Piaget's Theory with Application to Teaching
Piaget was originally a biologist, but moved into the study of the development of children's understanding, through observing them and talking and listening to them while they worked on exercises he set. His view of how children's minds work and developed has been enormously influential, particularly in educational theory. His particular insight was the role of maturation. Simply put, children can’t perform certain tasks until they are mentally mature enough to do so. Piaget's theory has practical implications for the role of teachers in the classroom, and teachers have the option to structure their lessons around Piaget's theory of how children think and learn. Piaget believed there were stages of cognitive development. They are: sensori-motor stage, preoperational stage, concrete operational stage, and formal operational stage. Each stage is centered around a child’s age. During stage-based teaching a child
uses his senses and motor skills to explore the environment.
As a child approaches the preoperational stage, he is unable to reason logically because of such factors as egocentrism. They are only concerned with their own needs and wants. As the child enters the concrete operational stage, the child begins to think logically about objects and events. It is important that the child have many opportunities to interact with multiple concrete materials because this is when a child develops most of their ability to think outside the box. Finally, the child enters into the formal operational stage and begins to think logically about abstract propositions and test their theories thoroughly. It is important to note that most adolescents and some adults have not achieved the formal operation stage and need multiple concrete interactions in order to increase their understanding. Ultimately, it is important for educators to remember that Piaget believed that each child learns individually, so the classroom will be filled with students that are at different stages in their cognitive development.
Piaget believed that teachers should carefully assess the current stage of a child's cognitive development and only set tasks that the child is "ready" for. After a child has shown that they are mature enough to handle a task, then the teacher should assign it. Students should be exposed to learning opportunities that enable them to advance to each developmental step. This is achieved by creating activities that allow students to gradually increase their understanding. A balance should be maintained between guiding the child and allowing multiple opportunities for independent study and exploration. Piaget believed that teachers should show more concern for students learning that to worry about the end product. It is also important to encourage students to work with each other in small groups settings because students learn from each other. This will allow students to hear other students view points and thus help in breaking down their egocentrism. In conclusion, Piaget believed teachers should act as guides in
children's discovery learning and the curriculum should be adapted to teach to each child’s individual needs and intellectual levels.
Webb, P.K. (1980, Spring). Piaget: Implications for teaching. Theory Into Practice, (19)2 93-97.