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Saeid Ataei


Jean Piaget was born in Neuchatel, Switzerland, on 9th August 1896. He is a pioneer of Swiss
Philosopher and Child Psychologist and one of the leading researchers in development
psychology in 20th century. Piaget started his career on psychology and education at the age of
22. While working with Alfred Binet, Piaget observes how children think and answer, react to
the environment, how they absorb the knowledge, and how they learn. That is how Piaget
extends his interest in children development. And Piaget make a conclusion that children are not
stupid but they are taught in different ways. Children need to interact with environment and learn
from mistakes in order to learn.

Key Concepts of Piagets Theory

Key Concepts

Represent a mindset of an ideas, actions or pictures.

Help children to understand.

Known as cognitive structure represent in a categories which

have sub-categories ideas.

E.g.: Dog. The children saw a puddle as a dog, the schema will
be small, furry, four legs, a pair of eyes, ears, tail. When the
children started to known about the puddle, it will fit in as new
information such as golden fur or naughty dog.


It is a process where the information exists and fit into preexisting schema.

Fit a new experience or knowledge into an existing mental


E.g.: The dog can bark. When the children saw the dog, it will
automatically tell them all the dogs barks.


The difference made to a persons idea by the process of


When a new object came across, the children will automatically

apply the old schema to the new object.

Revise an existing schema because of new experience.

E.g.: When came across a similar animal such as cats, the

children will say A dog. But, when a person told them it is a cat
not a dog, the children will absorb the new information into
another schema.


Assimilation and accommodation are the division of adaption.

It is a process of learning where schema continuously goes









It is normal that human strive to achieve goals or cognitive









When children has a schema but cannot apply into reality,

tension created in their mind. And therefore, equilibrium is
created to reduce cognitive tension.

The concept of assimilation and accommodation are vital for children to learn the activity by
questioning and exploring.

Stages of Piagets Theory of Cognitive Development

Stage 1: Sensorimotor (Birth to 2 years)

At this stage, the child understands the environment through sense and action. Imitation, memory
and thought are started to utilize. Infant received information by senses; looking, crying, sucking,
listening and grasping. In this stage, there are 6 sub-stages.
1. Reflexes (0-1 month)

Child use innate reflexes.

E.g.: If a toy placed in their palm, they will automatically grab it.

2. Primary Circular Actions (1-4 months)


The child repeats the actions on themselves.

E.g.: Sucking their own hand.

3. Secondary Circular Reactions (4-8 months)


Child begins to explore the environment around them.

E.g.: A ball falls from the table. And the infant will not take action such as go
catch the ball but they watch the action which caught their attention.

4. Co-ordination of Secondary Circular Reactions (8-12 months)


At this stage, the child began to achieve in goal-directed behavior where they
develop cause-effect relationships.

Object permanence is an object that exist where the child cant identity them.

E.g.: The ball falls from the table. The child will crawl over to the ball and pick it

5. Tertiary Circular Reactions (12-18 months)


The child at 12 18months tends to use their creativity and experiment it with
their previous behavior.

E.g.: The child learns how to use the ball instead of grabbing the ball.

6. Symbolic/Mental Representation (18-24 months)


The child able to develop ideas in their mind.

Usually, the child learns by trial-and-error to achieve the preferred effect.

Normally in the first few months, infant is unaware the existing of the object. For example, the
ball is hidden under the pillow. At this moment, the child will look for the ball. Then, the child
determines to find the hidden ball. They will give up if still couldnt find where is the ball hidden.
After a few months, they are able to find out where the ball is hidden under. This is to enable
child to learn that the object existence around them.

Stage 2: Pre-Operational (2-7 years)

According to Daniel Willingham (2000), the child understands the environment through
language and mental images. At this stage, images, object and symbols are involved. The child
starts to learn language and represent an object using images and words. They begin to use

reasoning. At the age of 4years, the child has almost mastered his or her mother tongue. Now,
the child can build a sentence. For example, a child sticks their arms together at the back and
jump around, its symbolizing the movement of a frog. This shows that the child can form
between language, action, and object. Egocentrism is not a moral value, selfish. It is a view of
the world relate to yourself only. Most of the child struggle to understand the condition from the
other view. For example, below pictures are shown by Piaget and Inhelder (1956) to ask the
children what pictures they can get on 3D model.

Three Mountains Task.

During the examination, Piaget shows the 8cards of possible view of the mountain to the children
and the children having difficulties to pick the correct picture.

Stage 3: Concrete Operational (7-11 years)

At this stage, the child understands the world through logical thinking and categories. The child
continues to improve their conversation skill. They started to learn math such as add, subtract,
count and measure. Besides, the child does learn about the accumulation of length, mass, area,
weight, time and volume. In this stage, the child able to sort objects, categorize objects,
understanding of accumulation and able to solve hands on problems logically. The child does
understand that not all the children have the same perceptions of an idea to understand a state
from another person opinion or view. Although the child begins to think logically about concrete

events but they have difficulty to understand abstract or hypothetical concepts. For example,
teacher asked the children who are the tallest among Ali, Abu and Ahmad. Ali is taller than Abu.
Ali is shorter than Ahmad. Children cannot provide a correct answer because the situation is
theoretical. If dolls are used to represent Ali, Abu and Ahmad, the children will be able to answer
it. This is because the situation is concrete with physical representations.

Stage 4: Formal Operational (11-15 years)

The child understands the world through hypothetical thinking and scientific reasoning. At this
stage, the child can able to think out of the box. The child able to hypothesize, test and reevaluate
where they can think in a formal way. Now, the child can plan his own life and being a
responsible person for his own fate and belief. This enables the child to interact more effective in
the environment. Besides, the child can understand what are metaphor, joke and meaning. The
child so consider the possible outcomes and consequences of actions. This type of thinking is
vital for long term planning. The child able to organize well to solve a problem in logically and
systematic way when comes to problem solving.

Criticisms of Piaget Theory

Some researcher does question about Piaget theory and they found that it is unclear whether
cognitive development appears in the 4stages. Piaget underestimates the childrens abilities and
children need time to understand a concept before they absorb it. Competence performance gap
happens when motor skill is not good to absorb their knowledge and mental process. For
example, preoperational stage of development involves permanence. Researchers recommend the
competence performance gap is not an evidence of the object permanence in the stage of
sensorimotor. Piaget does an examination on childs understanding. Piaget concluded that the
child will not look for the toy when the toy disappear in front of him and acted the toy has never
existed before. According to researchers, the child knows the toy existing just that it is difficult
for them to search around. Piaget looks down at childrens ability to explore the world from
another persons opinion or view. Piaget gave the three mountain task to children to identify
what picture they can get on 3D model. But the child having difficult to figure it out the exact

picture. If the scene replace by toys or animals, the children still can spot which are the correct
picture of the perspective. In another meaning, the child start to develop another persons of view.
Researcher also stated that Piaget devalue the social mechanism of cognitive development,
infants and young children are competent than Piaget found, childrens thinking is not as
consistent as Piagets theory and Piaget look down on childs abilities.

Piaget Theory in Education

According to Daniel Willingham (2008), he stated that the learning process for children does not
involve stability followed by schema change to a new level of stability. Furthermore, it is
depends on parents and teachers teach children how they learn and interact with the environment
around them. Now, Piagets theory is widely accepted that a childs intellectual ability is a
combination of genetics and environment. The teaching methods are taught where the school
children are familiar with; teachers, audio visual, and demonstrations. Parents and teachers play
main important role to boost their childrens intellectual development through environmental
factor. Parents and teachers must provide learning materials and experiences from the early age
such as talking and reading to help them discover the world around them. It is also vital for
parents and teachers to challenge the childrens abilities or talents and help children to gain
concrete experiences (field trips, communicate among friends, share experience among friends,
etc) to help them to learn.

In a nut shell, children need to explore, manipulate, experiment, search, question and find out the
answer by themselves. Activity is vital. Parents and teachers need to find out the children
strengths and weakness. Parents and teachers must guide, give motivation, allow children to
learn from mistakes and prepare learning material which allow them to explore new learning.
Most importantly, parents and teachers should have confidence in the childs capability to learn
on their own and seek what their interest is in.

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