Piaget's Approach to Children's Intellectual Development
The work of Piaget provided the foundation for developmental
psychology. He concentrated on the development of cognitive abilities,
leaving much scope for later research. Before exploring how Piaget's
approach has been extended it might be helpful to outline his theory.
Piaget's theory is constructivist; it shows how knowledge is actively
constructed by the individual. Knowledge of the world is built through
interaction with the environment. The development, in 4 stages, is
divided into broad age groups, although he stressed that the ages were
guidelines only. All children progress at different rates and move
gradually from one stage to the next. The 4 stages must be passed
through sequentially and are called the Sensori-Motor (0-2 years), the
Pre-Operational (2-6 years), the Concrete-Operational (6-12 years) and
the Formal Operational (12 years onwards). Children think differently
to adults and Piaget believed that as children pass through these 4
stages of development they mature into adult modes of thought.
A child progresses through these stages by building and modifying
mental plans called schemata. Piaget's theory saw schemata as having
intrinsic motivation; their very existence provides the motivation for
their use. Existing schemata are applied to any new information
encountered. If the information can be absorbed without modifying a
schema, then the information will be assimilated. Otherwise the schema
is adapted to accommodate the new information. In this way, the
processes of assimilation and accommodation are used (unconsciously)
to develop cognitive abilities in a systematic way.
'Object permanence' is a key concept in Piaget's theory. Observation
of his own children led him to conclude that infants are unable to
comprehend the existence of objects outside of their own perception.
Piaget called this form of centration, egocentrism. The schema of
'object permanence' is constructed during the sensori-motor stage and
Piaget saw the task of the pre-operational stage as 'breaking through
the barrier of egocentrism' (P104 of Introduction to Psychology). In
fact, thoughts and actions become less and less centred as the child
progresses through Piaget's 4 stages.
Social development was neglected by Piaget, he believed it to run a
similar path to that of intellectual development, but in parallel. He
believed each had little effect on the other.
In T.V. program 2 some preschool children were shown playing alongside
each other, each absorbed in their own individual activities. Even
when playing with the same toys they were not interacting with each
other. Piaget would say that their egocentrism was making social
interaction difficult, which may be why he placed little importance on
social factors in his...