the 1960s, discontent with the inadequacies of behaviourism another school of
thought was developing besides the behavioural thinking, the cognitive aspects.
The behaviourist perspective could not easily explain why people attempt
to organise and make sense of the information they learn.
One example includes remembering general meanings rather than word for
word information. Among learning
psychologists there emerged a growing realisation that mental events or
cognition could no longer be ignored
psychologists share with behaviourists the belief that the study of learning
should be objective and that learning theories should be developed from the
results of empirical research. However, cognitivists disagree with the
behaviourists in one critical aspect. By
observing the responses that individuals make to different stimulus conditions,
cognitivists believe that they can draw inferences about the nature of the
internal cognitive processes that produce those responses.
ideas and assumptions of cognitivism can be traced back to the early decades of
the twentieth century. Of all theories, the theories of Jean Piaget of
Switzerland are the ones that have provided psychology with very elaborated
account of developmental changes in cognitive abilities.
Jean Piaget (1896-1980).
Piaget was one of the most influential cognitive psychologist. He was a student of biology and zoology and learnt that
survival requires adaptation. Therefore he viewed the development of human
cognition, or intelligence, as the continual struggle of a very complex organism
trying to adapt to a very complex environment.
According to Piaget´s theory, human development can be outlined in terms
of functions and cognitive structures. The
functions are inborn biological processes that are identical for every one and
stay unchanged throughout our lives. The purpose of these functions is to construct internal
cognitive structures. The
structures, in contrast, changes repeatedly as the child grows (Vasa, R., Haith,
M.M., Miller,S.A.,1995, p.,33).
emphasises on two main functions; one is organisation
(or equilibrium). Organisation
refers to the fact that all cognitive structures are interrelated and that any
new knowledge must be fitted into the existing system. It is the need to integrate the new information, rather than
adding them on, that force our cognitive structure to become more elaborate.
second general function is adaptation.
Adaptation refers to the tendency of the organism to fit with its environment in
ways that promote survival. It is
composed of two terms; assimilation
is the tendency to understand new experience in terms of existing knowledge.
Whenever we come across something new, we try to make sense of it, built upon
our existing cognitive structures.
occurs when the new information is too complex to be integrated into the
existing structure - this means that, cognitive structures change in response to
new experiences (Spencer, K.,
did many experiments on children’s way of thinking and concluded that human
beings go through several distinct stages of cognitive development.
Each stage involves the acquisition of new skills and rest upon the
successful completion of the preceding one.
first stage is the sensorimotor,
(0-2year). Until about four months of age, the infant can not differentiate
itself from the environment. Gradually the child learns to distinguish people
from objects and that both have an existence independent of their immediate
perception. This stage draws it name, sensorimotor, from that the child learns
mainly by touching objects, manipulating them and physically exploring the
environment. By the end of this stage the child understands that its environment
has distinctive and stable properties.
next stage is called the pre-operational
(2years-7years). This is the stage when the child acquires a mastery of a
language and becomes able to use words to represent objects and images in a
symbolic fashion. Piaget terms this stage pre-operational because children are
not yet able to use their developing mental capabilities systematically.
At this stage children are egocentric, which means that the child has the
tendency to interpret the world exclusively with its own position.
The child does not understand, for an example, that others see things and
objects from a different perspective from their own. During this phase of
development the children have no general understanding of categories of thought
that adults take for granted, ideas such as causality, speed, weight or number.
third stage is the concrete operational
period (7years-11years). During this period children master abstract,
logical notions. They are able to handle ideas such as causality without much
difficulty, and they are fit to carry out the mathematical operations of
multiplying, dividing and subtracting. By this stage children are much less
fourth stage is called the formal
operational period (11+). During
adolescence, the developing child becomes able to comprehend highly abstract and
hypothetical concepts. When faced with a problem, children at this stage should
be able to review all possible ways of solving it and go through them
theoretically in order to reach a solution.
to Piaget, the first three stages of development are general, but not all adults
come to the formal operational stage. The development of formal operational
thought relies in part on the process of schooling. Adults of limited educational achievement tend to remain to
think in more concrete terms and retain large traces of egocentrism (Giddens,
educational interest of Piaget´s work lies firstly in this procedure he used to
make educationists aware of the child’s thought processes and the conditions
under which intellectual structures are established at different ages.
are four principles that are most often cited in Piaget´s theory regarding to
education. The first is the
important of readiness. This
principal follows from his emphasis on assimilation.
Experience, educational or otherwise, does not simply happen to a child;
rather it must always be assimilated to current cognitive structure.
A new experience can only be of any value if the child can make sense of
it. Teaching that is far away the child’s level is unlikely to be useful.
second principle concerns the motivation for cognitive activity.
Educational content that is either to advanced or too simple is unlikely
to be interesting. The educational
subject has to be slightly beyond the current level of the child so that it
provides experience familiar enough to assimilate however challenging enough to
third is the awareness of what level the child has reached and the information
of what it can be expected at that level and what not. Piaget´s studies often
identify steps and sequences through which particular content domains are
mastered. It is therefor possible not only to determine were the child is but
also to know the natural next steps for development.
final principle is more functional.
It concerns Piaget´s emphasis on intelligence as an action.
In his view education should be build on the child’s natural curiosity
and natural tendency to act on the world in order to understand it.
Knowledge is most meaningful when children construct it themselves rather
than having it imposed upon them (Vasa,R., Haith,M.M.,Miller,S.A.,1992).
experience in acquiring a new knowledge through action allows two different
kinds of knowledge to develop, the physical experience and the
logico-mathematical experience. Physical experience produces knowledge of the
properties of the objects acted upon.
Logico-mathematical experience result in knowledge, not of the objects,
but of the actions themselves and their results.
physical experience, one would gain knowledge of the weight of objects; or the
fact that, other things being equal, weight increases as volume increases, and
so on. When speaking of
logico-mathematical experience the point is that even the highest forms of
abstract reasoning have their origin in action (Donaldson, 1987).
aim for education, according to Piaget, is to make individuals who are critical,
creative and inventive discoverers. So the major part of the child’s learning
relies on active experimentation and discovery. The active classroom has been associated with the term
progressive teaching, where pupils are in active role, learning predominantly by
discovery techniques, with emphasis on creative expression.
Subject matter tends to be combined, with the teacher performing as a
guide to educational experiences and encouraging cooparitive work.
External rewards and punishments are seen as being unimportant, and there
is not so much concern with traditional academic standards and testing (Spencer,
a biologist Piaget tended to look
at development more from the physical change and the readiness for each stage to
develop any further. Another
perspective in the cognitive movement was from those who saw the connection
between the environment and the child development in a constructive way, and
Jerome Burner’s ideas are those that are well known.
Roundstone the band see their site here
Some photos from Iceland see here
Sólrún B. Kristinsdóttir © 2001 Síðast uppfært 21.10.2008