Piaget’s Theory of Cognitive DevelopmentJean Piaget was born on August9, 1896, in the French speaking part of Switzerland.
Atan early age he developed an interest in biology, and by the time he had graduated from highschool he had already published a number of papers. After marrying in 1923, he had threechildren, whom he studied from infancy. Piaget is best known for organizing cognitivedevelopment into a series of stages- the levels of development corresponding too infancy,childhood, and adolescence. These four stages are labeled the Sensorimotor stage, which occursfrom birth to age two, (children experience through their senses), the Preoporational stage, whichoccurs from ages two to six, (motor skills are acquired), the Concrete Operational stage, whichoccurs from ages six to eleven, (children think logically about concrete events), and the FormalOperational stage, which occurs after age eleven, (abstract reasoning is developed here).
(www. psychcentral. com). (Bee and Boyd 149). The focus of this paper will be on thePreoporational stage and how the child’s cognitive abilities develop according to Piaget.
The Preoperational stage is Piaget’s term for the second major stage of cognitivedevelopment. It is in this stage that Piaget states that children acuire symbolic schemes, such aslanguage and fantasy, that they use in thinking and communicating. Piaget saw evidence ofsymbol use in many aspects of children aged two to six. As a Pre-School teacher myself, I havewitnessed many of the same behaviors that Piaget himself observed while developing his theoryof cognitive development. Children this age begin to pretend in their play. The dramatic playarea in my classroom is always one of the most busy areas of the room.
The children love torole-play and create imaginary games. According to Piaget, such symbol use is also evident inthe emergence of language and in the preschoolers primitive ability to understand scale modelsor simple maps. Dramatic play gives the children the chance to role-play. If they work throughsituations in their classroom, they’ll be better prepared for real-life scenarios.
Throughrole-playing, children not only express emotions, but also exercise creativity and develop skillslike cooperation and problem solving. During the Preoperational stage, do begin to think symbolically and use language, but thechild’s thinking is still very intuitive, and makes little use of reasoning and logic. I remember asa child thinking that the sun and moon followed me as I took a walk. In addition, the child’s useof language is not as sophisticated as it might seem. Children have a tendency to confuse wordswith the objects they represent.
If a child calls a toy block a “car” and I use it to make a”house”, the child may become upset. To children, the name of an object is as much a part ofthe object as it’s size, shape, and color. To the Preoperational child, insulting words may reallyhurt. (Coon 107).
Consider my preschooler calling each other “baby”. To the adult it is aninnocent word, but to the preschooler it is the worst thing they can think of. Piaget’s description of the Preoperational stage also focused on all the other things thepreschool-aged child still cannot do. According to Piaget, egocentrism is a cognitive state inwhich the child sees the world only from his own perspective, without awareness that there areother perspectives. (Bee and Boyd 155). The child is not being selfish; rather, she simplyassumes that everyone sees the world as she does.
I see many examples of ego egocentrism on adaily basis in the preschool environment and at home. For example, my daughter, Meryl, who isalmost five years old, gets a phone call from her aunt. She begins asking Meryl questions. Instead of saying “yes” or “no”, Meryl simply nods her head.
What Meryl fails to appreciate isthat her aunt is unable to see her nodding. Meryl can only take her own perspective- “I amnodding my head yes, why do you keep asking me this question?”As a young child it is difficult to understand that some one on the opposite end of thetelephone cannot see you. Young children seem to abide by the old saying, “Out of sight, out ofmind”. In Piaget’s view, for a child to be able to shift from using herself as the only frame ofreference to seeing things from another perspective, the child must decenter, which may notoccur until the child is about six