Jean Piaget was a Swiss psychologist who developed a theory regarding the developmental stages of children from birth to around age fifteen. His theory of cognitive development focuses on the fact that children do not necessarily learn in a linear process; rather, they go through different stages throughout their early lives in which they obtain certain learning abilities. The theory can be incorporated into the classroom. For educators, understanding Piaget's theory of cognitive development can be an important part of improving the teaching process.
Implement activities based upon the sensorimotor stage of Piaget's theory. This stage occurs between birth and two years, and is perfect for those who find themselves working in early education. During this stage, the child begins to understand the difference between him or herself and other objects in the room. Working with building blocks and puppets is a great way to incorporate this stage into a teaching program.
Conduct activities based upon the preoperational stage. This stage (ages 2 to 4) teaches that the child is beginning to conceptualize better and classify objects by physical appearance. During this time period, educators can begin to teach children the difference between certain animals and other objects, living or inanimate.
Work with the concrete operational stage. This stage occurs between the ages of 7 and 11, and is when a major part of the child's cognitive development will occur. During this time, children begin to understand abstract concepts and "think for themselves" much more easily. Educators can teach children in this age group to be more introspective and understand concepts that may be considered abstract.
Form a lesson plan around the fourth and final stage of Piaget's theory of cognitive development, the formal operations stage. This stage occurs when children are between 11 and 15 years of age, and is when their cognitive abilities are thought to be fully formed. Children become more like adults in that they are able to use deductive reasoning and make decisions for themselves without any form of aid. Knowing this, educators can challenge students with projects that require a deeper and more reflective thinking process.
While Piaget's theory is respected by many professionals, all children grow and mature at different rates. If a child seems to be beyond a certain set of abilities, take note and adjust your teaching regimen.
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