Jean Piaget Essay Research Paper During the

Jean Piaget Essay, Research Paper During the 1920s, a biologist named Jean Piaget proposed a theory of cognitive development of children. He caused a new revolution in thinking about how thinking

Jean Piaget Essay, Research Paper

During the 1920s, a biologist named Jean Piaget proposed a theory of cognitive

development of children. He caused a new revolution in thinking about how thinking

develops. In 1984, Piaget observed that children understand concepts and reason

differently at different stages. Piaget stated children’s cognitive strategies which are used

to solve problems, reflect an interaction BETWEEN THE CHILD’S CURRENT

DEVELOPMENTAL STAGE AND experience in the world.

Research on cognitive development has provided science educators with constructive

information regarding student capacities for meeting science curricular goals. Students

which demonstrate concrete operational thinking on Piagetian tasks seem to function only

at that level and not at the formal operational level in science. Students which give

evidence of formal operational thinking on Piagetian tasks often function at the concrete

operational level in science, thus leading researchers to conclude that the majority of

adolescents function at the concrete operational level on their understanding of science

subject matter. In a study by the National Foundation of subjects in Piaget’s Balance Task

were rated as being operational with respect to proportional thought development. In

addition, seventy-one percent of subjects did not achieve complete understanding of the

material studied in a laboratory unit related to chemical solubility. The unit delt with

primary ratios and proportions, and when overall physical science achievement was

considered, about forty-three percent of the formal operational studies were not able to

give simple examples of the problem that were correctly solved on the paper and pencil

exam (Inhelder & Piaget, 1958, p. 104).

Piaget was primarily concerned with the developmental factors that characterize the

changes in the child’s explanations of the world around him or her. Piaget’s early research


three parallel lines of development. First, from an initial adualism or confusion of result of


subject’s own activity with objective changes to reality to a differentiation between subject

and object. Second, from a phenomenological interpretation of the world to one which is

based on objective causality. Third, from a unconscious focusing on one’s own point of

view to a decentration which allocates the subject a place in the world alongside other

persons and objects. In functional terms, these concepts are termed assimilation and

accommodation in reference to interaction with the physical world, and socialization in

reference to interaction with other people (Inhelder & Sinclair, 1974, p.22).

Piaget’s states many secondary level science courses taught in the past at the have been

too abstract for most students since they are taught in lecture or reception learning

format. Thus, students who only have concrete operational structures available for their

reasoning will not be successful with these types of curricula. Programs using concrete

and self-pacing instruction are better suited to the majority of students and the only

stumbling block may be teachers who cannot understand the programs or regard them as

too simplistic. Since the teacher is a very important variable regarding the outcome of the

science, the concern level of the teacher will determine to what extent science instruction

is translated in a cognitively relevant manner in the classroom.

Educators who prefer to have children learn to make a scientific interpretation rather than

a mythological interpretation of natural phenomena, and one way to introduce scientific

interpretations is to analyze any change as evidence of interaction. One way in which this

teaching device can function is if there is an instructional period of several class sessions

in which the students are engaged in “play” with new of familiar materials; followed by is

a suggestion of a way to think about observations; lastly there is a further extermination in

which the students can explore the consequences of using their discoveries . Through the

process of guided discovery, the student

goes from observation at the beginning to interpretations at the end (Athey & Rubadeau,

1970, p. 245).

In Piaget’s study of the operations that underlie the system of scientific concepts related to

number, measurement, physical quantities, and logical classes and relations, structural

models were needed to explain the processes involved in the formation of these concepts

(Inhelder & Sinclair, 1974, p. 23). The grouping of classes and relations describe the

characteristics of the end product of process of growth as a particular system of mental

operations. The logical and infralogical systems of concrete thought prolong the action

structures of the sensorimotor period, but because they are subsytems of extensive

higher-order structure, they pave the way for the mathematical group structures of the

period of formal thought.

Piaget proposes ( Piaget & Inhelder, 1971, p. 387) that knowing the object means acting

upon it in order to transform it and discover its properties through its transformations, with

the aim being to get at the object. Cognition is not based only on the object, but also on

the exchange or interactions between subject and object resulting from the action and

reaction of the two. Actions are coordinated in accordance with operational structures

which in the first place are constituted precisely as a function of the manipulation of

objects. The instrumentality of operational structures make possible the processes of

relating, corresponding, ordinal estimation, measurement, classification, and prepositional

structionalism. In a liquid conservation problem, (Inhelder & Sinclair, 1974, p.129) Inheler

proposed that because the child became able to regard the results of pouring as the final

state of a continuous process of change, he can integrate all aspects of the situation and

make fewer references to the dimensions as such because he has understood the nature

of their coordination. Greenfield’s

results with this procedure using subjects from eleven to thirteen years of age, indicated

operatory solutions different form tests with eight year old. Considered in the context of

the subject’s reactions to various conservation problems, if they are used to back up a

non-conservation answer, it shows a stage of reasoning based on the possibility of an

empirical return to the initial state, and that he is not compensating for reciprocal

variations of the dimensions. On the other hand, if the subject uses the same arguments

to back up a conservation answer, he has understood the concepts of compensation and

true reversibility. The third substage of the concrete operations period is called the

concrete operations substage and lasts from about the seventh year to the eleventh year.

To Piaget, an operation is defined as perceptual action or movement which can return to

its starting point and can be integrated with other actions also possessing the feature of

reversibility (Athey, 1970, p. 231). A concrete operation is therefore the coordination and

internalization of perceptual actions that have been made on a concrete object.

Piaget also found that the ability to use formal operations sometimes develops without

instruction, but it is not adequate to encompass the results, thinking, or attitudes of

modern science. There develops a kind of “common sense” that does not enable them to

recognize the type of relationship one has to recognize when one makes a scientific study.

In science instruction, a qualitative change in learning can occur if one develops in the

student’s thinking about natural phenomena, a hierarchical structure of concepts that later

becomes increasingly sophisticated. Each topic in the science program should represent an

application of previous elements and at the same time lays a foundation for subsequent

elements of study (Piaget, 1973, p.31).

Teachers must understand that Piaget is primarily concerned with instruction that goes

beyond memorized facts or skills. With a comprehensive knowledge of characteristics of


and formal operational thought, teachers will recognize various levels of student thinking

within the broad range of mental development. One method which will provide students

with activities that require logical thinking is to allow them to choose their own

investigations. Initially, investigations would be simple, using tangible and uncomplicated

equipment. Features like cloud chambers and voltmeters may obscure learning because of

their complexity, and less sophisticated experiments will allow students to control

variables, collect data, and draw conclusions based on their data. Constructive

experiments may include: does cold water freeze faster than hot, must seeds be soaked in

water before they germinate, does the rate of evaporation of water depend on the

temperature alone (Philips, Feb. 1976, p.31)?

Piaget believed that traditional schools have failed to train students in experimentation,

such as the variation of one factor when the other have been neutralized. Future teaching

methods will have to give increasingly greater scope to the activity and grouping of

students as well as to the spontaneous handling of devices to confirm or refute a

hypothesis for a phenomenon. If there is any area which active methods will become

imperative, it is that in which experimental procedures are learned. The basic principle of

active methods may be expressed to understand is to discover; or reconstruct by

discovery. These conditions must be met with if future students are formed who are

capable of production and creativity, and not simply repetition (Piaget, 1973, p.19).

Teachers will increasingly have to focus on student learning at the secondary level of if the

goals of science education are going to be achieved to a greater extent than at the

present. Science teachers who are chiefly concerned about themselves in relation to their

teaching role or about their adequacy as a teacher, will be unable to focus on the

intellectual capabilities of their students, in spite of the importance and impact which this

has been proven to have on student’s learning.

Therefore, it can be stated that Piaget’s theories of cognitive development have, and will

continue to have a great effect on the manner in which teaching is done.


Athey, I., & Rubandeau, D. (1970). Educational implications of piaget’s theory. Waltham,

Mass. Ginn-Blaisdell.

Inhelder, B., & Piaget, J. (1958). The growth of logical thinking from childhood to

adolescence. New York: Basic Books.

Inhelder, B., & Piaget, J. (1971). Mental imagery in the child. London: Routledge and

Kegan Paul.

Inhelder, B., & Sinclair, H. (1974). Learning and development of cognition. Cambridge,

Mass. Harvard University Press.

Philips, D. (1976, February). Piagetian perspectives on science teaching. The science

teacher. vol. 43, No. 2.

Piaget, J. (1973). To understand is to invent: the future of education. New York: Grossman