A CRITIQUE ON PIAGETIAN THEORIES OF COGNITIVE DEVELOPMENT


A CRITIQUE ON PIAGETIAN THEORIES OF COGNITIVE DEVELOPMENT

TABLE OF CONTENTS

TITLE………………………………………………………………i   

CERTIFICATION………………………………………………..ii

DEDICATION ………………………………………….………..iii

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS………………………………………iv

TABLE OF CONTENTS ……………………………………….vii

CHAPTER ONE

PROBLEM AND BACKGROUND

1.1    Introduction……………………………………………….…1

1.2    Problem of the Study…………………………………………4

1.3    Purpose of the Study ………………………………………..6

1.4   Scope of the  Study…………..…..…………………………..6

1.5   Methodology…………………………………..……………..7

1.6   Division of the Work ………………………………..………7

CHAPTER TWO

THE PIAGETIAN IDEOLOGY

2.1    Historical Background on Piaget……….………….………..8

2.2    Piaget’s Works..……………………………..………………13

2.3    General Orientation to Piaget’s Theory……..…………………15

2..3.1 The Concept of Genetic Epistemology. ………………………15

2.3.2  The Biological Approach ………………………..……………16

2,3.3  The Concept of structuralism. ….……………… …… ………16

CHAPTER THREE

PIAGETIAN THEORIES OF COGNITIVE DEVELOPMENT VIS-À-VIS OTHER COGNITIVE THEORIES

3.1    The General Features of Piaget Theories ………………….…..18

3.1.1   The Sensorimotor Period …………………………………..…18

3.1.1.1 Modification of Reflexes……………………………….…….19

3.1.1.2   Primary Circular Reactions……………………..…………..20

3.1.1.3  Secondary Circular Reactions ………………………………20

3.1.1.4   Coordination of Means-end Relations ……………………..21

3.1.1.5   Tertiary Circular Reactions ………………………………..21

3.1.1.6    Mental Combinations ……………………………………..22

3.1.2  The Preoperational Period ……………………………………22

3.1.2.1    Egocentrism ……………..…………………………………24

3.1.2.2   Centration …………………………………………….……24

3.1.2.3   Semilogical Reasoning …………………..…………………25

3.1.2.4   Limited Social Cognition ………………………….………26

3.1.3      The Concrete Operational period ………………………….26

3.1.4      The Formal Operational Period ……………..……………..29

3.1.5     The Mechanisms of Piaget’s Development ……….……….30

3.1.5.1   Cognitive Organization ……….……………………………31

3.1.5.2    Cognitive Adaptation ……………………..………………32

3.1.4.1.1 Assimilation …………………………..………….……….33

3.1.4.1.2  Accommodation ………………………………….………34

3.1.4.2     Cognitive Equilibration …………………………………..35

3.2     Other Cognitive Theories vis-à-vis Piaget Theories …………36

3.2.1   Jerome Bruner’s Theory of Cognitive Development ………..36

3.2.1.1     Enactive Mode …..……………………………………….36

3.2.1.2.    Iconic Mode ………………………………………..…….37

3.2.1.3     Symbolic Mode ………..…………………………………37

3.2.2   Vygotsky’s Theory of Cognitive Development ……………..38

3.2.3  Albert Bandura’a Social Cognitive Theory ……………..……41

CHAPTER FOUR

EVALUATION AND CONCLUSION

4.1 A Critique of Piagetian Cognitive Theories …………..…………45

4.1.1 The Underestimation of Children’s Capabilities ……..……….46

4.1.2The Inadequate Account of Mechanisms ………………………47

4.1.3The Inadequate Notion of Stage………………………………48

4.1.4 The Inadequate Account of Training Children for High

Reasoning……….……………………………………………50

4.1.5 The Underestimation of Cultural Role in Development. …….50

4.1.6 The Inadequate Method of Clinical Research ………….….…51

4.2 Conclusion …………………………………………….……….53

 

BIBLIOGRAPHY…………..…………………………….…….…57

 

 

 

 

CHAPTER ONE

PROBLEM AND BACKGROUND

1.1            INTRODUCTION

Generally speaking, one of the earliest observations we make in life is that the desire to explore the unknown to further our knowledge and understanding is a fundamental characteristic of being human.  Thus, to boldly go into the unknown is also what each of us does in the course of our development.

Psychological studies have found out that human development is both the most fascinating and most complex science we have. No wonder then, Piaget pointed out that “… life is a continuous creation of increasingly complex forms with the environment”[1] This complex forms provided a ground for the contemporary research on human development to consistently emphasize the multidisciplinary approach needed to describe and explain how people change (and how they remain the same)

over time. More still, Kail asserts that another way to approach development is to focus on thought processes and the construction of knowledge[2], which shows that interest in cognitive development, is a relatively recent phenomenon.  Hence, developmentalists, who have been operating mainly within the framework of either psychoanalytic or learning theories now, discover a new aspect of development to explore – a new framework for their thinking.

According to Hilgard (1964), “Probably, the best way to view cognitive psychology is to look at it as trend of humanism and behaviorism, with an emphasis on thought processes, reasoning and problem solving.”[3]  By this, we mean the process of becoming aware, or coming to know a perceptual image.  In Piaget’s own view, cognitive development centers on the movement of a child through succeeding stages of cognitive organization, whereby this progress is accomplished by means of assimilation and accommodation.  As the child encounters new experiences he/she both reacts to them in terms of what the child already knows (assimilation) and revises his/her worldview as a result of the new information (accommodation). Thus, Cognition is in a process of constant change and reorganization. Piaget believes that “at certain points in development, these reorganizations are so momentous and fundamental that they represent a whole new way of understanding the world”4.

When such a transformation happens, for him, (Piaget), a new stage of cognitive development is reached.  The major stages he proposed are the sensorimotor, preoperational, concrete operational, and formal operational periods. I have set out to counteract in line with the contemporary researchers, some of the underestimated views of cognitive development of infants and young children and then give it a positive position as will be seen in the chapters that follow.

 

 

1.2 PROBLEM OF THE STUDY

The fact of a child’s stages of growth constitutes the current understanding of cognitive development, which is based upon conclusions drawn by scientists who formulate questions and device methodologies by which their questions can be answered. For instance, it is said that, “Swiss developmental Psychologist, Jean Piaget was so often asked by American audience, “what should we do to foster a child’s cognitive development…?5

It is by understanding clearly the true humanistic nature of this process that Jean Piaget set forth to offer the world his cognitive developmental theories. However, “we should remember that no particular theory which provides such a comprehensive  explanation of  development, can be  expected  to  withstand  the  tests of  further  investigations  without  undergoing  some criticisms  said,  Beilin, 1989, 1990’ Daehler & Bukatko, 1985; Halford, 1989, 1990.”6 There are:

1.                 In his (Piaget) child’s developmental theories, he underestimated the cognitive capabilities of children.  For instance, the kinds of memory, which researchers now find in babies at 6 months of age, were not found by Piaget until babies were 18 months old.

2.                  The concept of stage has also encountered many objections: for example, that it gives the false impression that development proceeds by a series of abrupt jerks rather than smoothly; that intellectual functioning at any one age shows more fluctuation than the concept of stage would suggests; that cross-cultural variability limits the usefulness of the concept; that environment is more influential than Piaget allows; and so on.

Of course, Piaget did not have many of the methods that are now available to scholars, including equipment and procedures to measure the electrical activity of the brain.  These and various others, which we shall see later constitute a great problem about his theories and therefore needs to be carefully examined in order to clarify matters not well presented. A proper examination into Piagetian theories of cognitive development, as well as critically analyzing the theories, is what this writer set out to explore in this research work.

1.3             PURPOSE OF THE STUDY

The aim of this work is to make a proper study into the Piagetian theories of cognitive development, as well as placing them side-by-side with other cognitive theories, with a view to eliciting from them the positive views and criticizing others that seem vague to the contemporary mind.

 

1.4 SCOPE OF THE STUDY

The main area this research work covers is the view of Piagetian theories of cognitive development.  Hence, the views of other psychologists, scientists, and some philosophical opinions will be entertained, but only as they affect Piaget’s line of thought.

 

1.5 METHODOLOGY OF THE RESEARCH

The method is expository, analytic, and prescriptive. As this is a philosophical work fideistic arguments are carefully avoided.

1.6             THE DIVISION OF THE WORK

This research is sectionalized into four chapters for a better apprehension. Chapter one explicates the background, problem of the study, purpose of the study, scope, method of research and division of work. Chapter two is devoted to the Piagetian Ideology. It traces his historical background as well as presents a general orientation to his theories. Chapter three comprises of the Piagetian theories of cognitive development in comparison with other cognitive theories. Finally, the evaluation of the whole work is conveyed in chapter four. Hence, chapter four represents my contribution to the academic world.

[1] James W. Vander Zanden, Human Development, (Lisbon: McGraw – Hill, Inc. 1993), p. 47 (Quoted from the Origins of Intelligence in Children, 1952).

2 R. Kail, Human Development; A Life – Span View, (New York; Division of Thomson Learning Inc., 2004), p. 18.

[3] N.N.Okoye, Psychology of Human Learning and Development, (Awka: Erudition Pub.,2001),p.77.

4 F. B.Steuer, The Psychological Dev. of Children, (California: Wadsworth Pub.Inc.,1994,p.283.

5 Jane S. Halonen and John w.Santrock,Psychology Contexts of Behaviour,(Chicago:Browwn & Benchmark Pub.Inc.,1996),p.307.

6 J.W.Vander Vanden,Op Cit.,p.52.

 

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