This paper reflects on Piaget theory of cognitive development and the various components associated with this theory. Furthermore, it will explain about the various stages of cognitive development of a child. Moreover, this paper also highlights the advantages and disadvantages associated with the theory.
Learning theories describe how an individual absorbs, process and retain information during the course of their learning period. There are mainly three types of learning theories; behaviorism, constructivism, and cognitivism. Behaviorism deals with the changes in a person that is developed using external stimulus. Cognitivism deals with the mechanism of understanding and retention of the information while constructivism deals with how a person builds their knowledge based on their personal experiences (Illeris, 2015). Jean Piaget, a Swiss psychologist developed a theory to understand the cognitive development of children. His theory rejects the idea of intelligence being a fixed characteristic of a person and explained how a person can achieve overall cognitive development over the course of time and by interacting with his environment. According to him, there are two primary states in the learning process; equilibrium and disequilibrium. In disequilibrium state, a child is motivated to learn and understand new things. However, the level of disequilibrium must be balanced to achieve the desired effect (Demetriou et al., 2016). Too little or too much of the disequilibrium would not encourage a child to learn new things. His theory consists of three main components; schema, adaptation processes and the stages of cognitive development.
The schema is the basic building block of cognitive theories and it helps a child to create a mental picture of the world. Having a mental understanding allows a child to use information from their past experiences in their future life. It provides a way for the children to organize their knowledge in a particular order. It enables a child to decide how to react in a particular situation or respond to a particular external environment. When a child can understand the information they are receiving from their environment, their schema is said to be in a balanced state. The schema of a child becomes more developed as they grow older (Best & Kahn, 2016). Adaptive processes form a critical part of cognitive theories which provides a way to receive new information, change existing knowledge and develop new behaviors in order to survive in the outside world. The adaptive processes include equilibration, accommodation and assimilation processes of a person. Equilibration process deals with establishing an equilibrium between the existing schema and a new situation. It is a fundamental force that plays a key role in the cognitive development of a child. The assimilation process deals with matching a new reality to the existing mental image (Resnick, 2017). When a child cannot use their existing knowledge to assess the new situation, a state of disequilibrium occurs in the mind of the child. Accommodation is a process that allows a child to add new information to his existing information and rearrange it in a new order. This theory focuses on four stages of cognitive development of a child. These stages are a sensorimotor stage, pre-operational stage, concrete operational stage and formal operational stage (Barrouillet, 2015). The ability of a child to understand new ideas depends upon these stages of cognitive development.
Sensorimotor stage initiates from birth and continues up to the age of 2 years when he starts to understand the world through his senses and motor activity. The infants are able to separate the surroundings from themselves to some extent. The infants learn about their surroundings mainly by absorbing the new information into their minds or assimilation. They are able to perform goal-directed activities along with their reflex actions. Children can barely talk at this stage and they develop a sense of object permanence. The children believe that a thing exists in the real world whether or not they are able to see it (Siegler, 2016). The pre-operational stage starts the age of 2 and continues to the age of 7 years. Children start to go to their elementary school and develop basic calculative and reading and writing abilities. They are able to communicate with others at school in a better way. However, they are not capable to understand what others might think of a particular situation (Lind, 2017). Children started to use their newly developed skills to understand their surroundings but they do not behave in a way that is fully rational. Concrete operational stage develops at the age of 7 years and it lasts up to 11 years of age. Children begin to act in a more logical way and respond to a situation appropriately. They are able to process information in any order of steps and they can focus on more than one problem. They are able to understand the concept of conservation of matter.
The formal operational stage starts at the age of 11 and it continues to adulthood stage of life. The child is able to think in a more rational way and applies scientific thinking to solve complex problems. They are also able to develop thoughts about the prevailing societal issues and concerns about self-identity. Appropriate props and visual aids should be used to teach the child who is going through the preoperational stage of cognitive development. Short instructions should be given to the students so that they can understand the information clearly (Feldman, 2016). 3D models and timelines from history can be used to teach the students who are going through the concrete operational stage. Charts and illustrations should be used to explain new and sophisticated ideas to the students who are going through the formal operational stage. This theory has played a vital role in developing lesson plans for school children all across the world. It is a groundbreaking theory which explains the stages of cognitive development of a child. It encourages the concept of comprehensive learning for the overall cognitive development of the child. It allows the schools to provide a supportive environment for the children to develop their social skills (Bjorklund & Causey, 2017). It has enabled teachers to understand the requirements of each stage of cognitive development and communicate better with their students. More research is conducted to understand the cognitive development of a child based on this theory.
There are certain disadvantages associated with Piaget theory of cognitive development. This theory was unable to correctly estimate the intellect of a child in each stage of cognitive development. This theory cannot be applied to children with developmental disabilities as they tend to develop their cognitive abilities at a much slower rate than the children with normal cognitive skills. This theory does not focus on various social, cultural and economic differences. Some children can develop skills at an earlier age described in the theory (Carey & Gelman, 2014). It does not consider the fact that some children can belong in two different stages of cognitive development. It also does not consider that some children are able to understand other’s perspective at a much faster rate.
The paper concludes that Piaget theory of cognitive development is a groundbreaking theory which can be used to understand the stages of cognitive development of a child. Teachers should apply this theory to understand the requirements of their students and communicate with them in a better way. However, this theory has some major limitations associated with it, it does not focus on the cognitive development of the disabled children.