Jean Piaget, a cognitivist, believed children progressed through a series of four key stages of cognitive development. These four major stages, sensorimotor, preoperational, concrete operational, and formal operational, are marked by shifts in how people understand the world. Although the stages correspond with an approximate age, Piaget’s stages are flexible in that as long as the child is ready they are able to reach a stage. In kindergarten, many of the stages of both sensorimotor and preoperational stage were easy to find. For instance, the teacher allowed the students to have a couple minutes of free time. Many of the students chose to go to the tree house play area and began playing house. This is an example of the sensorimotor stage of symbolic thought or the cognitive ability to have one thing stand for another (Bergin & Bergin, 2012). In this case, students were able to use play toys to create a “real-life” kitchen, and the students were able to play characters such as mom, dad, brother, and sister. I was also able to spot aspects of the preoperational stage during their free time. Many students played with inanimate objects and gave the objects lifelike qualities, this is also known as animism. For instance, one little girl in particular was carrying around a baby doll and kept feeding the baby, calling her Lucy, and talking to the baby doll as if it was real. Although features of the sensorimotor and the preoperational stage were easy to find in the kindergarten classroom, I discovered that it was challenging to find evidence of the concrete and formal operational stages in their corresponding, approximate age groups. I did not find evidence that contradicts any of Piaget’s stages, but I also did not find enough evidence to fully support his stages either. My overall thoughts on Piaget’s stage are inconclusive because of the lack of evidence I found to support or refute his theory.
According to Bergin & Bergin (2012), Piaget also believed that learning involved assimilation and its counterpart, accommodation. Assimilation “is the process in which children incorporate experiences into mental structures”(Bergin & Bergin, 2012, p. 96) and accommodation is merely modifying those mental structures. As children assimilate new information into their existing mental structures, they are constructing knowledge. The construction of new knowledge is a key aspect of Piaget’s cognitive development theory. In the freshman history class, they were discussing a war that happened between a medieval family. One of the students raised their hand, and made a comparison of the battle to a celebrity feud within the Karadashian family. This is an example of how an older student would use assimilation. They took new information and incorporated it to their existing knowledge, giving them an overall better understanding of the subject. Overall, Piaget theory of cognitive development could be applied across all the grades.
Vygotsky's Sociocultural Theory