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Dallas Warshaw

ECE 1404
Tuesday 9-12
Jean Piaget
Theorist Paper
Dallas Warshaw
ECE 1404
Tuesday 9-12
Jean Piaget
When you think of young little children learning, what comes to mind? Is it learning how
to speak, walk and talk? What about interactions with the surrounding environment, people, and
these childrens past experiences? Jean Piagets theory of cognitive development is based on
children using their past experiences to help them learn, grow, develop, and eventually mature
into adults. Jean Piaget said, Childrens minds, if planted in fertile soil, will grow quite naturally
on their own. (Early Childhood Education Today pg.127). While it is indeed true, every child,
no matter how slow or fast their developmental process may be, are all going to blossom into
Born in Neuchatel, Switzerland on August 9
, 1896, Jean Piaget was the first born son of
Arthur Piaget and Rebecca Jackson. During his childhood, Jean spent hour after hour watching
and studying mollusks at local natural history museums. By the time Piaget had reached
adolescence, his papers on mollusks that were published, had people believing that he was an
expert. After studying zoology, Piaget then went on to receive his Ph.D. in natural sciences, in
1918. Piaget also studied psychology for a semester and studied abnormal psychology for a year
in Paris, France. In 1923, Jean Piaget married Valentine Chatenay. During their marriage, they
had three children, Jacqueline, Lucienne and Lauren. Piaget studied their growth and
development. During his work in psychology, Piaget was able to identify four stages of mental
development and growth, that he would call the Theory of Cognitive Development. Throughout
all of his work, Piaget was appointed to many important positions including research director,
director, and professor at many different universities between 1921-1980. Piaget also received
honorary doctorates from Harvard (1936), Manchester (1959), Cambridge (1962), and from 28
other universities. Jean Piaget received the Erasmus Prize in 1972, along with 11 other
Dallas Warshaw
ECE 1404
Tuesday 9-12
international prizes. Over the course of his lifetime, Piaget had published over 50 books, 500
papers and 37 volumes in the series Etudes dEpistemologie Genetique which translates to
Studies in Genetic Epistemology. Piaget wrote and participated in several autobiographies, and
had many biographies written about him. There is even a Jean Piaget Society. Jean Piaget passed
away from unknown causes, at the age of 84 on September 16
, 1980. Piaget now rests
peacefully at Cimetiere des Plainpalais, in Geneva, Switzerland. Piaget is ultimately remembered
for all of his passion for scientific knowledge in an ever growing field, and for all of his
accomplishments. Although Piaget is no longer around, his methods for studying mental growth
and development are still known and used to this day, all over the world.
Jean Piaget used active learning and adaption in his Theory of Cognitive Development.
His theory also included three separate components to the theory. The components that make up
the theory are 1. Schemas, 2. Transitional process moving from one stage to another, and 3. The
stages of development. Each part of the theory is important to childrens development from the
time that they are born, to the time that they reach adolescence and even through adulthood.
Active learning is when a child learns through movement and play. Learning through
play and movement, not only helps children with their mental and physical growth, but they also
start to learn about problem settings and solving. Most all children are active learners because
they interact with surrounding people and the environment. Generally, this process is natural for
children because it plays a huge role in how they learn, which is why it is used in all three
separate components of the theory.
Adaptation is not only intellectually based, but it is also physically based. When children
are born, they have genetic instincts in them to help them survive. Some of the instincts or
Dallas Warshaw
ECE 1404
Tuesday 9-12
reflexes include sucking, grasping, turning of the head, and swallowing. By using these reflexes,
infants are able to interact with their environment, and create sensations, as well as creating
experiences for their intellectual growth. The adaptation process can be found in the early
components of cognitive development.
The first component of Jean Piagets theory is called schemas, also known as the building
blocks of knowledge. Schema can be used as a way of organizing knowledge. Infants use their
reflexes to help them learn. By using reflexes, they are creating new schemas and are helping to
build a cognitive foundation that they will then use all the way through adulthood. Physical
movement and activity is another great way for infants/toddlers to learn new schemas, and help
build a strong cognitive foundation.
The second component of Piagets theory is the transitional process moving from one
stage to another. The transitional process is made up of three elements; assimilation,
accommodation, and equilibrium. Assimilation is using new information, and trying to fit it into
existing schemas. In doing this, children are learning new information and making new
experiences. Accommodation happens when the new information does not fit into the existing
schemas, and when that existing schemas does not work in the new situation. The child has to
change the way that they are thinking or behaving to create a new schema for the new
information or situation. Equilibrium is what helps to move the development along in this
process. Piaget knew that this was not a steady paced process that moved at an even rate, yet it
happened more in a jolted and jerked type of fashion. Assimilation and accommodation are
known as the twin processes that intertwine and work together to make up the adaptation process
and equilibrium is the center of the process. Using new experiences to connect with old or past
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ECE 1404
Tuesday 9-12
experiences, will help a child reach equilibrium, if they are struggling with using assimilation
and accommodation. Once the child has reached equilibrium, adaptation will have occurred.
Thus the process of adaptation goes hand in hand with the second component of the theory.
Piaget stated that a teacher or caregiver should know as much about the child as possible, so that
they are able to help that child reach a state of equilibrium.
The third and final component of the theory is the four stages of development. Each of
the stages start showing from the time children are born, until they reach adulthood. Every stage
of development is important and they may not always show at the age/ages that they were
intended to be seen at, because all kids develop differently and at different speeds.
The first stage of development is the sensorimotor stage. This stage occurs normally from
the moment that the child is born, until the child reaches about two years old. Using their motor
reflexes and senses, infants start to build a concept of the world, allowing them to begin to grow
mentally. While building an understanding of him or herself, and interacting with the
environment, the child learn through the assimilation and accommodation processes.
The second stage is called the preoperational stage. This stage usually lasts from ages two
until about four through seven years old. During this stage, children are able to use pictures,
language, drawings, maps, as well as make believe play to help identify events and objects.
Using symbols to help represent events and objects is known as representation. It is one of the
big accomplishments for children in this stage. Conservation of objects can be quite tricky for
children at this stage. Children may not understand that just because something transforms, does
not mean that there is more or less of the objects, yet it just looks different than before. Children
make judgments based on what they see. Children at this stage will also often ask many
Dallas Warshaw
ECE 1404
Tuesday 9-12
questions as to how and why things work the way that they do. Children in this stage are often
egocentric; which means that the children believe that others think, and act the same way that
they themselves think and act. Being able to put themself in another persons situation is difficult
for the child, and they do not understand empathy and sympathy. Children, who are egocentric,
will talk at another child more than they will talk to another child. Children will also use self-
talk, or talking to themselves at this stage.
The third stage is known as the concrete operational stage. The third stage occurs
between seven years until twelve years old. This is when logical and operational thought come
into play. Children are also less egocentric, and can have and carry on conversations with other
people, rather than talking at one another. On the other hand, children at this stage still have
trouble dealing with situations that involve more than one variable, and that have complex
The fourth and final stage is the formal operational stage. This final stage lasts from the
teenage years all the way through adulthood. In this stage children are able to think abstractly,
handle complex situations, think logically, and are capable of problem solving. Systematic
planning, and reasoning are also signs of the final stage. In this stage, the child is mature and has
a nice solid foundation, and will be able to use all previous experiences to help with the future.
The three components, as well as active learning and adaptation, combined, make up Jean
Piagets Theory of Cognitive Development. Theories of childhood development, involve
communication, evaluation and guidance. Communication is extremely important because it
allows teachers to explain to the students families what is going on in the classroom, and the
expectations of learning being one of the most important jobs a young child, can ever have.
Dallas Warshaw
ECE 1404
Tuesday 9-12
Evaluation of the student is important for teachers, because it allows them to know where a child
stands cognitively, in order for them to help that child to develop and grow more cognitively.
Being able to help guide the children through the process of learning, teachers are helping to give
guidance to the children which in the end, helps the children learn. Many early childhood
educational programs incorporate much of Piagets theory into the guidelines and educational
curriculum standards.
As a college student going into the field of early childhood education and development,
and as someone who enjoys working with and has worked with children, I could relate to
Piagets theory the best. Jean Piagets theory is different from Erik Eriksons, Abraham
Maslows, and Urie Bronfenbrenners theories. Piagets theory is more tailored to focusing on
the children, and their development. Piagets stages of development are also different in the fact
that they use qualitative differences, to make the stages more discrete. These differences helped
me to also pick his theory because I believe that in order to help a child learn and grow; you have
to focus more on the individual students, rather than looking at them all as one. As an educator,
focusing on each individual child will allow me to notice their development, and what stages
they are in, as they develop. Being able to connect best to Piagets theory, and the fact that I
liked his method, made me want to potentially use it in my own room. I like the fact that he
wants the children and their development to be the main focus, and allowing them to play to
learn, because not all children learn, grow and develop the same way or at the same pace.
Jean Piagets theory of cognitive development may seem like it is extremely elaborate
and complicated, but Albert Einstein called Piaget's discovery "so simple only a genius could
have thought of it." (http://psychology.about.com/od/piagetstheory/a/keyconcepts.htm).
Dallas Warshaw
ECE 1404
Tuesday 9-12
Although many years have passed since Jean Piagets theory first came out, and newer, more
modern theories have been published; many educational centers, schools, and educators have
used all or parts of Piagets theory. It is so well known, respected, and thought to be a valuable
developmental asset to childrens early childhood education and development.

Dallas Warshaw
ECE 1404
Tuesday 9-12
Work Cited Page
1) Early Childhood Education Today, textbook
2) http://psychohawks.wordpress.com/2010/09/05/theories-of-cognitive-
3) http://psychology.about.com/od/piagetstheory/a/keyconcepts.htm
4) http://www.piaget.org/aboutPiaget.html
5) http://www.learning-theories.com/piagets-stage-theory-of-cognitive-
6) http://children.webmd.com/piaget-stages-of-development
7) http://www.biography.com/people/jean-piaget-9439915
8) http://www.simplypsychology.org/piaget.html
9) https://www.google.com/search?q=jean+piaget&source=lnms&tbm=i