only if they can actually see them.


At this stage babies start comprehending causality. Understanding of this principles, that events can be caused, sets the stage of later cognitive development.

At this point, the child's mental development is equal to that of intelligent animals.

2. The Pre-operational Stage (From about eighteen months in about seven years):

The child develops ways of representing events and objects through symbols, including the verbal symbols of language.

The child's language development takes place. He can now think about things that are not immediately present and he can begin to solve certain types of problems, particularly problems based on visual items. But he cannot solve problems that relate to abstract concepts, or items that are not apparent.

Hence, the children's cognition remains limited by pre-operational modes of understanding.


At this stage, the child still remains egocentric. He now knows that world does not revolve around him but is still incapable of stepping himself. He fails to understand anothers point of view.

A pre-school girl who closes her eyes and insists that you cannot see her is a good example of the egocentricity.

3. Concrete-operations Stage (7 to 11 years):

As they reach the end of the pre operational period the children begin to understand the principle of conservation.

Conservation is the ability to recognise that basic attributes of an object, such as number or weight, remains the same even when the appearance of the object is transformed.


Piaget observed that in pre-operational child there is incapability of understanding conservation.

It was found that if two identical containers are shown to the child which hold the water at the same level the child recognises that both containers have the equal amount of water but when the water is poured into a container of a different shape the child insists that the container in which the water reaches the higher level now holds more.

But this insistence breaks at the ond of pre-operational period or the child starts to understand that simply because something appears bigger or longer may not in fact be so.

Thus, a control over his perception results. This is the stage which is called as the stage of concrete-operations.


At this stage, the child is no longer totally egocentric.

He communicates with others, compares others point of view with his own, recheck his ideas and decides what is right.

This, therefore, is considered a very good stage for co-operation and competition.

Piaget who studied the cognitive development for nearly 50 years and his associate Barbel Inhelder consider cognitive process as a process of unfolding.

But, they also believe that in this process there are levels which can be recognized.

This means that though the process is continuous yet we can recognize some levels in accordance with age range.


4. Stage of Formal Operations (From 11 or 12 years to the later age-range) :


During this period, the child develops the ability of thinking and reasoning of the objects and thoughts which are beyond the immediate world.

Now the problems are more systematically solved and the bases of his action are not trial and error.

It means that he not only learns by committing mistakes and by correcting them again and again, but he thinks out the problem and through his reasoning searches its solution.

Now his ideas regarding social justice become clear and he learns to socially interact in a desirable manner.

The youngsters at this stage can organize information, reason scientifically, build hypotheses based on an understanding to causality and test their hypotheses.

But adolescents, although they have reached the potential of adult thought, remain egocentric in their own way.

They may become logical but they do not necessarily become realistic.

They want the world to take an ideal shape of their vision and thought.

Thus, they becomes dreamy idealist or radicals. As the adolescents enter into adulthood, their quality of thought structure no longer changes, but a balance between assimilation and accommodation is reached.


Most of the teachers are now in agreement with him that it is a waste of time to tell those things to the children which cannot be experienced through their sense-organs.

According to Piaget, the children should be allowed to handle the objects and symbols so that they can test their questions and assumptions truthfully.

For cognitive development it is necessary that the children should work and exchange ideas with their peer group.

When the children gain many direct experiences then only they are in a position to understand the abstract ideas and concepts.

Piaget does not like the bookish education, the teacher activated education, the education in big groups and verbal tests for evaluating as how much has been learnt. His viewpoint is similar to Maria Montessori's.


Piaget theory of Cognitive Development b.ed notes 



(A) Pre-School and Primary Classes

These are:

1. Teacher should first of all be thoroughly familiar with Piaget's theory so that he may be able to know as to how his students organize and synthesize ideas.

2. The teacher should try to assess the level and the type of thinking of each child in his class. Each child may be asked to perform some of the Piaget's experiments and he must spend most of his time in listening to each child to explain her or his reaction.

3. Plenty of materials and opportunities to the children must be provided to learn or their own.

4. Situations are to be arranged in groups so as to facilitate social interaction and that children learn from each other. In a group advanced children are to be placed with those who are less mature in thinking so that the less mature may gain by being with the more mature ones.


5. Learning experiences are to be organized taking into consideration the level of thinking attained by an individual or group

6. Teachers should keep in mind the possibility that pupils may be influenced by egocentric speech or thought

(B) Secondary Classes

These are:

1. Teacher should become well aware with the nature of the concrete operational thinking and formal thoughts so that he can know when his students are employing either of these or a combination of them.


2. In order that the teacher may become aware of the type of thinking being used by individual students he must ask them to explain how they arrived at solutions to problem: in responses to the experimental situation similar to those devised by Piaget

3. Students must be taught to be more systematic about solving problems.

4. Be cautious in regards to the class discussions becoming unrealistically theoretical and hypothetical: In such a situation call attention to facts and practical difficulties.

5. There is a possibility that younger adolescents may pass through a period of egocentrism which might lead them to act as if they are always on the stage and become extremely sensitive about the reaction of their peers.


Criticism of Piaget Theory of Cognitive Development


The ideas put forth by Piaget and Montessori have been incorporated in some of the schools in Britain, America and Canada. But his theory has not found universal acceptance in practice. 

There are certain quite serious objections which are raised by some American and other psychologists. These psychologists do not agree with this view of Piaget that infants are born with some elementary mental structures that are starting points for their attempts to deal with their environment.

The early structures are essential to the earliest intellectual activities of infants, but they diminish in importance as new structures are developed.

Most of the American psychologists are of the opinion that infants must learn to understand the world. Their success depends on the type of environment they experience.

In Piaget's theory environment is not ignored but in Piaget's view the child is in active agent who constructs mental schemes that enable him to understand and deal with his environment


Gagne also takes a view which is different from Piaget. According to him the stages described by Piaget are not necessarily the inevitable result of an inborn time-table; but are instead a consequence of children having learned sets of rules that are progressively more complex. Gagne feels that these rules are taught by their physical and social environment.


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