The Critique of Piaget's Theories Essay

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The Critique of Piaget's Theories

Jean Piaget (1896 – 1980) was a constructivist theorist. He saw children as constructing their own world, playing an active part in their own development. Piaget’s insight opened up a new window into the inner working of the mind and as a result he carried out some remarkable studies on children that had a powerful influence on theories of child thought. This essay is going to explain the main features and principles of the Piagetian theory and then provide criticism against this theory.

Cognitive development refers to way in which a person’s style of thinking changes with age. Piaget argued that cognitive development is based on the development of schemas.
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The stages theory is open to criticism as they are too rigid and neglects individual differences such as memory span, motivation etc. Piaget also underestimated the age at which children could do things. This maybe due to his failure to distinguish between competence and performance. Piaget's studies tested performance and then he assumed that a child who failed simply lacked the underlying cognitive structures that he believed were needed to succeed on that task. Subsequent research suggests that a child may have these competencies earlier than Piaget suggested. However, simply to focus on age limits is to miss the central point of Piaget’s theory that universal, qualitative, biologically regulated cognitive changes occur during development. This is supported by cross-cultural research that has replicated Piaget’s findings (Smith et al, 1998).

Another criticism relates to the concept of biological maturation or ‘readiness’. If the development of cognitive structures is related to maturity, then practice should not improve performance. In other words, if a person is not biologically ready to move on to the next stage then no amount of practice should get them there. However, there is evidence to suggest
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