Jean Piaget

“Knowing reality means constructing systems of transformations that correspond, more or less adequately, to reality.”
-Jean Piaget

Jean Piaget
Jean Piaget

Did you know...

Jean Piaget published his first paper when he was ten! - A one page account of his sighting of an albino sparrow.

A Brief History

Jean Piaget was born on August 9, 1896 in Neuchatel, Switzerland. His parents were Arthur Piaget and Rebecca Jackson. Jean went on to receive his Doctorate in Science at the University of Neuchatel. Piaget went on to study the intelligence testing but he didn’t care for the “right-or-wrong” of this testing and so he began asking how children reasoned instead of right or wrong answers to things. In 1923 he married his wife Valentine Chatenay and with her they had three kids; two daughters and a son. Their children became their main focus of observation and with this information, three more books were created. Piaget was very involved and due to this received a number of honorary degrees. By the end of Piaget’s career he had written over 60 books and had many articles. On September 16, 1980 he died in Geneva. (Jean Piaget Web site)
For further biographical information visit Jean Piaget Society


Jean Piaget was a cognitive theorist. Jean Piaget developed the “Cognitive Developmental Theory” this theory states that “children actively construct their understanding of the world and go through four stages of cognitive development (Ryerson, 47). Piaget thought that through interaction with people, the environment and time, children will learn to understand how things work. He believed that we adapt in two different ways, they are assimilation and accommodation. Assimilation is when a person incorporates new information into their existing knowledge. Accommodation is when the individual takes their existing information and uses it to help them adjust to new information. Piaget's theory did not stress the right answer, but rather the exploration process of the child. Children were viewed as active learners, and in classrooms, exploring was more important than listening to the teacher.

In developing his theory, Piaget performed various experiments to further his study of the four stages of cognitive development. The Youtube videos are replications of the actual experiments Piaget used to explain his theory.

Taken from “Life-span and Development" pages 46,47, the four stages to Piaget’s theory:

The Sensorimotor stage – 1st stage

Birth- 2 years of age
Within this stage infants gain an understanding of the world by using sensory experiences as well as physical actions. "At the beginning of this stage newborns have little more than reflexive patterns with which to work with. At the end of the stage, two-year-olds have complex sensorimotor patterns and are beginning to operate with primitive symbols."
(“Life-span and Development")

The Preoperational stage- 2nd stage

2 – 7 years of age
Within this stage children begin to see the world with words, images, and drawings instead of just the sensory aspect of things. "However, although preschool children can symbolically represent the world, according to Piaget, they still lack the ability to perform operations, the Piagetian term for internalized mental actions that allow children to do mentally what they previously did physically."
(“Life-span and Development")

The Concrete Operational Stage- 3rd stage

7- 11 years of age
Within this stage the child now uses logic to reason about concrete events and they can classify objects into different categories. "In this stage, children can perform operations, and logical reasoning replaces intuitive thought, as long as reasoning can be applied to specific concrete examples."
(“Life-span and Development")

The Formal Operational stage- 4th stage

11 years- adulthood.
Within this stage children move beyond concrete experiences and move towards abstract and logical terms. "As part of thinking more abstractly, adolescents develop images of ideal circumstances and begin to entertain possibilities for the future. In solving problems, formal operational thinkers are more systematic, developing hypotheses about why something is happening the way it is and then testing these hypotheses."
(“Life-span and Development")

Here is an overall view of the stages being displayed together:

Piaget's Contribution to Learning and Education

Cognitive Development and Moral Judgement
· Piaget attempted to understand how we expand knowledge through his research in developmental psychology.
· To further his understanding he observed how children react to their environment
· He engaged children in discussions after presenting them with stories
· Piaget’s principle is that young people learn through dynamic interaction in their environment
(Naested, Irene. Understanding the Landscape of Teaching p. 101)

Central Concepts - Schema

· Piaget believed that what changes over the course of a child’s development, is their capacity to make sense of experience
· Piaget described the way in which a child interacted with their environment as schema
· Piaget thought of schemata as a structure of our minds in which we organize our thoughts and propel them into actions
· Basic schemata are combined and will create more complex schema
· Schemata develops when a child discovers an action will bring a result

· Schema consists of simple motor skills and actions, to more complex ones such as play schema
· Ultimately, schemata can be thought of as building blocks for a child’s cognitive development
(Brannon, Linda. Psychology 3rd Canadian Edition, p. 393)

For more of Piaget's key concepts visit "Piaget's Developmental Theory"

Criticisms of Piaget

Many researchers agree with Piaget’s beliefs, however there are still criticisms of Piaget. Critics claim that Piaget doesn’t take into enough consideration society’s role in children’s cognitive development because he places too much emphasis on biology. According to critics the problem with Piaget’s beliefs on development, is that cognitive development occurs in the same way regardless of a child’s social upbringing and surroundings.
(Brannon, Linda. Psychology 3rd Canadian Edition, p. 393)

(WIKI PAGE BY: Whitney Bonick, Rebecca Frick, and Jocelyn Brubacher-Hines)