Piaget’s theory of cognitive development has already been used to enhance classrooms and the learning that takes place. For example, the notion of “discovery learning” stemmed from Piaget’s theory wherein children learn best through learning that allows active exploration. The following sections summarize how Piaget’s theory of cognitive development can be applied to your classroom while fully taking into consideration the limitations discussed in other sections of this blog.
Piaget’s theory focuses on development of a child’s cognition through different stages. The idea that a child develops in stages has implications for education. Piaget argues that every kid must pass through each stage in the same order and cannot skip a stage. In terms of learning, this can be applied to the speed at which things are taught. If a student cannot grasp the “building blocks” of a concept, such as if they are having difficulty grasping abstract ideas which can only be done in formal operation, concepts that are based upon these building blocks should not be taught until ready. Related to the notion of development being in stages, lesson plans should be focused around the level of cognitive development. For example, if the students are in the concrete operational stage, they need “manipulatives” to help them understand more abstract ideas. Thus, the lesson plan should involve hands on activities that has concrete objects to aid understanding and enhance learning.
The notion of “discovery learning” stems particularly from the idea that children are “active scientists” due to schema which drives a child to learn. As a student interacts with their environment, they will come across things that cause a disruption in the equilibrium of their schema. This in turn forces the kid to assimilate or accommodate information which adds or modifies information in their schema. It is this process which allows for learning to take place. Thus, the actual process of learning is emphasized when following Piaget’s theory. In addition, “discovery learning” delegates the teacher to aid the child as opposed to spoon-feeding the information to the child.
Egocentrism and Conservation
There were common observations seen in the three grades observed (kindergarten, first, second) that only differed with extremity. Some of these common observations included egocentrism and conservation. If a child demonstrates egocentrism, it means they are unable to see things from the perspective of others. The implications this has for education is that greater aid may be needed when teaching concepts that require understanding another perspective. For example, when teaching anything related to spatial awareness. In addition, hands on activities that allow the child to physically visualize the space will aid the egocentric tendencies and add to discovery learning. If the egocentrism involved revolves around children speaking and not realizing that others are speaking also, simple cues to get them to listen to each other and speak one at a time will teach them to be aware of their surroundings.
The evaluative points made in the discussion of the findings focused on a few things: Piaget’s age limitations in his stages, the lack of addressing of the impact of social factors, and the advanced language used in the conservation task. In regards to the age limitations set on the different stages, it was evident in the experiment conducted and by other psychologists that these age restrictions may not be accurate. In relation to education, this sets challenges for teachers as they then have to accommodate for the different levels of cognitive development in their classrooms. A good way to gauge the range of development could be to test the students on a topic prior to teaching it. This test does not have to be a traditional paper test; instead, different activities that address aspects of the topic can be conducted and observations can be done on the children to see what they struggle with and excel in. This will allow the teacher to plan their lessons accordingly.
Piaget fails to address social factors in his stage theory. In regards to teaching, this has implications in the differences in the child’s home life and upbringing. Every child is different, and though Piaget classifies his theory as “universal”, social factors do impact a child’s development. To allow leeway for these differences, a similar “pre-test” as the one described above can be done before every topic to ensure that what is being taught is appropriate for all levels of development. In addition, the class can be split into groups by cognitive development level in order to specialize the learning to their particular stage in the cognitive development process. For example, if some students in the class demonstrate the need for “manipulatives” they can be grouped together, and the teaching can be through the use of hands-on activities that allow for a more visual take on the topic.
As criticized in the conservation task, the language used may be too advanced for the children and they are unable to understand the question as opposed to understand the task at hand. In regards to teaching, teachers can take extra caution in the vocabulary used to explain a certain topic. This can be aided by a word bank given to the class before the topic begins in order to ensure that they understand what the teacher is saying in their lessons.