Cognitive Development According to Piaget
This paper will briefly explore developmental psychologist, Jean Piaget and his cognitive development theory. In addition, there will be personal application of Piaget’s theory and how it contributes to a positive learning environment for students in the classroom. This will be concluded with a brief reflection of the cognitive development theory and my personal reflection amongst my students.
Cognitive Development According to Piaget
Psychologist Jean Piaget created the cognitive development model theory which has had a profound impact on the theory and practice of education for students from birth through adulthood. His theory focuses on the development of a child’s cognition through four distinct developmental stages that will be explored within this paper. These four developmental stages create a foundation for children to build systems of meaning and understanding of reality through experiences and interactions.
According to Piaget, each stage is characterized by the emergence of new abilities and ways of processing information. The four stages of cognitive development of children and adolescents are sensorimotor, preoperational, concrete operational, and formal operational. In the book Educational Psychology by Robert Slavin (2018) he states, “all children pass through theses stages in this order and no child can skip a stage, although different children pass through the stages at somewhat different rates” (p.33). Piaget’s theory focuses on the basic principles of creating developmentally appropriate education and instruction according to the individual state each student is in at the time of their development. Slavin (2018) explains that “one important Piagetian principle is that development precedes learning. Piaget held that developmental states were largely fixed and that such concepts as conservation could not be taught” (p.37). This theory proposes that as a student interacts with tiehr environment, they cause a distruption to their schema and that is when learning happens. This is essentially the concept of “discovery learning” in which children learn by discovering new concepts organically with the educator aiding their process, versus direct instruction.
I firmly believe that my role as an educator, specifically in the special education setting, is to help facilitate learning for my students by providing various experiences and hands on learning opportunities for them to engage. I am currently a substitute teacher at the elementary and high school level and feel that my students are primarily in the concrete operational stage which is typically ages 7-11. During this stage, children can form concepts, see relationships, and solve problems, but only as long as they involve objects and situations that are familiar (Slavin, 2018, p. 34). I recognize that the typical age range in the concrete operational state is ages 7-11 however, in the special education setting the spectrum is varied with a wide variety of learning abilities.
I have personally been able to experience Piaget’s theory put into practice in a class that I substitute frequently. The class is 9th grade SDC Earth Science and the teacher has truly adapted the cognitive development theory to help each of his students. At the start of the school year he does individual testing with each of his students and then alters each lesson and activity class according to their needs. Although he teaches the same class each period, every lesson is different depending on the learning dynamics and student abilities. In order to do this he includes hands on manipulatives, lab experiences, visual aids, creates songs for students to memorize key concepts and definitions, along with very detailed and specific lesson plans.
As a future educator, I feel the contribution to developmental psychology that Piaget has made in education is invaluable. The concept has helped develop a positive learning environment and allows students to learn in a timeframe that is appropriate for them and at their own ability. I have had the opportunity to see the cognitive development theory being used and implemented within a classroom setting and have seen the positive behavior and academic strides the students have made.
Slavin, R. (2018). Educational Psychology: Theory and practice (12th ed.). New York, NY: