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Jean Piaget’s Theory of Cognitive Development

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Piaget’s theory of cognitive development refers to how a person perceives, thinks, and gains an understanding of his or her world through the interaction and influence of genetic and learning factors. Jean Piaget, who was both a biologist and psychologist, developed one of the most influential theories of cognitive development. Piaget’s work led to the current view that children are actively involved in their own cognitive development. By active involvement, Piaget meant that children are constantly striving to understand what they encounter, and in such encounters they form their own guesses or hypotheses about how the world works (Atkinson 1993).

Piaget’s cognitive stages refer to four different stages – sensorimotor, preoperational, concrete operational, and formal operational stages – each of which is more advanced than the preceding stage because it involves new reasoning and thinking abilities. Although Piaget believed that all people go through the same four cognitive stages, he acknowledged that they may go through the stages at different rates. Piaget’s hypothesis that cognitive development occurs in stages was one of his unique contributions to developmental psychology (Atkinson 1993).

The cognitive changes that occur in various stages of development are influenced by the individual’s adaptation which can come in the form of either or both assimilation or accommodation. Assimilation is the easier process of the two where the brain or the mind is concerned, according to Piaget. Assimilation is fitting in the new material coming from the environment by transforming the data in the individual’s internal senses.

As this happens, the individual hardly feels any difficulty concerning the change that is occurring. Contrariwise, though both occur in a child or individual together, accommodation usually happens when the person or child’s present explanation of the way things work is inadequate or insufficient and the child or individual must change his/her way of explaining these things hence, must “accommodate” that which is the newer theory (Atherton 2005).

Piaget explained that since children “have” sequential stages as to the timing of their ability to adapt (assimilate and accommodate material) curriculum planning then must take place or is centered on these approximate key stages (Atherton 2005).

Works Cited

ATHERTON J S (2005) Learning and Teaching: Assimilation and Accommodation [On-line] UK: Available: http://www.learningandteaching.info/learning/assimacc.htm Accessed: 17 December 2007

ATKINSON, R.L., R.C. Atkinson, E.E. Smith, D.J. Bem, and S. Nolen-Hoeksema. Introduction to Psychology, 13th Ed. New York: Harcourt College Publishers (1993).

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