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    Jean Piaget's Theory of Cognitive Development

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    Who was Jean Piaget as a person and how did his background and training influence the development of his theory?

    What are the key elements of Jean Piaget's theory of cognitive development?

    These areas are emphasized.

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    Jean Piaget's Theory of Cognitive Development

    Jean Piaget (1896-1980) originally trained in the areas of biology and philosophy and was mainly interested in the biological influences on cognitive (intellectual) development, that is, the processes by which children come to know and understand the world (Huitt & Hummel, 2003). Piaget grew up near the Lake of Neuch√Ętel in a quiet region of French Switzerland. His father was a professor of medieval studies and his mother a strict Calvinist. He was a child prodigy who soon became interested in the scientific study of nature. When he was only 11-years-old Piaget wrote and published a short note on the sighting of an alpine sparrow (Smith, 2000). Piaget was launched on a path that would lead to his doctorate in evolutionary biology and a lifelong conviction that the way to understand anything was to understand how it evolves.

    As a young student, Piaget studied mollusks and was taught how to classify and label the different species of mollusks by the shape, size, and coloring of their shells (Smith, 2000). Piaget, however, became more interested in behavioral questions that could not always be answered by the shell's appearance alone such as "how does a mollusk adapt to change?" and for example "what does a mollusk need to "know" in order to adjust to a habitat with stronger water currents?" These kinds of questions formed the basis of Piaget's intellectual endeavor: to study the formation of knowledge.

    After receiving a degree in zoology in 1918, Piaget became interested in psychoanalysis. He moved to Zurich, where he attended Carl Jung's lectures, and then to Paris to study logic and abnormal psychology. While working with Theodore Simon in Alfred Binet's child-psychology lab, he noticed that Parisian children of the same age made similar errors on true-false intelligence tests. Fascinated by their reasoning processes, he began to suspect that the key to human knowledge might be discovered by observing how the child's mind develops (Huitt & Hummel, 2003).
    Piaget returned to Switzerland in 1921 and began to study intensively the reasoning processes of children at various ages. Over a period of six decades, Jean Piaget conducted a program of naturalistic research in which he continued to talk with children, play with them, ask them questions, and try to understand their thinking. Gradually he pieced together a "blueprint" for normal cognitive development in children, which became the basis for his theory of cognitive development. Piaget called his general theoretical framework "genetic epistemology", which is based on the idea that human knowledge is constructed by the knower acting upon, and being acted upon by the environment (Smith, 2000).

    Jean Piaget's (1983) theory of cognitive development is based on the concept that intelligence is developed through the child's own activities in exploring and experiencing the world. Piaget described the classical factors of ...

    Solution Summary

    Piaget's theory is examined.