external image children.jpg?w=300&h=225


  • The clinical method: largely qualitative in nature. This method utilizes a series of questions starting with one larger problem or issue and subsequent questioning depends on the response of the subject. This exchange provides ripe data to examine regarding the underlying reasoning of the child because of the focus on process. Even a child's wrong answers provide great insight into cognition and reasoning.

View on Human Nature: The Piagetian Child

  • Organismic rather than mechanistic or contextual viewpoint, due to his background in natural science
  • A self-regulating, organized, whole as they strives to maintain equilibrium both within the self and with the environment
  • They correct any cognitive imbalance to the extent they are capable
  • Tendencies toward inherent activity and self-regulation produce an organism that is constantly changing

Qualitative vs. Quantitative

  • Higher emphasis on qualitative changes between stages, much like the conservation and object permanence tasks
  • HOWEVER, it is argued that qualitative developmental changes give way to measurable growth, such as the increase in knowledge relating to classification
  • Largely dependent on HOW we examine development because the changes that occur over weeks look largely different than those changes happening over the course of years

Nature vs. Nurture

  • Development = Physical maturation + Experience with the physical environment + Social experience + Equilibration
    • Physical maturation of the brain and muscular system creates new possibilities for the cognitive system
    • Experience with the physical environment helps the child to understand what they can learn from their surroundings and physical resources
    • Social experience pertains to the effect of the cultural and educational environment
    • Equilibration ties together and controls the interaction of the innate and experiential factors as the previous three factors constantly leave the child in an imbalanced state

What Develops?

  • The change is structural: schemes, regulations, and functions.
    • Schemes are a major part of the Piagetian framework. A scheme includes how to understand and use objects in the environment and also how to control and use the body. For example, in the sensorimotor stage infants learn how to reach and kick for different reasons. When children are older and their motor function becomes more refined, learning and training for athletic movement may become a scheme.
  • Ties closely to qualitative methodology in that Piaget's observations, interviews, and assessment strategies supply the data for which his conclusions were made

Assumptions of Piaget's Theories
  • Children construct their own knowledge in response to their experiences.
  • Children learn many things on their own without the intervention of older children or adults.
  • Children are intrinsically motivated to learn and do not need rewards from adults to motivate learning.

Mechanisms of development:
  • What drives development?
  • Development is driven by disequilibrium, the process of cognitive organization and cognitive adaptation. Disequilibrium is the location where growth occurs by way of discomfort and confusion. When a child is unable to understand how something works or how to use their body a certain way, a learning curve occurs. As they try to move out of this disequilibrium and accommodate the skills and knowledge to accomplish their needs both physically and cognitively, they achieve equilibrium. This equilibrium is usually short-lived as they continue to progress the developmental stages and processes which bring new challenges.
    • Cognitive organization is the act of integrating individual thoughts or systems of thoughts into one cohesive system.
    • Cognitive adaptation is the organism’s reaction to the environment, and is composed of assimilation and accommodation.
      • Assimilation is the process of fitting one’s perception of reality into the cognitive organization.
      • Accommodation is the process of adjusting one’s cognitive organization to the perception of reality.
      • Cognitive equilibrium is the balance between assimilation and accommodation.
    • Connections between early development and later development
      • Manipulation of the environment:
        • Individuals in the ‍sensorimotor ‍period learn how to manipulate objects in the environment.
        • Individuals in the preoperational period learn how to manipulate symbols that represent objects in the environment.
        • Individuals in the formal operational period learn how to manipulate
      • Comprehension of time
        • Individuals in the sensorimotor period experience the world in the immediate presence; there is no understanding of the past or future.
        • Individuals in the formal operational period can consider the world in the past, present or future.

Implications of Piaget's Theory
  • Many special education programs are based on Piagetian theory.
  • When an individual has a developmental disability, the focus of the therapist would be to increase cognitive development and functioning. These therapists would not focus on behavioral, social or emotional development or expression.