Sensory Motor Stage
Piaget’s first stage of development is the sensory motor stage. This stage occurs between the birth of the child and the age of two. During this stage, understanding comes from touching, sucking, chewing, and manipulating objects. About nine months after birth, the child develops what is called ‘object permanence’. Object permanence is the awareness that objects and people continue to exist even if they are out of sight. The infants have the ability to build up mental pictures of objects around them, from the knowledge that they have developed on what can be done with the object. Through manipulation, babies accumulate information on themselves and the world that lead to the slight understanding of how one thing can cause or affect another, and begins to develop simple ideas about time and space. An example of this would be that a baby can realize that if they cry when they are hungry, the mother will attend to them (Fleck, 1975, p. 3).
Piaget’s second stage of development was the preoperational stage. The preoperational stage of development occurs between the ages of two to seven years. During this stage, children’s though processes are developing. There is a development of language and use of symbols. Children still use egocentric thought, meaning that they view the world entirely from his or her own perspective. ‘Animism’ is also a characteristic of the preoperational stage. This is when a person has the belief that everything that exists has some kind of consciousness.
An example of this would be that a child would believe the sink isn’t turning on because it is sick or that the water will be hot because it’s angry. A child at this stage of development appears to view his social relationships and the physical reality egocentrically. This means that they view the world with a marked tendency to evaluate interaction with others in terms of its contribution to their own experience of satisfaction. So moral realism is an aspect of this stage because children think that their thoughts on the difference between right and wrong are shared by everyone else around them. (Appel, 1977, p. 4).
Concrete Operational Stage
Piaget’s third stage of development is the concrete operational stage. The concrete operational stage of development occurs in children between the ages of seven and twelve. Before the beginning of this stage, children’s ideas about different objects are formed and dominated by their appearance. An example of this is that they believe there are less toys when they are all piled up rather than spread out across the floor because it takes up more space on the ground. During this stage, the thought process becomes more rational, mature, adult-like, and operational. Children in this stage of development lose their egocentric frame of thought and begin to think logically. This especially is true for the child’s ability to develop logical thought about an object that they are able to physically manipulate. These children have difficulty understanding abstract, hypothetical questions. Children at the concrete-operational level would be expected to draw on the experiences of others in evaluating their environment, giving more realistic and natural. (Koocher, 1973, p. 2).
Formal Operations Stage
Piaget’s last stage of development is the formal operational stage. The formal operational stage of development begins at the age of around eleven or twelve and is fully achieved by the age of fifteen and taken throughout the rest of adulthood. The structures of development become the more abstract, logically organized system of adult intelligence. There are two major characteristics of formal operational thought including ‘hypothetic-deductive reasoning’ and ‘propositional reasoning’. Hypothetic-deductive reasoning means that when faced with a problem, the person is able to come up with a general summary of all the possible factors that might affect the outcome, and the different outcomes possible.
Propositional reasoning means that adolescents can focus on verbal assertions and evaluate their logical validity without making reference to real-world circumstances. In concrete operational development, children can only evaluate the logic of statements based off of concrete evidence. Formal operational development brings critical, theoretical, and problem-solving types of thought that gives them much more thought and understanding than they had in the past. (Koocher, 1973, p. 8).
“Are we forming children who are only capable of learning what is already known? Or should we try to develop creative and innovative minds, capable of discovery from the preschool age on, throughout life?” –Jean Piaget
On August 9, 1896, developmental psychologist and philosopher Jean Piaget was born. Jean was the first psychologist to make a systematic study of cognitive development. His contributions include a theory of cognitive child development, detailed observational studies of cognition in children, and a series of simple but ingenious tests to reveal different cognitive abilities. Before Piaget’s work, the common assumption in psychology was that children are merely less competent thinkers than adults which he disproved showing the strikingly different ways children think in comparison to adults.
Piaget’s theories of child development continue to be studied in the field of education. His theory differs from others in several ways. For one, it is concerned with children, rather than all learners. It also focuses on development rather than learning so it does not address learning of information or specific behaviors. It proposes discrete stages of development marked by qualitative differences, rather than a gradual increase in number and complexity of behaviors, concepts, and ideas.