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And the Stages of Cognitive Development

Day26: In Which we discuss Educational Theories and Theorists

Welcome to Education Adjacent. I’m your host, Unqualified Professor Crystal. Today’s subject is Jean Piaget and his stages of cognitive development.

Who is Jean Piaget?

Jean piaget was a Swiss psychologist who worked in child development and cognitive theory. Born in August 9, 1896, and from an early age he was fascinated with natural sciences.

When he was a fifteen one of his former nannies’ apologized in a letter to his parents for lying about fighting off a kidnapper when he was just a baby. Piaget himself found it curious how he developed a memory of the non-existing incident.

He initially began studying the natural sciences, in the 1920s he began to work as a psychologist. Observing his children helped him develop is therories and studies.

Piaget’s Four Stages of Cognitive Development

Piaget’s Four Stages of Cognitive Development is a theory that children move through four stages of cognitive development. Each stage is defined by age and distinct characteristics and abilities children display. These stages describe how and when children learn and develop mentally.

Sensorimotor Stage Birth to 2

This stage describes how children from birth to two years old learn through senses. Senses of taste, touch, hear, smell. You know how children look at something and the first thing they do is stick it in their mouth? Yeah that. If it tastes bad, they won’t put it back in their mouths.

Hey did you know that Nintendo Switch game cartridges are “bitter coated”. Why? Well, obviously so small children spit the thing out and don’t swallow it. Because of course those delicious looking small rectangular doodads are irresistible.

Another important characteristic of this stage is Object Permanence. This is defined as basically learning that just because you don’t see it, doesn’t mean it’s not there. Perfect example: Peek-A-Boo. Children have the reaction they do because they think you legit disappeared. But then, by magic, here you are again.

Pre-operational Stage Ages 2-7

This is the stage where children between the ages of two and seven begin language development and imaginative play, like using symbols or objects to represent other objects. They also cannot understand concrete concepts at this stage.

One important thing to note is that children at this stage can’t really see from someone else’s perspective. Literally. He did a study called “Three Mountain Task” where children were shown a three-dimensional model of mountains. Then they were shown pictures of different views of said mountain and asked to pick out what they saw. They were then asked what someone would see from a different position and were asked to pick that image out of the selection. Children in the Pre-Operational Stage picked out the same image they saw.

There is some controversy with this particular stage, as most people in the field are bothered that this stage mostly consists of things that children cannot do. There’s an argument made that says that children failed at the Three Mountain Task because they just don’t understand.

Concrete Operational Stage Ages 7-11

In this stage children begin to understand concrete and logical thought but still have difficulties understanding abstract and critical thinking.

For example, while kids can’t really think in an abstract way, they can understand that, even if something changes shape or changes in some way it’s still the same object, and it still exists. Like if you take a piece of paper and you crumple it up into a ball, in the end it’s still a piece of paper, it’s just been, well, roughed up a bit.

They can also begin to understand that something can be more than one kind of thing. Like “their dog is a Labrador, and a Labrador is a dog, and dogs can be Labradors”. Or in the case of my kid, is just beginning to understand that a person is a human, and a human is a person, and she is a kid but also a human is a person. Sometimes I have to explain it to her, but it’s also 11:17pm and I have to explain it to myself.

Another key characteristic is conservation. The old water question, if you take the same amount of water and pour it into a short round glass and into a tall skinny glass, they both still have the same amount of water, but it looks otherwise. Kids in the Pre-operational stage don’t understand it’s the same amount, but kids in Concrete Operational stage understand.

Formal Operational Stage Ages 12-Adulthood

By twelve kids begin to get better at doing all the kinds of thinking. They can use logic and understand that other people have different views. Thinking in abstract ways is developed during this stage.

In one study Piaget asked kids, “Where would you put a third eye if you had one.” Younger kids not in this stage or in the early years of the stage said in the center of their foreheads. But children in the Formal Operational stage said they’d do things like put it in the palm of their hand so they could look around corners.

Jean Piaget and Early Childhood Education

Piaget’s influence on Early Childhood Education can be seen as improving the understanding of what stage a child is at and what they may and may not be capable of doing. Piaget’s studies and findings in the field of psychology are much deeper and more informative that what I have provided here.

It isn’t difficult to find information on him and his work on the internet and I have tried to link what sources I’ve used throughout this post. I plan to look into more of Piaget, as well as other theories and theorists.

What do you know about Piaget that I’ve not listed here? Have you studied education or psychology and know more? I mean, probably. It’s been over a decade since I’ve studied education and learned all of this, so you might have a fresher take! If you do, I’ve love to hear it!