Jean Piaget’s Theory of Cognitive Development

Swiss psychologist Jean Piaget is well known for his theory which describes how humans gather and organize information and how this process changes developmentally. Theory of Jean Piaget has been regarded as cognitive development Theory. Jean Piaget supported Psychological contructivism to define development in the child.

Constructivism: It is presumed that the child is construct his knowledge, cognition ,experience, learning and cognitive skill and learning by self realisation.

According to Constructivism, Teacher should play role of facilitator who organise learning environment and learning opportunities for child.

Jean Piaget had been “Biological constructivist” that means development is “adaptive process” that means in the process of development there is no significant importance of language, social interaction and culture.

Adaptative Process of Cognitive Development

  • Schema

It is a kind of cognitive framework and cognitive building block.

It is like the cognitive scaffold and foundation of any knowledge.

It is pocket of information for holding new knowledge, experience and learning.

  • Assimilation

In assimilation , there is generalisation of newly acquired experience or knowledge. Assimilation is the process of Incorporation, adding, fitting of new knowledge, new experience , new information into existing structure of knowledge.

  • Accommodation

Accommodation is a modification, changing into existing knowledge structure as a result of exposure to new experience and information.

  • Equilibration

This is the force which moves development along. Piaget believed that cognitive development did not progress at a steady rate, but rather in leaps and bounds. Equilibrium occurs when a child’s schemas can deal with most new information through assimilation. However, an unpleasant state of disequilibrium occurs when new information cannot be fitted into existing schemas (assimilation).

According to Jean Piaget, there are four stages of cognitive development.

  1. Sensory Motor Stage

  2. Pre-operational Stage

  3. Concrete operational stage

  4. Formal operational Stage

Sensory Motor Stage (0 to 2 years)

In this stage , there is absence of language.In sensory motor stage children try to understand his environment by “trial and error” and direct experience”.

  • Sensory experience are at the centre of cognitive development in sensory motor stage.
  • In Sensory Motor Stage, Child has absence of verbal language.
  • Jean Piaget has referred sensory motor stage as “age of reflex” because child perform repeatly reflexive action like sucking, seeing, grasping, approaching, blinking, breathing etc again and again.

Pre-operational Stage (2 to 7 years)

The stage is Piaget’s theory of cognitive development, in which the lack of logical operations forces children to make decisions based on their perceptions. The major development during the pre-operational period is the ability to represent object and events or to use symbolic functions. You will recall that towards the end of the sensorimotor period, children become capable of engaging in activities that involve mental representation such as pretending.
Between the ages of two and seven, the mental abilities come to unfold fully as advances in language development and imagination enable the child think and play in new ways. In addition to symbolic functions the pre-operational period is characterized by several unique features.

  • In this child can understand symbolic function of language.
  • Now, child can understand symbols, gestures and some body language.
  • The language of child develops very fastly.
  • Their is grammatical mistakes in language use of a child.
  • In this stage, a child start performing simple mathematical operations.
  • A child ask frequent questions (like- when. where, why, how, what etc).
  • The child has tendency of animism . It means child imports living characteristics to non-living things.
  • A child cannot understand that his father can be husband , brother, son. He is only able to understand only one dimension I.e. Father.
  • A child becomes easily persuaded by any person.
  • A 2 year child can understand one or two words sentence.
  • A child has tendency of Egocentrism

Concrete Operational Stage (7 to 11 years )

(i) Decentering

A child in the concrete operational stage is able not only to imagine things independent of their immediate experience, but now is capable of employing all of the perceptual features of an experience (decenter) in order to derive logical solutions to
concrete problems.

(ii) Reversibility

Piaget proposed that the most important of these was reversibility. A concrete operational child understands that a model of an airplane, which had formerly been a ball of clay, can be changed back into a ball of clay.

(iii) Conservation

The fact that the child in the concrete operational stage of development is able to decenter and to reverse operational facilities the ability to develop conservation skills. A child is able to solve conservation of number problems around the age six, area and mass problem around seven or eight, and volume problem by eleven or twelve.

(iv) Classification

Other significant changes in problem-solving ability can be seen in the concrete operational child’s ability to engage in classification. Before the age of seven children typically form classifications of objects along one dimension. That is, children can classify according to color or shape. Thus, presented with a group of white and black circles, squares and triangles, a child may classify them into two groups, all the while and all the black designs together.

(v) Seriation

Seriation is the ability to mentally arrange a series of elements according to increasing or decreasing size, volume, weight or some other dimensions. A child in the concrete operational stage begin to employ strategies such as searching for the smallest stick, then the next etc to develop the solution or seriation problems.

  • Language devlopment in concrete operational stage is grammatically more correct.
  • Child start performing concrete thinking.
  • Child cannot perform abstract thinking and logical operation.
  • Child can perform arithmetical operations in satisfactory way.
  • Now Child can perform conservation, Reversibility and dicentric ability.

Formal Operational Stage ( 11 years to above)

  • This is also called abstract operational stage.
  • Now child can conduct abstract thinking.
  • Child can conduct logical thinking, problem solving, Inductive-Deductive thinking, Scientific methods and project.
  • Child can critically evaluate language.
  • Child can conduct analysis, Synthesis and grammetical evaluation of language.
  • Now, child can solve geometrical and algebric operations.
  • Child can perform hypothetical , deductive reasoning.
  • In this stage, there is reemergence of Egocentrism .

Pedagogical Implications of Jean Piaget Theory

  1. Active participation of students in teaching must be invited.
  2. There must be learner – centered approach for teaching.
  3. Turn your classroom into environment of discovery and self learning.
  4. There should not be assessment of IQ of the child because IQ is not actual manifestation of cognitive development of the child.
  5. Students should not be encourged for memorising, rote learning or memoring of definitions.


  • Jean Piaget do his experiment only on female child.
  • Jean Piaget use Longitudinal Research method in his experiment. InLongitudinal Research there is a deep study of any one object for longer period of time.



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