You are on page 1of 8


Report on Jean
Piaget’s Cognitive
Developmental Theory

Submitted to:
Ms. Sherryl Muli Abellanosa

Submitted by:
Aira Jean MAningo
Alvin Mar Martin
Alyssa Camille Malig-on
April Bhernalyn Bernadisco
Carl John Samporna
Chloe Faye Go
Clint Desabille

Jean Piaget’s Cognitive Developmental Theory

Jean Piaget was born on August 9, 1896, in Neuchâtel, Switzerland. At just 10 years old,
Piaget modelled after his father’s passionate dedication to studies. This manifested in Piaget’s
fascination with mollusks which led him to write a short scientific paper on the albino sparrow at
age 11. By the time he was a teen, his papers on mollusks were being widely published.

After high school, Piaget went on to study zoology at the University of Neuchâtel,
receiving his Ph.D. in the natural sciences in 1918, and later developed a deeper interest in
psychoanalysis. He was employed at the Binet Institute in the 1920s, where his job was to develop
French versions of questions on English intelligence tests.

He became intrigued with the reasons children gave for their wrong answers on the
questions that required logical thinking. He believed that these incorrect answers revealed
important differences between the thinking of adults and children. Before Piaget’s work, the
common assumption in psychology was that children are merely less competent thinkers than
adults. Piaget showed that young children think in strikingly different ways compared to adults.

Early Work
Piaget (1936) described his work as genetic epistemology (i.e. the origins of thinking).
Genetics is the scientific study of where things come from (their origins). Epistemology is
concerned with the basic categories of thinking, that is to say, the framework or structural
properties of intelligence.

Piaget's Theory Differs From Others In Several Ways:

 It is concerned with children, rather than all learners.
 It focuses on development, rather than learning per se, so it does not address learning of
information or specific behaviours.
 It proposes discrete stages of development, marked by qualitative differences, rather than
a gradual increase in number and complexity of behaviours, concepts, ideas, etc.

So what is cognitive development?

Cognition refers to all of the mental activities that are involved in learning, remembering,
and using knowledge. This refers to the process of acquiring knowledge and understanding through
thought, experience, and the senses.
To Piaget, cognitive development was a progressive reorganization of mental processes as
a result of biological maturation and environmental experience. Children construct an
understanding of the world around them, then experience discrepancies between what they already
know and what they discover in their environment, then adjust their ideas accordingly. Moreover,
Piaget claimed that cognitive development is at the center of the human organism, and language
is contingent on knowledge and understanding acquired through cognitive development.

Three Basic Components to Piaget's Cognitive Theory:

1. Schemas (building blocks of knowledge)
2. Adaptation processes that enable the transition from one stage to another (equilibrium,
assimilation and accommodation)
3. Stages of Development:
 Sensorimotor
 Preoperational
 Concrete Operational
 Formal Operational

Piaget defined a schema as 'a cohesive, repeatable action sequence possessing component
actions that are tightly interconnected and governed by a core meaning'.

In simpler terms, Piaget called the schema the basic building block of intelligent behavior
– a way of organizing knowledge. Indeed, it is useful to think of schemas as “units” of knowledge,
each relating to one aspect of the world, including objects, actions and abstract (i.e. theoretical)
concepts. Wadsworth suggests that schemata (the plural of schema) be thought of as 'index cards'
filed in the brain, each one telling an individual how to react to incoming stimuli or information.
When Piaget talked about the development of a person's mental processes, he was referring to
increases in the number and complexity of the schemata that a person had learned.

When a child's existing schemas are capable of explaining what it can perceive around it,
it is said to be in a state of equilibrium, i.e. a state of cognitive (i.e. mental) balance.

A schema can be defined as a set of linked mental representations of the world, which we
use both to understand and to respond to situations. The assumption is that we store these mental
representations and apply them when needed.
Piaget described how - as a child gets older - his or her schemas become more numerous
and elaborate. He believed that newborn babies have a small number of innate schemas - even
before they have had much opportunity to experience the world. These neonatal schemas are the
cognitive structures underlying innate reflexes. These reflexes are genetically programmed into
us. For example babies have a sucking reflex, which is triggered by something touching the baby's
lips. A baby will suck a nipple, a comforter (dummy), or a person's finger. Piaget therefore
assumed that the baby has a 'sucking schema'.

Assimilation and Accommodation

Jean Piaget viewed intellectual growth as a process of adaptation (adjustment) to the world. This
happens through:

 Assimilation
- how humans perceive and adapt to new information
- process of fitting and assimilating new information into
pre-existing cognitive schemas
- occurs when humans are faced with new or unfamiliar
information and refer to previously learned
information in order to make sense of it

 Accommodation
- the process of taking new information in one's
environment and altering pre-existing schemas in order
to fit in the new information
- happens when the existing schema (knowledge) does not work, and needs to be
changed to deal with a new object or situation
- imperative because it is how people will continue to interpret new concepts,
schemas, frameworks, and more

 Equilibration
This is the force which moves development along. Piaget believed that cognitive development
did not progress at a steady rate, but rather in leaps and bounds.

Equilibrium occurs when a child's schemas can deal with most new information through
assimilation. However, an unpleasant state of disequilibrium occurs when new information cannot
be fitted into existing schemas (assimilation).

Equilibration is the force which drives the learning process as we do not like to be frustrated
and will seek to restore balance by mastering the new challenge (accommodation).

Once the new information is acquired the process of assimilation with the new schema will
continue until the next time we need to make an adjustment to it.
Stages of Development
Stage of Development Key Feature Research Study

Sensorimotor Object
Blanket & Ball Study
0 - 2 yrs. Permanence

Egocentrism Three Mountains
2 - 7 yrs.

Concrete Operational
Conservation Conservation of Number
7 – 11 yrs.

Manipulate ideas
Formal Operational in head, e.g.
Pendulum Task
11yrs + Abstract

The stages of development are as follows:

1. Sensorimotor Stage (Infancy)

In this period, which "extends from birth to the acquisition of language", intelligence is
demonstrated through motor activity without the use of symbols. Infants progressively construct
knowledge and understanding of the world by coordinating experiences (such as vision and
hearing) with physical interactions with objects (such as grasping, sucking, and stepping).
Knowledge of the world is limited (but developing) because it is based on physical interactions /
experiences. Infants progress from reflexive, instinctual action at birth to the beginning of
symbolic thought toward the end of the stage. Children acquire object permanence, which is a
child’s understanding that objects continue to exist even though he or she cannot be seen or heard,
at about 7 months of age (memory). By the end of the sensorimotor period, children develop a
permanent sense of self and object.

Sub-Stage Age Description

"Coordination of sensation and action through reflexive behaviours"
Three primary reflexes: sucking of objects in the mouth, following
1 Simple Reflexes Birth-6 weeks
moving or interesting objects with the eyes, and closing of the hand
when an object makes contact with the palm (palmar grasp)
"Coordination of sensation and two types of schema: habits (reflex)
2 First habits and and primary circular reactions (reproduction of an event that initially
6 weeks-
primary circular occurred by chance). The main focus is still on the infant's body". As
4 months
reactions phase an example of this type of reaction, an infant might repeat the motion
of passing their hand before their face.
Development of habits. "Infants become more object-oriented,
moving beyond self-preoccupation; repeat actions that bring
interesting or pleasurable results". Three new abilities occur at this
3 Secondary circular
4–8 months stage: intentional grasping for a desired object, secondary circular
reactions phase
reactions, and differentiations between ends and means. This is
perhaps one of the most important stages of a child's growth as it
signifies the dawn of logic.
"Coordination of vision and touch—hand-eye coordination;
coordination of schemas and intentionality".[25] This stage is
4 Coordination of associated primarily with the development of logic and the
secondary circular 8–12 months coordination between means and ends. This is an extremely important
reactions stages 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.
"Infants become intrigued by the many properties of objects and by
the many things they can make happen to objects; they experiment
5 Tertiary circular
with new behaviour". This stage is associated primarily with the
reactions, novelty, 12–18 months
discovery of new means to meet goals. Piaget describes the child at
and curiosity
this juncture as the "young scientist," conducting pseudo-experiments
to discover new methods of meeting challenges.
"Infants develop the ability to use primitive symbols and form
6 Internalization of enduring mental representations". This stage is associated primarily
18–24 months
Schemas with the beginnings of insight, or true creativity. This marks the
passage into the preoperational stage.

2. Pre-operational Stage (Toddler and Early Childhood)

In this period (which has two sub stages), intelligence is demonstrated through the use of
symbols, language use matures, and memory and imagination are developed, but thinking is done
in an illogical, irreversible manner. Egocentric thinking predominates. Piaget's second stage starts
when the child begins to learn to speak at age two and lasts up until the age of seven. During the
Pre-operational Stage of cognitive development, Piaget noted that children do not yet understand
concrete logic and cannot mentally manipulate information. Children’s increase in playing and
pretending takes place in this stage. However, the child still has trouble seeing things from different
points of view. The children's play is mainly categorized by symbolic play and manipulating
symbols. Thinking in this stage is still egocentric, meaning the child has difficulty seeing the
viewpoint of others.
The Pre-operational Stage is split into two sub stages: the symbolic function sub stage, and
the intuitive thought sub stage. The symbolic function sub stage is when children are able to
understand, represent, remember, and picture objects in their mind without having the object in
front of them. The intuitive thought sub stage is when children tend to propose the questions of
"why?" and "how come?" This stage is when children want the knowledge of knowing everything.
3. Concrete Operational Stage (Elementary and Early Adolescence)

In this stage, which occurs between the ages of 7 and 11 years, intelligence is
demonstrated through logical and systematic manipulation of symbols related to concrete
objects. Operational thinking develops (mental actions that are reversible). Egocentric
thought diminishes. During this stage, a child's thought processes become more mature and
"adult like". They start solving problems in a more logical fashion.
Abstract, hypothetical thinking is not yet developed in the child, and children can only
solve problems that apply to concrete events or objects. At this stage, the children undergo
a transition where the child learns rules such as conservation, which states that physical
quantities do not change based on the arrangement, and/or appearance of the object (i.e.
number, length, liquid, mass, weight, area, volume).

Piaget determined that children are able to incorporate inductive

reasoning. Inductive reasoning involves drawing inferences from observations in order to
make a generalization. In contrast, children struggle with deductive reasoning, which
involves using a generalized principle in order to try to predict the outcome of an event.
Children in this stage commonly experience difficulties with figuring out logic in their
heads. For example, a child will understand that "A is more than B" and "B is more than
C". However, when asked "is A more than C?" the child might not be able to logically
figure the question out in their heads.

4. Formal Operational Stage (Adolescence and Adulthood)

In this stage (adolescence and into adulthood, roughly ages 11 to approximately 15-
20), intelligence is demonstrated through the logical use of symbols related to abstract
concepts. This form of thought includes "assumptions that have no necessary relation to
reality." At this point, the person is capable of hypothetical and deductive reasoning.
During this time, people develop the ability to think about abstract concepts.

However, research has shown that not all persons in all cultures reach formal
operations, and most people do not use formal operations in all aspects of their lives. Only
35% of high school graduates in industrialized countries obtain formal operations; many
people do not think formally during adulthood.

Educational Implications of Piaget’s Theory

Piaget has been extremely influential in developing educational policy and teaching
practise. The following are some of the practices encouraged within the classroom:

 Focus on the process of learning, rather than the end product of it.
 Using active methods that require rediscovering or reconstructing "truths".
 Using collaborative, as well as individual activities (so children can learn from each
 Devising situations that present useful problems, and create disequilibrium in the child.
 Evaluate the level of the child's development, so suitable tasks can be set.
 Are the stages real? Vygotsky and Bruner would rather not talk about stages at all, preferring
to see development as a continuous process.
 Because Piaget concentrated on the universal stages of cognitive development and biological
maturation, he failed to consider the effect that the social setting and culture may have on
cognitive development (re: Vygotsky, 1978).
 Piaget’s methods (observation and clinical interviews) are more open to biased interpretation
than other methods because Piaget conducted the observations alone. The data collected are
based on his own subjective interpretation of events.
 The concept of schema is incompatible with the theories of Bruner (1966) and Vygotsky
(1978). Behaviorism would also refute Piaget’s schema theory because behaviour cannot be
directly observed as it is an internal process. Therefore, they would claim it cannot be
objectively measured.
 Studies have shown that development can to some degree be accelerated, and that children
often grasp ideas earlier than what Piaget found.

McLeod, S. A. (2015). Jean Piaget. Retrieved July 18, 2015 from

Huitt, W., & Hummel, J. (2003). Piaget's theory of cognitive development. Educational
Psychology Interactive. Valdosta, GA: Valdosta State University. Retrieved July 18, 2015 from

Piaget's theory of cognitive development. (2015). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia.

Retrieved July 18, 2015 from

Jean Piaget. (2015). The website. Retrieved July 18, 2015, from