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Coginitive Development

Jean Piaget needs no introduction to a trained-teacher. Every teacher receives some exposure to the theories of Piaget during his training. Piaget’s notions of assimilation and accommodation are probably the most commonly known and the most easily interpretive of Piaget‘s theories.

The fact that is intrinsic to Piagetian theory and the one that must be reiterated in regard to these two concepts and indeed to the totality of his theory is that at no point in the child’s intellectual development does Piaget consider the child as the passive recipient in the acquisition of knowledge. His theory rests on the fact that the intellect is active in the development of knowledge

The young child in the process of assimilation continually reaches out, touches, and tastes accessible elements in the environment. Piaget categorizes this earliest of stages as the sensori-motor stage in the development of the child. In the process of assimilating external reality, the child gradually moves towards a system of classification. This process of assimilation, however, remains comparatively uninhibited in the early stages of a child‘s life. Later when the child reaches the age of two or three, the process involve contradictions which result in disequilibration in the knowledge previously attained. The child seeks equilibration and resolves the problem through a process of accommodation. It is this process that contributes substantially to the development of the child’s intellect.

The processes of assimilation, accommodation and equilibration are life–long processes.

At the later stages of intellectual development, more sophisticated processes are developed, yet it is this disequilibration that is at the heart of intellectual development. The interaction of the human intellect and the environment results in increasingly complicated systems of knowing, and assists the individual in attaining advanced stages of knowledge. These stages called SCHEME (Plural schemes) by Piaget develop progressively, and although Piaget suggests ages at which they occur, the limits have been determined empirically from numerous investigations in Geneva and elsewhere.

 According to Piaget, although the age limits are not rigidly delimited, each stage must nevertheless be attained in the proposed sequential order: - sensori-motor stage, Pre-operational stage, Concrete operational stage and Formal operational stage.


PERIODS                                                                    APPROXIMATE AGE
Sensori-motor                                                             Birth-1 ½ - 2 years
Pre-operational                                                            1- ½ - 2 – 6-7 years
Concrete Operational                                       6-7 – 11 – 12 years
Formal Operational                                                       11-12- through adulthood.

The ages at which these stages are attained has much to do with the development of the individual child and environmental factors.

Another important characteristic of learning is the process of reversibility. The question of reversibility has significance for the development of knowledge, especially in mathematics and the sciences. The ability of the pupil to grasp the process of reversibility contributes significantly to more comprehensive learning. The application by teachers of this process in teaching; for example, addition with its converse subtraction and multiplication with division, provides the pupil with the opportunity to improve learning.

“I recall one evening of profound revelation. The identification of God with life itself was an idea that stirred me almost to ecstasy because if enabled me to see in biology the explanation of all things and mind itself…… The problem of knowing (properly called the epistemological problem) suddenly appeared to me in an entirely new perspective and as an absorbing topic of study. It made me decide to consecrate my life to the biological explanation of knowledge.” ………..PIAGE