Jean Piaget and his theory and stages of cognitive development - Educational Technology (2023)

One of the most popular theories of cognitive development was put forward by Jean Piaget, a Swiss psychologist, who believed that cognitive growth occurs in stages. Piaget studied children through adolescence to find out how they developed logical thinking. He attempted to document the stages of cognitive development by observing children's memory processes.

Essentially, Piaget believed that people create their own understanding of the world. Theologically it waspsychological constructivistwho believe that learning is caused by the mixture of two processes: assimilation and accommodation. Children first reflect on their previous experiences to understand a new concept, and then adjust their expectations based on the new experience. This means that children continuously build knowledge based on newly presented ideas, leading to long-term change. Piaget focused more on cognitive developments over time.


(Video) Piaget's Theory of Cognitive Development

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Through his studies, Piaget established that cognitive development occurs in four stages throughout childhood:

  1. The phases occur in sequence.
  2. The children did not skip the steps, but went through each one.
  3. There are visible changes from one phase to another.
  4. The steps occur like building blocks, each using parts of the last step.

This type of development model builds each stage into the next, which is why it is often referred to as a "ladder" model. On this ladder, Piaget identified four stages of cognitive growth that occurred in children of about an approximate age.

  1. Sensorimotor intelligence, from birth to 2 years.
  2. Pre-operational thinking, from 2 to 7 years.
  3. Concrete operational thinking, from 7 to 11 years.
  4. Formal operational thinking, ages 11 and up.

The sensorimotor stage: from birth to 2 years

The first stage is aptly named for the way babies learn up to the age of two. From birth, babies take in information through their senses: touch, sight and hearing. They are very obsessed with their mouth and tend to put everything in their mouth. Piaget believed that this phase was valuable in his development, and each subsequent step builds on the growth that takes place in this phase.

We can observe babies' thought processes through their actions. From 6 months, children begin to organize ideas into fixed concepts that don't change. A baby may not initially understand a particular toy, but as they begin to look at it, feel it, and manipulate it frequently, they can visualize the object in their mind. In this way we can begin to observe knowledge in babies as they begin to show understanding of an object for what it is. For example, if a child constantly plays with a toy animal, he or she begins to understand what the object is and to recall his or her experiences associated with that toy. Piaget called this understandingpermanent object, indicating that the toy is well known despite not being in sight. He viewed this understanding as an important milestone in the sensorimotor phase and believed it revealed the differences in the thought processes of young children compared to young babies.

(Video) Piaget's stages of cognitive development | Processing the Environment | MCAT | Khan Academy

The sensorimotor stage is unique in that it occurs without the use of language. Because babies don't talk, Piaget devised some creative experiments to understand what babies are thinking. His experiments were able to show that babies represent objects and understand that these are permanent. In one of his experiments, Piaget always hid a toy under a blanket. Young children or children between 18 and 24 months took the initiative to search for the toy themselves, but babies under 6 months did not. Older infants interpreted hiding the toy as an incentive to search for it, which is intended to support the idea of ​​object permanence.

The preoperative stage: 2 to 7 years old

Children continue to develop object representation, which is important at the sensorimotor level, through various activities. While the way they represent objects has no logic or reasoning behind it, they continue to grow in this areadramatic game🇧🇷 Imaginative play, or fantasy art, is a sign of this time and stage.

Because dramatic play is considered beneficial for academic growth, teachers often encourage its use in the classroom. The preoperative phase takes place between the ages of two and seven, meaning that imaginative activities are encouraged from preschool through second grade. The dramatic work is considered one of the first manifestations of theMetakognitionin children or double thinking. While playing imaginatively, children reflect on the realistic experience at the same time.

The concrete operating phase: from 7 to 11 years

In Piaget's next stage, children begin to represent objects and ideas more logically. Although their thought process is not at adult level, they become more flexible in their thoughts and ideas. This allows them to solve problems more systematically, which leads to greater success in educational activities at school. Piaget called this stage concrete operational because he believed that children were capable of dealing with concrete objects but were not yet thinking about objects methodically.representationsof objects It is only later that children can think about abstract events and manipulate representations of events. For example, a child might apply the rule, "If nothing is added or subtracted, the amount of something stays the same." The application of rules or systemic ideas can help the child solve simple problems in the classroom, such as addition and subtraction or scientific calculations.

(Video) Educational Implications of Piaget's Theory of Cognitive Development

There are two things that differentiate concrete operational thinking from preoperative thinking. The first isreversibility, which allows a child to manipulate the order of any process. We can use the example of a scientific sink-or-float experiment to demonstrate the existence of reversibility. In this experiment, the child places various objects in a bucket of water and tests whether they float or sink. A child in the pre-operative stage could describe the procedure performed, but only a child in the concrete operative stage could retell the experiment in various ways, e.g. B. chronologically or out of sequence. Multi-step procedures are common in the classroom, making reversibility a valuable learning skill. Children who are still in the preoperative period may need help with activities in the form of prompts or reminders from the teacher. We can use the task of learning vocabulary from a story as an example in class. The teacher can give students a multi-step instruction: first, write the words you don't know if you find them in the story, second, look up the definition before continuing the story, and third, find one Friend. will ask you for all the words you just learned. This type of multi-stage instruction involves returning to the first and second task many times, which only children who have already reached the concrete action stage can do.

The second skill acquired isdecentralization🇧🇷 This allows the child to step back and look at a problem from more than one angle. Being able to look at a problem from a different perspective is an essential feature of the concrete operational phase. We can observe the emergence of this ability in the preoperative period, when children begin to engage in dramatic play. For example, a child can use a banana as an imaginary telephone, showing that they are aware that the banana is both a banana and a telephone. Piaget argued that children make more conscious and calculated decisions in the concrete-operative phase, showing that they are aware of their decentering. A lesson example can be shown in the form of a simple worksheet. Using multi-step instruction, the teacher can ask students to identify all problems that meet two criteria: it is a two-digit subtraction problem and it needs to be regrouped. The child is only responsible for solving problems that meet these two requirements. A child in the concrete operation phase can easily switch between the first and second criteria and analyze each problem to see if it meets both specifications. This task would also assume that the student is already able to rearrange subtraction problems independently.

Both reversibility and decentering often occur together in education. As can be seen in the sample worksheet, procedures can occur out of order while multiple criteria are in effect. Piaget had a popular example to demonstrate the ideaconservationor the idea that a size stays the same despite its shape. For his experiment, he used two clay balls of similar size. Although a child at the preoperative stage can testify that the two clay balls "look the same", they base their assumptions solely on external observations. If a ball of clay were stretched thin like a hot dog, a child in the preoperative stage could claim that they are different even though the same amount of clay was used to make the shape. At the stage of concrete operations, the child can understand that two different shapes can be made from the same volume of clay. The child may base their answer on reversibility, such as "You could roll it into a ball again," or off-center, such as "It may be longer, but it's thinner." Piaget argued that regardless of shape, children at this stage could demonstrate conservation of quantity.

The formal operating phase: 11 years and older

As children move into the formal operational phase, they can think about more abstract ideas. Like the concrete operative stage, the formal operative stage takes its name from the newly acquired ability to represent objects or events. In class, a teacher can now ask what-if questions with reasonable expectations. Students must internally think about multiple ideas while juggling many perspectives at the same time. "What if the world had never discovered electricity?" "What would happen if the European settlers never left for the New World?" Abstract questions like these compel students to use themhypothetical reasoningto come to an answer.

(Video) Piaget's Theory of Cognitive Development

Piaget became more interested in hypothetical reasoning in scientific experiments, resulting in most of his studies being at the elementary and secondary school levels. In one study, students were asked questions about a pendulum, a fulcrum from which weights are freely suspended. "What determines how fast the pendulum swings: the length of a string supporting it, the weight attached to it, or how far it is pulled sideways?"

The students in Piaget's experiments were not allowed to solve the problem physically by manipulating the pendulum, but were asked to think up a solution verbally. This meant that the subjects were forced to imagine all the factors independently, taking into account the factors held constant. Being able to solve this problem systemically was a clear determinant of the formal operations in the thought process. The ability to manipulate multiple outcomes is the exact ability of the formal operational phase.

There are clear advantages for students who have already reached the formal operating phase. They require much less problem-solving support, making them more independent in the educational setting, and they require less guidance from their teachers. However, this does not mean that they can successfully complete all academic tasks, and it is not the only way to do so. Self-control remains an important part of academic success; If a student lacks self-motivation or misbehaves, they will not do as well in school. Even formal operational thinking does not offer specialized skills like musical and artistic talent or athletic size. A criticism of Piaget's theory is that it only covers this phaseTroubleshootingin educational institutions that most people do not encounter in their daily life. As a result, many never reach this level of operational thinking, or when they do, use it only in familiar and unexperienced situations. This shows that more research is needed on the development of personal and interactive problems in children and adolescents.


1. Vygotsky's Theory of Cognitive Development in Social Relationships
2. Educational Theories 101
(Teaching and Learning Central)
3. JEAN PIAGET: Cognitive Processes & Stages of Cognitive Development UGC NET EDUCATION
(Educators Plus)
4. Piaget's theory of Cognitive Development
(Mnemonic Zone)
5. Education 220 Piaget
(Benedictions Visuals)
6. Piagets Theory of Cognitive Development


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