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Critically Examine The Contribution Of Jean Piaget To Our Understanding Of Child Development.

1317 words - 5 pages

This essay shall examine the contribution of Jean Piaget to our understanding of child development. Until the mid 1900's psychologists had no useful theory for explaining how children's minds change as they age. Psychologists interested in this field either has to study it in relation to behaviourism, which emphasises that children merely receive information from the environment, or in relation to the IQ testing approach, which emphasises individual differences in children's development. However developmental psychologist Jean Piaget born in Switzerland in 1896 changed the way we think about children's minds. When Piaget's theories were introduced psychologists the world over embraced his idea that children actively construct their cognitive world as they go through a series of stages. Piaget's theory of cognitive development shall bee discussed in this essay in light of its various processes and the four stages of cognitive development - Sensorimotor stage, Preoperational stage, Concrete Operational stage and Formal Operational stage.Piaget believed that children actively construct their cognitive world. Schemas are used in order to make sense of what they experience. An example of a schema at an early age would be sucking and later more complex schemas might include licking, blowing and crawling. Piaget had an interest in schemas as they help in organizing and making sense out of current experience. Piaget believed that the processes assimilation and accommodation are responsible for how people use and adapt their schemas. Assimilation occurs when individuals incorporate new information into existing knowledge. Calling the milkman "daddy" may be an example of assimilation as the child adjusts by perceiving something unfamiliar as familiar. Accommodation occurs when individuals adjust their schemas to new information. In the above example accommodation is used to balance assimilation when the child adjusts his or her behaviour and the milkman will be called "milkman". Accommodation and assimilation interplay throughout the lifespan. Assimilation gets ahead of accommodation and then accommodation catches up to form, temporarily, the 'ideal' equilibrium.Another important element of Piaget's theory is his observation that we go through four stages in our development. These stages are age related and consist of distinct ways of thinking. In Piaget's theory it is not the level of knowledge that makes one stage more advanced than another. It is the different way of understanding the world that makes one stage more advanced than another. The child's cognition is qualitatively different from one stage to the next. The four stages in Piaget's theory of cognitive development are the sensorimotor stage, the preoperational stage, the concrete operational stage and the formal operational stage.The sensoirmotor stage lasts approximately from birth to two years of age. In this stage the infant uses senses and motor abilities to understand the world. There is...

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