PIAGET COGNITIVE DEVELOPMENT THEORY | Stage of Development | Formal | Concrete | Pre-operational | Sensory motor | piaget Skip to main content
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DIFFERENCE BETWEEN CLASSICAL AND OPERANT CONDITIONING Classical Conditioning Operant Conditioning 1.   The learner is not independent in this type of learning. 2.   Classical conditioning is restricted to animal learning only. 3.   Stimulus oriented. 4.  Learning through stimulus substitution.             5.   Behaviour is elicited. 6.   Reinforcement comes before the act. 7.   Response is forced. 8.   Developed by Russian (Pavlov) experiment. 1.   The learner is independent in this type of learning. 2.   Operant conditioning may be useful for the purpose of human learning also. 3.   Response oriented. 4.   Learning through response modification. 5.   Behaviour is emitted. 6.   Reinforcement comes after the act. 7.   Response is voluntary. 8.   Developed by American (Skinner) experiment   ----------------------------------------------------------------------------

PIAGET COGNITIVE DEVELOPMENT THEORY | Stage of Development | Formal | Concrete | Pre-operational | Sensory motor | piaget


an internal representation of the world.  This acts as a framework on which the child bases its knowledge of its environment.  According to Piaget we are born with some schemata including sucking and grasping.  

refers to how a child changes over time as it makes sense of the World in which it lives.  Adaptation comes about through the processes of assimilation and accommodation:

 new information or experiences can be fitted into the child's existing schema or current understanding of the world. 

 new information or experiences cannot be fitted into the child's current understanding so it either has to alter existing schema or create a whole new schema

Stages of Development:

Sensory-motor (0-2 years)

The child lacks internal schemas or representations.  The child's understanding of its world is directly through its senses from moment to moment.  It is so called because it senses its environment and carries out movement (motor) to react to it.  The child is Egocentric. The child has no concept of 'self' so is unable to distinguish itself from its environment. 

Pre-Operational Stage (2 to 7 years)

Child is still dominated by the external world, rather than its own thoughts.  However, it now forms some simple internal representations of its world (schemas) through its increasing ability to use language.  The stage is called 'pre-operational' since the child is unable to perform operations.  An 'operation' according to Piaget, is a mental rule for manipulating objects or ideas into new forms, and then, crucially, being able to manipulate them back again.  Since preoperational children are unable to reverse things mentally they are unable to do this.  Conservation of volume, as demonstrated by pouring liquid from small wide beakers into tall thin measuring cylinders, develops later, at the very end of the preoperational stage.

Concrete Operations Stage (7 to 11 years)

The child is now able to carry out operations on its environment and develops logical thought.  However, it still requires concrete examples, being unable to think in abstract terms.  Less importance is attached to information from our senses as we use thought and imagination more. Conservation of number is first (5 to 6 years), followed by conservation of weight (7 to 8 years) and finally conservation of volume by 11 years of age.

Formal Operational stage (11 years onwards)

Piaget used the term ‘formal’ since children in this stage can concentrate on the form of an argument without being distracted by the content.  For example if x is greater than y but less than x. 


Abstract thought: 

The child can now think in abstract terms so no longer requires concrete examples to solve problems. 

Hypothetical thought: 

The child is able to consider things that it has no experience of and consider imaginary scenarios.
Hypotheses testing: 

Faced with a problem the formal thinker will approach it logically, produce a list of possibilities and test each one systematically. 

Solve syllogisms: 

These are a form of reasoning in which a conclusion is reached from a
Piaget and Education (simplified).


When to teach: 
Only when the child is ready.  I.e. has the child reached the appropriate stage?

How to teach:
Child-centred approach.  Learning must be active (discovery learning.
The order of teaching has to be determined by development of stages, so curricula are needed.  E.g. teach conservation of number before conservation of weight.

Rate of learning: 
Stages of development are biologically determined so the rate of learning cannot be speeded up. (Bruner believed that increasing language ability would speed up rate of learning, but this appears not to be true).

 Role of teacher

  1. Adapt lessons to suit the needs of the individual child.
  2. Be aware of the child’s stage of development (testing).
  3. Provide stimulation through a variety of tasks.
  4. produce/provide resources,
  5. Produce disequilibrium, i.e. a scenario that is outside the child’s current understanding.  E.g. density.
Use concrete examples when describing abstract concepts, e.g. ships floating for density, pumping water around    houses for flow of current in a circuit.

       Notes By

Dr. A. Michael J Leo
Psychology Professor
St. Xavier's College of Education