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Jean Piaget Stages

Virtually any college Childhood Education class will study the developmental stages of a child. Paper Masters can help you organize you thoughts on Jean Piaget's stages of development with this brief outline of topics to cover. This is not an all-inclusive list of things to have in your research paper but rather a brief sample of the highlights you will need to touch on.

Vygotsky (1986) notes that Piaget’s theory the stages of development revolutionized the way children’s thinking was characterized. Prior to Piaget’s formulation of his theory or his findings with his research with his children, the development of children’s thinking was basically thought of as a function of quantity. In other words, the development of a child’s cognitive process was based on the sheer accumulation of knowledge. Vygotsky points out that after Piaget, psychologists began thinking about cognitive development in terms of quality. Thus, it was not how much a child knew but how a child solved and approached problems. Additionally, the cognitive development involves how that child actually accumulated and interpreted new knowledge.

Four Stages of Piaget's Theory of Development

Piaget’s contribution to the understanding of cognitive development in children has been tremendous. While research has not always supported all of Piaget’s notions regarding cognitive development, the vast majority of his theory has not yet been disputed. There does appear to be numerous changes in the quality of a child’s thinking, rather than quantifiable changes.

Jean Piaget's theory of development contains four separate stages. In order, they are:

  1. Sensorimotor stage
  2. Preoperational stage
  3. Concrete operational stage
  4. Formal operational stage

The sensorimotor stage occurs between birth and age two. During this period, a child learns to use its senses and experience the world. Children in this stage do not have the ability to see the world from someone else's perspective. This stage is often broken into six sub-stages: simple reflexes; first habits and primary circular reactions; secondary circular reactions; coordination of secondary circular reactions; tertiary circular reactions, curiosity, and novelty; and internalization of schemata. Jean Piaget Stages


The preoperational stage occurs from ages two to seven. During this stage, the child's egocentrism begins to wane. Magical thinking predominates during this period. The child, therefore, believes that its own thoughts have a disproportionately large impact on the world.

During the concrete operational stage, which occurs between ages seven to eleven, children begin to use logical thinking. At this point, children have lost their egocentrism.

The formal operational stage occurs during ages eleven to sixteen. During this time, children in the primary grades become capable of abstract thought and they master the ability to think logically.

How to Examine Each of Piaget's Stages

In examining Piaget’s theory, it is perhaps important to look at the theory in its entirety. So, for example, it is a s tage theory. This implies that the individual child must complete certain requirements or accomplish specific tasks prior to entering the next stage. At the same time, Piaget indicates that the stages are somewhat specific to selected age groups. Thus, it is between the ages of two and seven that a child enters and then exits the preoperational stage of development. This suggests that the development is almost experiential. In other words, the child simply progresses through the stage and will eventually begin the next stage. He or she will have completed the previous stage in a timely fashion with all the cognitive skills necessary for the next stage. This implies a rigidity that does not necessarily exist. Children progress differently, and most likely this is true even with regard to cognitive development.

In Piaget’s book, The Origins of Intelligence in Children, (1952), he also suggests that this cognitive development in children in of a biological nature. This suggests that cognitive development will naturally unfold in children without any intervention from parents or educators. In other words, there is little that anyone can do with regard to encouraging or rushing this development. Thus, children cannot learn skills that are inappropriate for their cognitive level. They cannot be prevented from developing these skills by restricting their environment. In fact, one’s environment has little to do with this development process.

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