Jean Piaget and Theory on Cognitive Development


In the following research paper, we will be discussing Jean Piaget’s Life and Theory on Cognitive Development as well as the contribution he made to education. Piaget was a Swiss psychologist, mostly known for conducting a systematic study of understanding children. He was born in Switzerland on August 09, 1896, to parents Arthur and Valentine. Ever since Jean was young, he had an interest in the natural world and biology. In 1918, he acquired his PH. D from the University of Neuchatel while studying zoology and philosophy. After enrolling in a semester at the University of Zurich, he was very interested in the study of psychology. Piaget was known for studying children’s learning capabilities and how they learn through ideas from biology, philosophy, and psychology. He then based his conclusions on the observations he saw through his children as well as other children he came into contact with. Based on those interactions, he theorized the four different stages of cognitive development, which is still known to this day.

Life of Jean Piaget 

Jean Piaget is a Swiss psychologist mainly known for understanding the systematic study in children. Piaget was the first child of his parents Arthur and Rebecca. He was born in Switzerland on August 09, 1896. Surprisingly, Arthur was a professor that taught medieval literature at the same school where Jean studied and taught at the University of Neuchatel. Many from all over consider him to be the most important human figure in the 20th-century development of psychology. In his early years, he showed an interest in the natural world and biology.


Later, in the year of 1918, he acquired his PH. D from the University of Neuchatel while studying zoology and philosophy. Soon after that, he enrolled in a semester at the University of Zurich, where he became very interested in the study of psychology. As a young student, he wrote two very opposing papers; they were both rejected because the higher authority considered them ‘adolescent thoughts.’

Family History

Jean Piaget had a very eventful life; he worked in many places and did much research containing psychology. In 1921, he became a director of studies at the J.J Rousseau Institute in[MB1] Geneva. In 1923 is when Piaget married his wife and had his three children. Not too long after his children were born from the years 1925 to 1929, he became teaching psychology, sociology, and the philosophy of science as a professor at the University of Neuchatel, where he once studied, and his father taught. After finishing his schooling, he accepted a job to teach child psychology at the University of Geneva. He was a professor there from 1929 until he died in 1980.

What Did Piaget Study?

To date, Piaget has many contributions, believing that there is no theoretic framework that has or will have a more significant influence on developmental psychology than Piaget’s work. He did studies on children’s learning capabilities and how they learn by taking ideas from biology, philosophy, and psychology.

He draws conclusions based on observations and conversations with[MB2] these children and their children. Finally, he will observe them by interacting with them and asking them clever and revealing questions about simple problems.

Piaget’s Greatest Influences

He had many works; that were all published around the same time. In 1923, he put out The Language and Thought of the Child, 1925, The Child’s Conception of the World, 1936, the major work was The Origins of Intelligence in Children and lastly in 1950, The Construction of Reality in the Child. Shortly before he died in 1980, Jean Piaget had been awarded the Balzan Prize for Social-Political Sciences in 1979. Just the following year, he sadly passed away on September 16 at the age of 84 years old.

How Does Cognitive Development Occur?

Cognitive development is the maturity of biology, thinking, and intellectual development, and an extension of environmental experience in biological processes. Piaget’s theory explains the mechanisms and methods in which infants, then children develop into individuals who can reason and think using hypotheses. A child can construct an understanding of the world around them, which they can then classify what they already know and what is in their environment. He developed many ingenious tasks to probe children’s and adolescent’s thinking and reasoning. He also observed that young learners have a more self-constructed understanding of physical and social phenomena that change qualitatively distinct ways over time. He also believes that experimenting with the physical world is essential for cognitive growth.

When it comes to children developing cognitive development plays an essential role in language. As they are promoting the use of their language skills, they can only talk about things in some ways, but they first must think about it. In Piaget’s perspective, it provided a set of entities in which humans can mentally represent external events and internal schemes. When children are exchanging ideas with others, it can help them realize that other people see things differently than themselves, which helps them see that their perspectives aren’t necessarily accurate or logical. A piece of his work is a technique known as the clinical method, which states that he would give a child a problem, and thorough follow up questions, he would try to understand how the child got to the conclusion.

Four Stages of Piaget’s Theory on Cognitive Development

The four stages of cognitive development include sensorimotor, preoperational, concrete, and formal operation’s stage. The sensorimotor stage begins at birth, and the plan is about behavior and perception. In the early parts of this stage, children are unable to think about things that are not immediately in front of them; they have a greater focus on what they are seeing and doing at that moment.

The preoperational stage of cognitive development begins at about the age of two. At this stage, children are rapidly developing language. How symbolic thought enables children to think and talk about things beyond their immediate experience, however children still haven’t developed the ability to reason in adult-like ways. Once children turn around the age of 6 or 7, they begin to go through what Piaget calls the concrete operations. At this point, children start to have the logic of adult life but are limited to reasoning about specific real-life situations. Children can also classify objects into two or more categories of belongings in the classroom at the same time. Lastly, conservation is the realization that the amount stays the same regardless of any alterations in shape or arrangement.

Finally, a child of about 11 or 12 years of age undergoes the final stage of cognitive development, the step of formal operations. At this stage, logical reasoning and proportional reasoning have developed. Rational thinking is applying abstract ideas as well as objects and situations that are essential for advanced reasoning in science and mathematics. Proportional reasoning is the conceptual understanding of fractions, percentages, decimals, and ratio. Finally, children have a greater understanding of the separation and control of variables and can test hypotheses by manipulating one variable while keeping other variables unchanged.

Educational Implications

The educational implication of Piaget’s theory is having a focus on the process of thinking and learning and not just the final product. Teachers should pay attention to check students’ understanding and the process that they used to come up with the answer instead of simply checking if it’s right or wrong. Another implication is emphasizing children’s self-initiated, active involvement in learning activities. In this classroom, teachers can encourage children to be able to discover themselves through a spontaneous interaction with the environment around them. Piaget was firmly against the act of speeding up development in children. He believed that trying to speed up and accelerate a child’s progress through the stages is worse than not teaching children at all. Teachers also need to be aware that not every student will go through the steps at the same time. With that in mind, teachers must make a special effort to arrange classroom activities for individuals and groups of children rather than the whole class.

Piaget’s Theory in the Classroom

Different ways that teachers can use Piaget’s theory are using props and visual aids, promote learning through using more familiar examples that explain a more complex idea, and presenting problems that will require logical, analytical thinking. The methods available in the classroom are review/revision activities, classroom vocabulary bags, problem-solving, discovery, and project-based learning and cognitive strategies. It is encouraged that students participate in review/revision activities because it refreshes the content the student has experienced. Using a classroom vocabulary bag is another excellent technique because it gives learners the ability to learn vocabulary words as well as relate them to different groups.

The focus of problem-solving is to expose problems, which enables learners to conduct research based on theories, concepts, and various scientific principles. When the learner’s problem solves, they follow these steps: identifying the problem, collecting the data, analyzing the data, and drawing a conclusion or a possible conclusion based on the data. Discovery learning aims to develop research capabilities to improve the level of learner’s appreciation for science. It focuses more on the learning process rather than the product, which can increase student’s learning skills, such as how to ask questions and evaluate strategies.

Cognitive strategies are strategies learners use to learn successfully through things like repetition, organizing a new language, summarizing meaning, guessing meaning from context, and using imagery for memorization. Lastly, project-based learning is a teaching method in which students can gain knowledge and skills by working overtime to investigate and respond to an authentic, engaging, and complex question, problem, or challenge.

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Jean Piaget And Theory On Cognitive Development. (2021, Apr 09). Retrieved June 23, 2021 , from

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