28 January 2014

Jean Piaget's Theory Of Cognitive Development

CTET Exam Notes : Child Development and Pedagogy (CDP) 

Topic :  Piaget : constructs and critical perspectives

Cognitive development deals with studying how human beings think, reason and form concepts. In other words, it deals with the development of the mind. According to a leading psychologist, Piaget, the mind like the body also has structures. 

Structures ( units) of Mind:


The basic unit or structure of mind is called ‘schema’. A schema is an abstract representation of the original elements in an object. For example the infant’s schema for a face is likely to emphasize an oval frame containing two horizontally placed circular shapes (the eyes). It is likely that a schema is not an exact copy of any particular object or event. This complex concept involves both mental organization (a child’s conceptualization of a specific situation), and observable behaviour. A schema is known by the behaviour it involves, e.g., the schema of sucking implies that a baby recognizes the schema of hunger and therefore sucks. Here hunger is the schema and the effort to get food or sucking is the behaviour which is observable


Schemata (plural of schema) are intellectual structures that organize events as they are perceived by the organism into groups according to common characteristics. For example, in the schema of face the child perceives common characteristics that are organized in a particular way in all human faces. They are repeatable psychological events in the sense that a child will repeatedly classify stimuli in a consistent manner.

Cognitive development is influenced throughout by two general principles:

1. Organization

Organization  involves the integration of all processes into one overall system. Initially an infant’s schema of looking and of grasping are quite different, resulting in faulty hand-eye coordination. Eventually the baby organizes these schemata in order to hold and look at the object at the same time.

2. Adaptation 

Adaptation is a twofold process through which children create new structures to deal effectively with their surroundings. It involves both assimilation and accommodation, which are the essence of intelligent behaviour.

a. Assimilation 

Assimilation is the taking in of a new object, experience or concept into an existing set of schemata. When children use them to respond to a new stimulus, they are assimilating. In this, the child interprets the meaning of an object in relation to an existing schema. For example, a child of 8 or 9 months who sees a ball will probably try to put it in his mouth. In Piagetian terms, the child is assimilating the ball into his sucking schema.

2. Accommodation

In the process of accommodation, the child changes his schema so that his response is better tailored to the object. The process by which children change their actions to manage new objects and situations is called accommodation. The example of accomodation is imitation of others. In the process of imitation child suppresses his/her available schema and strives to establish new schema.

Equilibrium :

Assimilation and accommodation are necessary for cognitive growth and development and constantly work together to produce changes in a child’s conceptualization of the world and reactions to it. The state of balance between assimilation and accommodation is called equilibrium.

Must Read : Socialization processes

Stages of Mental Development :

According to Piaget, cognitive development progresses through four major stages:

(i) Sensory motor (birth to 2 years): 

Sensory motor stage is characterized by reflex actions of the infants.Children are using their physical or motor skills and their senses to explore their world and develop their cognitive understandings.

(ii) Preoperational (2 to 7 years)

(a) Preoperational (2-4)
(b) Intuitive (4-7)
Children during this period are egocentric and do not have the concept of object permanence. 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, but when 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.

(iii) Concrete operations (7 to 12 years)

 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. Children of this age are able to differentiate themselves from the environment, learn about the object permanence, and do goal-directed behaviours. They can arrange things or objects in a sequence.

(iv) Formal operations (12+years)

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. During this period, children are able to do abstract reasoning and are able to think like adults.