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Piaget and the Classroom Teacher

Piaget and the Classroom Teacher

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Prof. (Dr.) B. L. Handoo has done extensive research on Piagetian Theory and its applicability at the School level. He was urged to compile this information, as an answer to some queries of teachers at an Inservice course and workshop.
Prof. (Dr.) B. L. Handoo has done extensive research on Piagetian Theory and its applicability at the School level. He was urged to compile this information, as an answer to some queries of teachers at an Inservice course and workshop.

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Published by: Prof. (Dr.) B. L. Handoo on Jan 11, 2010
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PIAGET AND THE CLASSROOM TEACHER
 
Jean Piaget needs no introduction to a trained-teacher. Every teachereceives some exposure to the theories of Piaget during his training.However, a classroom teacher does not have a comprehensive knowledge of Piaget, since this would require a commitment in time and effort which is notreadily available to the teacher. This makes it incumbent upon the teacher–educator to provide accessibility in the classroom setting. To achieve thiseffectively, we need to develop a systematic in-service programme whichcontinues and builds upon the pre-service experience. This article hopefullyprovides some suggestions as to how Piagetion Theory can be made relevantfor the classroom teacher.Piaget’s notions of 
assimilation
and
accommodation
are probably the mostcommonly known and the most easily interpretive of Piaget‘s theories. Thefact that is intrinsic to Piagetion theory and the one that must be reiterated inregard to these two concepts and indeed to the totality of his theory, is that
atno point in the child’s intellectual development does Piaget consider thechild as the passive recipient in the acquisition of knowledge.
His theoryrests on the fact that the intellect is active in the development of knowledge.He further contends that it is the acting on the information supplied by theexternal environment that results in the development of human knowing.The young child in the process of 
assimilation
continually reaches out,touches, and tastes accessible elements in the environment. Piagetcategorizes this earliest of stages as the
sensorimotor stage
in thedevelopment of the child. In the process of assimilating external reality, thechild gradually moves towards a system of 
classification.
This process of assimilation, however, remains comparatively uninhibited inthe early stages of a child‘s life. Later when the child reaches the age of twoor three, the process involve contradictions which result in disequilibration inthe knowledge previously attained. For example, for very young children, allfour-legged animals can be classified as “doggie”. The day arrives when he isinformed that a particular four–footed animal is not a dog but a cat or acow. Some resolutions must be found, a finer differentiation, a newclassificatory category to accommodate this new knowledge and to reconcilethis information with what was previously assimilated. Thus in Piaget’sTheory? The child seeks equilibration and resolves the problem through aprocess of 
accommodation.
It is this process that contributes substantially tothe development of the child’s intellect.The apparent simplicity of the example cited in regard to young children hasapplicability at other levels of development. The processes of 
assimilation
,
accommodation
and
equilibration
are life – long processes.At the later stages of intellectual development, more sophisticated processesare developed, yet it is this disequilibration that is at the processes are
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developed, yet it is this disequilibration that is at the heart of intellectualdevelopment. The interaction of the human intellect and the environmentresults in increasingly complicated systems of knowing, and assists theindividual in attaining advanced stages of knowledge. These stages calledSCHEME (Plural schemes) by Piaget, develop progressively, and althoughPiaget suggests ages at which they occur, the limits have been determinedempirically from numerous investigations in Geneva and elsewhere.According to Piaget, although the age limits are not rigidly delimited, eachstage must nevertheless be attained in the proposed sequential order: -
sensori motor stage, Pre-operational stage, Concrete operationalstage
and
Formal operational stage.FOUR PERIODS OF COGNITIVE DEVELOPMENTPERIODS APPROXIMATE AGERANGE
SensorimotorBirth-1 ½ - 2 yearsPre-operational1- ½ - 2 6-7 yearsConcrete Operational6-7 11 12 yearsFormal Operational11-12- through adulthood.The ages at which these stages are attained has much to do with thedevelopment of the individual child and environmental factors.Some consideration of the
Concrete operational stage
which includes ages6 to 12 years appears to have relevance for Primary School teachers. At thisstage, the operations of 
classification
and
ordination
are of greatsignificance. Pupils who manifest difficulties in skills of classification even atthe higher grade levels are often lacking in the development of suchdiscrimination which is characteristic of the concrete operational stage of development. The ingenuity required of the teacher in discerning such deficitsand in arranging the classroom environment to compensate for such deficits iscritical to the development of the Childs intellect. The teacher must not onlyprovide environmental phenomena but also challenge the child to becomeactively involved in dealing with the environment.Classification at the pre-operational level involves only simplistic actions,placing objects, often tangible objects, into various categories, squares,circles, animals, human beings. This concept of classes is preliminary to theconcept of number, there cannot be two dogs or three apples until theclassification of objects has been established. Similarly classificationprecedes ordination, the ordering of objects, there can not be smaller or larger until the object class has been established. Let us consider these operationsof classification and ordination as they develop and discuss the processes bywhich teachers in the classroom can manipulate the environment to providefor the development of pupil’s intellectual abilities. The development of theseoperations is intrinsic to the acquisition of logical thinking.A primary level child can manipulate objects and divide them into classes. Thechild can also explain the process by which he has determined thei
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classification. The use of photographs or pictures from magazines stimulatessome very original groupings by young children in the Kindergarten of firstgrade. There will probably be a variety of different groupings with children andthe rationale for their classifications will be quite enlightening to the teacher. Itis important that children at this stage do not look to the teacher for supplyingthe right answer, but conversely, that the child feels that it is necessary for him to explain the name of the categories to the teacher. Once the child havemastered a system of classification to some degree, the operation of orderingobjects from smallest to largest or in the opposite direction becomes apossibility. In talking about or arranging a hierarchical order there may beerrors if the problem is complicated but gradually in formal social interactionwith peers, the child learns new information and incorporates this informationinto existing scheme. The more structured rules of sports activities andexperiments carried out with specific directions in the classroom lead the childto assimilate some facts but also to modify his views to accommodate theinformation that cannot be reconciled with existing information.The process of classification during the middle primary grades can beexpanded to attain greater discrimination. First of all, the process of classification becomes more flexible since it depends less and less onphysical manipulation. The development of language greatly facilities thelearning process and classification skills can be used in teaching most subjectareas; These skills can be used in grammar to identify parts of speech and todelineate their use in the sentence, they can be used by the child indeveloping the concept of sets. At the concrete operational stage it isimportant that the teacher asks questions that bring about a degree of conflictto the customary way of viewing things. Children can be asked to nameeverything about a child city and then divide these things into categories. Thestimulation of class interaction by the teacher in making decisions process theoperation of equilibration or self- regulation is characteristic of eachconstruction and each transition from one stage of intellectual development toanother. The processes of ordering and classification are thus critical to thedevelopment of concepts in science, mathematics and language.Another important characteristic of learning at this stage is the
process of reversibility.
Piaget and his Geneva colleagues have carried out numerousexperiments with the operation which involve reversibility. The question of reversibility has significance for the development of knowledge, especially inmathematics and the sciences. The ability of the pupil to grasp the process of reversibility contributes significantly to more comprehensive learning. Theapplication by teachers of this process in teaching; for example, addition withits converse substraction and multiplication with division, provides the pupilwith the opportunity to perceive the process of reversibility. Early experimentsby teachers with children in the primary grades in dealing with fractional partsand their relationship to the whole should be systematically incorporated intoclassroom activities. Such instructions at the early stages of the concreteoperational level in the use of manipulative objects can establish the base for later functioning in the understanding of fractions and their combination indifferent mathematical problems. Piaget’s experiments with compensation of liquids when the shape of the vessel is changed demonstrate the empirical
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