‘Grand development theory: outline the strengths and weaknesses of Piaget’s theory of child development. Do you think that Piaget s theories still have an important place in modern psychology?’
In the 20s century, the first main theory of child development was established by Jean Piaget (Miller, 2011:649). Piaget’s contribution (1986-1980) has had great impacts on progress developmental psychology, particularly in the area of child and cognitive development. He also used a scientific method to understand developmental cognition among infancy and childhood (Oates & Grayson, 2004: 14). Piaget tried to know the root of intelligence in infancy and the change of their knowledge which occur over the period of time. He thought children pass a series of cognitive phases in the same order (Bernstein & Roy, 2008: 464). Although Piaget’s theory of cognitive development has criticized due to defect in some respects (Lourenco & Machado, 1996), his notions about children and their cognitive development have significant effected on developmental psychology (Bernstein & Roy, 2008: 464). This assignment firstly will demonstrate Piaget’s contribution in the field of child development .it then it shows the weaknesses of Piaget’s theory about cognitive development among children. And it then describe Piaget’s theory and modern psychology.
- Piaget Contribution
Piaget is a professional expert in the field of cognitive development. Beilin (1992: 191, cited in Shaffer & Kipp, 2010: 278) put it, “assessing the impact of Piaget on developmental psychology is like assessing the impact of Shakespeare on English literature or Aristotle on philosophy—impossible”. Furthermore, another famous expert in the field of child development his name is Flavall also stated that “many of Piaget’s contributions have become so much a part of the way we view cognitive development nowadays that they are virtually invisible” (Flavell, 1996: 202, cited in Kail, 2012: 179).
In terms of children’s thinking, Piaget revealed that children’s thinking is not as same as adults. Piaget emphasized that children require obtaining experience to learn. Then they can create their own plan and vary them in necessary time. This method to teach children was very diverse if comparing with other approach which had before him. Hence Piaget has a substantial effect on the education of children (Westman and Costello, 2011: 16).
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With respects of applying Piaget’s theory to educate children, the Piaget’s approach of education has had a profound effect on education process. Piaget’s developmental theory has had three major implications for educating children. Firstly, in terms of “readiness”, children have to be taught according to their ability particularly the teaching of science and mathematics. In addition, the tasks which are set by the teachers have to be appropriate to the level of children’s perception and cognition. Secondly, as regards curriculum, teaching recourses such as science and math should involve concrete materials which students can use them skillfully. Thirdly, children learn from self-activity and actions and teachers must understand every child’s requirements in order to build knowledge in terms of their needs (Gross, 2010: 538).
Piaget transformed cognition into developmental science. Piaget proved that cognition is the main part of the science of cognitive development. He also demonstrated why the processes of cognition are the central of development psychology and offered some approaches which can be employed to test them (Kail, 2012: 179). Piaget provided the development psychology with a completely new notion about children’s nature, and the cognition of child development how and when occurs. Hence the role of Piaget in the development of cognition was as similar as Chomsky’s influence on the development of language (Flavell, 1996: 200).
Piaget exposed the stages of cognitive development among children. Feldman (2013: 352) state that “No theory of cognitive development has had more impact than that of Swiss psychologist Jean Piaget” .He thought that children pass a series of four phases in unchangeable order. Piaget preserved that the cognitive stages vary not merely in the quantity of knowledge at each phases, however, in the quality of understanding and information as well (Feldman, 2013: 352).
- the weaknesses of Piaget theory
Despite all of these Piaget’s contribution, his theory about the child development has been criticized by some psychologists in order to reveal some weaknesses. His theory has some shortcomings which including underestimate and overestimate child’s capacity, ignoring culture influence on child development and methodological limitations.
- Piaget underestimated and overestimated children capability.
Underestimate of infancy and childhood’s competence and overestimate the capability of adolescents could be considered as a major defect in Piaget’s theory. The contemporary science of child development has exposed that toddlers and infants have capability more than Piaget’s expectation (Kail, 2012:180). Some skilled cognition among children appears earlier than Piaget realized and others emerge latter (Carpenter, 2011, cited in Santrock, 2011:50). As an example, evidences have been revealed that object performance in children start to develop 3 to 4 months earlier than he believed (Baillargeon, 2002; Wang, Baillargeon, & Paterson, 2005, cited in Weiten, 2010: 456). This means infants have greater ability to understand objects than Piaget thought (Kail, 2012:181). However, some adolescent’s competence was overestimated by Piaget’s cognitive theory (Cacioppo and Freberg, 2013: 531). According to Piaget children in formal operation stage can understand the principles of math (Pastorino and Doyle-Portillo, 2013: 340). Nevertheless, Cacioppo and Freberg (2013: 531) state that Piaget was very wrong because of the level of children’s thinking is not fully mature, hence they cannot think logically.
- Piaget ignored cultural influence on cognitive development
Another criticism which has directed Piaget’s theory is that the impact of social environment and cultural factors in child’s cognitive development were paid small attention by Piaget (Costello & Westman, 2001:138). Cultural and life pattern has more effect than Piaget thought on cognitive development. As an example, nomadic tribe does not interest in counting objects. Thus nomadic children learn conservancy of figures later than in Western culture (Franzoi, 2011:237). Another illustration of this the children in Hausa tribe in Nigeria do not know about conservation principles, because families in this tribe send their children to the school in early age (Fahrmeier, 1978, cited in Martin, Carlson and Buskist, 1997: 513). Although the impact of cultural factors on the rate of cognitive development was admitted by Piaget, the contemporary science of developmental psychology has found that culture has a great role in child’s thinking as well (Gauvain, 2001; Rogoff, 1998, 2003, cited in Shaffer& Kipp: 280). At the same time Piaget neglected social interaction among individuals in cognitive development (Shaffer& Kipp: 280). Interaction with peers, family members even whit teachers led to develop children understands. Piaget sometimes mentioned the influence of social environment and he did not ignore it at all (Kail, 2012:181). He believed that social interaction assists children to avoid egocentric tendency. However he did not find how social interaction assists child’s development (Fleming, 2004: 30)
- Methodological and approach barriers.
Piaget’s theory has been criticized not only with regard to problem of estimate children ability but his theory has some problem in terms of the principles of developmental science. In terms of observe his infants; Piaget has not observed a great variety of children, Instead of Piaget examines 30 or 40 children in his research to find a respectable result he studied his own children at the “Rousseau Institute”. This means he has a small case study, the probability of biases in interpretable behavior of his own children, the difficulty in controlling environment and making his observation only in the laboratory (Miller, 2012, 85)
Piaget usually utilized the clinical method. Employing clinical method to observe children might lead to give different questions to different children. However, uniform materials, instructions and measures of answer questions are the spine of experimental psychology (Miller, 2012, 85).
Modern psychologists have been frustrated by Piaget’s reports of his experiment. Piaget did not mention bout the level of social economy of children, the number of participants, participant’s race and even he did not give us enough detail about his testing procedures as well. It might be difficult to decide whether Piaget is describing to children hypothetically or he really tested children. Piaget was poor in analyze of statistics. In his words, “Psychologists over-generalized their methods and arrived at delightful trivialities, particularly when an army of scientists translated their results into mathematical terms” (1918, p. 63). Furthermore, “acute observation, especially when made by [a good observer] . . . , surpasses all statistics” (1936/1952, p. 72, cited in Miller, 2012, 85-86). Statistical summaries were not given by Piaget about his discovery, he supplied a specimen protocols which are lengthy interpreted by Piaget. Therefore he reads frequently cannot understand Piaget’s themes easily (Miller, 2012, 85-86).
- Piaget and modern psychology
Despite all of these shortcomings, Piaget has remained as a substantial character in the realm of cognitive psychology (Lourenco & Machado, 1996, cite in Woolf, Namy, Lynn and Lilienfeld, 2011: 375). Nowadays, based on Piaget’s theory the science of cognitive development has been re-conceptualized by psychologists (Woolf, Namy, Lynn and Lilienfeld, 2011: 375). Moreover, according to Fleming (2004: 31) the influence of Piaget’s theories on cognitive development among children will probably continue for a long time.
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