by Saul McLeod published 2009, updated 2012
Jean Piaget (1896 - 1980) was employed at the Binet Institute in the 1920s, where his job was to develop French versions of questions on English intelligence tests.
He became intrigued with the reasons children gave for their wrong answers on the questions that required logical thinking. He believed that these incorrect answers revealed important differences between the thinking of adults and children.
Piaget 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. Piaget showed that young children think in strikingly different ways compared to adults.
According to Piaget, children are born with a very basic mental structure (genetically inherited and evolved) on which all subsequent learning and knowledge is based.
Piaget's Theory Differs From Others In Several Ways:
o It is concerned with children, rather than all learners.
o It focuses on development, rather than learning per se, so it does not address learning of information or specific behaviors.
o It proposes discrete stages of development, marked by qualitative differences, rather than a gradual increase in number and complexity of behaviors, concepts, ideas, etc.
The goal of the theory is to explain the mechanisms and processes by which the infant, and then the child, develops into an individual who can reason and think using hypotheses.
To Piaget, cognitive development was a progressive reorganization of mental processes as a result of biological maturation and environmental experience. Children construct an understanding of the world around them, then experience discrepancies...