About Jean Piaget (essay)


Before taking this class I didn’t know much of anything about Jean Piaget. Now that the semester is coming to an end, I can honestly say I’ve become quite the expert on him. In this paper I will be going into detail on the history and famous works of Piaget. As well as discussing the impact he had on American Society and myself as a preservice teacher.

History of Jean Piaget

Jean Piaget was born in Neuchâtel, Switzerland on August 9, 1896. He used the term “genetic epistemologist” to identify himself as. “‘What the genetic epistemology proposes is discovering the roots of the different varieties of knowledge, since its elementary forms, following to the next levels, including also the scientific knowledge,’ he explained in his book Genetic Epistemology”. (Cherry) Basically this is the study of the extents, nature, human knowledge, and origin.

Piaget always had an interest in natural sciences, even at a young age. At only 11 years old, he published research paper on Albino Sparrows. And at 15 years old, he published works on mollusks while attending Neuchâtel Latin High School. These are examples of his first works of a collection of 60 books and 700 articles, most of which were recognized by European Zoologists.

Most of his major accomplishments took place between the years 1918-1921, during his young adulthood. In 1918 he obtained a Ph.D. in Zoology and Composed two philosophical essays. Psychoanalysis began to spark his interests in 1920. Piaget headed to France after barely finishing one semester at the University of Zürich. In 1921 he began working at a boys program called, “Ecole de la rue de la Grange-aux-Belles”. Jean Piaget worked with Alfred Binet who was the creator of the 1st intelligence test by aiding with scoring the tests. The results from the test lead to his conclusion that children do not think in the same way as adults do. He then began working on the Theory of Cognitive Development, where he researched intellectual development throughout childhood with attention to the impact of schemas. By the end of 1921, he was hired as Director of Studies at the J.J. Rousseau Institute in Geneva.

Piaget was the recipient of many accolades and honors. Like for example, the prestigious Erasmus in 1972 and Balzan in 1978. He was the author of 50 plus books and many scholarly documents. “Piaget summed up his passion for the ongoing pursuit of scientific knowledge with these words: ‘The current state of knowledge is a moment in history, changing just as rapidly as the state of knowledge in the past has ever changed and, in many instances, more rapidly’” (A&E Network)

Piaget was a 20th-century scholar who created highly influential theories on the stages of cognitive development among kids. His works lead to him becoming a major figure in psychology and cognitive theory. Piaget was 84 years old when he died of what appeared to be “unknown causes” in Geneva, Switzerland. His body currently lays in the “Cimetière des Plainpalais”.

Works of Jean Piaget

Piaget changed the field of child development and education by focusing on the way children’s minds process knowledge as they progress through his four developmental stages. Each of the four stages help shape and build up the structure of child development from infancy to adolescent as their behavior continues to take form through adulthood. To this day, parents and teachers are still using Piaget’s developmental stages as a key guide in structuring the child’s performance, but are not realizing it. Here is a more in-depth look into each stage of Cognitive Development. The first stage is called The Sensorimotor Stage (birth to age 2). This is where children use their senses and movement in everyday life. In this stage children can’t perceive the world through someone else’s perspective. This stage is separated into six substages. First substage is from birth to one month and is called Simple Reflexes which is using reflexes such as rooting and sucking. Next is from one to four months old and is called First Habits and Primary Circular Reactions. This takes place when a child can relate habit and sensation. For example sucking on their thumb or reenacting something that has already happened.

Next is from four to eight months old and is called Secondary Circular Reactions. This when they begin to be conscious of objects that don’t pertain to them. For example they will shake their rattle continuously just for their own satisfaction. Next is from eight to twelve months old and is called Coordination of Secondary Circular Reactions. This is when they begin doing things intentionally. Like using a stick to reach something. Next is from twelve to eighteen months and is called Tertiary Circular Reactions, Novelty, and Curiosity. This is when the child begins exploring new possibilities of objects. The last stage of the Sensorimotor Stage is the Internalization of Schemata.

The second stage in the Theory of Cognitive Development take place during the ages two through seven years old and is called the Pre-operational Stage. This takes place when they start to speak but can’t fully understand information. There is a big influx of pretend and playing time. The individual has issues seeing things from a point of view other than theirs. The Pre-operational stage contains two substages.

First substage take place from two to four years old and is called Symbolic Function Substage. This takes place when the children begin use symbols in place of physical objects around them. The second substage takes place between the ages of four to seven years old and is called Intuitive Thought Substage. This is when the children become very curious and ask many questions; this begins the use of primitive reasoning. Children realize they have all of this knowledge but don’t understand how they received it.

The third stage takes place between the ages of seven to eleven and is called Concrete Operational Stage. In this stage, children begin to use logical thoughts or operations but can only apply logic to physical objects. They begin to gain and understanding of volume and area. The child understands that an object can remain the same in quantity even if the appearance changes. Even though they are able to solve problems in a logical way, they can’t think abstractly.

The fourth and final stage takes place between the ages eleven to adulthood and is called the Formal Operational Stage. The child is able to do math calculations, think creatively, and use abstract reasoning to solve problems. They can figure out the answer in their heads without needing to do any physical work. The child is able to think about hypothetical ideas that have not yet happened. Piaget’s works will continue to be used and progress in child rearing as a productive way to engage in interaction with teacher, child, and parent involvement inside and outside of school.

Impact on American Society

Piaget made a huge impact on American Society. His theories are still widely studied today by many American students of psychology, sociology, genetics, and more. For example, we are learning about his research in this class. He brought light to the important stages in the mental development of children, which a lot of parents and teachers still pay very close attention to. Before Piaget, children were viewed as smaller versions of adults. He proved that childhood is a pivotal time for development. Developmental research was primarily concerned with social and emotional development, Piaget brought light to cognitive development.

Some advances that came from Piaget was incorporating toys that evolve with the child and become more complex as they get older. Some examples would be Legos, Puzzles, and Playing Cards. All of these toys can be adjusted for age differences. Piaget also paved the way for online video games that teach the children interactively. For example incorporating games with education. This combination keeps the children engaged and they enjoy what they are learning. There are now interactive games that are designed for specific grade levels to show if the child is on track for their age.

Piaget’s Theories were very influential in redesigning curriculum. He brought light to more of a “Child-centered learning”. Which is where the child is in more control of their education. The teacher takes a back seat and lets the child use critical thinking to solve problems. One of my favorite quotes by Piaget is “Attempting to teach children concepts before they have arrived at them is completely useless”. He taught us that children cannot understand topics that they are not cognitively ready to process. For example if you try to convey seventh grade reading material to a third grader they simply won’t be able to process the information correctly. 

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