Jean Piaget – Cognitive Theorist

Subject: Psychology
Pages: 5
Words: 1110
Reading time:
5 min
Study level: College


Jean Piaget made a significant contribution to education through his theory of cognitive developmental stage. The learner was a critical part of the theory. Piaget noted that cognitive development took place in different stages, but the interaction between biological factors and the environment played a major role in learning processes and knowledge acquisition. Hence, Piaget’s theory provides different stages of development, which focus on learning abilities of humans at different stages of human development. Humans control development and acquisition of their own knowledge as they grow and mature.

A curriculum based on Piaget’s theory does not aim to facilitate development, but rather it aims to ensure that every learner gets a suitable opportunity to exploit his or her intelligence appropriately at all stages of development.

Piaget’s contribution in the field of learning

Educators have used Piaget’s concepts to develop preschool teaching programs. They believe that the approach of Piaget’s theory of learning ensures that children develop their intelligence or knowledge at appropriate time in every stage of development. A curriculum based on this theory does not aim to assist development, but it aims to ensure that a learner gets an appropriate opportunity to exploit his or her intelligence appropriately at all stages of development.

A learner’s curriculum based on the Piaget’s theory of learning focuses on four critical aspects of learning. First, the teaching approach based on this theory accounts for the variation in rates of maturation and learning among children. Second, it provides a suitable curriculum to allow children to interact with their physical environments. Third, the curriculum also encourages interaction among children. Finally, the curriculum provides children with the autonomy they need in order to control their actions. Learners develop their own solutions, do activities in their own ways, and accept their own solutions to problems. The aim is to allow children to be responsible and increase their levels of being responsible for their own actions.

Jean Piaget Learning Model

Studies and observations on Piaget’s cognitive theory offer some major concepts of the theoretical model. The major focus of the Piaget’s model has been on preschool children learning. Children possess utterly different views of the world around them. However, children’s perceptions of their environments and experience vary as they acquire strong senses to experience the world.

The theory asserts that learners can construct or gain intelligence or knowledge through experiences of their worlds and environments. Learners control development and acquisition of their own knowledge as they grow through other developmental stages in human life. Children relate with their surroundings, physical environments, socially with others and gain knowledge and intelligence.

All forms of activities that children undertake are critical for their intellectual developments. At this stage, children require physical and mental activities and different materials for their learning and acquisition of knowledge. Play is a core activity of intellectual development among children. Children can only internalize their world experiences through playing and learning about the environment.

Children learn to think at this stage. However, they still have primitive form of logical reasoning and actions, and they are not ready for abstract concepts (Hinde & Perry, 2008). One must note that children acquire various types of knowledge in different ways. Children engage in concrete activities in order to acquire physical knowledge. They also interact with others to acquire social knowledge.

The theoretical concepts associated with the Jean Piaget model

The concepts of the cognitive development theory provide account of how children develop and acquire knowledge through defined schemata of human developmental stages. Piaget established that the way in which people gained knowledge changed across various stages of human development. He observed that children had to interact with objects and their environments in order to construct knowledge. This interaction resulted in knowledge acquisition. However, processing of knowledge could only take place when the learner was cognitively ready to acquire knowledge. Hence, the concept of readiness at a certain age group was important for learning processes.

Active participation of the learner in different processes is critical for knowledge acquisition. Children grow actively and acquire knowledge in various stages of development. Jean Piaget’s theory has four critical phases for cognitive development. Children individualized learning and knowledge acquisition through different stages of development.

Piaget observed that learning took place in a social environment. However, every child had unique experiences during knowledge development. Schools have emphasized the importance of active participation in the environment and social situations among children. Teachers who use Piaget’s concepts have been able to provide rich environments for their learners. Overall, the learner is at the center of Piaget’s concepts.

The modern-day relevancy of the model in education

Educators have applied Piaget’s theoretical concepts to provide rich learning environments for children. For instance, knowledge acquisition in a social environment has been important for school administrators and teachers. They recognize that children learn in unique ways and environments through different stages of human developments (Ramos-Christian, Schleser and Varn, 2008).

The preschool class designs reflect ideas of Piaget. For instance, modern preschool classrooms have different sections with all the necessary materials required for different developmental stages. Children can learn and grow socially, physically, and intellectually in such classrooms. Such classrooms also account for skill development at various stages. For instance, preschoolers need different forms of social experiences. Thus, the classroom should maximize the use of large space for group activities, small space for few children, and a space for individual activities. At the same time, there are spaces for individual development. Children acquire knowledge and intelligence through concrete experiences. This allows children to develop their own view points about the world based on their personal experiences. This provides a solid foundation for learning and development of knowledge.

Piaget’s model has been instrumental in the development of modern school curricula. For instance, Hinde and Perry observed that teachers rejected an attempt to introduce abstract concepts for preschool children in Arizona based on Piaget’s idea of concrete operational stage (Hinde & Perry, 2008). They observed that children were not ready for such complex learning activities.


Although Piaget’s cognitive theory has influenced curriculum and policy developments for decades, Piaget did not directly relate his concepts to education. Piaget’s theory of cognitive development strives to show “how some cognitive functions relate with biological factors in order to help one to adapt and survive in his or her environment” (Genovese, 2003). The theory aims to analyze and present the process by which children develop mentally.

Piaget recognized that cognitive development was a progressive process that passed through different stages. Both biological and environmental factors had critical roles in an individual’s development. Learners construct knowledge by relating with their environments. This process was unique for different learners.


Genovese, J. (2003). Piaget, Pedagogy, and Evolutionary Psychology. Evolutionary Psychology, 1, 127-137.

Hinde, R., & Perry, N. (2008). Elementary teachers’ application of Jean Piaget’s theories of cognitive development during social studies curriculum debates in Arizona. Elementary School Journal, 108(1), 63-79.

Ramos-Christian, V., Schleser, R., and Varn, M. (2008). Math Fluency: Accuracy Versus Speed in Preoperational and Concrete Operational First and Second Grade Children. Day Care & Early Education, 35(6), 543-549. Web.