Jean Piaget’s theory of cognitive development

Jean Piaget’s theory of cognitive development

Jean Piaget was a Swiss philosopher and psychologist who lived between 1896 and 1980.

He made remarkable contributions to the field of developmental psychology. Piaget focused on

the intellectual development of children. He developed the cognitive development theory

consisting of four stages. Many education and psychology students study Jean Piaget’s theories

and his ideas have been incorporated in the curriculums of many schools (Oakley, 2004).

One of the major aspects of Piaget’s theory is that human cognitive development consists

of four stages. The sensorimotor stage occurs from birth to the age of two years. During this

stage, the child explores the environment through senses. Children perform reflexive activities

such as sucking and grasping objects. As the child grows, the reflexive activities become more

repetitive and purposeful. Children go through the preoperational stage between the ages of two

to seven years. In this stage, children are able to perform simple classification of objects. They

further develop their speech and increase their vocabulary. Children in this stage are self-

centered. The concrete operational stage occurs between seven to eleven years of age. Children

at this stage think more logically and rationally and can conceptualize ideas. The formal

operation stage starts from the age of eleven to sixteen years. In this stage, children are able to

consider and evaluate various possibilities of solving a problem and the possible results. They

can reason hypothetically (Oakley, 2004).

Another aspect of Piaget’s theory is constructivism. Piaget believed that human beings

learn through actively interacting with the environment. Therefore, students should not act as

passive participants during the process of learning but should interact actively with the

information and concepts. Moreover, Piaget posited that previous knowledge of the learners

facilitates their understanding of new concepts. Another philosophy emerging from the concept

of constructivism is that different students may learn different ideas after being exposed to the

same information.


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