No one person has had so much impact on the study of children’s mental capacities like Jean Piaget has. Piaget has defined some of the most important issues in child development and his cognitive theory continues to inspire and influence current studies of cognitive development. The aim of this paper is to discuss Piaget’s cognitive development theory of development in children. There are four stages of Piaget’s cognitive theory of development and they include:
Sensorimotor stage (0-2 years): the stage involves rapid development from 0-2 years. During this stage, the child will change from a helpless kind of situation to a talking and walking kid. The stage is usually dominated by motor and sensory activity. During the stage, the newborn depends on reflexes like sucking and built-in schemas as opposed to imitating or integrating information. As the child continues to develop and advance in months, the sensory and motor activities will increase such that by the end of the stage the child will be able to integrate and imitate actions (Oakley, p.16). During the stage, the child is also able to develop hand eye coordination, creativity & experimentation as well as trial and error experiments.
The pre-operational stage (2-6 years). The stage is characterised children who have developed cognitive structures (the symbolic schemas). The children are able to represent events or objects by mental images, language or even by use of gestures. Children are able to imitate behaviour and even think symbolically. At this stage, the children have developed their imagination as well as the memory and are able to differentiate and understand the past and future although their thinking is basically based on intuition and cannot be termed as logical. The children are however not at a position to grasp complex concepts like that of time, cause and effect or comparison (Pressley & McCormick, p.62-63). Oakley (2004, p.18) asserts that the limitation on thinking is due to animism (tendency to attribute intentions and feelings to inanimate objects) and egocentrism. The children usually learn through imitation and play as well as start to use reasoning intuitively rather than logical.
The concrete operational stage (7-12 years). This corresponds roughly to the elementary grade years for the children and is usually characterised by the children developing strategies and rules to help them in investigating and interpreting the world from their own view. Thus, the term concrete implies the child’s ability to apply the strategies to the things that are present. This means that the child is bale to solve problems they can manipulate or see (Oakley, p.22). an example is the children understanding that if two rows of five balls are lined up evenly with balls, they can understand that the rows have the same number of balls even if one of them is ‘stretched.’
Formal Operational Stage (12-16 years). Here we have adolescents who are able to logically use abstract concepts like science, math and science as dependency on concrete objects diminishes. The children are now able to solve imagined problems as the children are able to use systematic and hypothetical deduction. Piaget proposed that the stage has two main characteristics: hypothetical deductive reasoning and systematic problem solving whereby children are able to solve problems in a systematic manner (Oakley, p.22-23).
From above developmental stages, we realize that Piaget’s theory is wide-ranging and very influential. Although many methods and concepts have since been discovered, people continue to use many of the questions he raised. Therefore, Piaget’s theory is an active rather than a passive view of the children’s world. The theory revealed important invariants in cognitive development especially because perceptual-motor learning is more important than language for development.