Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Essay on Jean Piaget

Essay on Jean Piaget

Jean Piaget and His Theories about Children
Jean Piaget, one of the most influential researchers in the area of psychology of the 20th century was born in Switzerland on August 9, 1896. Piaget’s scientific career started as early as he was ten years old. At that age he wrote a short work concerning his aggravation with the lack of attention and consideration people had for children. Though, being himself a child he was already concerned with the position kids set in the world and set his mind on improving it in the future. He decided to start his education with receiving an MA degree and then Ph.D. in Zoology, but went on to study Psychoanalysis that he was interesting in all through his studies.


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It can be said that Piaget became a pioneer of children’s psychology. Driven by a very strong desire to study others he moved to Paris to explicitly start to study children. Being absorbed by his effort, he worked day and night. Soon his discoveries, experiments, assumptions and conclusions led to the creation of several disciplines. These disciplines are Developmental Psychology, Cognitive Theory, and Genetic Epistemology. What is even more noteworthy is that he came up with several theories regarding the psychology of children. He was the first one to understand that children think differently from adults not only because they are less smart or lack life experiences, but there were other reasons for it. His theories revolutionized education and were recognized all over the world (Huett, Hummel, 2003).

In my short paper I would like to cover some of the theories that Piaget came up with. In this paper such theories as Cognitive Stage Theory, and two other theories that are based on it - Theory of Value, and Theory of Society, will be described (Huitt, Hummel, 2003). To begin with, it is important to say that he based his research and experiments mainly on descriptive case studies. Furthermore, whereas some of his ideas were later supported with experiments through “correlational and experimental methodologies”, others were not (Renner, Stafford, Lawson, McKinnon, Friot & Kellogg, 1976).

Cognitive Stage Theory by Piaget had several central theses. It laid down an assumption that children develop self-centric theories about their environment. This creation and development leads to the growth of the child. He also considered that children base these theories on their own personal experiences interacting with persons and objects in their environment. Other assumptions were that the child used “schemas” to gain information about the environment. According to Piaget the level of sophistication of the cognitive structures the child comes up with cannot be compared to the ones of grown-ups.

The path of child’s development was segmented by Piaget Piaget into four stages which began with birth and concluded in teen years. These stages are: Sensorimotor stage (0-2 yrs), Preoperational stage (2-7 yrs), Concrete operations (7-11 yrs), and Formal operations (from 11-15 and up) (Commons, Richards, 1984, pp. 120-140). A chief principle of Piaget’s theory is that these stages do not differ in order, they cannot be skipped, and should not be hurried. This theory is the basis for other theories that I will dwell upon later in the paper.

The next theory I would like to describe is the Theory of Value. The basic questions answered by this theory are what knowledge and skills are worthwhile learning, and what the goals of education are. According to this theory each child is his own scientist who explores and learns life from acquiring knowledge and personal experiences. Children interpret what they see according to the stage of development they are (Oxford, 1997, p. 39). Thus, teachers should consider the stage of children’s “understanding” and must be guided by it to improve teaching practice and evaluation (Taylor, 1996, p. 259).

The Theory of Society describes the questions of what the society is and what institutions are involved in the process of children’s education. The thesis of this theory is that children are social beings who do not develop in cognitive separation from others (Taylor, 1996, p. 259). They identify the outside world the way they perceive it and their thinking is always in terms of their own perspective, their own position within. The scientist assumed that that experience in cooperative relationships with age group was necessary to attain mature thinking. Thus, for the children to think as adults, according to Piaget, they have to prevail over compliance to authority of grownups and cooperate with the peers (Youniss, 1995, p. 376).

Today many pre-school and elementary school programs are modeled according to Piaget’s theories. These theories help the educators to improve the learning and understanding of children and to adjust the material according to children’s development stages. With the help of Piaget’s theories parents and educators learned that the child should be challenged, though not far beyond the child’s level. Jean Piaget’s input into the world’s psychology is immense, it is not surprising that his works were said to be “a discovery so simple only a genius could have thought of it” by such a genius Albert Einstein.

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