Piaget Theories of Development

Jean Piaget was a Swiss psychologist whose research on the development of children has profoundly affected psychological theories of development and of the teaching of children. His theory has also been widely studied for its application to the teaching of science in grade school, high school, and college.

Piaget's theory conceives of intellectual development as occurring in four distinct periods of stages. Intellectual development is continuous, but the intellectual operations in the different periods are distinctly different. Children progress through the four periods in the same order, but at very different rates. The stages do not end abruptly but tend to trail off. A child may be in two different stages in different areas.

Age Stage Intellectual Operations
0-2 years Sensimotor
  1. a child learns fundamental movements
  2. a child learns about his or her relationship to various objects and perceptual activities
2-7 years Preoperational
  1. children use language and try to make sense of the world
  2. have a much less sophisticated mode of thought than adults
  3. need to test thoughts with reality on a daily basis
  4. not able to learn from generalizations made by adults
  5. can carry on a conversation with a child
7-12(?) years Concrete Operational
  1. can do mental operations but only with real (concrete) objects, events or situations.
  2. Logical reasons are understood
12+ years Formal Operational
  1. can do abstract thinking and starts to enjoy abstract thought
  2. can formulate hypotheses without actually manipulating concrete objects
  3. can test the hypotheses mentally
  4. can generalize from one kind of real object to another and to an abstract notion
  5. is able to think ahead to plan the solution path
  6. is capable of metacognition, that is, thinking about thinking