The Critique of Piaget's Theories
Jean Piaget (1896 – 1980) was a constructivist theorist. He saw
children as constructing their own world, playing an active part in
their own development. Piaget’s insight opened up a new window into
the inner working of the mind and as a result he carried out some
remarkable studies on children that had a powerful influence on
theories of child thought. This essay is going to explain the main
features and principles of the Piagetian theory and then provide
criticism against this theory.
Cognitive development refers to way in which a person’s style of
thinking changes with age. Piaget argued that cognitive development is
based on the development of schemas. This refers to a psychological
structure representing all of a person’s knowledge of actions or
objects. To perform a new skill which the person has no schema, they
have to work from previous skills that they have. This is called
assimilation, where they have pulled previous schemas together then
adapted and changed them to fit their task through accommodation.
Piaget theorised that children’s thinking goes through changes at each
of four stages (sensory, motor, concrete operations and formal
operations) of development until they can think and reason as an
adult. The stages represent qualitatively different ways of thinking,
are universal, and children go through each stage in the same order.
According to Piaget each stage must be completed before they can move
into the next one and involving increasing levels of organisation and
increasingly logical underlying structures. Piaget stated that the
‘lower stages never disappear; they become integrated into the new
stage (hierarchic integration) (Inhelder and Piaget, 1958). Children
themselves, through their actions on the environment, interacting with
there biologically – determined level of maturation, bring about the
cognitive changes, which result in adult thinking.
The stages theory is open to criticism as they are too rigid and
neglects individual differences such as memory span, motivation etc.
Piaget also underestimated the age at which children could do things.
This maybe due to his failure to distinguish between competence and
performance. Piaget's studies tested performance and then he assumed
that a child who failed simply lacked the underlying cognitive
structures that he believed were needed to succeed on that task.
Subsequent research suggests that a child may have these competencies
earlier than Piaget suggested. However, simply to focus on age limits
is to miss the central point of Piaget’s theory that universal,
qualitative, biologically regulated cognitive changes occur during
development. This is supported by cross-cultural research that has
replicated Piaget’s findings (Smith et al, 1998).
Another criticism relates...