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EDU: 324 History of American Education
Instructor: Carl Beyer
March 16, 2015
Education reform is an important part of our education system. Techniques and theories
always need to change because times change, and what students need to know change. One
reformer who I think did a lot for education was Jean Piaget. While Piaget’s contributions were
not directly related to education, he was a psychologist who was concerned with how people,
specifically children, learned.
Piaget started looking at how children learned because he was interested in why young
children would give wrong answers to questions and be so adamant about defending their
answers. He started studying children at different ages and came up with a theory about
development. His theory is called Piaget’s Cognitive Theory. He believed that children’s minds
develop through stages. Each stage corresponds with the child’s age. At each stage there are
certain milestones that need to be met in order to move onto the next stage. Once they have
moved to the next stage they use what they have learned to acquire new information, and form it
into new ideas. “At each stage the child must reconstruct and integrate concepts formed at
previous stages. According to Piaget’s theory of readiness, children should not be introduced to
new concepts until they have reached the appropriate stage of cognitive development” (Webb,
2014, sec 7.8, para 29). Each stage is vital for growth and learning.
There are four different stages of Piaget’s Cognitive Development Theory. The first stage
is Sensorimotor from birth to age two, the primary goal is to gain object permanence. Before
gaining object permanence a child will think that if they cannot see something that it does not
exist. The second stage is Preoperational from two years to seven years old. The primary goal in
this stage is egocentrism and to use the imagination. Children in this stage are working on
developing empathy, and think that everyone else sees the world as they do, they also tend to
think of inanimate objects as being alive. The third stage is Concrete Operational from seven to
eleven years old. In this stage the primary goal is conservation and thinking logically. Children
will learn that “conservation is the ability to understand that redistributing material does not
affect its mass, number or volume” (McLeod, 2010, para 5). The last stage is Formal Operational
from eleven years and on. In this stage people can think abstractly and logically.
Piaget’s theory is important to education because it revealed that children were unable to
perform certain tasks until they were ready.
Because Piaget’s theory is based upon biological maturation and stages the notion of
‘readiness’ is important. Readiness concerns when certain information or concepts should
be taught. According to Piaget’s theory children should not be taught certain concepts
until they have reached the appropriate stage of cognitive development (McLeod, 2012,
It becomes important in education because children of a certain age are either ready or
not ready to learn certain material. A child at the age of five will not be able to grasp a concept
like psychology, it would not be until at least age eleven that this would become understandable.
Children learn best by doing a task rather than being told about it, so if a child is not in the
proper stage they are not going to learn the task. By knowing how children of certain ages think,
it becomes easier to know what concepts are appropriate for them.
Piaget was a psychologist and was concerned with why children of different ages were
able to grasp certain concepts. He came up with Piaget’s Cognitive theory. This theory says that
there are four stages in which children need to learn certain things. These stages correspond to
their ages. Piaget contributed to the education system by showing that children are able to gain a
certain kind of knowledge based off of their stage and age.
McLeod, S. (2010). Concrete Operational Stage. Simply Psychology. Retrieved from
McLeod, S. (2012). Jean Piaget. Simply Psychology. Retrieved from
Webb, L.D. (2014). History of American Education: Voices and Perspectives. Bridgepoint
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