Theories/Explanations: Piaget Theory of Cognitive Development
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- Content: A clear outline of the content covered by the delivery guide;
- Thinking Conceptually: Expert guidance on the key concepts involved, common difficulties students may have, approaches to teaching that can help students understand these concepts and how this topic links conceptually to other areas of the subject;
- Thinking Contextually: A range of suggested teaching activities using a variety of themes so that different activities can be selected which best suit particular classes, learning styles or teaching approaches.
Piaget’s theory of Cognitive Development:
- The four invariant stages of development: sensori-motor; pre-operational; concrete-operational; formal operational.
- Assimilation and accommodation.
- The concepts of object permanence; animism; and egocentrism.
- The processes of decentration; reversibility; and conservation.
- Criticisms of the theory including the reductionism/holism debate.
- Cognitive Development Research Study – Piaget (1952): Study into the conservation of number.
Often learners associate developmental psychology with concepts such as attachment and physical development. This topic will equip learners with the knowledge of how children’s cognitive knowledge develops over time with age, and outlines the processes of how internal mental processes which cannot be directly observed can be studied. The key theorist Piaget is explored here along with his key research study.
The learning activities and ideas provided in this section enable teachers to deliver lessons that focus on different learning styles or preferred teaching methods and therefore activities can be selected to best suit the needs of each individual class.
The nature of the Developmental Psychology content lends itself well to conceptual links to research methods activities such as observations in the learners own families or replicating research in class and this should be encouraged to provide a more interactive engagement with the content material.
Common misconceptions or difficulties learners may have:
Learners may find the concepts of assimilation and accommodation difficult to grasp along with remembering which cognitive processes occur in which stage such as object permanence, animism, egocentrism, etc... However, the key focus should centre on conservation as this is what Piaget investigated in his research study.
Conceptual links to other areas of the specification – useful ways to approach this topic to set learners up for topics later in the course:
There are big links within this topic to research methods, which can be explored when delivering the content of Piaget’s key research. This area of psychology also has key links to evaluative issues such as the nature vs. nurture debate, reductionism vs. holism and cultural bias. There will be an opportunity to fully explore these issues more thoroughly when considering the criticisms of Piaget’s theory and research study. Activities have been provided below to enable learners to grasp these concepts in relation to this topic.
A good YouTube clip to highlight the lack of object permanence in babies present in the sensori-motor stage.
Learners could replicate similar tasks if they have young babies at home and feedback their findings.
A good YouTube clip to highlight the lack of conservation in children in the pre-operational stage.
Learners could replicate similar tasks if they have young children at home and feedback their findings.
Piaget criticism worksheet. Learners are provided with points of criticism of Piaget’s theory and need to finish each point to make a full evaluative comment.
Teacher could make this an easier task by providing the completed comments on a separate piece of paper or in an envelope and learners need to select the correct one to go with each criticism and write them in their evaluation table.
Piaget replication – In small groups learners could replicate Piaget’s experiments into the conservation of liquid, number and mass. Alternatively, the teacher could replicate the number experiment before providing any details on the core study and use this to lead discussion of the study details.
Discussion could also be lead on how the procedure of the number conservation task meets the requirements of a lab experiment learners could be asked questions such as: What was the IV, DV, experimental design, controls, weaknesses of the design, etc…
Piaget study gap fill – This could be used to check knowledge after learners have learnt the aim, method, results and conclusions of the study.
As differentiation, the words could be provided to weaker ability learners and not provided for the higher ability learners.
Find the fib – Alternatively, learners could produce a summary of Piaget’s study including aim, method, procedure, results and conclusions but need to include false facts.
Learners then swap their worksheets with another learner who needs to spot the “fibs” and amend accordingly to provide a correct study summary.
Relay activity. Learners to work together in small groups to answer questions about the study. Learner collects a question from the teacher and ‘runs’ back to the group to research the answer. The next learner then brings their answer to the teacher and picks up the next question.
Teacher checks that learning has taken place from the written answers.
Link to debates task – A summary sheet to help learners understand how Piaget’s theory/study links to each key debate within psychology.
This could be completed individually, in pairs, or as a whole class activity.
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