Cognitive development refers to the way individuals think, explore, and observe the things around them. It is the emergence of thinking and understanding ability. Jean Piaget is referred to as the father of cognitive development. He was a Swiss psychologist who observed the intellectual development of children during childhood. According to him,
“Cognitive development is a progressive reorganization of mental processes as a result of biological maturation and environmental experience.”
He studied the intellectual development of his three children.
According to Piaget, there are four stages of cognitive development which are as follows:
Sensorimotor Stage (Birth-2 years)
During this stage, the child starts interacting with the environment. The child starts developing motor senses such as sight, sound, touch, smell, and taste. They start understanding the world through these senses. They start differentiating between animate and inanimate objects. At the end of this stage, children develop symbolic thought and also achieve object permanence.
The sensorimotor stage is characterized by the following points:
- The sensorimotor stage begins at birth and lasts till two years of age.
- During this stage, the child starts interacting with the environment and tries to gain an understanding of it.
- The child starts developing motor senses such as sight, sound, touch, smell, and taste.
- They start understanding the world through these senses.
- They start differentiating between animate and inanimate objects. If something is out of sight, it is out of mind.
- At the end of this stage, children develop symbolic thought. This means that children start to represent objects through mental symbols.
- Children also achieve object permanence which refers to the ability to recognize the existence of an object even when it is out of sight or not perceived.
Preoperational Stage (2-6/7 years)
In this stage, the child begins to represent the world in a symbolic manner. The child begins to use language and symbols. The child becomes capable of more complex mental representations. The preoperational stage is divided into two stages:
a. Pre conceptual stage (2-4 years): At this stage, there is increased use of verbal representation. However, speech is egocentric.
b. Intuitive stage (4-7years): In this stage, speech becomes less egocentric and more social. The child starts basing their knowledge upon what they think is true.
The characteristics of preoperational stage are as follows:
- In this stage, the child begins to represent the world in a symbolic manner. They begin to realize that words and objects are symbolic.
- The child begins to use language and symbols. They start understanding the environment around them.
- The child becomes capable of more complex mental representations.
- In this stage, children start using logical thoughts and start imagining things.
- The preoperational stage is a stage of egocentrism where the child thinks only of themselves.
- Centration takes place during this stage which means that children only focus on one aspect of a thing or situation.
- During this stage, conservation develops which refers to the understanding that even when you change the shape or size of something, the quantity remains the same.
Concrete Operational Stage (7-11/12years)
In this stage, the child starts learning rules such as conservation, decentration, and reversibility. Children start developing the ability to perform mental operations and start solving problems in their minds. However, their operations are limited to real events and tangible objects.
The characteristics of the concrete operational stage are as follows:
- In this stage, the child starts learning about conservation which means that the quantity of a thing remains the same even when you change its shape or size.
- Children also develop decentration during this stage which means the ability to pay attention to more than one aspect of a situation or a thing.
- Children also learn reversibility which means that something can be restored to its original state.
- Children start developing the ability to perform mental operations and start solving problems in their minds.
- During the concrete operational stage, children’s operations are limited to real events and tangible objects.
- The child develops the ability to use logical thought but they can only apply it to physical objects.
- In this stage, children also develop problems solving skills, and other skills such as transitivity, seriation, and class inclusion.
Formal Operational Stage (12 years and adult)
During this stage, the thoughts start becoming increasingly abstract and flexible. They start thinking about the consequences of their actions and start developing problem-solving skills. They also develop deductive reasoning and inductive reasoning skills.
The characteristics of the formal operational stage are as follows.
- During this stage, the thoughts start becoming increasingly abstract and flexible.
- Children start thinking about the consequences of their actions and start developing problem-solving skills.
- Children start developing deductive reasoning which is the act of reasoning one or more statements to arrive at a logical conclusion.
- Children also start developing inductive reasoning which refers to the process of moving from specific observations to generalizations.
- In this stage, children also start understanding that the rules of a game are developed by mutual agreement.
- During this stage, teens start thinking about issues that require abstract and theoretical reasoning such as moral, social, ethical, political, and philosophical issues.
- In this stage, they develop the ability to manipulate ideas and think in an abstract manner.
The educational implications of Piaget’s theory of cognitive development theory are as follows:
1. Based on the developmental level of children, the curriculum should provide the required educational experience.
2. Classroom activities that encourage and assist self-learning must be incorporated.
3. Practical learning situations must be included in the class.
4. Co-curricular activities that enhance children’s cognitive development must be given equal importance as curricular activities.
5. The teaching method must be simple to complex and the inclusion of the project teaching method is recommended.
6. Children learn and think differently from adults therefore, they should be taught accordingly.
7. The discovery approach to learning must be emphasized.
Taking Piaget’s cognitive development theory into consideration, practical learning situations must be adopted. The curriculum should be designed according to children’s developmental levels.