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INTRODUCTION: The Theory of Cognitive Development is a comprehensive theory about the nature and development of human intelligence first developed by Jean Piaget. It is primarily known as a developmental stage theory, but in fact, it deals with the nature of knowledge itself and how humans come gradually to acquire it, construct it, and use it. Moreover; Piaget claims the idea that cognitive development is at the centre of human organism and language is dependent on cognitive development. BACKGROUND Piaget believed that reality is a dynamic system of continuous change. Specifically, he argued that reality involves transformations and states. Transformations refer to all manners of changes that a thing or person can undergo. States refer to the conditions or the appearances in which things or persons can be found between transformations. For example, there might be changes in shape or form (for instance, liquids are reshaped as they are transferred from one vessel to another, humans change in their characteristics as they grow older), in size (e.g., a series of coins on a table might be placed close to each other or far apart) in placement or location in space and time (e.g., various objects or persons might be found at one place at one time and at a different place at another time). Thus, Piaget argued, that if human intelligence is to be adaptive, it must have functions to represent both the transformational and the static aspects of reality. Operative intelligence is the active aspect of intelligence. It involves all actions, overt or covert, undertaken in order to follow, recover, or anticipate the transformations of the objects or persons of interest. Figurative intelligence is the more or less static aspect of intelligence, involving all means of representation used to retain in mind the states (i.e., successive forms, shapes, or locations) that intervene between transformations. At any time, operative intelligence frames how the world is understood and it changes if understanding is not successful. Piaget believed that this process of understanding and change involves two basic functions: Assimilation and accommodation. Assimilation refers to the active transformation of information so as to be integrated into the mental schemes already available. Accommodation refers to the active transformation of these schemes so as to take into account the particularities of the objects, persons, or events the thinker is interacting with. To assimilate an object into an existing mental scheme, one first needs to
take into account or accommodate to the particularities of this object to a certain extent; for instance, to recognize (assimilate) an apple as an apple one needs first to focus (accommodate) on the contour of this object. Following from this conception Piaget theorized that intelligence is active and constructive. His view of how children's minds work and develop has been enormously influential, particularly in educational theory. His particular insight was the role of maturation (simply growing up) in children's increasing capacity to understand their world: they cannot undertake certain tasks until they are psychologically mature enough to do so. PIAGET’S FOUR STAGES According to Jean Piaget's theory of cognitive development, intelligence is the basic mechanism of ensuring equilibrium in the relations between the person and the environment. This is achieved through the actions of the developing person on the world. At any moment in development, the environment is assimilated in the schemes of action that are already available and these schemes are transformed or accommodated to the peculiarities of the objects of the environment, if they are not completely appropriate. Thus, the development of intelligence is a continuous process of assimilations and accommodations. Piaget described four main periods in the development. For Piaget intelligence is not the same at different ages. It changes qualitatively, attaining increasingly broader, more abstract, and more equilibrated structures thereby allowing access to different levels of organization of the world.
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The sensory-motor stage The pre-operational stage Concrete-operations stage Formal operations stage
THE SENSORY-MOTOR STAGE The first stage of Piaget’s theory lasts from birth to approximately age two and is centered on the infant trying to make sense of the world. During the sensory-motor stage, an infant’s knowledge of the world is limited to their sensory perceptions and motor activities.
Behaviors are limited to simple motor responses caused by sensory stimuli. Children utilize skills and abilities they were born with, such as looking, sucking, grasping, and listening, to learn more about the environment. "An infant progresses from reflexive, instinctual action at birth to the beginning of symbolic thought toward the end of the stage."
John W. Santrock
During this stage, the child learns about himself and his environment through motor and reflex actions. Thought derives from sensation and movement. A discovery by Piaget surrounding this stage of development was that when an object is taken from their sight, babies act as though the object has ceased to exist. By around eight to twelve months, infants begin to look for objects hidden; this is what is defined as 'Object Permanence'. The child learns that he is separate from his environment and that aspects of his environment -- his parents or favorite toy -- continue to exist even though they may be outside the reach of his senses. To very young children—younger than about 6 months—"out of sight" is not only "out of mind" but also "out of existence." If a toy eagerly pursued by a 4 month old slips under a blanket, it is no longer pursued...even if it makes an obvious bump. A tyke about three months old loses interest in a toy once it is hidden behind a curtain. Piaget said such a child lacks object constancy, the awareness that a hidden object continues to exist. Teaching for a child in this stage should be geared to the sensory-motor system. We can modify behavior by using the senses: a frown, a stern or soothing voice -- all serve as appropriate techniques. He recognizes himself as an agent of action and begins to act intentionally: e.g. pulls a string to set mobile in motion or shakes a rattle to make a noise. Piaget's ideas surrounding the Sensory Motor Stage are centered on the basis of a 'schema'. Schemas are mental representations or ideas about what things are and how we deal with them. Piaget deduced that the first schemas of an infant are to do with movement. Piaget believed that much of a baby's behaviour is triggered by certain stimuli, in that they are reflexive. A few weeks after birth, the baby begins to understand some of the information it is receiving from its senses, and learns to use some muscles and limbs for movement. These developments are known as 'action schemas'. Babies are unable to consider anyone else's needs, wants or interests, and are therefore considered to be 'ego centric'.
During the Sensory Motor Stage, knowledge about objects and the ways that they can be manipulated is acquired. Through the acquisition of information about self and the world, and the people in it, the baby begins to understand how one thing can cause or affect another, and begins to develop simple ideas about time and space. Babies have the ability to build up mental pictures of objects around them, from the knowledge that they have developed on what can be done with the object. A large amount of an infant’s experience is surrounding objects. What the objects are is irrelevant; more importance is placed on the baby being able to explore the object to see what can be done with it. At around the age of eight or nine months, infants are more interested in an object for the object's own sake. Between one and four months, the child works on primary circular reactions - just an action of his own which serves as a stimulus to which it responds with the same action, and around and around we go. For example, the baby may suck her thumb. That feels good, so she sucks some more. Or she may blow a bubble. That is interesting so she’ll do it again. Between four and 12 months, the infant turns to secondary circular reactions, which involve an act that extends out to the environment: She may squeeze a rubber duck. It goes “quack.” That is great, so do it again, and again, and again. She is learning procedures that make interesting things last. At this point, other things begin to show up as well. For example, babies become ticklish, although they must be aware that someone else is tickling them or it would not work. Between 12 months and 24 months, the child works on tertiary circular reactions. They consist of the same making interesting things last cycle, except with constant variation. It hits the drum with the stick -- rat-tat-tat-tat. It hits the block with the stick -- thump-thump. It hits the table with the stick -- clunk-clunk. It hits daddy with the stick -- ouch-ouch. This kind of active experimentation is best seen during feeding time, when babies discover new and interesting ways of throwing their spoons, dishes, and food. Around one and a half, the child shows clear developing mental representation, that is, the ability to hold an image in their mind for a period beyond the immediate experience. For example, they can engage in deferred imitation, such as throwing a tantrum after seeing another child throw one an hour ago. They can use mental combinations to solve simple problems, such as putting down a toy in order to open a door. And they get good at pretending. Instead of using a doll as something to sit on, suck on, or throw, now the child will sing to it, tuck it into bed, and so on.
Piaget divided the sensory-motor stage into six sub-stages: Sub-stage
1. Simple Reflexes
Age Birth- 6 weeks
Description Coordination of sensation and action through reflexive behaviors. Three primary reflexes are described by Piaget: sucking of objects in the mouth, following moving or interesting objects with the eyes, and closing of the hand when an object makes contact with the palm (palmar grasp). Over the first six weeks of life, these reflexes begin to become voluntary actions; for example, the palmar reflex becomes intentional grasping).
6 weeks4 months
Coordination of sensation and two types of schemes: habits (reflex) and primary circular reactions (reproduction of an event that initially occurred by chance). Main focus is still on the infant's body. As an example of this type of reaction, an infant might repeat the motion of passing their hand before their face and repeatedly opening and closing their fists. Also at this phase, passive reactions, caused by classical or operant conditioning, can begin
3. Secondary circular
4- 8 months
Development of habits. Infants become more object-oriented, moving beyond selfpreoccupation; repeat actions that bring interesting or pleasurable results. This stage is associated primarily with the development of coordination between vision and prehension. Three new abilities occur at this stage: intentional grasping for a desired object, secondary circular reactions, and differentiations between ends and means. At this stage, infants will intentionally grasp the air in the direction of a desired object,
often to the amusement of friends and family. Secondary circular reactions, or the repetition of an action involving an external object begin; for example, moving a switch to turn on a light repeatedly. The differentiation between means and ends also occurs. This is perhaps one of the most important stages of a child's growth as it signifies the dawn of logic.
8- 12 months
touch--hand-eye schemes and
secondary circular reactions stage
intentionality. This stage is associated primarily with the development of logic and the coordination between means and ends. This is an extremely important stage of development, holding what Piaget calls the ‘first proper intelligence’. Also, this stage marks the beginning of goal orientation, the deliberate planning of steps to meet an objective.
12- 18 months
Infants become intrigued by the many properties of objects and by the many things they can make happen to objects; they experiment with new behavior. This stage is associated primarily with the discovery of new means to meet goals. Piaget describes the child at this juncture as the "young scientist," conducting pseudo-experiments to discover new methods of meeting challenges. Discovery of new ways to produce the same consequence or obtain the same goal such as the infant may pull a pillow toward him in an attempt to get a toy resting on it.
18- 24 months
Infants develop the ability to use primitive symbols and form enduring mental representations. This stage is associated primarily with the beginnings of insight, or true creativity. This marks the
passage into the preoperational stage.
Conclusively, by the end of the sensory-motor period, objects are both separate from the self and permanent. The child comes a step closer to intelligence and discovers many important things about the things around him. Object permanence is the understanding that objects continue to exist even when they cannot be seen, heard, or touched. Acquiring the sense of object permanence is one of the infant's most important accomplishments, according to Piaget.
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http://www.learningandteaching.info/learning/piaget.htm#Key Ideas http://www.childdevelopmentinfo.com/development/piaget.shtml http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Theory_of_cognitive_development
Santrock, J.W. (2008). A Topical Approach To Life-Span Development (pp.211-216). New York, NY: McGraw-Hill
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