Theorists Of Cognitive Development


Theorists such as Piaget, Vygotsky and Skinner developed theories based on research around cognitive development, and a variety of approaches to teaching have since grown from that work and the work of other theorists.

Other approaches concerned with cognitive development include behaviourism , information processing , and constructivism .

Jean Piaget
Jean Piaget, a Swiss theorists who died in 1984, believed that children's thinking passed through four separate stages and changed qualitatively in each of these stages. He emphasised the importance of maturation and the provision of a stimulating environment for children to explore. He believed children were active learners. Piaget's stages are:


1.Sensory-motor stage Birth to 2 years. This stage consists of six sub-stages that also show significant gains in the child's thinking as they progress through infancy. Children are using their physical or motor skills and their senses to explore their world and develop their cognitive understandings.

2.Pre-operational stage 2 to 7 years. In this stage children are less reliant upon senses and physical exploration and, according to Piaget, are 'illogical thinkers' During this stage, for example, children can be shown that two balls of dough are exactly the same size, and they will agree that the balls are the same size, butwhen one is flattened, they will usually tell you that one of them is now bigger. This inability to conserve is a feature of the preoperational stage.

3.Concrete operations 7 to 12 years. In this stage, which aligns with middle childhood, children are beginning to be able to demonstrate much more logical thinking, although they need concrete materials to help them reach the correct conclusions. Thus in this stage you will see children working on mathematical problems but using blocks, counters or even their fingers to help them work out the answer.

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4.Formal operation 12 years and over. This final stage encompasses the rest of our lives. Piaget believed that once we reached the age of 12 we were capable of much more abstract thinking and able to solve problems in our 'heads'.We can deal with much more complex issues.


Piaget has been, and continues to be, an important influence on how we think about children's thinking skills. He was important because he saw children as active participants in their own learning. Lev Vygotskey also saw children's thinking developing in stages, but he emphasised the social and cultural influences on a child's learning.

Read about Lev Vygotsky--> HERE

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